Open Systems Launches Partner Program For Ontinue MDR Division

Ontinue aims to help Microsoft partners extend their security offerings beyond Sentinel and Defender or even start up a security practice, May Mitchell, CMO of Open Systems and Ontinue, tells CRN.


May Mitchell, CMO of Open Systems and Ontinue

Open Systems, a member of CRN’s 2023 MSP 500, has launched a new partner program for Ontinue, its rebranded managed detection and response (MDR) division.

Ontinue by Open Systems, which has offices in Redwood City, Calif., Switzerland, India, Germany and Austria, aims to help Microsoft partners extend their security offerings beyond Sentinel and Defender or even start up a security practice, May Mitchell, CMO of Open Systems and Ontinue, told CRN.

“Security as we all know is complex—and it doesn’t have to be,” Mitchell said. “We believe that if a customer or partner has a more secure environment, it’s a more innovative environment.”

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Open Systems, Ontinue Launch Partner Program

Leading the partner effort from Ontinue is Tim Wheatley, vice president of channel and alliances. Wheatley reports to Open Systems CRO Chris Raniere.

Ontinue promises to bring Microsoft partners more expertise around the Redmond, Wash.-based vendor’s Defender and its security information and event management (SIEM) tool Sentinel while adding the option for Ontinue’s own Ion platform and a 24-hour globally distributed security adviser and defender staff, according to Ontinue.

The company’s offerings integrate with existing Microsoft environments, and customer data stays in the tenant. Ontinue offers security automation and uses Microsoft collaboration application Teams to bring together the stakeholders needed to solve security issues.

Ontinue will target about 20 of Microsoft’s top partners to start, Mitchell said. But the company is open to using distributors to reach more partners in the future.

An MSP starting up a separate business aimed at helping partners scale up their offerings isn’t unheard of. Last year, Microsoft partner TrueIT spun off TruNorth Dynamics to help Microsoft partners improve their Dynamics 365 practices.

And Microsoft-specific partner-focused vendors aren’t new either, with Nerdio an example. The vendor aims to help partners improve offerings around Microsoft’s Azure Virtual Desktop.

Scaling Through The Channel

Open Systems’ MDR division needs to scale through the channel, Wheatley said. And the benefit to Microsoft partners who work with Ontinue is help with driving monthly active usage and Azure consumption revenue—important measures under the new competencies Microsoft has rolled out to replace its classic Gold and Silver system.

“We‘re all working toward the same things—namely, the security of the customer and the ability for them to be secure and productive,” Wheatley said.

Ontinue and its partner program come as Microsoft executives and partners navigate a deceleration in new business and a desire from customers to get the most out of how much they already spend on Microsoft services.

With rising inflation and the potential for a recession in the U.S., persuading customers to consolidate their spending around one vendor appears to be a strategy Microsoft will employ this year.

“We are the only company with integrated end-to-end tools spanning identity, security, compliance, device management and privacy informed and trained on over 65 trillion signals each day,” Microsoft Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella said on the vendor’s latest quarterly earnings call in January. “We’re taking share across all major categories we serve. Customers are consolidating on our security stack in order to reduce risk, complexity and cost. The number of organizations with four or more workloads increased over 40 percent year over year.”

Microsoft executives and partners as well as those of third-party security vendors such as CrowdStrike have long debated which is the most secure position for users—going all in on Microsoft security offerings or seeking outside vendors for additional tools.

To Wheatley, the answer is consolidating around the Microsoft security stack for simpler threat hunting and incident response when all the applications and tools are a shared vendor.

“The implementation partners, they don‘t have to worry about another MDR [company] coming in and going, ‘Oh, why don’t you flip to CrowdStrike. Or why don’t you flip to SentinelOne?’” Wheatley said. “It’s going to be Microsoft every time.”

The partner program will support resellers and referral partners with margins, incentives enablement and joint marketing initiatives, he said.

With Ontinue as the MDR division, the Open Systems brand will continue for the company’s secure access service edge (SASE) offering. Open Systems will also continue to work with master agents, Wheatley said.

Ontinue brings in capabilities Open Systems gained when it purchased England-based Microsoft partner Tiberium, he said. Some other capabilities include a cost estimator for Sentinel to help price-conscious customers and a cost optimizer to see what data Sentinel doesn’t need to ingest for customers to stay secure.

In 2017, global investment firm EQT bought a majority stake in Open Systems.

Recruited Channel Execs

Wheatley joined Ontinue in January. He previously worked at Zimperium, a mobile device and application security vendor, for about two years, according to his LinkedIn account. He left Zimperium in December with the title of global channel chief.

He also worked at Microsoft on and off for more than 10 years, most recently leaving in 2019 with a role in global strategy and business development for the cybersecurity solutions group.

Wheatley’s resume includes working with Microsoft identity products rival Okta for about a year, leaving in 2015 with the title of worldwide director for channel sales.

Mitchell joined Open Systems in August, bringing years of vendor channel executive experience herself. She worked at iBoss for about a year, leaving with the title of senior vice president of marketing, according to her LinkedIn account.

She also worked at Cylance for about four years, leaving in 2020 with the title of vice president of global channel sales and alliances and field and partner marketing.