French ITIM vendor Centreon launches North American operation with Toronto office and 100 per cent channel strategy

Centreon will be selling completely through channel partners in North America, seeing this as a key way to build up their presence in a crowded ITIM space filled with legacy vendors they believe can be toppled.

Centreon co-founders Julien Mathis and Romain Le Merlus. Le Merlus runs the North American operation.

Paris-headquartered Centreon Software Systems has established a physical presence in the North American market, and is looking to grow its business here aggressively. Romain Le Merlus, one of the company’s two co-founders, has come to North America to run the North American operations, while his co-founder partner, Julien Mathis, runs the company in Europe. Centreon has established its North American headquarters in Toronto, and looks to grow in an IT infrastructure monitoring [ITIM] market they think has enormous opportunities here for an innovative newcomer.

The ITIM market is dominated by a well-known set of names, from longtime legacy players like IBM, BMC, CA Technologies and HPE through to others like VMware, SolarWinds, Paessler, DataDog, PagerDuty, and many others. There are a lot of them.

“We have been in the IT monitoring business ourselves for 13 years,” Le Merlus told ChannelBuzz. “We developed our approach based on open source, and created a commercial open source solution that now has about 200,000 users worldwide, with over 3,000 downloads a month. We don’t have a particular customer profile. We serve every kind of vertical, and from the SMB through to the Fortune 100.”

Their flagship product is Centreon EMS, a modular, all-in-one Enterprise Monitoring Suite.

“A major differentiation for us has always been that Line of Business managers can use us, not just technical people,” Le Merlus said. “We are easy to configure and connect to other kinds of users. Our customers know automation and ITSM are critical today, and the open source framework is important for us there.”

In Europe, the channel entered the business model five years into the company’s existence. In North America, the plan is to go entirely through channel partners right from the start, and not sell direct at all.

“In Europe, we started as a service provider, and sold direct,” Le Merlus said. “We first started with partners there in 2010 ,when we became a pure player software vendor. In North America, we will use our knowledge of working with the channel in Europe to start out of the gate with a completely channel go-to-market. We don’t want to do direct here.”

LeMerlus acknowledged that executing this business model here requires gaining the trust of channel partners who likely don’t know them well, if at all.

“It may take some time, and we know that we have to prove ourselves, but every deal here is designed to go through a partner,” he said. “That is really important to us.”

While Centreon has not had a physical presence in North America until now, they do have some customers and partners.

“We are not starting from scratch,” Le Merlus said.

The plan is to put together a select value channel.

“We are looking for quality in our partners,” Le Merlus indicated. “This is not selling boxes. IT monitoring requires integration and consulting. We also don’t want to sign up too many partners. In Europe, we tend to have two or three per country. We do think this will appeal to a wide range of partner types who do integration and consulting around infrastructure.”

Vendor strategic partnerships are likely to be a fairly small part of the business model.

“We do do it in Europe,” he said. “For example, we have a partnership with ServiceNow, which is managed from France. My goal today in North America is not to enter a lot of technical vendor partnerships, because we don’t have the capacity to make the integrations today.”

Le Merlus thinks Centreon can grow the business in North America to be more important than it is in Europe.

“The opportunity has never been so high,” he said. “In North America, it’s a $2.7 billion incremental market. That’s why we decided to cross the ocean. We made the decision last October, and it took ten months to set it up.”

So why make the North American headquarters in Toronto?

“It’s a very charming place,” Le Merlus said. “We visited several cities on the east coast. We looked at the east because it was a priority to be connected to our headquarters in Europe. We are setting up a support team and we wanted to be able to share experiences day to day. We looked at U.S. cities to start, but we found that Toronto was a really good fit. It is a double culture, and there are a lot of French people in Canada.”

The strategy for expansion and success in North America is pretty straightforward.

“It has two major parts,” Le Merlus said. “First, it will all run trough partners. That is how we will spread our name, and our trademark. We will help their customers to make their IT transformation and support the new hybrid IT infrastructure. The second is to continue our R&D strongly. There are so many players, but many of them are legacy systems. We need to develop new product, new functionality, and integrate IT monitoring into ITSM monitoring tools. We are well positioned to be a leader in this market.”