Two well-known executives from the managed services industry -- Maurice Saluan and Jim Lippie -- have bet the next stage of their respective careers on desktop as a service (DaaS). Actually, their bets go far beyond that. As VPs of EmeCloud and independenceIT, respectively, Saluan and Lippie want to empower VARs and MSPs with a range of cloud services. But is this technology niche finally ready for the mass channel?

The idea of offering a cloud platform specifically to channel partners isn't new. Names like Artisan InfrastructureChannel Cloud, Desktone and OS33 -- each of which we've covered previously -- come to mind. 

Here Comes DaaS

But I must admit, I've always been intrigued by the DaaS segment of the cloud market. The idea of running desktop applications or Windows itself up in the cloud has always interested me. And that intrigue has grown ever since I started blogging daily in 2008.

Basically, I don't use on-premises desktop applications much anymore. From WordPress to Drupal and Google Docs, most of my productivity applications live in the cloud. The same is true for many start-ups. Early today I visited Work Market, an online market place where you can go find contract work. That fast-growing company has standardized on Google Apps for Business. 

Your Move

How can channel partners participate in this revolution? The simple answer involves reselling Google Apps or Office 365. But there are alternatives -- and many of them allow VARs and MSPs to control their cloud destinies far more greatly.

And that brings me back to newer companies like EmeCloud and independenceIT.

EmeCloud has its own data centers. Channel partners can resell DaaS, hosted email and other SaaS applications to end-customers. The channel partners can control branding, end-customer billing, pricing and more.

New EmeCloud VP Maurice Saluan, formerly of Zenith Infotech, says he had multiple job opportunities in recent weeks. But he joined EmeCloud because the 25-person company has solid technology, and the installed base is growing. CEO Donald Scheid is a former MSP himself. So he knows how and why MSPs must push beyond device management to end-user experience management.

Yes, EmeCloud has channel partners running end-customer services on the platform -- though I don't know how many businesses or partners are live on the system. I believe the company is self-funded and does not need to raise money. How good is their technology? I don't know. But I do know Saluan carefully tested EmeCloud's services before taking the job. Now, he'll strive to grow EmeCloud's channel engagements.

Another Option

Next up is independenceIT. VP Jim Lippie discovered the company while driving Staples' Thrive Networks managed services business. He liked the independenceIT solution so much that he jumped from Staples to the cloud specialist.

independenceIT is a bit different than EmeCloud. As a VAR or MSP, I believe you can deploy and manage independenceIT's cloud stack (called Cloud Workspace Suite) in your own data center. I think you can also leverage the suite hosted in independenceIT's data center.

Lippie is leveraging many of the relationships he built in the MSP market. independenceIT's partnerships include recent deals with N-able Technologies (the RMM software provider recently acquired by SolarWinds) and Artisan Infrastructure, which offers IaaS to channel partners.

The List Goes On

The list of cloud options for MSPs and VARs doesn't end there. Microsoft just recognized dinCloud as an SMB Cloud Partner of the Year finalist. From hosted virtual desktops to virtual servers and NetApp cloud replication services, the company wants to provide non-stop productivity applications through partners to end customers.

And of course, at the top of this article I mentioned a few companies we've covered at length before -- including ChannelCloud, Desktop and OS33.

Competitive Considerations

While some of those companies compete with one another, the two biggest competitive threats are:

  1. Inertia: Plenty of customers want to stick with traditional desktop applications because of security, data protection, availability and performance concerns. But increasingly those concerns will fade away. As next-generation employees move from college into the work force, they will demand SaaS applications and a consistent desktop experience across PCs, notebooks, tablets and smartphones.
  2. Google Apps and Office 365: I think both of those cloud suites are catching on fast with small businesses. Concerns about security and reliability and fading away. Simple Google Apps pricing -- about $50 per user per year, last I heard -- is easy for customers to justify and comprehend.

For VARs and MSPs, selling against those the two options above easy. As you focus on end-user experiences, you'll want to make sure your cloud or software provider is committed to your success.

Even in the massive cloud market, personal relationships still matter. Folks like Lippie and Saluan have earned strong channel reputations during previous career stops. We'll be watching to see how they -- and their employers -- perform as VARs and MSPs begin to explore DaaS and other cloud options.