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Cloud Computing Security

SolarWinds Winning through Gentler Approach to IT Headaches

SolarWinds is another IT management, monitoring and security company in a crowded field but emphatically not AN Other IT management, monitoring and security company. In a sector known for hard selling and scare stories it has built its reputation on a rather old-fashioned approach based on good tools, value pricing and building for the long term.

SolarWinds allows customers, mostly small and medium-sized companies, to “timeshare a much better IT department than you can afford”, says product strategy senior vice president, Denny LeCompte, on a recent visit to London.

It’s increasingly rare to meet a company like this in a world where everybody, seemingly, wants to focus on the large enterprise. Network and application monitoring and security is handled through both software programs (often free) and through SolarWinds’ lively online community called thwack where IT sysadmins exchange views with peers on threats, challenges and how best to counter them.

LeCompte, a feisty American, is refreshingly scathing about the IT security sector. He suggests that corporate IT buyers often purchase on the strength of PowerPoint checklists of features having been terrified into thinking they need massive arsenals to address threats from worms to social engineering and serious criminal activity.

“An SME isn’t going to be the target of a bunch of bad guys,” he says. “[SMB/SME] problems are peculiar and the companies don’t have gobs of money. Our goal is to make people better at their jobs and we’re the obverse of the traditional enterprise software guy. We’re not about bullet lists and pretty pictures and getting you to write a million-dollar cheque. Our whole reason for existing is to break that model.”

SolarWinds doesn’t attempt to do a hard sell on suites, doesn’t do consulting services and its sales and marketing is via the web and phone rather than customer-facing reps. Sales are often to admins seeking to solve a specific problem, with purchase approval coming from their direct bosses. It’s a formula that keeps costs low and LeCompte reckons his companies’ prices are 10-20% of the big boys’.

SolarWinds offers its tools hosted or on-premise but LeCompte is sceptical about cloud mania: “IT people are worried about cloud so they are not embracing it. If you read in the press, it’s cloud, cloud, cloud, but the hybrid model will grow fastest.”

Those tools are also known for ease of use, another characteristic not always associated with IT management software.

“The tool has to be simple and good, appeal to the geek and solve problems. [In enterprise software] there’s tremendous pressure to make money really fast so you chase very big deals and don’t worry about the UXP. You worry about selling to the big guys and you require feet on the ground at the site.”

Today, SolarWinds is a powerful company in its own right. Forbes magazine named it America’s best small company in 2012 and the 14-year-old Austin, Texas-based company has a market cap of $2.7bn, having floated in 2009. It regularly buys up other firms but LeCompte says it focuses on companies with a strong user experience and clear value propositions, answering realistic point challenges.

“These family-run, non-VC companies have been started by husband-and-wife teams and they have had to be profitable right away or the business dies.”

Over the years, SolarWinds has added capabilities and its customer roster has grown in average size but LeCompte says there are no plans to change tack. Instead, he says, it remains focused on one challenge: conquering whatever is causing businesses management and security headaches.

 

Martin Veitch is Editorial Director at IDG Connect

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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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