AVG-Level Platforms Is Bigger Deal Than SolarWinds-N-able

AVG Technologies acquisition of managed services enabler Level Platforms is a bigger game changer than SolarWinds' N-Able buy, as it’s another step in transforming the once-antivirus firm into a systems management company.

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In the pantheon of security software companies, AVG Technologies isn’t exactly at the top of the list. While it’s a respectably-sized company with a global footprint, it’s orders of magnitude smaller than the likes of Symantec Corp., McAfee Inc., Trend Micro Inc. and even Kaspersky Lab ZAO.

Rather than playing catch-up in they hyper-competitive security market, AVG is taking a different path by transforming itself into a systems management company. Its first major step: the acquisition of Canada-based Level Platforms Inc.

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The acquisition, announced yesterday, gives Czech Republic-based AVG access to technology used by MSPs in the monitoring, management and administration of network, endpoint and mobile devices.

Mike Foreman, general manager of the AVG SMB Group, tells Channelnomics the addition of Level Platforms is a natural evolution in its ambition to move beyond antivirus and content security applications, build on top of its consumer roots and provide extensions to its security services, CloudCare.

CloudCare, launched last year, has rudimentary remote monitoring and management capabilities similar to applications like LogMeIn or PCAnywhere. These capabilities are best described a functional, but are not true managed services. In hindsight, they foretell the company’s future ambitions.

Security companies are looking for diversification to complement their legacy offerings and general horizontal appeal to their install bases. McAfee, bought by Intel Corp. in 2011, is moving toward embedded security. Symantec, which is undergoing a restructuring, will likely emerge with greater integration with its Altris systems management line and identity management products acquired through VeriSign. And Trend Micro is expanding its cloud computing and virtualization capabilities.

Part of what security companies see are opportunities in managing and augmenting the systems they touch with their core products. By adding complementary products, security vendors give their partners something new to sell and customers additional value-add options.

This is what makes the AVG-Level Platforms a much bigger deal that the recent acquisition of rival N-able by enterprise systems management specialist SolarWinds, which is more about expanding into the small business and midmarket segment. This is not to minimize the value of the N-able buy; in theory, it’s a logical marriage. The channel has been giving th deal fairly favorable marks. Wall Street, on the other hand, hammered SolarWinds, removing 10 percent of its market value, because investors didn’t see the logic in paying $120 million for N-able.

AVG-Level Platforms, however, is a game-changer for AVG. In the short term, not much will change for Level Platforms. Peter Sandiford, its CEO, said the company will remain an open platform for MSPs and continue working with other security vendors such as Symantec. However, he believes Level Platforms will accelerate growth to tens of thousands of companies with the support and reach of AVG’s global channel network.

And that’s the other part of the game-changer. As an independent company, Level Platforms was a market leader in the remote monitoring and management technology segment, but had just 1,500 MSPs using its tools. AVG could give it the scale it needs to break out and become a larger company.

Compared to the N-able deal, SolarWinds doesn't have the channel or global reach of AVG. If anything, SolarWind is gaining a greater channel presence by taking over N-able’s network of 3,000 MSPs.

Sandiford tells Channelnomics that expanding Level Platforms’ reach on a global scale was always part of the strategy. With AVG, he believes Level Platforms will reach more users than it could as a standalone company.

Of course, the caveat is execution. There are no guarantees that an acquisition will produce the desired results or even have a modicum of success. Case in point: the GFI acquisition of Sunbelt Software and its Viper antivirus product. While a good deal on paper, it just didn’t work. The Sunbelt division has been spun off as a new security company, ThreatTrack.

Other vendors have made acquisitions in the managed services and RMM segment; Dell bought EverDream, SilverBack and Quest PacketTrap. Private equity firm Summit Partners bought the RMM assets of Zenith Infotech to form Continuum. And ConnectWise bought LabTech Software. While all interesting deals, none changed the nature of the acquiring companies.

Just how well will the AVG-Level Platforms’ deal work out? AVG seems like a company on a roll, building out its channel, cloud products and competitive capacity. Level Platforms probably isn’t the last strategic acquisition AVG will make, but it sets the stage for more evolution.

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