Security still top of mind at IT Nation Connect as ConnectWise builds out security platform with two acquisitions

SIEM provider Perch Security and SOC-as-a-Service provider StratoZen both bring differentiated capabilities to the ConnectWise Fortify solution to broaden out its capabilities.

Jeff Bishop, ConnectWise’s Chief Product Officer

Today, ConnectWise launched its fall IT Nation Connect as a virtual event. The big news this year, reflecting the company’s emphasis of security over the past several years, was the acquisition of two security companies. ConnectWise has added both long-time SIEM partner Perch Security [long by the standards of a startup like Perch] and SOC-as-a-Service provider StratoZen. ConnectWise also announced some product updates, and provided some strategy updates.

“Effective today, we have acquired StratoZen and Perch Security,” said Jason Magee, ConnectWise’s CEO. “This is going to change the way TSPs and MSPs think about security.” He stressed that it would fulfill a key ConnectWise objective of eliminating the many siloes around point solutions that dominate the MSP industry.

“Security challenges really boil down to a big data problem,” said Brian Downey, ConnectWise’s VP of Security Product Management. “MSPs adding new tools to solve specific problems creates siloes of chaos. It’s not scalable and it’s not effective at ensuring clients are protected.”

Downey said ConnectWise’s goal outlined at the IT Explore event earlier this year was to change this approach, to enable MSPs to support security differently, and provide MSPs with what he termed a single platform that cuts through all the noise and translates it into actionable information

“It starts with capturing information from all security tools,” Downey noted. “SIEM vendors have tried to do this, but most SIEMs are complex and hard to manage, and these problems are amplified for MSPs. The Perch tool is the most implemented SIEM in the MSP community, and provides the exact foundation for the security platform we outlined at Explore.”

StratoZen comes in, Downey continued, because of their ability to analyze that SIEM data.

“They saw the benefit of SIEMs, but also the challenge how to make sense of the information once you have it,” he said. He noted that many typical issues, like a log in from China, are not always a problem, but could be. It just depended on the case, which took time to investigate.

“They addressed this by building rules, automation, visibility and threat intelligence engines to take information from tools like Perch and provide actionable information,” Downey indicated.

Brian Downey, ConnectWise’s VP of Security Product Management

“Our new combined security platform revolutionizes how MSPS can provide security needs for their clients,” he emphasized. “Together with Fortify, StratoZen and Perch provide the first MSP-focused security platform.”

Downey, who came to ConnectWise with the Continuum acquisition said that Continuum also provided analytics in their SOCs and services, but that StratoZen’s were better.

“Continuum brought services and analytics, but they were manual,” he said. “We wanted to drive more automation. StratoZen was just further along there than ConnectWise. It would have taken us time to build and perfect them, and this acquisition accelerated that.”

The company also provided an update on ConnectWise Fusion, the unified platform which was announced in the spring, and the future platform which will support all the ConnectWise products.

“Right now, we have 18 different tools,” said Jeff Bishop, ConnectWise’s Chief Product Officer. “We want to be able to move faster, and be more proactive, and our way of achieving that is our new platform, ConnectWise Fusion. It will allow us to centralize your data, so if you create a company inside Fortify, for example, it will be available in Automate and Manage  and all the other products, with one ticketing service through all the products.”

Fusion is still a visionary goal, but some parts of it have already been implemented.

“It is starting to become a reality,” Bishop said. “With some of the back-end services and tiered data, we are now able to take the aggregated data and share it for goal setting and dashboarding purposes. The reporting is there now across three or four of the product lines.” ConnectWise has 18 different reporting engines and workloads, so there is a way to go there.

With the Continuum acquisition last year, ConnectWise now has two RMM platforms, their original ConnectWise Automate and the one from Continuum, which is now ConnectWise Command. Having two RMMs as a long term strategy doesn’t seem to be particularly problematic. SolarWinds acquired RMM platforms with both N-able and LogicNow, and has continued to run both for years. ConnectWise seems committed to the same strategy.

“We are driving both RMM solutions forward,” Bishop said, noting that they appeal to two different groups of MSPs. “Automate is for those who want to do everything themselves and Command is ideal for those who need a little more help. We are doing scripting that can be consumed across both products.”

The integration of Continuum, whose acquisition was announced at this event a year ago, was slowed slightly by the pandemic, but much of the work of bringing the teams together – not easy to do in a Work From Home environment – has been accomplished.

“We had two organizations that operated differently with slightly different directions and we have established a single direction as a business,” Downey said. “We are seeing that in the products. Our recent release around vulnerability scanning had been started by both product teams independently before the acquisition, and merged together effectively.”

The integration of the second company announced a year ago, documentation provider IT Boost, continues to progress.

“The engineering and product teams are fully in, although we are still working on integrations into the product line,” Bishop indicated.

ITBoost’s Version 4  was one of the product enhancements made at the event. Version 4 involved making back-end changes to improve performance, as well as adding automated capture of information from more than a dozen different providers including Microsoft, Amazon and Cisco.

“ITBoost was originally designed for smaller MSPs, so we needed to make some back-end architectural modifications,” Bishop noted.

ConnectWise Manage has been enhanced with improvements to the billing automation engine and a new reconciliation option that saves hours to days in getting invoices to customers.

“This isn’t flashy, but it will have a lot of impact,” Bishop said. “If an MSP is buying third party products from distribution or direct, many spend hours determining if they billed customers correctly. Manage now solves this issue, letting you see potential problems, make quick corrections, and get invoices out faster. Depending on the size of the partner, it will save hours to days every month with its automation.”

BrightGauge, which has been a dashboarding reporting tool, is having its functionality broadened, with a a pilot program opening this month on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“We look at 30,000 MSPs’ aggregated data, and we know things like how many new partners they onboard, and how many support tickets they get every day,” Bishop said. “This will let MSPs compare their data to their peers, to let them set goals in comparison with the rest of the world. It will give them business insight to help them improve.”

Finally, some features between the two RMMs have been added to the other. ConnectWise Control is now available in ConnectWise Command and the Help Desk service from Command is being piloted in ConnectWise Automate.

“We are bringing the best of both worlds to each product line,” Bishop stated.

All of this has been done within the context of the pandemic.

“There have been many challenges, outside of ones we have all heard about around communications and remote working,” said Magee. “Everything colleague related is the biggest challenge. How do you get them onboarded with the team and culture, when they are sitting at home. How do you get them integrated into what we are?”

He noted that professional development is also a challenge, since when all training is virtual, virtual call fatigue is a real thing.  Because work-life balance is a blur, it’s harder to get people excited and motivated.

“It’s necessary to be flexible in leading in terms of an office type culture environment moving to work from home,” Magee said. “We are all in the same boat No one has all the answers. No one has been through anything like this before. There’s plenty of opportunity. We are going to be fine. We put a strategy in place at the end of last year, and we had to reprioritize some things, around Work From Home, but the tremendous opportunity of the new hybrid approach is here to stay.”