I’m thinking of an artificial intelligence innovator. See if you can name it.
The company I have in mind invested years of effort quietly developing a generative AI solution powerful enough to let ordinary people produce reams of informative, grammatically flawless prose in seconds using nothing more than natural language prompts.
Know who it is? Yes, everything above is true of OpenAI, the tech scene superstar that introduced ChatGPT last November. But the company I’m thinking of created its first platform based on a large language model, specifically for managed service providers in need of affordable, customized sales and marketing content, all the way back in 2020. It’s called WordFaucet, and this is probably the first time most of you have heard of it.
“I’ve been living the future for three years now,” says Herman Pool (pictured), the company’s founder.
That plus the fact that Pool is a former MSP himself puts him in a roughly perfect spot to assess both where AI is in managed services now and where it’s headed.
“This technology has been around for a while,” he says. “It’s just now that people are going to start discovering what they can do with it, and I’ve got a little bit of a lead on that.”
The origins of WordFaucet extend back five years, when Pool’s other business, internet marketing agency Vertical Axion, began looking for ways to accelerate content production. “We started working with natural language processing tools to help us edit and come up with story ideas,” Pool recalls. The breakthrough that led to the launch of WordFaucet came when Pool, using a broiling closet full of electricity-guzzling NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 cards, began experimenting with GPT-2, a predecessor to OpenAI’s recently introduced GPT-4 LLM.
Since then, Pool has learned a lot about putting generative AI to work in areas well beyond marketing automation. He’s currently refining a predictive AI tool that warns techs of impending trouble based on server log data, for example, and a service ticket triage system that “reads” self-serve help requests to determine how urgent they are based on how angry or desperate the submitter is. (Spoiler alert: A forthcoming Channelholic piece based on an interview with ConnectWise RMM/PSA czar Ameer Karim will discuss similar functionality.)
“It makes our help desk faster and it makes my employees happier, because they have a little bit more time,” says Pool of applications like that.
The biggest productivity-boosting use case for AI that Pool sees coming, though, directly contradicts what normally counts as progress in large language models. GPT-4 is more powerful than GPT-3, per OpenAI and others, because it’s been trained on 45 GB of data versus a mere 17. Pool, however, is looking forward to a fast-approaching time when both MSPs and vendors can get better AI answers less expensively from much smaller quantities of data all their own.
“Right now, we’re using these generative models that are trained on data from all over the internet,” he says. “Over the last year, AI researchers and AI companies like WordFaucet have found ways to train models faster, train them with less data, and still be more accurate.”
In particular, Pool is developing an AI-powered bot designed to diagnose service issues based solely on Vertical Axion’s 10-year ticket repository.
“The only knowledge it will have is what we’ve answered before and our sales presentations,” he says. The result will be automated insights that directly and exclusively reflect Vertical Axion’s past experiences and standard operating procedures.
“This is something that’s available to you now, but it takes a lot of work,” Pool notes. “Within the next six to eight months you’re going to see that become easy.”
But only if you get fanatical right away about retaining everything your company knows, he adds.
“If you’re not taking your emails and saving them somewhere and you’re just tossing them, especially your responses, I think you’re probably making a little bit of a mistake,” Pool warns. “You should save that stuff, because I’d say, again, in the next six to eight months you’re going to see tools where you can take that data, train it, and have a second you.”
In the meantime, Pool encourages MSPs to start acclimating themselves to an unfamiliar, sometimes unsettling AI-inflected future that’s coming soon whether they’re ready or not.
“I love my old 80s music, I love my old 90s music, but I can’t just sit around and say, ‘well, that’s the only music I’m ever going to listen to,’” he says. “Times and tastes change, and what we’re going to find is the tools change as well.”
Syncro and its partners are getting all grown up
From its earliest days back in 2011 as a maker of RMM software for computer repair shops to its current incarnation as a provider of integrated RMM, PSA, and remote access solutions for MSPs, Syncro has been a favorite of young companies in need of robust yet affordable line-of-business tools.
Managed services have come a long way since then, and so have young MSPs. Scaling up to meet their expanded needs while continuing to win hearts and minds among smaller firms is the delicate job entrusted to Emily Glass (pictured) when she became Syncro’s CEO 18 months ago.
“We want that to continue to be Syncro,” she says of the company’s heritage as a top choice for emerging MSPs. “But we also, as they grow their business, want to be with them every step of the way.”
That has required Syncro to grow as well, notes Glass, who was chief product officer at Datto earlier in her career. “There are products, there are support initiatives, there’s how we communicate and how we go about the market that need to change,” she says.
To increase scalability and reliability, for example, Syncro migrated from Heroku to Amazon Web Services earlier this year. Glass has prioritized Syncro’s PSA system for recent upgrades too.
“As our MSPs get larger, they have bigger teams. They need to coordinate ticket work. They need to be able to monitor and have visibility into which tickets are getting done and which aren’t,” she says. “That’s where a lot of our energy has gone in Q2 and will continue to go for the rest of the year.”
Security across the company’s PSA and RMM solutions has been an additional focus area. Per a recent blog post, Syncro will soon be SOC 2 Type 1 compliant, and an “IP allow list” that limits system access to specified endpoints is in development, along with SSO.
What hasn’t changed and won’t, Glass emphasizes, are the qualities that first made Syncro popular with smaller MSPs. “I think we’ve always been a little easier to use” than products from vendors like ConnectWise and Kaseya, she says, and a little more affordable as well thanks to the platform’s per-user (versus per-endpoint) pricing. Neither attribute is in jeopardy, Glass insists.
“Our partners continue to grow,” she says. “We’re just going to keep trying to keep up while also not losing our grassroots or our ability to attract partners that are just starting out.”
Brace yourself for some fresh research on tech industry diversity
If diversifying IT’s overwhelmingly white, male ranks is an issue you care about, you know how scarce cold hard facts about the size of the problem are at present.
Well, thanks to Dave Sobel of the always edifying Business of Tech podcast, we can now confirm what our eyeballs and intuition have long been telling us: it’s a really, really big problem. Check out these figures, for example, from Sobel’s IT Diversity Report Q2 2023, just out yesterday, which reflects data about 4,421 industry leaders scraped off of 300 vendor, distributor, and other channel company websites:
And because Sobel has been collecting and updating this data since March 2021, we also know that the ratio of men to women in IT isn’t exactly rocketing in the right direction.
Want to help reverse this sad state of affairs? A small but useful step you can take right this second is to nominate an exceptional female channel leader for this year’s 2023 ACW LEAD Awards. Administered by the not-for-profit Alliance of Channel Women, the program celebrates “women who are courageous, creative, collaborative, connected and confident in advancing technology channel careers,” while inspiring other channel women to follow their lead.
The nominating process ends on August 4th. The winners will be honored at a ceremony on October 30th at the Channel Futures Leadership Summit in Miami. And you absolutely know someone who deserves the recognition.
IaaS isn’t forever
Good news: Shaky economic conditions haven’t slowed migration into public clouds. To the contrary, according to (freely downloadable) data from IDC this week, persistent inflation and continuing fears of a recession have businesses taking even more workloads online than before.
What IDC’s study also tells us, however, is that what goes into a public infrastructure-as-a-service environment doesn’t always stay there.
That said, though 42% of organizations that “repatriate” IaaS workloads move them back on premises, most switch to a different public or private cloud option instead.
Also worth noting
Speaking of AI, Salesforce has introduced a generative AI tool called Service GPT to streamline field service and another named Sales GPT to streamline…sales.
SonicWall’s new monthly firewall security service bundles are aimed squarely at MSPs and MSSPs.
Acronym alert: GoTo now does MDM in addition to UCaaS, RMM, and PSA.
Cato Networks has added threat prevention based on real-time deep learning algorithms to its intrusion prevention system.
The AvePoint Certification program has a whole bunch of new training and development offerings.
Fans of DNSFilter now have access to a first-ever community partner portal.