Friday, August 28, 2009

Zenith Smart Style Brings the Cloud to You

Zenith is rebranding their Cloud Service offering as Smart Style Computing. I just finished their two day business model training at Pointivity in San Diego.

If you're a Zenith partner, go sign up for this training right now at If you're not a Zenith partner, run don't walk to become a partner today.

Zenith expects to start shipping their on-premise cloud solution in October . . . just around the corner. And you can't buy it if you haven't done this training.

There was a recent write-up on this topic in Vertical Systems Reseller magazine.

Okay. So much for the announcements.

What is this thing?

Zenith's Smart Style computing is a unit that will include redundant servers and a backup, with the ability to quickly deploy virtual servers and workstations. The goal will be to create an entire client office "in a box" on virtual machines. The basic box is dirt cheap. Each server is small additional charge per month, and each virtual workstation is a very small charge per month.

Of course you're free to price this to your clients as you see fit.

One way to sell this (which we anticipate doing) is for you to provide this device plus thin clients and Microsoft SPLA licensing. In other words, you will own 100% of the client's technology. You'll own the hardware and resell the software on a monthly basis.

The client will buy technology as a service, so it's a total operating expenditure and not payments on an asset that depreciates. It means the client can count on a nice stable price for three years and avoid that big one-time bump for the purchase of the server.

When I went to the initial Zenith roadshow for this product in April, I knew right away that we needed to sell it. I talked to a client who had spent about $80,000 over the previous three years to support an SBS Server and ten users, with all managed service and hourly labor.

My basic pitch was that we would be able to even out monthly costs, cut the overall budget by 10%, and provide a much higher level of service and support.

How can I do that? Well . . . for one thing, desktop support will consist largely of rebooting the thin client to bring down a fresh image. Done.

The client was very eager to do this. He made it clear he didn't want to be the first person on such a system, but he's be willing to be an early adopter.

Another client said they'd go through an early adoption if I put my company through it by building up our own infrastructure on such a system. Resistance so far has been zero.

There are two big questions that everyone has:

1) If all my stuff is on one big thing, what happens when that thing breaks?

2) If something happens to KPEnterprises, who would support such a system?

Answer 1 is pretty straight forward. Because the BDR is included in the package, a total failure of two servers would just mean that we have to restore an image to something else. KPEnterprises would provide a loaner machine and the client would be back up same day.

If the price is right, we might even have a spare Smart Style Computing system in a box at our office.

Answer 2 is that there will be lots of companies supporting this technology by the time we get our hands on it and begin actually deploying it. If Zenith has as much success with this as they've had with the BDR devices, this should be no problem at all.

- - - - -

Most of the training for the last two days was not about the product itself. The training was a step up on cloud services and a pummelling on the business models that are available to cloud service providers (like YOU).

Do yourself a favor. Get into this space as quickly as you can.

The early adopters are lining up. The technology is emerging very quickly. And the future is a lot closer than you think.


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  1. until 2008R2 thers no Mic support in TS. So you wont be using any SIP softphones on thinclients. Other than that I've been very happy with the ESX/SBS/TS environments I've rolled out. This sounds cool though. HAve to check it out.

  2. Hey Karl,

    The only issue I see here with Zenith 's - or any other Cloud approach using Microsoft's SPLA - is you can only sell servers. Microsoft does not allow the hosting of virtual desktops (which was a huge part of Zenith's pitch) and Microsoft has told us they are not allowing it anytime soon.

    How is Zenith getting around this?

  3. Actually, Pachoey, Microsoft has a whole web site they've launched just to address this issue.


    Plus there's VECD, but VDI is the future.

    See also Simple Little Pocket Guide to Virtual Licensing -- Desktops.

  4. Does anyone know what the pricing will be?

    When will the Zenith offering be available?

  5. Karl - I am interested in your take on this now a little over a year and a half later. Do you still feel this is a good move and should MSPs be moving towards this solution

  6. Thank you Shane.

    It has been awhile. The SmartStyle product is now shipping and MSPs are installing it.

    We have not sold one to a client yet. The Sacramento area is just starting to rumble it's way out of the recession. But we are quoting it and looking for opportunities to deploy it.

    Based on what I know and what I've seen with my own eyes, we would love to sell this product.

  7. Well I had just ordered 3 Eval Copies, and they arrived. Let me tell you SO far I am so far from Impressed. The Hardware is SuperMicro, and they are delievered directly from SuperMicro with the Zenith Cloud Software Image installed.

    When we were sold on these servers, it is being sold as there product, thus being a Sealed unit, but it's not, so I am lost to the fact as to why we can't add HDD's or Memory, but thats truely besides the point.

    So I unpacka nd rack these crappy things, and power them. The OS is built on Ubuntu 9.2 Linux, and is protected, so forget about plugging in a Keyboard. mouse and Monitor. I was advised by my Account Manager at Zenith to contact support once they arrive and they would walk me through the Setup, so I do and I ask how do I connect to these servers to start the Configuration. I am told to Connect My laptop to the Management Port, with a Standard Ethernet Cable, and set my NIC to the same Subnet as the Server (, I immediately asked "Straight-though or Cross-over", I am told straight-though. To get to the MMC, you need to browse to SO I do all that and nothing, cannot connect.

    I call support again, this time I am sternly told that I MUST use a Cross-Over, so I ket it slide that I am told one thing and then another. SO I try that and Nothing.

    I call back and this time I am told that I must place a Gigabit Switch in between my laptop and the Server. At this point I am starting to lose my mind and I still haven't logged on to the Damn thing yet. So we get into a heated conversation as to the reasons why, and then realize that he is just a helpdesk guy has no real answers.

    So I place a 10/100 switch and browse to and I get to the MMC, and now I have to start the initial configuration, which by the way if you make a mistake or somewhere down the line you want to change something, Like IP's forget about it, it can only be ran once.

    This is where I have been stuck for over an hour now, and I scare to call into Support again.

    Just to let you know where and why I am stuck. I am stuck on the very first part Network configuration, very basic but Zenith has made it complicated beyond measure.

    I am adding the Server to my current LAN and the folling information is required.

    Starting IP:
    Ending IP: (This system also for some reason requires 10 Reserved IPs, otherwise you would be required to create a Private SSO LAN)
    Network: (your Complete IP range
    Subnet Mask:

    Here is my config Starting Ending Network Gateway Mask

    It fails with no error message except for you missing something.

    So I am not sure how much further I truely would like to go with this, since it's been a disaster from the very begining. I am very displeased with how Zenith came out with this. As a Company we have spent TONS of time with Zenith Training and Webcasts, private Webmeetings to discuss the product, and we have been told so many different stories, versions of other instructions, and now we are being told that you can't have 2 servers, that you would be required to have three, is getting sort of crazy.


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