Business continuity, Channel partner programs, MSP, Networking, Storage

Barracuda CEO: MSP Platform Is Heart of Partner Strategy

Brian Babineau
Brian Babineau
Barracuda CEO BJ Jenkins

One year after Barracuda Networks acquired Intronis, the security and storage company continues to double down on an MSP-oriented platform and channel partner strategy, CEO BJ Jenkins tells ChannelE2E.

During an interview yesterday, Jenkins and Intronis MSP Solutions GM Brian Babineau recapped Barracuda's journey into the MSP channel, pinpointed key milestones over the past year, and described where the data protection company is heading next.

At first glance, the company's MSP-oriented journey began in September 2015 -- when Barracuda announced the $65 million Intronis buyout. But take a closer look and you'll discover the acquisition wasn't an overnight decision. Instead, it was part of a larger strategy based on multiple market trends that Barracuda observed in the market, Jenkins says.

How Barracuda's MSP March Began

Barracuda for several years has had channel partners deploy the company's firewalls and security solutions within managed services frameworks. The trend became clear in 2012, and perhaps even earlier, Jenkins says.

By March 2015, the company launched an MSP partner program to recognize partners that were moving towards recurring revenues and managed services. And by August 2015, the company's partner council expressed a need for more of an end-to-end MSP offering. "The confluence of those things inspired us to take a closer look at the overall MSP market and the solutions within it. That's when we found Intronis," Jenkins says. "It was the perfect platform. It was what we were looking for."

Intronis, founded in 2003, was a cloud-based backup provider. The company had a loyal, growing base of MSPs. And a major R&D effort, known as the Intronis ECHOplatform, was poised to extend the company beyond basic backup offerings.

Still, Intronis' journey as an independent company wouldn't be easy. Fast-growth rivals like Datto were raising money. And MSP software providers like Continuum and LogicNow (recently acquired by SolarWinds) owned their own backup and disaster recovery (BDR) platforms within larger product portfolios. There were also signs that the lines between security and storage would increasingly blur, especially as Ransomware emerged as a top threat to businesses of all sizes.

Amid those market challenges and opportunities, Barracuda announced plans to acquire Intronis in September 2015 -- and the deal was finalized shortly thereafter.

Hitting the Ground Running With Intronis

Although every M&A deal experiences a range of challenges, Barracuda's buyout of Intronis was widely considered a success from the get-go. Among the reasons: Barracuda already understood the MSP market.

"We watched the market for many years. We introduced our MSP program in early 2015 and got lots of feedback about what to do next," recalls Babineau. "That made us really think about all the things that could be possible in the MSP market. And the opportunities involve more than a partner program, product features and functions. You have to have a good economic proposition for the partners. All those things, combined, make for a successful MSP business strategy. You can't go into this market blind. You need some perspective to make the right moves. We had the perspective."

Equally important: Barracuda had a management transition plan in place for Intronis. In any M&A deal, executives often exit. That held true in the Intronis acquisition. Even when GM Rick Faulk left for a robotics startup, there was a transition plan in place.

Barracuda also had an R&D roadmap in place for both Intronis as well as the Barracuda security portfolio. New branding and appliances arrived in March 2016. By May, Jenkins hinted that more security solutions were heading toward the Intronis partner base. And by June, those security offerings actually emerged. Babineau recapped many of the milestones in a July interview with ChannelE2E.

Barracuda: Building an MSP 'Platform'

Fast-forward to present day. Barracuda isn't resting on its laurels. But Jenkins sounds pleased with Intronis' performance and the company's broader MSP engagement strategy.

"From my perspective, it has been what we hoped for," Jenkins says. "A year after the acquisition we're as excited as ever about Intronis. It was a great move for us. But like any market this is a fast-moving market. You have to keep investing and growing the platform."

And therein resides the key word: Platform. Jenkins has never thought of Intronis as backup software tool. Instead, it's a services platform for MSPs. And the platform over the past year has extended to include physical appliances, email protection, advanced threat protection, next-generation firewalls and more.

"When we talk about our strategy and how we reach customers and partners, the MSP platform is at the heart of that conversation," says Jenkins. "The platform allows Intronis partners to build more and more solutions capabilities, and to expand their business and profit model with Intronis," he says. The platform strategy has also expanded internationally -- first to the United Kingdom, with more geographies to follow, Jenkins adds.

So what's next? "We'll continue to make sure we get all of our products onto the platform," says Babineau. The effort will include more and more management capabilities built into the ECHOplatform -- essentially allowing MSPs to manage all of the Barracuda products from that dashboard, he adds.

The worlds of storage and security will continue to blur, Jenkins adds, especially as ransomware attacks escalate. "When I see all the ransomware attacks, we're the only vendor I know of with complete security, compliance, backup, recovery and continuity services in a single framework."

Competition Looms

Still, Intronis wasn't the biggest kid on the MSP block when Barracuda acquired the company. A lengthy list of storage and security companies enjoy loyal followings in the MSP market. And rivals such as Datto are preparing to extend from storage into the security sector (see item 5 here).

Heck, even SonicWall -- which apparently lost some channel momentum under Dell's ownership -- appears poised for a partner rebound now that the company will soon be independent.

Barracuda must also prove every day that it values partners. At times, the company has faced criticism for radio ads, billboards and other promotions that evangelize direct sales to customers.

Amid all those variables, anecdotal evidence suggests Barracuda's MSP-focused businesses are accelerating. You can credit the Intronis acquisition. But perhaps the bigger credit involves a bigger vision -- to build an overall MSP platform involving all of Barracuda's products.

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.