HyBlue Launches Remote Windows Management Service
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
A company you have never heard of is launching a service you will probably want in order to help you (or, rather, your Windows server and desktop supplier) better manage the Windows machines at your company. HyBlue, a new startup based in Seattle, is launching a service this week that is being offered to Windows value-added resellers so they can in turn offer proactive, remote network management services to their customers.
HyBlue was founded in 2003 and has 15 employees. The company has one of those funky names that was made up by some marketeers for far too much money, so don't try to figure out what it means. The name of the company is not important, but the fact that its founder and CEO, Matthew Sutton, has created an expert system that can help users to proactively manage their Windows boxes for a modest fee is important.
A few years back, Sutton founded an Internet service provider called SiteConnect, which grew to be one of the largest metropolitan network providers in the Seattle area, and which he sold to Cypress Communications in 2000. Sutton has also been a VAR in the Windows area, particularly in the small and midsized business space. Based on his two experiences, Sutton decided that Windows VARs really needed to differentiate themselves from one another and to better serve their customers in small and midsized businesses. Analysts at IDC reckon that these businesses spend about $70 billion a year on services, and outsourced IT management services is one of the fastest growing areas in the services sector. Sutton says that, within the past two years, 15 network management service providers have been launched, mainly because, among SMBs, server and client downtimes reduced revenues by an average of 3.6 percent. IDC says companies can cut their troubleshooting time for network issues by 52 percent and reduce downtime by 87 percent with a proactive network management service, with monitoring by experts (instead of someone in the office who is not really a server or desktop operating system expert). IDC says further that remote network service management offerings, like the HyBlue service, can increase user satisfaction by 90 percent or more. The only problem that Sutton could identify is that most of network management services are aimed at midrange or enterprise customers, which, ironically, are less in need of the service because they at least have some expertise. These solutions cost anywhere from $1,000 a month or more, and also have software license fees, which makes them unsuitable to the smaller shops that live on razor-thin margins.
VARs have not been able to step up to the plate and fill in the gap, either. "Small VARs don't have the capital or the expertise to build an expert system that offers the kind of sophisticated support that we are offering with the HyBlue Expert System," Sutton says.
Based on his experience running an ISP, Sutton came to the conclusion that it would be best to create an expert system that would gather information on the servers and desktops under its control and then provide the kind of information that would allow VARs, rather than users, to take care of the problem. HyBlue doesn't want to see its expert system and the related portal for managing machines to users, but rather offer it to VARs, which charge users $10 per month per PC and $100 per month per server for the proactive management services. Right now, HyBlue is being offered exclusively on Windows clients and servers, but Sutton says that he is keeping a close eye on Linux, Unix, and MacOS. The expert system and the agents that monitor servers and desktops are already compatible with these other platforms, but for HyBlue's launch, the company is focusing on Windows XP, Windows NT 4.0 SP4, Windows 2000, Windows 2003, and the two variations of Windows Small Business Server. HyBlue is a certified Microsoft partner.
To make its money, HyBlue is giving the software away to partners, and is taking a slice of the sales that VARs get from their customers as they sign up for the service. VARs can rebrand the HyBlue service as they see fit or embed it in other offerings. No matter which tack VARs take, they have to use the "Powered by HyBlue" brand on the service. All of the VAR services feed back into HyBlue's expert system in a commercial data center in Seattle. That expert system, by the way, doesn't just notify VARs that a machine in their customers' networks might be failing; it also knows enough about how Windows machines work to tell them ahead of time that there is a problem and offers suggestions for how to fix the issue before a machine actually crashes.
HyBlue has been tested in a soft launch at hundreds of sites, spanning thousands of machines, and is now being rolled out to some 25,000 VARs in the United States that have from two to 250 employees. Sutton says that a staggering 80,000 VARs have from one to 500 employees. But those smaller VARs are the sweet spot HyBlue is aiming at. If you figure that these small VARs have hundreds to thousands of clients, who in turn have dozens to hundreds of Windows servers and desktops, the potential for the HyBlue service, in terms of addressable market, is huge. Right now, HyBlue is offering remote monitoring, remote control, and remote spam and virus control as part of the HyBlue service. It is a hosted solution, which means users do not have to change settings in their firewalls or networks to activate the service. The customer portal that details the status of every device is also a hosted service that HyBlue provides to VARs. Sutton says that it takes only five minutes to set up a machine for the service. This is exactly the kind of thing that VARs and their customers like to hear.