SolarWinds’ McCullough On New Channel Program: ‘We’re Transforming The Way We Show Up And Sell Every Day’

‘For SolarWinds, as it exists today, this is our first channel program. Before we spun out N-able, we had an MSP program. But since then, we had neither an MSP program or a global partner program. We had a program, but it had different tools for different types of partners in different geographies,’ says Jeff McCullough, SolarWinds’ vice president of worldwide partner sales.


Jeff McCullough, vice president of worldwide partner sales at SolarWinds

IT management software developer SolarWinds Tuesday unveiled its first formal channel program since it spun out its MSP business into a separate company.

As part of its new SolarWinds Transform Partner Program, the company will look to formally engage a wider community of MSPs for the first time since the MSP business was spun out into an independent company, N-able.

The big changes in SolarWinds’ approach to the channel were a long time coming, said Jeff McCullough, vice president of worldwide partner sales at the Austin, Texas-based company.

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“For SolarWinds, as it exists today, this is our first channel program,” McCullough told CRN. “Before we spun out N-able, we had an MSP program. But since then, we had neither an MSP program or a global partner program. We had a program, but it had different tools for different types of partners in different geographies.”

The new SolarWinds Transform Partner Program sets the stage for SolarWinds to transform how it goes to market with all types of partners in a unified fashion, including distributors, global systems integrators, traditional solution providers, MSPs and cloud partners, McCullough said.

The program works across all geographies and product sets, including SolarWinds’ core network management and monitoring, its IT service management, including help desk and ticketing, its database performance monitoring platform and its various data center tools, he said.

“The opportunity for us is to create a platform for partners to work with us and for us to spell out their benefits,” he said. “So as we do more with SaaS and MSP-focused products, we make it easier for partners to work with us wherever they are in our ecosystem.”

Having SolarWinds’ channel program formalized is crucial to channel partners, said Anthony Bettanin, COO of Loop1, a Cedar Park, Texas-based solution provider that specializes in working with SolarWinds and is the vendor’s largest partner in terms of revenue and number of SolarWinds engineers.

“As the largest SolarWinds specialist partner, having SolarWinds make investments in the channel is very important,” Bettanin told CRN. “I used to work in Oracle’s global channel programs and worked as a partner with Cisco’s programs. And I was shocked when I joined Loop1 to find that SolarWinds didn’t have more of a program.”

It was an unusual position for a company with about 1,700 channel partners, Bettanin said.

“It was fantastic to see Jeff [McCullough] come in and structure the program,” he said. “SolarWinds used to treat its largest partners and the smallest SolarWinds shops the same. But it’s important to see the differentiation in how it works with partners like Loop1. Fun fact: We have more SolarWinds-certified professional engineers than SolarWinds does.”

When McCullough joined SolarWinds in November, the company already had plans to engage formally with channel partners.

“Now we’re pulling it over the line,” he said. “We’re transforming the way we show up and sell every day with things like a consistent portal, deal registration, rules of working with the channel, and an MSP program.”

That MSP program opens the door to a wide range of partners, McCullough said.

“Before, we didn’t have the licensing ability to work with managed services partners,” he said. “Now we can offer flexible licensing and billing models.”

With the SolarWinds Transform Partner Program comes new specialization tracks to help align partners across the company’s product portfolio, McCullough said.

The first is the new services specialization, which is now available.

“SolarWinds typically relies on partners to deliver services,” he said. “But we didn’t have a framework for partners to deliver services, or even to talk about which services clients need. So we now have a new SolarWinds certified partner designation to show partners have passed the SolarWinds Certified Professional program for services. This is the first time we are spelling out our services revenue opportunity for partners.”

Going forward, SolarWinds early next year plans to introduce certification programs for its IT service management, database, and Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure cloud services, he said.

There’s more to come, McCullough said.

“This is a great opportunity for us to put our stake in the ground,” he said. “We’re not getting to the finish line. We’re getting to the start.’

Loop1 is already seeing the benefits of the SolarWinds Transform Partner Program, Bettanin said.

For instance, Loop1 now has a named channel account manager for its North America and its Europe, Middle East, and Africa businesses, he said.

“It’s surprising we didn’t have that before, given our size,” he said. “It’s hard to deal with a large number of territorial managers.”

SolarWinds is also finally providing MDF, which SolarWinds calls partner development funds, Bettanin said.

“We never had that before from SolarWinds,” he said. “We used to have to do our own market development. Every other vendor offers MDF. We started with SolarWinds in 2009, and 2022 is the first time we’ve received MDF.”

SolarWinds is also offering growth rebates for the first time, Bettanin said. “This is additional dollars if we hit our growth targets,” he said. “There have been many quarters where we outdid ourselves but couldn’t get growth rebates.”

Bettanin also appreciates SolarWinds’ new online, on-demand training for sales and pre-sales because it gets personnel trained quickly and is great for when employees cannot attend the vendor’s training bootcamps.