N-able Joins Team Ecosystem

Devoted Channelholic readers might recall something I wrote last November about the difference between Kaseya’s Oracle-like wish to sell MSPs everything they use and ConnectWise’s Microsoft-esque ecosystem strategy.

Mike Adler, N-Able’s chief technology and product officer remembers the piece well enough to have referenced it briefly during our conversation this week at the vendor’s Empower partner conference in Frisco, Texas. And N-able, he wanted me to know, has decisively cast its lot with Team Ecosystem.

Or rather, “Ecoverse,” which is the term the third member of the managed services software world’s big three uses to describe the family of integration partners it officially began building this week.

The initiative both is and isn’t a new development. N-able’s two RMM platforms have long traded data with a wide range of PSA solutions, and the company has strategic relationships with SentinelOne, which makes its EDR solution, and Adlumin, which runs its much younger MDR service. But at a time when MSPs are responsible for managing and securing physical and virtual endpoints, SaaS apps, cloud-based infrastructure, and more, N-able recognizes that it takes more than a few close friends and its own portfolio to meet the needs of its partners.

“As the chief product officer of N-able, I want every MSP to use every single MSP product in our portfolio,” Adler says. “I also know the reality is that they operate in an ecosystem of tools, some of which we don’t even provide.”

And all of which need to work together efficiently, notes John Pagliuca (pictured), N-able’s president and CEO.

“An average MSP might have 15, 16, 17 different solutions,” he says. “The idea that things can interoperate and flow without the need for having technicians waste their time pushing and pulling data into different systems is a huge driver on efficiency and also on resiliency.”

To make everything in its Ecoverse work as one, N-able is steadily arming its N-central RMM solution with an evolving collection of REST APIs that the company says go deeper than anything its competitors offer. Rather than simply exchange data and perform push updates, the new interfaces can execute automations, trigger events, and synchronize multi-vendor, multi-application workflows in real time.

N-able’s Ecoverse launch partners, HaloPSA and Rewst (the RPA vendor we’ve written about here a time or two) are both enthusiastic about what the new tech makes possible.

“The API is a game changer,” says Charlie Tomeo, Rewst’s CRO. “If somebody wants to use Halo, they want to use N-able, and they’re a Rewst partner, it’s almost limitless the stuff they can do.”

Like ConnectWise, which requires its developers to use the exact same interfaces its partners use when linking applications, N-able promises it will have no home field advantage on integrations going forward.

“Everything from the API perspective, from the integration perspective, that we do internally will be equally available to others in the MSP ecosystem to use and integrate with,” Adler says.

That extends to MSPs too, Pagliuca notes. “They can actually go build some automation and integration themselves that might be a little bit more bespoke to what they’re trying to do, or build their own IP to drive a little bit of differentiation,” he says.

All of which is in marked—and entirely deliberate—contrast with Kaseya’s practice of providing “cosmetic integrations” for outside products while reserving the really powerful “workflow integrations” to itself.

“We’re going to go the other way, and that’s going to be intentional,” Adler says. “Our solutions will work well together, but they will work equally well and opportunistically with third-party solutions.”

For the moment, the Ecoverse is more concept than reality, a fact Adler himself freely concedes. “This is a vision,” he says. “It’s a journey. We’re not there yet, but it’s where we’re going to.”

Indeed, most of the exhibitors I spoke with in the Empower expo hall had yet to hear from N-able about the new APIs. “It hasn’t really hit our radar,” says Mark Glowacz, vice president of partner success at Mailprotector, who like others I met with questions how much value RMM integration will ultimately provide. “Most of the integrations we’ve done over the years have been pretty simple and have been around billing,” he says.

N-able CRO Frank Colletti (pictured at the top of the page keynoting), on the other hand, sees a direct line from cross-vendor integration to expanded MSP market share, for itself and its Ecoverse partners alike.

“When you look at bringing a unified management solution, a data protection solution, and all the cybersecurity solutions together integrated into one ecosystem, connected with APIs and allowing them to deliver automation,” he says, “that’s going to create the power of [partners] not having to add more and more technicians, and for an MSP, the biggest expense that they have are the technicians.”

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A step back before a step ahead on cloud management

Speaking of APIs, there are apparently a bunch of them in Cloud Commander, the new Microsoft cloud management solution N-able officially shipped this week.

“You can plug it into your PSA, into other places, run a full script automation that sets everything up just how you want it and know that you’re going to have that manageability and monitorability all set up across the board,” Adler (pictured) says.

Long-time N-able watchers will recall the introduction of a Microsoft 365 management system named Cloud User Hub some two and a half years ago, well before ConnectWise or Kaseya had anything comparable. They may even remember hearing shortly afterwards that a separate solution for managing Azure infrastructure was months shy of release too. But MSPs made it clear they needed help with Entra ID, Azure Virtual Desktop, Windows 365, and other Microsoft cloud offerings too, and didn’t want that functionality scattered across multiple tools.

“It became very obvious from their feedback that it would be richer and better and healthier for them if we could get everything into a single place,” Adler says.

Which inspired N-able to cancel the Azure product, put Cloud User Hub on a path to extinction, and get to work on a new, more comprehensive Microsoft cloud management solution.

“We’d rather measure twice and cut once, so to speak,” Pagliuca says, “so we went back to the lab.”

What emerged a little over two years later is a system somewhat akin to Nerdio’s flagship offering that gives MSPs control over M365, Azure resources, and Intune devices at scale in a single, multi-tenant pane of glass.

Which is exactly what MSPs want, according to Scott Manchester, VP of product management at Microsoft for AVD and Windows 365, two products selling better so far with businesses large enough to have IT departments than with the smaller clients a typical MSP supports. “The next wave of growth is going to come from people maybe that have shied away from virtualization because of the complexities,” he says. “That’s where the technology that N-able brings to bear really will accelerate the opportunities for MSPs.”

Adler foresees even more acceleration once Cloud Commander gradually transitions from stand-alone product to RMM feature, starting late this year. “We’re going to bring all of Cloud Commander into the RMMs,” he says. “Whether you have a physical PC that’s managed by Intune or not, or you have a virtual PC from Azure, or you have a Windows 365 PC, they’ll all just look like—oddly—PCs.”

Longer-term plans include adding security policy management functionality. Support for AWS and Google Cloud, though far from imminent, are also somewhere on the roadmap.

“We’re definitely driving a multi-cloud strategy, but the first stop in that journey is Microsoft,” Pagliuca says.

N-able on AI: Don’t get lazy

An interest in AVD and Windows 365 management isn’t the only thing N-able has in common with Nerdio. Both companies (and Kaseya to boot) are taking it slower on AI than vendors like ConnectWise.

“We’re learning,” Pagliuca says. “I’d say we’re investing, definitely.”

Don’t, however, look for those investments to yield fully autonomous ticket-closing functionality of the kind that Atera is working on (and Syncro too, as we revealed last week). Pagliuca doesn’t believe in setting AI loose on clients unsupervised.

“People can’t get lazy,” he says about AI. “It’s meant to be an automation tool and drive efficiency, but you need to keep the human in the loop and make sure that you’re mindful as to what’s going on.”

A better example of how N-able will increasingly employ GenAI in the future is a new feature in its Cove BDR solution, trained on real world snapshots and boot devices, that automatically checks recovery images against originals. “The boot detection accuracy through the use of this AI module has increased to 99%,” says Stefan Voss, vice president of product management for data protection.

In development for future release is a further Cove upgrade that will watch for anomalous behaviors suggestive of ransomware. “That’s a very good AI use case, because you need a machine learning algorithm and a data model to investigate these patterns and then refine over time,” Voss says.

In the meantime, N-able’s talking up a new AI-less Cove feature called Fortify that stores immutable copies of backups where no API call, command line script, or UI activity can get at them. I’m not calling those copies “air-gapped” though others might as a courtesy to Voss, who considers the term overused.

“Think of those as hidden copies,” he says. “The only person that could use those copies would be someone on our end in support in case there’s an incident.”

Critically, Fortify comes by default with Cove and requires no setup, an attribute in keeping with a product design principle that holds greater safety shouldn’t impose added complexity. “Usually, [security] means more inconvenience and where we’re holding the line is, no, convenience is actually still a critical value that we’re going to hold at all times,” says Chris Groot, general manager of the Cove family.

Keeping everything new secure

If Fortify was the most visible example of N-able’s thinking about security at Empower, others were lurking just out of view.

Those new APIs, for example? N-able is well aware that they’re likely to come under attack, and more so all the time, so it subjected them to the same security checks it applies to everything else it creates. Those include involving security advisors in the design and development process, threat modeling, and penetration testing, according to Dave MacKinnon (pictured), N-able’s chief security officer.

“If you don’t finish pen testing, you can’t release it, so we do that as kind of the last step,” he says.

MacKinnon is putting AI efforts under the same security microscope. N-able is using GenAI internally to accelerate programming, for instance. “How do we make sure that what we’re putting into a product doesn’t introduce a vulnerability that we’re not aware of because our developers didn’t really fully write that code?” he asks. The answer includes performing scans N-able executes routinely every time a developer checks in new code, which now look for IP and PII leakage in addition to SQL injection and cross site scripting vulnerabilities.

“It’s good security hygiene,” MacKinnon says.

A polite disagreement with Syncro on the merits of public ownership

Last week’s Channelholic post quotes Michael George, the former CEO of Continuum and current CEO of Syncro, calling the significant hunk of N-able’s publicly traded stock owned by private equity firms Thoma Bravo and Silver Lake a competitive disadvantage. Pagliuca, unsurprisingly, begs to differ.

“I consider him a friend and a great industry leader,” he says of George, but also wrong in this instance.

“We all have ownership,” Pagliuca observes. “Private companies, publicly traded companies all have stakeholders.” That N-able has to let its stakeholders—and everyone else on Earth—inspect its books every 90 days is a selling point for the company rather than a burden, he argues.

“Any MSP on the entire planet can see how much we’re spending in R&D, how many people we have, what our compliance is, where our data centers are,” Pagliuca says. “If I’m an MSP making a decision, I think that’s a level of transparency that I would want.”

Also worth noting

Check Point is using Microsoft Azure OpenAI Service to accelerate its Infinity AI Copilot generative AI tool.

Malwarebytes is using AI to let users of its ThreatDown Security Advisor service ask for automated information and advice using natural language queries.

MSP360 has added object locking for AWS, Wasabi, and Backblaze B2, SharePoint site restoration, and other features to its Managed Backup for Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace solutions.

Proofpoint’s new Adaptive Email Data Loss Prevention solution draws on Tessian’s AI-powered behavioral and dynamic detection software to prevent accidental and intentional data loss before it happens.

Secure remote access vendor Cyolo is the latest addition to the TD SYNNEX line card.

Integration with tech from SASE vendor Exium is enabling Stellar Cyber to streamline security investigations.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise has added AIOps functionality to HPE Aruba Networking Central, Aruba’s cloud-native network management solution, through a set of specialized large language models.

Alon Maimoni is the new CRO at data protection vendor N2WS.

RingCentral has built yet more AI into its business phone system.

ViewSonic has two new affordable Teams Room bundles.

Intermedia has a new communications and collaboration platform for healthcare orgs.