Solarwinds MSP: What does the future look like?

Alistair Forbes, LOGICnow’s general manager, discussed what the creation of the new company will mean to partners, and the new company’s priorities going forward.

Alistair-Forbes-LogicNow 300

Alistair Forbes, LOGICnow’s general manager

Last week’s acquisition by Solarwinds of LOGICnow, and integration of the new acquisition and SolarWinds N-able into SolarWinds MSP creates a much larger company, but also raises some significant questions about the direction the company will head in. Alistair Forbes, LOGICnow’s general manager, discussed the logic of the acquisition, and where the company is headed.

Forbes emphasized that this is very much a merger stemming from strength rather than weakness.

“It is not a question of anyone bailing out,” he said. “We have seen very strong growth in the managed services market in general and in LOGICnow’s share of that,” he said. “N-able has also had strong growth, so this is definitely a 1+1=3 situation.”

Combining N-able’s on-prem solution with LOGICnow’s cloud one also will create new synergies, Forbes said.

“We are now the only player in the market with both cloud and on-prem delivery platforms, and there are a number of technologies we can crosspollinate from that,” he said.

Forbes also pointed out that SolarWinds’ track record of acquisitions in this space is a promising one.

“The SolarWinds acquisition of of N-able was their first big foray into the MSP market, and has clearly been the most successful of the flurry of MSP acquisitions three years ago,” he said. “This move will continue that, with the idea of creating a very powerful new competitor. Both companies have a strong established partner base – about 20,000 partners combined – and the portfolio we now assemble gives us a very powerful one for MSPs.”

Forbes said that from LOGICnow’s perspective, the new company gives them a real opportunity to expand their market.

“In terms of the size of customers, both N-able and ourselves have been focused on mid-size MSPs and the lower end of the large MSPs, companies with a range of from 5-100 employees,” he said. “However, SolarWinds itself has a customer base that is much larger than that, and serves some of the largest MSPs in the world. We have aspirations to address those kind of customers, and we see this as an opportunity to leverage our push up in the market.

“In terms of global reach, we also think this gives us an opportunity to look at new geos like some of the Asian markets, with Japan being the first opportunity, followed by some of the south-east Asian economies. This is more of a medium term play for us. Our short term priorities are very much the established markets we already have.”

Addressing the concerns of those established markets is the top concern, and Forbes admitted that many such concerns have been expressed by partners since the deal was announced.

“There have been a lot of questions is the honest answer,” he said. “In this situation, the first question for any partner will be ‘is my choice still the right choice.’ They want to know what this means for them, and whether their investment is safe. Our top priority is to make our direction clear. We are doing our best to communicate that it is business as usual in that regard, and that taking advantage of our complementary strengths doesn’t mean abandoning partners who have got us to this point. We are emphasizing that we will invest in the complementary products each other have, and that this will give MSPs more arrows in their quiver, by reaching out to the SolarWinds portfolio for things like networking management.”

That broadening out of the portfolio in this way is another medium-term objective, Forbes said.

“N-able brings increased internal operating efficiency of MSPs from automation,” he said. “LOGICnow’s security platform has been a real strong focus for us, and one of the things we bring to the combined company. LOGICnow is also strong in analytics. One of the biggest trends today is using data analytics to get better insights, but the challenge for MSPs is making sense of all this data, because they don’t have the resources to implement these sort of things themselves. So we have invested in things like data analytics, and in machine learning, with the LOGICcards we introduced last fall. These use machine learning-based algorithms, but there is a lot more that we want to do with machine learning.”

Since both SolarWinds N-able and LOGICnow have different RMM platforms, a key concern is how this will be resolved going forward. SolarWinds MSP has committed to continuing both platforms – for the near term. Long term is another story.

“Long term, we will work towards a consolidation of the two platforms,” Forbes said. “Each has its own particular strengths – them on automation, and us on security. But harmonizing these is a medium to long term project. It’s not anything we can do quickly. Technically, it will take some time to do that. Ultimately, the objective will be to get the best of both platforms.”

Integrating the channel programs is made somewhat less complex by the fact that the models in North America are fairly close.

“There is a lot of similarity, because both in North America are direct to MSPs,” Forbes said. “There are some differences in the international markets. In Europe, LOGICnow used distribution partners in most of the non-English speaking markets, which is different from the N-able model, but we will work through that.”

Forbes also emphasized that the new company is well aware that just being bigger won’t make it better.

“Being bigger in and of itself won’t make SolarWinds MSP more innovative, but both N-able and ourselves have been heavily R&D led companies, and we have the engineering horsepower to innovate. While it’s by no means assured that being larger makes you a more powerful competitor, the teams do have a lot of M&A experience, and SolarWinds let N-able grow and prosper very strongly. This is all about a shared vision of what we are trying to deliver to the market, and communication in the early days is all-important.”