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Ecosystem Leaders

Episode 171

March 18, 2023

#171 Joseph Landes: The Evolution of Cloud MSPs and the Future of the Industry

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In this Ecosystem Aces Podcast episode, Chip Rodgers is joined by Joseph Landes, Chief Revenue Officer, Nerdio.

Joseph is a dynamic and seasoned leader with over 28 years of deep experience with partners and customers around the world and across many business groups and geographies.

He spent 23 years at Microsoft where he has done business for Microsoft in over 80 countries and brings a wealth of experience in cloud product management, international marketing, sales, and business development.

At Nerdio, Joseph’s focus is to significantly scale the Nerdio for Azure program by expanding its reach to diverse channel partners, including Managed Service Providers, distributors, and cloud marketplaces.

Topics covered include:

  • How Microsoft’s release of Windows Virtual Desktop led to the creation of Nordea Manager for Enterprise? - 4:55
  • What is the Nerdio Manager for MSP Product? - 11:34
  • Changing dynamics in the MSP space - 16:31
  • Advice for partner managers - 23:34

Chip Rodgers  00:07

Hey, welcome back to another episode of ecosystem aces. I'm Chip Rodgers, CMO, WorkSpan. I'm excited. This is to be talking to Joseph again. Repeat performance. Joseph, we were just talking. Just before we get started, I think it was two or three years ago that we talked and a lot has happened in the meantime.

So I'm excited to have Joseph Landes join us today. Joseph is Chief Revenue Officer at Nerdio. And while your career has spanned quite a journey you were with Microsoft for maybe 20 years overall in a lot of different roles in product management, early on starting out in product, product management roles, and then and then taking on business and business areas and sales. Joseph, you got to travel the world too. You were in Germany, Brazil, Bangalore.

Joseph Landes  01:23

All over the place. Very fortunate, I tell people that as much as it grew me professionally, it also grew me personally. The experiences that you have living in different countries, and having to adapt to the diversity of those countries is really an incredible personal learning and personal experience as well.

Chip Rodgers  01:46

That's amazing. That's just fantastic. And now I'm trying to remember exactly how long you have joined Nerdio and Nerdio has been just on a phenomenal ride and just got landed a series B of 117 million. I think it was, and very exciting news and a lot of growth and so I just can't wait to hear more about it.

Joseph Landes  02:19

For sure. So first of all, thanks for having me, Chip. It's great to be a repeat guest. Hopefully, I will go for the three repeats one of these days. Since we've chatted and always welcome back, thank you. And in the world of technology not speaking to someone for three years is like decades. Other Worlds have so much happening.

You referenced the series B round of investment that we received $117 million from Updata partners, we're super pleased and excited to be partnering with Updata on this journey it's great validation around everything we've been doing in order to the employees, the partners, the clients that we have the space of desktop virtualization and Microsoft Azure and public cloud.

So there's just a lot of excitement in the space right now. That was a huge milestone that we reached in December. And of course, we have our third annual Nordio con event coming up. At the end of February in Cancun, Mexico. We tried to do something different last year, by having an industry event, a partner event outside of the United States at a quite nice location. I am excited that that's coming up, happy to chat about that, as well. There's still a few spaces left if someone's listening to this show and wants to still register before February 27. We'd love to have you.

How Microsoft’s release of Windows Virtual Desktop led to the creation of Nordea Manager for Enterprise?

Chip Rodgers  03:50

It's exciting, so much happening. Joseph tell me a little bit about the growth path of Nerdio. You've built a phenomenal business. I remember from our last conversation that you actually started out as an MSP yourself. And then you were building technology to make everything your own team work better. And then you're like, Well, I think we have a goldmine here, we built some great technology. There are other MSPs that would be interested. So to talk a little bit about that journey.

Joseph Landes  04:37

You've got the story, Chip, you nailed it. So I was at Microsoft, and my co-founder, Vadim Vladimir Ski, our CEO of Nerdio was running a managed service provider called a dar in Chicago. We were introduced to each other four years ago, a little more than four years ago. Vadim had built a tremendous MSP. That was really a cloud first MSP, that really took as its way of working to put every customer into the cloud. And along that journey, Vadim had built a lot of technology to really automate a lot of those functions that eventually became Nerdio.

When Vadim and I teamed up, we ended up selling our MSP to a private equity organization and founded and started Nerdio as a pure software company. And at the time, when we started the company, it was really all about empowering MSPs to build successful cloud practices in Microsoft Azure. Certainly, with a desktop virtualization flavor to it, we were working closely with Microsoft on the release of what was then called Windows Virtual Desktop would eventually be called Azure virtual desktop.

I like to joke when Microsoft changed the name from WVD to AVD. It was the biggest cut and paste, Find and Replace exercise in our company's history. We had 1000s of documents that we had to change overnight after we got the call. But that was going really well. And we were really making a great name for ourselves in the MSP space.

After Microsoft released Windows virtual desktop. And you could experience Windows virtual desktop from our Nerdio manager or product, or what became known as Nerdio manager for MSP. We started getting a lot of companies reaching out to us, enterprise companies asking us if we had something for them. I always remember sitting there and getting a phone call from Comcast.I thought it was someone trying to check up on my cable bill or something that actually Comcast wanted to know more about our solution and how we could benefit them from an Azure virtual desktop perspective.

So the truth was, we didn't have a product for enterprises, we didn't contemplate that. So we decided to build a brand new product for enterprise clients. And we built it and we released it on March 20, 2020. Now, of course, unbeknownst to us, in March of 2020, the world was dramatically changing. Most companies around the world needed to come up with some sort of remote work solution. We got very busy with companies, organizations of all sizes calling us and saying, I heard you have a solution that we can send all of our employees home, and they can still be productive. Microsoft was sending us all kinds of customers that they were trying to get live.

So it was really an important moment, I would say for our company, not only because it helped accelerate our product growth. But as I always tell people, it helped us be better in terms of developing a product that was more meaningful for clients of all sizes. What do I mean by that we would sit there, and we would deploy a customer into our new product Nerdio Manager for enterprise, every day, multiple times a day. And every time we did one of those deployments, every time we saw an enterprise company start using our product, they had immediate feedback for us.

They said, you know, wouldn't it be great if you had this feature? Would you be great, good things sort of this way, I'm used to doing things this way, with my legacy VDI provider, if only you did this, it would make my life a lot easier. So imagine you're developing a product. And every day, you're getting 10 to 15 new feature requests.

Well, because we're an agile organization, we were able to take those feature requests, we were able to take those suggestions, and immediately feed them back to our engineering team, and come out with a new release of our product not months later, but sometimes days later, weeks later, right a few weeks later. And it allowed us to get onto this cadence that we've been able to maintain even until today, where every month, we're coming out with a new version of the product with 10 to 15 new features that are very outside in focus that are really being proposed by customers and partners.

I think that's the best way to do product development. Certainly for both of our products, Nerdio manager for MSP and enterprise, we take tons of feedback from partners and customers, and we feed it into what ultimately becomes a new release of the product. It makes us better, it makes the product better and it ends up benefiting many, many people around the world.

So that was a big moment for us when that product came out. In March 2020. We now have more than 5000 enterprise organizations using that product as well. We have more than 100 enterprise partners who are using Nerdio Manager for enterprise to build their native AVD or Windows 365 practices. And it's allowed us to really sort of branch out to parts that we didn't even think we were going to be part of when we started Nerdio. So a pretty exciting journey but we've only probably written the first chapter. Have our story lots more to come.

Chip Rodgers  10:01

Amazing. I love that organic way that the company was founded as you were in the business, yourself and then it tried to build some automation to be able to do it and start replicating it all over the place. So now you're well into the end of the growth path. So that's amazing. Fantastic. Thanks

Joseph Landes  10:38

Very, very exciting, Chip, I couldn't have even contemplated this when I was at Microsoft, it's great to be at Microsoft for that long and then build a company on top of native Microsoft technology is the perfect complement that the book ends, if you will to what you're trying to accomplish in your career.

What is the Nerdio Manager for MSP Product?

Chip Rodgers  10:57

Tell me about your partner ecosystem with Nerdio, what are the kinds of partners that you've mentioned, but 100 partners? Obviously, some of them are service providers. Tell me a little bit about the landscape of your partner ecosystem.

Joseph Landes  11:19

We have a lot more than 100 partners. Let me let me kind of lay that out for you Chip. So think about our business with two sides. There's the MSP business, which is really about managed service providers whose customers are SMB customers. Their clients are SMB clients. And we serve that market with our Nerdio manager for MSP product, a multi-tenant management product that enables an MSP to really build a modern cloud practice to really move from the on prem world into the world of being a modern cloud MSP. We have more than 1000 partners on that side.

We continue to evolve our product or technology, we have a great partner program called Part Nerd. If you don't know why we call it Part Nerd there at the word for a second, listening to this and doesn't understand it, shoot me an email, and I'll explain it. We'd like to be the company in the MSP space that shows up to the MSP show, whatever that might be, to a big ecosystem show to original show, we like to be the company that helps educate MSPs we've always felt since the beginning of our journey, that if we do an amazing job, educating MSPs, the punch line will sort of be there.

Like Nerdio is a company that I probably should check out, and probably has a product that can help me. You consistently see, when we interact with MSPs in this space, that it's really all about education first selling something second, sometimes it's not even about selling something because the MSP hasn't really gotten to that point where they want to achieve the ability to or to realize the ability to build a modern cloud MSP. So that's been our posture in the MSP space. We're going to continue to do that.

In fact, last year, we launched our own first party events to complement Nerdio con kind of regional events across the US, in Europe, in Asia, where we go out and we run what are called training camps, and MSPs comps and it's a very hands on laptops, open type of session, where we teach people how to build a modern cloud MSP.

So very, very education focused on that side of the business, first selling second. The enterprise side of the business. It's sort of different kinds of partners. These are what you call EUC partners end user computing partners. So these are folks that have traditionally had Citrix or VMware VDI legacy VDI practices that want to modernize, they want to move into the world of modern cloud of native AIVD and Windows 365. But they've been in that legacy world with Citrix and VMware for a very long time. And they don't quite know how to do that, they don't quite have the technology to do that.

So they use Nerdio manager for enterprise to build that native practice and to deliver their projects, typically to mid market and larger enterprise organizations using our Nerdio Manager for enterprise products. To some extent, they are managed service providers, they provide managed services just on to end customers who are typically larger than SMB sometimes not but typically larger. MSPs in this space are the large global SIs, the large Indian SIs , HCL Wipro, Tata Infosys, and you have regional MSPs. Regional SI is like Three cloud, for example, and an amazing company out of Chicago.

So, the same idea is trying to build a modern cloud practice using a different technology from ours. But typically people who've been in this desktop virtualization world that wants something new that don't want a bloated expensive solution, they want a more modern solution at a more reasonable price and that's how they come to interview

Chip Rodgers  15:27

The folks that are deploying you mentioned HCL, Wipro, Tata they're doing, they're taking over managed services, you're providing services that are software to help them manage their customers.

Joseph Landes  15:51

That's right. They're doing I'd say, Chip, they're either doing managed services, or they're sometimes doing project based work, that then gets handed off to the IT professionals at a company. A company might come to one of these SIs and say, I need to modernize my VDI, I need to move to a modern Daz type of environment.

But I don't quite have all the expertise myself, can you build me something? Can you help me with that migration, and they use Nerdio to do that and then hand the project off to the IT professionals at that company. Sometimes they continue to provide managed services as well, for that same company, it just sort of depends. I happened to be in India last week. I mean, I say last week, it depends when someone watches this. This is, I guess, the middle of January, 2023. It is actually great for me because it is the first time I've been back in India since I lived there for three and a half years. So I hadn't been back in eight years, it was remarkable to see both how much changed and how much was the same.

I got to visit a lot of the remarkable Indian SIs. You go to some of these locations, they have 50,000 people working at our office. It's not one building. It's a big campus. But they're all looking to modernize. They're all looking to see what's the next thing and desktop virtualization and we're super honored and super glad that we're part of this conversation now. And then we can help companies partners of all sizes succeed.

Changing dynamics in the MSP space

Chip Rodgers  17:21

That's fantastic. So let's talk a little bit about the MSP space and the changing dynamic. In the old world of partnering, partnering was sort of reselling; it was like distribution, reselling. MSPs have really become I think everybody.  Everybody has all of those sorts of partners, whether you were a VAR or  providing services that everybody's moving into a service space. So the MSPs are delivering service, they're already adding significant value, what are you seeing in that in that changing dynamic of a partner?

Joseph Landes  18:16

I'd say Chip, the biggest dynamic that's changed since the last time you and I spoke when we really not long after we founded the company, is we had to be much more evangelists for the cloud. And for the idea that an MSP was going to move to the cloud and become more modern, than we have to do now. What do I mean by that? When I remember going, when we started Nerdio, and going to the shows and and I had to first explain why cloud, why Microsoft Azure, and then what is Nerdio? And how does Nerdio help you?

There's a lot less explaining today of sort of what is cloud and what is Microsoft Azure, most MSPs have come to the realization that their first step into the cloud was Microsoft 365. And now their next step is to move their customers' infrastructure into the cloud. This idea of continuing to buy servers and installing them at a customer site is not really the most optimal way to do things.

Of course, during the pandemic, many MSPs couldn't get to the customer site to even service those servers. It was a big aha moment. For the industry like wow, had we only been fully in the cloud, and not having to manage that QuickBooks server gathering dust under the receptionist feet at the front desk. So we'd be in a much better position.

I literally have seen that I've gone into MSP. I've gone into customers, small businesses and seen a little QuickBooks server under the receptionist's feet at the front desk, that some MSP has to manage. There's a lot less of that evangelizing of why they should make it. Now it's much more about how to do it, how to make money doing it, how to build a modern cloud MSP and how to be efficient.

Where that's taken us at Nerdio. And where it's going to continue to take us is that the story is not just about Azure, Azure is the foundation from an infrastructure standpoint. But if you look at some of the other challenges that MSPs are facing, for example, managing physical endpoints with Microsoft Intune, there's a lot of MSPs that would like to manage their physical endpoints in the cloud with Intune, as opposed to using perhaps an RMM device. But again, how do you do that? It turns out that Microsoft Intune is sort of equally complex to Microsoft Azure.

That's the world we live in being able to abstract the complexity for an MSP being able to simplify things for an MSP so they could focus on what they're good at. And we could focus on the automation and the technology piece for them. That's been a really big change in the MSP ecosystem over the past three years. We're right at the precipice of MSPs really moving in mass to the cloud in a much bigger way than we ever contemplated, some years ago.

Chip Rodgers  21:05

The other thing is that early in early days, there was maybe some fear, what does this mean? I've been used to going to the customer's site to manage this technology, infrastructure, data center, whatever. And if it's all in the cloud, what's my role, but there still is an important role, Critical Role.

Joseph Landes  21:33

There's fear both from the MSP owner. And there's even fear we see Chip all the time from the MSP technicians, they think that the automation is going to somehow put them out of business. But we've never really seen that happen. What we've seen is that the skilled technician at an MSP can now move to a higher value role, like a VCIO role, or something like that, instead of just adding users to someone's domain which is handled with automation, using Nerdio.

Chip Rodgers  22:11

So what's next? Where are you seeing the industry going both, MSPs in the smaller space, and then in the larger enterprise space?

Joseph Landes  22:23

We're gonna make a lot of announcements in order to kind of add to our roadmap and where we're going again, all in the direction of empowering MSPs to build a modern cloud practice. That certainly, as I mentioned, we have to go beyond Azure, we have to think about really all the Cloud products that an MSP is using, whether that's Azure identity, Microsoft 365, defender for cloud, and we feel like we need to have a solution for MSPs, who want to build that fully cloud MSP.

On the enterprise side for partners, it's all about continuing to make their road easier to modernize their customers VDI is there's just a ton of customers out there with legacy on premise VDI solutions, that want to modernize, and being able to provide the tools really the best tools on the planet, for these SIs to be able to do that. And to empower their customers to be more successful to save money as Microsoft says now, do more with less, that's a role that we take very seriously in a role that we can add a tremendous amount of value to these SIs.

And it really excites us, when we can show a customer, when we could show a partner, that through using Nerdio manager for enterprise, we're saving them 70% off of their Azure Compute and Storage bill. 70% it's not like we're saving them 10% We're saving them 70% That's a tremendous amount of money, which allows them to invest in other areas and allows them to really be more efficient.

Advice for partner managers

Chip Rodgers  24:00

So one of the things I like to ask- our audiences, partner, partner managers, partner leaders, you've had a really successful career Joseph, what are any advice for partner managers that you've picked up along the way working with partners and delivering value to customers.

Joseph Landes  24:32

The first piece of advice I'd give Chip is the truth is the partner, so it's very hard to design a partner program, a strategy, pricing, an organization, anything that's partner facing without talking to partners. The truth about your company is going to come out when you spend time talking to partners. That's why I love going out and being in front of MSPs partners of all sizes, quite frankly, and asking them what their pain points are asking them what their impressions of Nerdio are, any channel chief, any CRO any partner manager needs to spend time, not just talking to, but really more listening to what their partners have to say, because that's really where the truth is. That's the piece of advice that I give every person. I speak with every person that I talked to at the interview

The second piece of advice is, there's a tremendous amount of great ideas out there on the channel. And they're not all concentrated in any one company. When we started Nerdio, I realized that I was coming from Microsoft and I didn't know a lot about the MSP channel. So I what I tried to do was seek out people who I knew knew a lot about it, and I would just quiz them and I think it got like maybe a little bit annoying for some of these people I would go to a show and I would find Jay McBain, Rob Ray and Natasha Boyko, fortunately, we were able to get Natasha into Nerdio with us as our partner program leader.

Now I could quiz her every day. And I learned a tremendous amount from her. But I would go to these shows, and I would just ask them tons of questions. Why are you at the show? What are you doing? Why is your table set up this way? How long are you going to speak for? What are you going to speak about? What's the call to action? By doing that, and by being what my former CEO Satya Nadella calls learn it all person, you could sort of pick and choose all the great things that are out there that are going to work for your company. And it will make your company a lot stronger.

Now, on the flip side, you have to also be gracious with your time, once you've built a business, that people you know, respect, hopefully, and people then come and ask you those questions. You have to remember that if you know, it's time for you to give back. It's time for you to help other people as well. And I think that's what's so great about the MSP ecosystem, I could tell you, I asked Rob a ton of questions. Every show, he's like, Oh, my God, there's probably Joseph coming again, to ask me questions, but he's so gracious with his time that I feel equally compelled to be gracious with my time.

Anyone who's starting out in the channel, any partner manager should find those people that they can learn from, and be and be aggressive in terms of trying to get that knowledge because that's the best way to get better. And it's the best way to grow.

Chip Rodgers  27:26

Fantastic. Great advice. Thank you, Joseph. Thank you and thank you for doing what you were just talking about giving back and sharing, sharing knowledge and really appreciate that. And I know our audience will get a lot of value from our conversation today.

Joseph Landes  27:47

My pleasure. It's great to be here, Chip. Let's schedule the next one.

Chip Rodgers  27:51

Let's do it. Got Jim. Actually, I just noticed that we've got a question up here. So great. Hi, Jim. If you're still live out there. Curious, approximately what's the largest desktop seat deployment managed by Nerdio manager

Joseph Landes  28:12

We have a customer whose name I won't state for privacy reasons that has more than 100,000 seats deployed on Nerdio. So that's the largest desktop seat deployment that we have.

Chip Rodgers  28:28

100,000 That's, that's pretty big. That's a decent size.

Joseph Landes  28:32

When I go into the channel, and I talk to people and I and people have opportunities of all sizes. MSP could have a five user opportunity, they could have 100,000 user opportunity. And those are a little bit more rare, But it's always funny when the person who's sort of closer to five or 10 asks, does your product scale like can you get up to 100 users, we could get to 100 users? No problem. So we don't really have any upper band that we've reached yet, but it's about 100,000 users that we have today.

Chip Rodgers  29:08

Awesome. Fantastic, Joseph. Thank you, again, really appreciate you taking time and let's do it again. And thank you all for joining. I'm for Joseph Landis. I'm Chip Rodgers, and thanks for joining another episode of ecosystem aces and we'll see you next time. Thanks, everybody. Thanks, Joseph!

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