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October 31, 2017 |

SolarWinds MSP’s Roadmap Emphasizes User Experience, Automation, and Security

In meetings with ChannelPro at last week’s Empower MSP conference in Orlando, company executives including Dave Sobel (pictured) described plans to switch from device-centric to user-centric management, equip its RMM systems to make technicians more efficient, and roll out new security solutions.

User experience. Automation. Security. All under an overarching theme of platform integration. These are the immediate focus areas of Durham, N.C.-based IT service management provider SolarWinds MSP, as described by company executives to ChannelPro at last week’s Empower MSP partner conference in Orlando.

Donning the metaphorical lab coat (actually Senior Director of Community Dave Sobel literally donned a lab coat for his presentation), the company also outlined future market opportunities for SolarWinds and its managed services provider partners, including artificial intelligence and machine learning; security and privacy; cloud services; and the Internet of Things.

Vice President of Product Management Greg Lissy, who came to SolarWinds MSP in June from a similar role at Citrix Systems Inc., says that NetPath, the network path monitoring solution for cloud services first unveiled last week, illustrates the company’s ongoing shift from device-centric to user-centric monitoring and management. With users accessing cloud services from a proliferating variety of devices, he explains, MSPs will increasingly be expected to troubleshoot issues.

“[NetPath] allows the MSP to track the path of a user to the cloud service, identify any chokepoints, and either remediate that problem or at least be able to identify to the SMB that ‘you’ve got a problem with your internet service provider,'” he says. “It’s a way they can get more granular on helping users identify any connectivity issues to essential cloud services.”

According to Lissy, NetPath also illustrates SolarWinds MSP’s ability to make enterprise-level technology from parent company SolarWinds available to MSPs and their SMB customers.

“We believe being part of SolarWinds affords us a differentiator, because we have access to intellectual property, resources, and branding that will allow us to bring enterprise-grade IT solutions into the MSP community so they can service their small and medium businesses in a more efficient way, and bring enterprise-level tools to their customers,” he says.

Lissy adds that NetPath, which took roughly six months to develop, is still in preview, with general availability expected the first half of next year. It will be integrated with the company’s cloud-based MSP RMM solution first, followed by the on-premises N-central RMM system.

The MSP RMM platform is due to receive two additional innovations in the future as well. One is a device filtering capability that will allow MSPs to identify endpoints with shared characteristics, like Windows 10 PCs in need of patching, and apply remediation to them collectively. “It will make techs more efficient,” Lissy says.

The second capability, due the first half of next year, will provide the ability to monitor network devices such as printers, routers, and switches, and “elevate them to first-class citizens in the RMM dashboard,” Lissy says. “This is an important feature. We think managed network devices is a step toward the broader Internet of Things.”

Available since August, meanwhile, is a product named Backup Documents that Lissy calls “a lightweight version of our [backup] solution, targeted at the file folder. It’s priced to be accessible, easily deployed, and is targeted at helping prevent ransomware.”

The product will relaunch in November, with a lower price and, unlike the original edition, no restriction on file size.

The Security Opportunity
Research that SolarWinds MSP conducted this summer found that 80 percent of decision-makers at U.S. and U.K. businesses that work with an MSP are planning to change the way they manage security in the next 12 months. Company executives say that is an opportunity for MSPs. Among the key findings, according to the study, 60 percent of respondents are handling security internally—in whole or in part—but more than 4 in 5 are planning to switch to an outsourcing model in the next 12 months.

“The next cyber battlefront is at the SMB, and the only way to protect them is to get those folks who are managing them to take security seriously,” says Tim Brown, the vendor’s vice president of security since July.

Mail Assure, a new product announced on the Empower conference pre-day, is based on technology from the company’s acquisition of SpamExperts. “If you look at the way a lot of threats come in, email is still one of major events we see, it’s not slowing down,” Brown says. “The better technology we can have and push out to the MSP is incredibly helpful, and a big part of our overall program.”

Brown adds that MSPs looking to become managed security services providers (MSSPs) can provide several different levels of service, from offering anti-virus and managing backups, to understanding regulations and offering compliance as a service for SMBs in industries like healthcare. The top tier MSSP offerings that also monitor and manage threat information is “probably overkill” for most SMBs, Brown says.

To help its MSP partners in security, Brown says the company “should have some good things to announce at the end of the year. One thing missing right now is the glue that glues everything together to make security easier for the MSP to manage and monitor. You’ll see us producing solution accelerators to provide the glue between our solutions, which will give the MSP the ability to protect their customers by giving them consolidated information.”

He continues, “My mission is to talk to MSPs, understand what they’re missing, what would be good to have in a single pane of glass, what components they can both sell and add value to their customers.” How that strategy is executed, he says, will likely comprise “build, buy, and partner decisions.”

Going forward, SolarWinds MSP is talking with partners and customers about what the future of management systems will look like. Up on the virtual whiteboard are topics like artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, self-healing and auto-provisioning, and the a back end that moves management to a user-centric model.

According to Sobel, the Internet of Things will come into play as well. “As more sensors come online we have to think differently about how we manage them,” he says. “If we don’t, these device classes will outpace our ability to manage them. And how are we going to secure all these things?

“We know one of biggest expenses with MSPs is labor. Can we make your people smarter? Give them better intelligence? Allow them to deliver a better customer experience? And what does that look like?”

The answers to these and other questions will play a prominent role in SolarWinds MSP’s future strategy, Sobel says.

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