Cisco has released new wireless headsets designed for use with UC apps such as Cisco Webex and Cisco Jabber. The vendor also upgraded its line of Webex room kits and displays.
Cisco entered the headset market in March with a wired headset targeted at contact center agents. The vendor expanded its portfolio this week with the release of two wireless Cisco headsets, as well as two additional wired models.
Cisco has historically relied on partnerships with vendors including Plantronics and Jabra to provide customers with headsets that integrate with their IP phones and UC apps. The vendor will continue to support those partners, even as it competes against them with its new Cisco headsets.
IT administrators have begun demanding more of headset vendors — better troubleshooting controls, in particular — as the devices have emerged as a primary interface for connecting to UC apps, said Irwin Lazar, analyst at Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill.
“Ultimately, [Cisco is] viewing the headset as an extension of a UC platform and they are a little more reluctant to give that to a third party,” Lazar said. Cisco will be able to add AI and other advanced features to the headsets in the future, he said.
Businesses can manage their Cisco headsets through Cisco Unified Communications Manager, which includes controls for updating firmware, monitoring usage and diagnosing problems. Plantronics Manager Pro and Jabra Xpress give businesses similar remote management capabilities.
The two wireless Cisco headsets have ranges of 300 feet and their earpieces light up to indicate that a call is in progress. The new wired models give users the option of connecting using a USB adapter or a standard 3.5mm headphone jack.
“Very simply put, we are setting the bar on what we want the quality to be with these headphones,” said Sri Srinivasan, the general manager of Cisco’s team collaboration group.
Professional headset manufacturers made a combined $1.23 billion in sales last year, with revenues in that market expected to grow at an average annual rate of 8% through 2024, according to research by Frost & Sullivan.
Cisco does not want to miss that market opportunity, especially as headsets become more advanced and more integral to UC and collaboration, said Alaa Saayed, analyst at Frost & Sullivan.
Besides the headsets, Cisco released a new video codec for boardrooms and auditoriums. The Cisco Webex Room Kit Pro, which replaces the Cisco SX80 Codec, includes six concurrent video inputs, three 4K video outputs, and eight microphones.
The Room Kit Pro also comes with AI features such as noise suppression, voice-activated meeting controls, and automated framing of meeting participants. Cisco has partnerships with LGE and Samsung to simplify integrations with those vendors’ displays.
The Room Kit Pro is the most advanced of Cisco’s video codecs, which can run on the cloud or on premises. The Room Kit Plus is for midsize conference rooms of up to 14 people, while the Room Kit is designed for rooms of up to seven people.
“With the new units Cisco is further differentiating itself from lower priced off-the-shelf solutions in the midsize, as well as large room category, including training rooms and auditoriums,” said Roopam Jain, analyst at Frost & Sullivan.
Cisco also released two new Webex displays this week. The Webex Room 70 G2 display costs the same as the original Webex Room 70 display but runs on the new Room Kit Pro codec for large conference rooms.
The Webex Room 55 Dual display uses the Room Kit Plus codec and includes two 55-inch displays, while the previously released Webex Room 55 display comes with one screen and uses the Room Kit codec.
“Cisco continues to lead the market by offering a richer use experience, including rich AI features with greater flexibility at prices lower than its previous generation of units,” Jain said.
SMB backup software specialist BackupAssist this week added protection for email mailboxes and files stored in the cloud.
The newest BackupAssist software, called BackupAssist 365, lets customers copy email mailboxes and files from the cloud to an on-premises server. The on-premises, off-cloud backup can protect businesses against accidental or malicious data deletion and ransomware.
Unlike cloud-to-cloud backup products that allow organizations to move data from SaaS applications to another public cloud, the new BackupAssist software only backs up to local storage.
Troy Vertigan, vice president of channel sales and marketing at BackupAssist, based in Australia, said the cloud-to-local backup costs up to 75% less than a cloud-to-cloud subscription.
Despite what the BackupAssist software’s 365 name suggests, the product works with more than just Microsoft Office 365. BackupAssist 365 lets users back up mailboxes from Rackspace, Microsoft Exchange, Gmail, Outlook and Internet Message Access Protocol servers, as well as files from Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Secure File Transfer Protocol and WebDAV. BackupAssist CEO Linus Chang said a future update will enable support for the entire G Suite.
George Crump, president and founder of analyst firm Storage Switzerland, said BackupAssist 365 is a good option for protecting data born in the cloud, but he’s not sure the vendor’s customers are convinced they need that.
“The big challenge is convincing the entire market that you actually do need to back up Office 365. There’s still this misbelief that the cloud is this magical place where data never gets deleted,” Crump said.
Although cloud users don’t have to worry about hardware failure or disaster recovery, Crump said that merely shifts the risk elsewhere.
George Crumppresident and founder, Storage Switzerland
“Once you’re cloud-based, your concern really isn’t disaster recovery anymore. What you’re really protecting against is data corruption and account hijack,” Crump said.
BackupAssist’s Chang agreed his SMB target market needs convincing of the value of cloud backup. “The majority of SMB customers and the vast majority of consumers are not doing any sort of backup whatsoever,” Chang said.
Chang said BackupAssist’s customers also include managed service providers who are in charge of their clients’ data, and BackupAssist 365 can help them stay compliant.
The new BackupAssist software is generally available. Its annual subscription fee is $1 per user, per month, for the first 24 users, and it drops to 95 cents for 25 to 49 users and 90 cents if there are 50 or more users. A user is defined as a single account identity, allowing for one user to back up multiple clouds.
Quantum is adding nonvolatile memory express to its Xcellis NAS appliances through a partnership with software-defined flash storage startup Excelero.
The Quantum Xcellis NVMe models come in 48 TB, 96 TB and 132 TB capacities. The Xcellis gear runs the new 6.2 version of Quantum’s StorNext file system, which includes enhanced FlexSync file synchronization and cross-protocol file locking for NAS and SAN.
The NVMe specification is designed for flash storage. NVMe reduces compute overhead by replacing iSCSI commands, and it speeds the performance of SSDs by moving closer to the processor.
Quantum said it improved its quality of service with enforceable quotas, and it added an Amazon S3-capable interface to allow cloud-native applications to write to object storage in StorNext 6.2.
The NVMe Xcellis option is in limited availability and due for general availability in early 2019. The S3 interface is generally available, with the other new StorNext 6.2 features due to roll out in the coming months.
Scale-out storage is the fastest-growing segment of Quantum’s revenue, which consists mostly of tape, with some disk-based backup.
The Quantum Xcellis family hit the market in 2015, giving the vendor a single platform for compute and its StorNext file system gateway. The early Xcellis products were designed mostly for disk, but they also allowed users to mix in SSDs.
Jason Coari, global director of product and solution marketing at Quantum, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., said the addition of NVMe is needed for dense media workloads. Quantum has embedded Excelero NVMesh software-defined block storage in StorNext to allow Xcellis devices to access pooled flash over NFS, SMB or Fibre Channel.
“We’ve seen a lot of our customers demand more flash-based arrays. The workloads they’re dealing with need that horsepower for ingest and streaming performance. Flash is the way to go, and NVMe takes it a step further,” Coari said.
Tom Coughlin, president of storage consultancy Coughlin Associates in Atascadero, Calif., said he saw a demonstration of the Quantum Xcellis-Excelero integration and came away impressed.
“It was showing raw 8K video streams on a display, with no visible latency or judder. This is without a cache,” Coughlin said.
Coughlin added that StorNext 6.2 also expands the product’s feature set.
“They embrace the cloud, both for management [and] monitoring and as part of the global namespace, including native S3 cloud integration,” he said. “Multiclient support that includes the file locking and setting of priority access should help achieve overall organization objectives. FlexSync should be a real timesaver for system administrators.”
StorNext 6.2 extends Quantum FlexSync technology to treat metadata log changes like snapshots. Only changes to the log get synchronized and replicated between two sites. Previously, StorNext only replicated data between identical primary or secondary sites, but the new version can synchronize a complete managed file system between primary and secondary tiers.
Quality of service has been part of StorNext for production workloads. Coari said the latest version extends the feature to archive and backup, as well. The S3 interface addresses the growing number of companies building applications that run in the cloud, he said.
“We need to be able to ingest data from those sources,” Coari said.
This marks the first product rollout for Quantum since Jamie Lerner took over as CEO in July. Lerner was brought aboard following a series of changes to the Quantum board and is the company’s fourth CEO since late 2017.
Quantum ousted longtime CEO Jon Gacek in November 2017 after a string of disappointing financial quarters. In January, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission subpoenaed Quantum regarding an ongoing probe of its accounting practices and internal controls.
Quantum twice this year has filed for delayed notification of financial results. The vendor closed fiscal 2017 with $505 million in revenue — up 6%, but a far cry from the $1 billion Quantum posted in the early 1990s. Last week, the company said it was close to completing its internal investigation into misstatements of its financial reports from 2017 and 2018.