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Level Platforms is readying changes to its flagship managed services platform—including bolstering reporting tools and adding support for Microsoft Vista—that will enhance usability, security and performance, especially for MSPs looking to join forces on customer engagements, according to officials.

The Ottawa-based vendor will announce on August 7 version 6.0 of its Managed Workplace MSP (managed services provider) platform, with changes to the underlying architecture that facilitate “collaborative managed services,” according to CEO Peter Sandiford.

The updated suite also adds a reporting engine based on Microsoft’s SQL Reporting Services and deeper integration with professional service automation tools from Autotask, ConnectWise, Microsoft CRM (customer relationship management) and Tigerpaw Software.

The new Web services-based collaboration features in Managed Workplace 6.0 are key to the platform maker’s efforts to extend its open integration from vendors to its solution-provider peers in order to help MSPs craft and deliver new, innovative services.

Dan Wensley, Vice President for Partner Development at Level Platforms, said his company’s open ecosystem “gives our partners flexibility to create any service they can imagine.” He added that the highly customized services born of MSP collaboration “should put any fears of commoditization of managed services to rest once and for all.”

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“This is really a change to the foundation of the business,” said CEO Sandiford from Ottawa. “MSPs are increasingly called upon to be the virtual CIOs for the businesses they manage. They need to look beyond just the desktops and the servers, to see all parts of the network and even the remote, virtualized and hosted elements. But who has all of those skills? You can’t compete unless you extend your limited professional capabilities.”

Sandiford said he’s most excited about Managed Workplace’s newfound ability to offer views and access to all of the devices in a customer environment and then share that access with other MSP partners. “Suppose your customer has Cisco [Systems] IP telephony in place,” Sandiford said. “You want to be able to manage that as well, but you’re not an expert. Now, all devices and all alerts related to that can be put in its own group with access and rules turned over to a partner that does have the expertise. That MSP now offers a much more complete service.”

Sandiford said the collaborative capabilities work equally well with standing partners or temporary technical help from IT services such as OnForce. “It’s very flexible and access can be granted and pulled back very easily,” he said.

Level Platforms has some 2,500 partners in 23 countries, most serving Microsoft-centric clients with fewer than 100 employees. The company competes for market share with other MSP platform players such as N-able Technologies, also of Ottawa, and SilverBack Technologies, based in Billerica, Mass.

The Managed Workplace release comes just days after N-able unveiled the next generation of its Velocity System, with similar architectural changes to its N-central platform. N-able officials said earlier this week that their new technology would reduce customer set-up times by 85 percent and that improved discovery and reporting tools could be used to better organize and manage client IT assets.

In addition to the Managed Workplace 6.0 release, Level Platforms is also launching an updated partner portal offering access to a library of scripts and monitoring templates, as well as entry into the vendor’s updated business and technical training and support offerings.

New features in version 6.0 of Managed Workplace are available at no cost to current Level Platforms partners, according to officials. The company is also offering upgrade discounts with money-back guarantees to attract MSPs to the new platform.