Managed Services

N-able CEO Talks MSP Trends, MDR, Secret Product Plan

What can managed security providers expect in the year ahead? What are the trends that will be most important in 2024? And what’s on the technology and channel roadmap for MSP platform giant N-able?

ChannelE2E caught up with N-able CEO John Pagliuca to discuss where his company will be investing in 2024, what MSPs can expect from N-able’s roadmap, and his perspective on what it takes to be a successful MSP in today’s market. Here’s some of what he told us.

N-able's Big Cybersecurity Play

If you think cybersecurity was important to MSP businesses before, just wait until 2024. Ransomware attacks against small- and medium-sized businesses and enterprises just keep growing.

That’s part of what’s behind N-able’s plan to introduce its own managed detection and response (MDR) solution in 2024, Pagliuca told ChannelE2E.

“MSPs are beginning to lead with cybersecurity,” Pagliuca said. “That’s how they are differentiating themselves.”

Even more important than cybersecurity threats, regulations continue to roll out across industries about data protection, cybersecurity incidents and breaches, and end customer companies are calling on their MSPs to make them compliant.

Whether it’s healthcare, financial services, or manufacturing, many industries are facing new requirements. While some businesses may have more of an appetite for risk than others, making cybersecurity spending a choice, the need for compliance makes cybersecurity spending a necessity.

“Compliance changes what was a world of gray to a world of black and white,” Pagliuca said. “It is now binary. You are either compliant or you are not.”

N-able to Introduce its own MDR in 2024

N-able is investing in cybersecurity with its own MDR offering, first announced by Pagliuca during the company’s Q3 earnings call in November. N-able already has a big investment in cybersecurity, and this will build on that. During the earnings call Pagliuca said that N-able’s MDR offering will help the company differentiate itself and attract new MSP customers that may not already be using the company’s N-central platform. Pagliuca promised more updates on the MDR offering in 2024.

Pagliuca promised that N-able’s MDR would be built with the channel in mind as a multi-tenanted offering.

“MDR offerings for the most part are a service. It’s a black box,” Pagliuca told ChannelE2E. “So the MSP or their SME gets the response out of the black box. They don’t have visibility into what’s going on with that or what the SOC technician is looking at.”

Pagliuca wants to change that with N-able’s MDR and give the MSP and potentially even their end customer a view of the screen.

“How does that play out? If you're a regional bank, for example, and you're going through a compliance audit and the auditor asks a question, you don’t have to say: ‘oh, I don't know, my MDR shop is providing that to me, and it's coming into this black box.’  N-able’s MDR transparency will help certain industries with their compliance audits by separating the software from the service. It allows the IT person inside that regional bank or the MSP to have eyes on glass to better educate them so they can see what's going on.”

Is the Line Between MSSPs and MSPs Blurring?

While MSPs will be leading with cybersecurity services, Pagliuca believes that most MSPs won’t be jumping in with both feet to develop their own full host of cybersecurity services. That’s a complicated and expensive proposition.

“To build an SOC is a multi-million dollar investment,” he said. “And depending on the market you are in, you might not be able to even attract those folks or pay for those folks.”

Pagliuca advises that MSPs proceed with caution.

“I would ask MSPs to measure twice and cut once on the decision of whether or not to become an MSSP,” he said. “It’s not just adding a letter to your logo. It’s whether or not you have the technical know-how or the multi-million dollar investment.”

MSPs and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The year 2023 was also the year that ChatGPT tipped artificial intelligence, or at least generative AI, into a mainstream technology.

N-able has also been on that bandwagon, introducing generative AI for script automation into its N-central RMM platform in the company’s most recent release announced this month. The new release also includes advanced management capabilities for iOS and macOS devices, improved analytics and reporting, and deeper integration of security and backup solutions.

All these components are core to what Pagliuca said are the two verbs that are key to the success of every MSP: “Standardize and automate, automate and standardize.”

These verbs apply to how MSPs go to market and how they are using their tech stacks. MSPs that are leveraging automation the right way should be able to achieve 35% EBITDA, Pagliuca said.

Pagliuca's Predictions: Trends for MSPs in 2024

ChannelE2E asked Pagliuca for his thoughts on what the big topics or trends would be for MSPs in 2024, and here’s what he said.

  • A blurred line between IT operations and security. “I’m going to add a new verb. I said standardize and automate. The new verb is augment. MSPs need to think about where they can augment and even leverage cybersecurity services.”
  • Automation. It continues to be key for successful MSPs, and it will become even more important in 2024. N-able itself is also looking to improve its APIs next year to give MSPs the ability to push and pull data, not just from N-able but from other offerings. “This is an area where frankly we’ve been behind. We’ve caught up this quarter, and we’re hopefully going to leapfrog the industry in 2024 with a better API so that MSPs can add with a low code/no code call.”
  • Hybrid, hybrid, hybrid. Pagliuca means this in a few different ways. First, it’s about adding support for more devices to the N-central platform. For instance, MSPs now have the ability to do Apple device management. But it’s also about providing help for MSPs that need to manage cloud infrastructure and APIs. “We’re delivering the APIs this quarter. We are going to continue to invest in 2024 in APIs and cloud management. We actually have close to 100 customers in a beta program right now experiencing our cloud management tool.” Pagliuca didn’t share the name of that still secret tool with ChannelE2E, but he did say that it allows MSPs to more efficiently use low-code/no-code methods to manage Microsoft Cloud offerings including InTune and Azure, all in one consolidated way.  “This will revolutionize and automate the way MSPs are managing this hybrid world. Devices aren’t going away. It’s hybrid that MSPs are looking to do. The industry has been missing that point.”
Jessica C. Davis

Jessica C. Davis has spent a career as a journalist and editor covering the business of technology including chips, software, the cloud, AI, and cybersecurity. She previously served as editor in chief of Channel Insider and later of MSP Mentor (now part of Channel Futures). She was a key editor in the original MSP 501 list. She now serves as editorial director for CyberRisk Alliance’s channel brands, MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E.