Access Distribution just took a decisive step to define the role of distributors in managed services through a partnership with analytics software vendor Klir Technologies.

The distributor, a General Electric subsidiary, is extending Klir’s Hosted IT Analytics platform through a software-as-a-service arrangement to VARs and integrators that want to set themselves up as MSPs (managed services providers).

“The key here is to create recurring services revenue for resellers with the simplicity of a hardware sale,” said Matt Mostad, vice president of business development at Seattle-based Klir.

Klir’s arrangement with Access affords VARs and integrators different options in how to use the software, said Chuck Scalia, director of IT services solutions at the Westminster, Colo., distributor.

The initiative also provides some clues as to the different iterations of the how the managed services model will evolve. One of the questions that has remained largely unanswered is how distributors will fit in, since solution providers by and large work directly with platform providers, such as N-able Technologies and SilverBack, to provide remote IT monitoring and management.

Access is banking on the flexibility of its arrangement with Klir—the kind of flexibility that can only occur with a distributor in the mix—to catch the eye of VARs and integrators that have been considering managed services but haven’t figured out how to jump in.

The Hosted IT Analytics software allows solution providers to remotely monitor and manage the computing environments of their clients, which is the typical managed services setup. But Access is giving VARs and integrators the option to tap the distributors’ own engineering staff to perform the remote services.

Under the latter model, the VAR or integrator still retains the contact with the end users, but the distributor takes over the control-center functions. Communications back to the end users about remediation or prevention would take place either directly between the distributor’s engineers or through the services provider, whichever is the provider’s preference.

By extending the IT Analytics platform to solution providers, Access is giving VARs and integrators a foundation to build a managed services infrastructure, Scalia said.

Through managed services, providers take over some or all of the IT functions at their client sites. Customers get predictable and presumably reliable service at a cost lower than having to keep an IT staff, while the providers receive predictable revenue for the services.

Managed services have gained serious momentum in the last couple of years as VARs and integrators figure out how to make a transition to the model, which replaces the feast-or-famine revenue model of product sales and break/fix projects.

MSPs with backgrounds in product sales find that after entering managed services contracts with customers, making a software or equipment sale actually becomes an easier process. As a customer comes to rely on the MSP for all IT needs, the customer naturally also calls on the MSP for product sales, while in the past the deal likely would have gone to the lowest bidder.

And that, according to Scalia, is the frosting on the cake of managed services. Solution providers that take advantage of the Access/Klir managed services arrangement are likely to boost the distributor’s product sales as well. Access is a value-added distributor with a strong focus on Sun Microsystems’ hardware and software.

Access teamed with Klir after a search for a platform that would suit its resellers’ managed services needs. In its search, the distributor found that Klir’s software would also serve its own in-house needs, said Scalia.

Scot French, vice president of marketing at Klir, said the company’s Hosted IT Analytics offers solution providers a low-cost, easy-to-deploy solution. “People can get this installed and up and running within 20 minutes,” he said.

VARs and integrators, he said, can use the software to conduct pre-engagement assessments of their customers’ IT environments.

Solution providers have the opportunity to convert the data collected from those assessments into a managed services contract as well as product sales, Scalia said

Scalia would not reveal the cost to solution providers interested in Hosted IT Analytics, suggesting instead that interested VARs and integrators contact the distributor to discuss pricing and any other questions they have about the Klir software.