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SolarWinds MSP boss talks of focus behind N-Able change

The firm is planning a rebrand as it goes public under a brand it acquired almost a decade ago, saying the move is a positive for its MSP base

At some point in the second quarter, the name SolarWinds MSP should start fading into memory and managed service providers (MSPs) and investors will be learning to work and live with N-Able.

The brand change is part of the next chapter for the firm, but it comes at a time when the SolarWinds brand has been tarnished by the significant data breach that affected the company after it first came to light in December 2019.

Although SolarWinds MSP was not involved, there can be issues with brand association, However, the decision to return to a brand that SolarWinds purchased in 2013 was a separate strategy.

“In August 2020, we told the world that we kicked off this exploration of spinning the SolarWinds MSP business as a separate publicly traded business. The reasons for that really is what I refer to as the F word – and that is ‘focus’,” said John Pagliuca, president of SolarWinds MSP.

“We got together with the board and the management team, and said,‘If we’re able to focus on this business and give it its own kind of special remit, we believe it will be a better experience for our partners, our employees, and for shareholders’,” he added.

That focus should benefit the MSPs that the firm works with because it comes with investment and product plans.

“[We have an] increased focus in R&D [research and development] to bring products to market at a pace that our MSPs need. There’s a huge tailwind right now, as it relates to security and to this continued digital evolution,” said Pagliuca.

“It’s really the focus around our technology and our customer success to make these MSPs successful, to make sure that these SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] can continue on their digital evolution.”

The line behind the frontline

It has become clear during the coronavirus pandemic that security is a key area for customers, and SMEs are in the sights of criminals, with a need for greater protection. Protecting data has shot up the agenda, particularly for SMEs.

“Everybody from their customers to themselves are focused on security and how they can be secure,” said Tim Brown, vice-president of security at SolarWinds MSP. “Securing that information, securing the data, securing the access and being able to measure that security is just critical for this next wave.”

Pagliuca said: “The global economy is fuelled by SMEs. They, for the most part, need help leveraging and managing their IT services and in making sure that their data is protected. IT security has become the critical factor on whether or not an SME not only can just survive, but also thrive.”

The past year has not only seen changes at SolarWinds MSP with the N-Able decision, but has seen many MSPs and customers adapt to Covid-19.

Pagliuca said he cannot speak highly enough about the MSPs the firm works with and what they did for customers over the course of the past year.

“Our MSPs in this community became the line behind the frontline...behind each one of those services [healthcare and transportation, for example] were MSPs making sure that their infrastructure was right, making sure that they were able to access their data and were able to work from home,” he said.

But for many customers, this has become a profound moment when their future strategies are up for discussion, and many are choosing to stick with the cloud and managed services they adopted during the pandemic.

“The pandemic thrust upon us the largest social IT and business experiment ever known in the history of man, where we basically told the world in a matter of weeks, in some cases, that you need to change the way you’re going to work, you’re going to change the surface area, the way that you collaborate, the way you need to conduct business overnight,” said Pagliuca.

“I don’t think anybody thinks we’re going to go back to what it was before. It’s going to be different because the experiment actually worked in most cases,” he added.

The next few months should lead up to the public spin-off for N-Able, and the message coming from Pagliuca is that this is going to be a strong development for its channel partners.

“Our mission is to empower the MSP, and it’s this kind of three-party partnership that we have where we’re focusing on empowering the MSP for them to then help the SME,” Pagliuca added.

“It’s a message to the community that we’re 100% rooted in this partnership and that we’re committed to doing everything we can to empower MSPs, so it’s a bit of a back to our roots story. We’re only successful if our MSPs are successful.”

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