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For Do IT Smarter, a master managed service provider that had standardized
on Silverback as the MSP platform it offered to its partners, the last two
years have been a long road.

That’s because Dell, the computer maker that just a few years ago subscribed to
the so-called direct-only "religion" and eschewed the channel,
decided to acquire
Silverback
at the same time it opened its arms to the idea of a channel
partner program in 2007.

But VARs that had viewed Dell as the enemy for so long were slow to embrace
Dell and skeptical about Dell’s purchase of Silverback, first announced in July
2007.

Two years ago, in January 2008, Silverback
held its first users’ conference
in conjunction with Dell. Many Silverback
partners wondered what the future would bring. Would they stay with the
platform now that Dell owned it? Or would they undertake the enormous task of
moving users to a different platform?

They didn’t get any answers then, but today the answer is clear. Plenty of
partners have moved away from Silverback. Especially now that Dell is selling
the managed services direct to customers.

For Do IT Smarter—once Silverback’s largest partner—it was an evolution.
Initially the San Diego-based master MSP said it would take
a wait-and-see attitude.
But soon after the Dell deal was announced, Do IT
Smarter found it more difficult to sell Silverback to MSPs. The master MSP soon
moved on to also partner
with MSP platform provider Level Platforms,
offering that platform as an
alternative to Silverback. Do IT Smarter soon began to lead its sales discussions
with LPI.

Slowly, says Lane Smith, president of Do IT Smarter, its managed services
provider customers began to move from Silverback to LPI on their own. Do IT
Smarter would talk to them about the benefits of the LPI.

"We didn’t press any partners to move for the
first 18 months or so," says Smith. "In that time I would say 70
percent of partners moved over to Level Platforms on their own after seeing the
feature set and pricing model.

"Then we had that 20 to 30 percent [to which] we’ve had to say, you can
move to Level Platforms or move to Silverback Dell-hosted, but you can’t stay
with our Silverback," Lane says. "All but one customer moved onto
Level Platforms."

Dell in 2009 announced its Dell-branded
managed services platform based on Silverback,
saying it would offer it directly
to end customers
but it would not compete with Dell-certified MSPs that
used the Dell managed services platform. Dell’s approach was a big turnoff for
many MSPs. And some elected to stay away from the Dell program because it offered
only a hosted approach.

Indeed, Dell’s global channel chief, Greg Davis, told Channel Insider in late
2009 that the company’s MSP numbers had remained stagnant, saying many MSPs
were uncomfortable with Dell’s hosted model. The program experienced a great
deal of churn in its first year, as many former Silverback partners dropped out
and some new partners joined.

Silverback had worked with 150
MSP partners in 2007,
before the Dell acquisition. In November 2009, Dell
said it had 131 certified managed services partners.

"Managed services has been fairly flat year on year," Davis
told Channel Insider in November 2009.
"We’ve shared our vision of
where we are and where we are going with our U.S. Channel Council and we hope
to start growing managed services in fiscal 2011."

Davis also told Channel Insider in November that Dell
continues to integrate Silverback into the existing Dell managed services
tools.

"There were several partners we lost who were certified because they
didn’t wanted a hosted tool," said Davis. "That’s OK. We are moving down a path with the
tool. I expect we will grow that partner base in the coming year."

Davis told Channel Insider that Dell would make that
program a focus of calendar 2010, but declined to provide details, saying it
was premature to discuss it and things were still under development.

At Do IT Smarter, a handful of partners that had been strong channel partners
of Dell decided to stay with Dell’s managed services platform instead of moving
to LPI. Smith says the final partner will be moving over to Dell in February,
and Do IT Smarter will be exclusively LPI.

"Then we will be completely finished with Dell Silverback," says
Smith.