SMB-focused Untangle building out MSP channel, expanded product line

Untangle, which has seen both the percentage of its business done through partners and by MSPs specifically grow significantly, will have new product in general release in Q4.

The Untangle z4w, one of their 10-50 user models

LAS VEGAS — Untangle, which provides network security for SMBs, is transitioning its business to do more business through the channel, to do more with MSPs, and to offer a broader solution set. The company also exhibited at the CompTIA ChannelCon event here for the first time, and talked with ChannelBuzz about how that appearance fit into their strategy.

San Jose-based Untangle has been in business since 2003, and were acquired in late 2016 by a private equity firm, Providence Strategic Growth. Their roots are unabashedly in the small business space, and they make an integrated suite of software and appliances aimed principally at the small business market around NG Firewall, their software next-generation firewall solution. Most of their appliances are aimed at the 10-50 or the 50-100 user range, although they do have a larger model that scales to the 500-3000 user range.

“We have always kept to our original mission,” said Steve Young, channel marketing manager at Untangle. “For us, it has always been about what that customer wants, which is not 500 different features, but being easy to use. Our technology isn’t designed for the enterprise. It isn’t scaled in that way. We have always sold well in Canada because of our commitment to the SMB space.”

Untangle has had a hybrid Go-to-Market strategy historically, but the channel side has been emerging as the dominant one.

“There has been a shift over the last several years, were we have relied more on partners than we ever had before,” Young said. “We have had a hybrid model  – with the direct component being sales from our website. However, we have shifted more to partners than we ever have before, and the direct sales have fallen off quite a bit.”

The growth of the channel prompted Untangle to get more involved in managing it, and that started with the development of a proper partner program.

“I was hired a year and a half ago to build a new channel program,” Young indicated. “The original was the ‘sign up and get a discount’ kind of program. I built a new program, which is the one that we now have, which has things like deal registration, proper collateral, and a defined list of benefits. We also revitalized the partner portal, and are working a 2.0 version of the program to offer more scalable benefits. It’s a single-tier program right now, but we are working on more tools to provide more benefits to our best partners.”

They have about 1200 partners on the books, about half of whom are active. Like the industry as a whole, they have seen a transition from VARs to MSPs, but it is particularly severe in their case.

“There has been a huge shift in the types of partners we are getting,” Young said. “While we built the product from the ground up to serve the MSP market, the initial channel was mainly VAR resellers. It was 80-20 VAR. Now, it’s around 10-90, with most being MSPs. They also are new MSPs, not the same guys who changed their business model.”

Untangle has also introduced some significant new product. In March they announced their Network Security Framework, which adds new Micro Firewall and SD-WAN router products to their existing NG Firewall and Command Center products.

“The new SD-WAN router is a complementary product to our existing firewall solution for a main office,” Young said. “These new products are for branch offices, which sometimes are for different buildings in the same location. It’s common to host a main server in one building and others in other buildings. That’s big in universities and schools and SLED.”

Both the Untangle Micro Firewall and SD-WAN Router are still in beta.

“We are looking at the middle of Q4 for general availability,” Young stated.

This was Untangle’s first appearance as an exhibitor at the ChannelCon event.

“We wanted to come last year, and we signed up two months before, but we couldn’t get the resources together within the time frame,” young noted. “We wanted to talk to partners, and have two sales reps here as well.”

Young said that as a first-time attendee, their expectations were relatively low.

“We were just looking to have some conversations,” he said. “However, many people who have looked at us at the show have been interested. We reconnected with a lot of people who tried us in the past and forgot about us when they standardized on SonicWall or Fortinet. Some new partners also discovered us here, and we will have active conversations with them afterwards. Our beautiful dashboard has been popular with partners.”