Tag Archives: gain

Third-party E911 services expand call management tools

Organizations are turning to third-party E911 services to gain management capabilities they can’t get natively from their IP telephony provider, according to a report from Nemertes Research.

IP telephony providers may offer basic 911 management capabilities, such as tracking phone locations, but organizations may have needs that go beyond phone tracking. The report, sponsored by telecom provider West Corporation, lists the main reasons why organizations would use third-party E911 services.

Some organizations may deploy third-party E911 management for call routing to ensure an individual 911 call is routed to the correct public safety answering point (PSAP). Routing to the correct PSAP is difficult for organizations with remote and mobile workers. But third-party E911 services can offer real-time location tracking of all endpoints and use that information to route to the proper PSAP, according to the report.

Many larger organizations have multivendor environments that may include multiple IP telephony vendors. Third-party E911 services offer a single method of managing location information across endpoints, regardless of the underlying telephony platform.

The report also found third-party E911 management can reduce costs for organizations by automating the initial setup and maintenance of 911 databases in the organization. Third-party E911 services may also support centralized call routing, which could eliminate the need for local PSTN connections at remote sites and reduce the operating and hardware expenses at those sites.

Genesys unveils Amazon integration

Contact center vendor Genesys, based in Daly City, Calif., revealed an Amazon Web Services partnership that integrates AI and Genesys’ PureCloud customer engagement platform.

Genesys has integrated PureCloud with Amazon Lex, a service that lets developers build natural language, conversational bots, or chatbots. The integration allows businesses to build and maintain conversational interactive voice response (IVR) flows that route calls more efficiently.

Amazon Lex helps IVR flows better understand natural language by enabling IVR flows to recognize what callers are saying and their intent, which makes it more likely for the call to be directed to the appropriate resource the first time without error.

The chatbot integration also allows organizations to consolidate multiple interactions into a single flow that can be applied over different self-service channels. This reduces the number of call flows that organizations need to maintain and can simplify contact center administration.

The chatbot integration will be available to Genesys customers in 2018.

Conference calls face user, security challenges

A survey of 1,000 professionals found that businesses in the U.S. and U.K. are losing $34 billion due to delays and distractions during conference calls, a significant increase from $16 billion in a 2015 survey.

The survey found employees waste an average of 15 minutes per conference call getting it started and dealing with distractions. More than half of respondents said distractions have a moderate-to-major negative effect on productivity, enthusiasm to participate and the ability to concentrate.

The survey was conducted by remote meetings provider LoopUp and surveyed 1,000 professionals in the U.S. and U.K. who regularly participate in conference calls at organizations ranging from 50 to more than 1,000 employees.

The survey also found certain security challenges with conference calls. Nearly 70% of professionals said it’s normal to discuss confidential information over a call, while more than half of respondents said it’s normal to not know who is on a call.

Users are also not fully comfortable with video conferencing, according to the survey. Half of respondents said video conferencing is useful for day-to-day calls, but 61% still prefer to use the phone to dial in to conference calls.

Windows Server version 1709 hits turbulence upon release

Enterprises that use DevOps methodologies for advanced cloud-based applications will likely gain a new appreciation…

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for Microsoft and Windows Server. That’s because the release of Windows Server version 1709, which came out in October, improves container support and has added functions that fortify its software-defined networking capabilities.

Every six months, Microsoft plans to introduce a new edition of Windows Server for the needs of these businesses that want the newest features and updates. Admins need to know what’s in Windows Server version 1709 and how it differs from the original Windows Server 2016 release that was introduced in October 2016. Here is a roundup of those changes and several others that are worthy of further scrutiny.

Microsoft makes containers the focus

Microsoft changed the mission of Nano Server in Windows Server version 1709. No longer considered a lighter version of Server Core to host various infrastructure workloads, Nano Server is now only available as a base image for containers. This role change allowed Microsoft to shrink Nano Server to about 80 MB, a drop from about 400 MB. This reduction means Nano Server no longer includes Windows PowerShell, .NET Core and Windows Management Instrumentation by default. Microsoft also removed the servicing stack from Nano Server, so admins have to redeploy the image for every update or patch. And all troubleshooting? That’s done in Docker, too.

There are other container improvements in Windows Server version 1709:

  • The Server Core container image is much smaller. According to Microsoft, it is just under 3 GB when it had been nearly 6 GB in the Windows Server 2016 release-to-manufacturing (RTM) version.
  • Windows Server version 1709 supports Linux containers on Hyper-V. These containers act like Docker containers but have kernel isolation provided by Hyper-V to so that they are completely independent. By comparison, traditional containers share a kernel but virtualize the rest of the OS.

For admins with significant investments in containers, these are great changes. For a business without a need for application virtualization, Microsoft says the updated Server Core in the Semi-Annual Channel release is where admins in those enterprises should put their infrastructure workloads.

Say aloha to Project Honolulu

Around the time Microsoft released Windows Server version 1709, the company also provided a technical preview of Project Honolulu — a free, GUI-based remote server management tool. Project Honolulu makes it easier to manage Server Core for admins who aren’t fluent in PowerShell.

Project Honolulu is a responsive web interface that enables admins to manage multiple remote servers, both on premises and in the cloud. It runs on a client machine or on a Windows Server instance and has similar functionality to local Microsoft Management Console-based GUI tools and Server Manager. Admins can use Project Honolulu to manage machines that run Windows Server 2012, including Server Core and the free Hyper-V Server.

Project Honolulu wraps up a number of administrative tools into a unified interface. It makes Server Core management less onerous and improves things to the point where I can recommend Server Core as the preferred installation option for any infrastructure servers you plan to deploy.

Microsoft improves SDN features

Windows Server version 1709 also added enhancements to its networking features, such as these two that were designed specifically for software-defined networking (SDN).

  • This Semi-Annual Channel release extends support for shielded VMs to Linux workloads. Microsoft introduced shielded VMs in Windows Server 2016 RTM. The feature enables these VMs to only run on authentic, verified hypervisor hosts. They remain encrypted and unbootable if an admin tries to access them from another host.
  • Microsoft added Virtual Network Encryption, which enables admins to mark subnets that connect different VMs as “Encryption Enabled” to require nonclear text transmissions over those links.

There were also several improvements in IPv6 support as that technology moves closer to widespread use in production. Those changes include support for domain name system configuration using router advertisements, flow labels for more efficient load balancing and the deprecation of Intra-Site Automatic Tunnel Addressing Protocol and 6to4 support.

Storage Spaces Direct drops from version 1709

In a curious move, Microsoft pulled support for Storage Spaces Direct (S2D) clusters, one of the better aspects of the original Windows Server 2016 release, in Windows Server version 1709.

S2D creates clusters of file servers with directly attached storage. This provides an easier and more cost-effective storage option for companies that would normally take a cluster of servers and attach them to a storage area network or a just a bunch of disks enclosure. S2D displays all of the directly attached disks as one big storage space, which the admin divvies into volumes.

Admins cannot create new S2D clusters on version 1709, and a machine cannot participate in any existing S2D cluster. If you use S2D clusters — or plan to — version 1709 is not for you. Microsoft says S2D is alive and well as a technology, but the company just couldn’t get it right in time for the 1709 release.

Growing pains for Windows Server

As Microsoft will offer a new version of Windows Server every six months, the removal of S2D should make admins wonder if the company will continue to play feature roulette in the Semi-Annual Channel. If an organization adopts a new feature, what happens if it’s pulled in the next release? More conservative businesses might want to wait for Windows Server version 1803 to make sure further features don’t fall by the wayside.

This raises another question: If Microsoft can’t hit the six-month targets, then why promise them at all? It’s too early to make a final judgment, but businesses that aren’t all-in on containers might want to wait until version 1803 to make sure other features aren’t removed before they commit to the Semi-Annual Channel.

Next Steps

Server Core can help and hinder IT

Pets vs. cattle and the future of management

Windows Server 2016 innovations challenge admins

Box Skills, machine learning technology pique IT interest

SAN FRANCISCO — Box shops will be able to help users gain more intelligent insight into their content with new machine learning technology in the content management tool.

Box Skills, introduced here at the company’s annual BoxWorks conference, makes it easier to search for visual and audio content and view information about it. Box Feed uses machine learning to curate content for specific users. Plus, new features in Box Relay aim to improve employee workflows. These capabilities caught the interest of attendees at the show.

“It was kind of nice to see Box incorporating [AI] to start relaying things to certain people at the right time in the right place,” said Ryan Foltz, business systems engineer at Barnhardt Manufacturing Company in Charlotte, N.C.

How Box Skills works

Box Skills is a framework that serves as a layer of abstraction between the content organizations upload to Box and the machine learning. It focuses on three areas: Image Intelligence, Audio Intelligence and Video Intelligence.

With the Image Intelligence component, based on Google Cloud Platform technology, Box automatically tags aspects of an image such as the subject, colors and logos, as well as uploads any text from it. Users can click the tags to access other images with similar contents.

The whole workflow looks really nice.
Will Sheppardtechnical support specialist, The Enthusiast Network

Video Intelligence uses Microsoft Cognitive Services to provide facial recognition to identify people in a video. It also can show users where repeated phrases come up, and extracts a transcript of the video that users can apply as closed captioning. Audio Intelligence functions similarly, without the visual aspect, and is based on IBM Watson technology.

Using the new Box Skills Kit for developers, organizations can also customize what information within a file the machine learning technology tracks. The tool can track tone of voice in a phone conversation, for example, or pull out specific words a company is interested in and show within the Box content when those words were said. Developers can also customize information in documents such as invoices or contracts, and have Box extract information such as dates, signatures, payment amounts and vendor names. That not only extracts the data, but allows users to fill that information in automatically moving forward.

Image Intelligence is currently in beta, and Video Intelligence and Audio Intelligence will come to beta in 2018, Box said.

Box Feed puts relevant information in front of users

Box Feed, powered by Box Graph machine learning technology, was also previewed at the conference and will be available next year. This feature can help users find the content most relevant to them. It shows users active content — files they have been working on or are mentioned in — as well as other relevant content, which appears in a feed based on who is working on the file and what the content is. If a user generally collaborates with another user who is working on a document, for example, it will likely show up in the relevant section. It also shows trending files, or ones that many users throughout the organization are accessing. 

As interesting as these new features are, some companies might need some time to apply them. Barnhardt Manufacturing Company, for instance, is an old organization, but its leaders are getting more and more interested in business data intelligence, said Pete Chantry, application systems manager at the company.

 “We’ve got to allow a little bit of time for them to get accustomed to the basic [enterprise content management] features of Box,” Chantry said.

Updates to Box Relay

Box Relay for workflow automation, announced last year and generally available next month, will get some enhancements as well.

First, the add-on will allow workflows to launch automatically, so if a user uploads a resume of a prospective employee for example, the workflow associated with that kind of document will start automatically. Box also plans to release APIs so IT can integrate Relay with existing third-party applications and automated processes. In addition, users will be able to e-sign documents directly in Box. Finally, a new dashboard will let users manage multiple workflows at the same time by showing every active workflow and what step it is on.   

“I like the way that all ties together,” said Will Sheppard, technical support specialist at The Enthusiast Network based in Los Angeles. “The whole workflow looks really nice.”

Other new features in Box Relay include the ability to invite other users to edit a document and assign them tasks with due dates within the document. There is also a new annotation tool that allows users to write a comment on a specific aspect of a document and tag other users to look at that exact area.

In addition, users no longer have to download previous versions of a document; they can preview them with a single click. Plus, when a user accesses a document, Box will highlight any changes that other users have made since the last time he was in it, and show which user made the edits. Finally, users can thread comments and mark them as resolved.   

Like Box Skills, Relay presents some enticing features for IT, but those at Barnhardt Manufacturing Company are unsure of how to apply Relay immediately.

“I don’t know how often we’d use it, but if we had it, it’d certainly be a nice feature for us,” Foltz said.

Huawei wants to grow public cloud market share

Huawei wants to gain public cloud market share and become a dominant public cloud provider, according to Brad Shimmin, an analyst at Current Analysis in Sterling, Va. At its annual Huawei Connect event, the Chinese vendor laid out its plans to grow public cloud market share to compete directly with Google, Microsoft, Amazon and IBM. However, as Shimmin noted, Huawei’s plan is not to dominate in the same way as its competitors — instead the vendor aims to create an open platform that interoperates with other clouds.

Huawei will initially focus its attention on growing public cloud market share among telcos and in its home market, with clients such as China Telecom and China Central TV. Shimmin doubts that Huawei can match other hyperscale cloud providers in scope and scale. Although the vendor recently launched Huawei Enterprise Intelligence AI, Shimmin still sees Huawei’s machine learning ranking far behind the AI capabilities of its competitors. “In my opinion, where Huawei is most likely to succeed with its cloud play is in helping partners and customers apply Huawei’s significant hardware expertise to trenchant problems like cross-cloud security, AI-scale hardware and IoT edge computing,” Shimmin said.

Read more of Shimmin’s thoughts on Huawei.

Achieving container workload performance

Dan Conde, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass., said instead of fretting over competition between containers, virtual machines (VMs) and serverless machines, professionals need to focus on the architecture of new applications. Many emerging applications are geared for microservices and depend on new infrastructure to scale and interoperate.

In Conde’s view, what really matters with containers and similar technologies is the performance of the workload, not how the workload is actually run. Having choices is vital — even if it means mixing and matching containers and VMs. The traditional system of underlying platforms and operating systems has been displaced by a much more complicated set of services such as Cassandra, NATS or Apache Spark; cloud platforms; and lower-level offerings such as Apache Mesos or Red Hat OpenShift. “The old notion of a highly curated platform as a service (PaaS) is effectively dead because developers demand choices and the world is changing too rapidly to choose a narrow path. …The analogy would be the five-year plans of the old planned economies. The current world is too dynamic to go down such a narrow path,” Conde said.

Dig deeper into Conde’s thoughts on container workload performance.

Cisco emphasizes LISP for enterprise campuses

Ivan Pepelnjak, writing in ipSpace, responded to questions he received from readers asking why Cisco was pushing LISP instead of EVPN for VXLAN-based enterprise systems. While Pepelnjak admitted that he wasn’t certain of the exact reasons, he suggested that Cisco and a few other large vendors still see a need for large Layer 2 domains. “It looks like the networking industry is in another lemming rush. Everyone is rolling out VXLAN to solve large VLAN challenges, or even replacing MPLS with VXLAN for L3VPN deployments,” Pepelnjak said.

He added that every large vendor is deploying EVPN as a control plane for VXLAN, including Cumulus Networks, Juniper Networks, Cisco and Arista Networks. According to Pepelnjak, LISP is a system searching for a problem that Cisco has chosen to deploy as an additional control plane, without any technical factors driving the decision.

Read more of Pepelnjak’s thoughts on LISP.