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SolarWinds, Continuum: Similar Owners, Different MSP Security Strategies

At first glance, SolarWinds MSP and Continuum support strikingly similar customers — namely, managed services providers (MSPs). Private equity firm Thoma Bravo backs both technology companies. And both firms are pushing hard into the managed security services partner market.

Still, their respective business strategies are strikingly different.

SolarWinds MSP GM John Pagliuca

Continuum CEO Michael George

Continuum’s Strategy: At this week’s Continuum Navigate 2018 conference, the company emphasized a worldwide SOC (security operations center) platform that MSPs can plug into. The 24×7 SOC operation leverages technologies from Sentinel OneEventTracker and Webroot. The thesis: Most MSPs can’t afford to find, hire and retain SOC talent, making Continuum the logical SOC partner for those MSPs, CEO Michael George asserts.

SolarWinds MSP’s Strategy: At last week’s Empower MSP conference, SolarWinds rolled out a Threat Monitoring Service Program — which leverages the recent Trusted Metrics acquisition. Unlike Continuum’s strategy to build and support its own worldwide SOC for MSPs, SolarWinds wants to sell threat monitoring software subscriptions to MSSPs. And those MSSPs, in turn, can support smaller MSP partners. It’s essentially a two-tier managed security distribution model.

Winner Take All? Not Really

Which strategy is wiser? I’m not ready to pick an ultimate winner. I see pros and cons in both approaches.

In Continuum’s world, the company will need to fine-tune the global SOC to support a myriad of infrastructure and device types. That’s quite a challenge. But the payoff could be huge. If the company’s 24×7 global SOC meets expectations, small MSPs can potentially avoid the security labor and technology hassles that plague so many of today’s service providers.

In SolarWinds’ world, the company controls its IP (intellectual property) destiny by owning and now customizing the Trusted Metrics platform. But the approach also means that SolarWinds must identify a few, highly trusted, mature MSSPs to run the software. And those MSSPs, in turn, must only partner with smaller, operationally mature MSPs that don’t flood help desk inboxes and support lines with noise from end-customers.

Of course, those aren’t the only two options in town. Each of the major MSP industry software providers is pushing hard into the security market. The next major move will likely involve ConnectWise, which will emphasize managed security partnerships at the company’s IT Nation 2018 conference in November.

In the meantime, I’m intrigued by the differing SOC approaches at SolarWinds and Continuum. If both strategies succeed, it will reinforce the fact that MSPs have more than one pathway toward managed security services, and the associated revenues.

PS: Silver Lake also has an ownership stake in SolarWinds. But those Silver Lake and Thoma Bravo stakes are bound to change if SolarWinds completes an anticipated IPO in the weeks ahead…

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