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Microsoft adds live broadcasting software to Teams

Microsoft has added live broadcasting software to Microsoft Stream and integrated the service with Yammer and Microsoft Teams. The move should help Microsoft compete against main rival Cisco, which has made the video platform Webex the centerpiece of its collaboration portfolio.

The vendor will soon give Microsoft Teams users the ability to host one-to-many live events from within the team collaboration app. The feature, released in preview this week, will eventually replace Skype Meeting Broadcast, although Microsoft did not provide a timeline for that transition.

Enterprises can use the live broadcasting software added to Microsoft Stream this week in a variety of ways. For example, companies could use the software to conduct in-house town halls or product launches.

Microsoft Stream works with webcams and lets presenters share files and their screens while attendees comment in real time. Microsoft has also partnered with video encoding vendors, including Telestream and Haivision, so that businesses can integrate Stream with third-party cameras.

Microsoft plans to give more customers access to advanced AI features in Stream later this quarter, including automated, searchable, speech-to-text transcripts. Stream also uses facial recognition to identify speakers, creating an interactive list of speakers that viewers can use to navigate the recording.

Microsoft live broadcasting software improves Office 365

The enterprise market for live broadcasting software is crowded with vendors, from consumer options like YouTube and Venmo to pure-play webcasting services like On24 and TalkPoint. Most web conferencing platforms, such as Cisco Webex and Zoom, can also host webinars.

Microsoft is trying to stand out by offering an integrated portfolio that connects the live events of Microsoft Stream with collaboration apps like Microsoft Teams. Combining the software makes sense because businesses already use Teams for messaging and online meetings, according to Adam Preset, an analyst at Gartner.

“Technology vendors that can keep their customers inside an ecosystem can add more value if everything works together nicely,” Preset said. “That can also displace competitors who would have a tougher time breaking in even if their solutions are more mature or stronger in other areas.”

Stream’s integration with Microsoft Teams means that messages and content related to both daily work and company-wide meetings will exist in the same place, making it easier to start and continue conversations stemming from those live events, Preset said.

Cisco has also sought to provide a one-stop-shop for collaboration by merging its team collaboration app, Cisco Webex Teams (formerly Cisco Spark), with its industry-leading web conferencing platform, Cisco Webex.

Skype for Business customers that use that platform’s live broadcasting feature will soon be forced to transition to Microsoft Stream. However, Microsoft’s recently demonstrated willingness to open the Teams platform to developers could lead to other live broadcasting services being integrated with the product.

“The pool of people running large events in Skype Meeting Broadcast isn’t as large as those using Skype for Business Online for daily messaging and meetings,” Preset said. “That smaller set of event organizers will be looking at a large set of alternatives for delivering broadcasts.”

Juniper adds core campus switch to EX series

Juniper Networks has added to its EX series a core aggregation switch aimed at enterprises with campus networks that are too small for the company’s EX9000 line.

Like the EX9000 series, the EX4650 — a compact 25/100 GbE switch — uses network protocols typically found in the data center. As a result, the same engineering team can manage the data center and the campus.

“If an enterprise has a consistent architecture and common protocols across networks, it should be well-placed to achieve operational efficiencies across the board,” said Brad Casemore, an analyst at IDC.

The network protocols used in the EX4650 and EX9000 are the Ethernet VPN (EVPN) and the Virtual Extensible LAN (VXLAN). EVPN secures multi-tenancy environments in a data center. Engineers typically use it with the Border Gateway Protocol and the VXLAN encapsulation protocol. The latter creates an overlay network on an existing Layer 3 infrastructure.

Offering a common set of protocols lets Juniper target its campus switches at data center customers, Casemore said. “That’s a less resistant path than trying to displace other vendors in both the data center and the campus.”

Juniper released the EX4650 four months after releasing two multigigabit campus switches, the EX2300 and EX4300. Juniper also released in February a cloud-based dashboard, called Sky Enterprise, for provisioning and configuring Juniper’s campus switches and firewalls.

Juniper rivals Arista and Cisco are also focused on the campus market. In May, Arista extended its data center switching portfolio to the campus LAN with the introduction of the 7300X3 and 7050X3 spline switches. Cisco, on the other hand, has been building out a software-controlled infrastructure for the campus network, centered around a management console called the Digital Network Architecture (DNA) Center.

EX4650 switch
Juniper Networks’ EX4650 core aggregation switch for the campus

SD-WAN upgrade

Along with introducing the EX4650, Juniper unveiled this week improvements within its software-defined WAN for the campus. Companies can use Juniper’s Contrail Service Orchestration technology to prioritize specific application traffic traveling through the SD-WAN. The capability supports more than 3,700 applications, including Microsoft’s Outlook, SharePoint and Skype for Business, Juniper said.

Juniper runs its SD-WAN as a feature within the company’s NFX Network Services Platform, which also includes the Contrail orchestration software and Juniper’s SRX Series Services Gateways. The latter contains the vSRX virtual firewall, IP VPN, content filtering and threat management.

Juniper has added to the NFX platform support for active-active clustering, which is the ability to spread a workload across NFX hardware. NFX runs its software on a Linux server.

The clustering feature will improve the reliability of the LTE, broadband and MPLS connections typically attached to an SD-WAN, Juniper said.

Qumulo storage parts the clouds with its K-Series active archive

Scale-out NAS startup Qumulo has added a dense cloud archiving appliance to help companies find hidden value in idle data.

Known as the K-Series, the product is an entry-level complement to Qumulo storage with C-Series hybrid and all-flash NVMe P-Series NAS primary arrays. The K-144T active archive target embeds the Qumulo File Fabric (QF2) scalable file system on a standard 1U server.

Qumulo, based in Seattle, didn’t disclose the source of the K-Series’ underlying hardware, but it has an OEM deal with Hewlett Packard Enterprise to package the Qumulo Scalable File System on HPE Apollo servers. Qumulo storage customers need a separate software subscription to add the K-Series archive to an existing Qumulo primary storage configuration.

“It’s routine for our customers to be storing billions of files, either tiny files generated by machines or large files generated by video,” Qumulo chief marketing officer Peter Zaballos said. “We now have a complete product line, from archiving up to blazing high performance.”

Analytics and cloud bursting

Customers can build a physical K-Series cluster with a minimum of six nodes and scale by adding single nodes. That allows them to replicate data from the K-Series target to an identical Qumulo storage cluster in AWS for analytics or cloud bursting. A cluster can scale to 1,000 nodes.

“There’s no need to pull data back from the cloud. You can do rendering against a tier of storage in the cloud and avoid [the expense] of data migration,” Qumulo product manager Jason Sturgeon said.

Each Qumulo storage K-Series node scales to 144 TB of raw storage. Each node accepts a dozen 12 TB HDDs for storage, plus three SSDs to capture read metadata. QumuloDB analytics collects the metadata information as the data gets written. A nine-node configuration provides 1 PB of usable storage.

Qumulo said it designed the K-Series arrays with an Intel Xeon D system-on-a-chip processor to reduce power consumption.

Exploding market for NFS, object archiving

Adding a nearline option to Qumulo storage addresses the rapid growth of unstructured data that requires file-based and object storage, said Scott Sinclair, a storage analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.

“Qumulo is positioning the K-Series as a lower-cost, higher-density option for large-capacity environments,” Sinclair said. “There is a tremendous need for cheap and deep storage. Many cheap-and-deep workloads are using NFS protocols. This isn’t a file gateway that you retrofit on top of an object storage box. You can use normal file protocols.”

Those file protocols include NFS, SMB and REST-based APIs.

Sturgeon said the K-Series can ingest reads at 6 Gbps and writes at 3 Gpbs, per 1 PB of usable capacity.

To eliminate tree walks, the QF2 updates metadata of all files associated with a folder. Process checks occur every 15 seconds to provide visibility on the amount of data stored within the directory structure, allowing storage to be accessed and queried in nearly real time.

Qumulo has garnered more than $220 million in funding, including a $93 million Series D round earlier this month. Qumulo founders Peter Godman, Aaron Passey and Neal Fachan helped develop the Isilon OneFS clustered file system, leading the company to an IPO in 2006. EMC paid $2.25 billion to acquire the Isilon technology in 2010.

Godman is Qumulo CTO, and Fachan is chief scientist. Passey left in 2016 to take over as principal engineer at cloud hosting provider Dropbox.

GoToMeeting client adds business messaging to chase rivals

LogMeIn has added an instant messaging client and meeting transcriptions to its flagship web conferencing platform, GoToMeeting, as the vendor plays catch-up with rivals Cisco Webex and Zoom.

GoToMeeting’s business messaging supports 1-to-1 and group chats, letting users launch a video meeting with one click. The conversations are persistent, meaning they don’t disappear when the app is closed, and the interface shows when users are online, offline or in a meeting.

The GoToMeeting client adds external collaborators to the messaging channel by inviting them via email. Other messaging clients, such as the team collaboration apps Slack and Microsoft Teams, let users add external participants to meeting channels by creating guest accounts.

The updates released this week bring the GoToMeeting client more in line with Zoom and Cisco Webex, which have supported messaging for some time. But most GoToMeeting users probably already have other messaging clients, such as Microsoft Skype for Business or Cisco Jabber.

“My sense of GoToMeeting is that they have fallen behind their competitors like BlueJeans, Zoom, Cisco, PGi, etc., in terms of features and functionality,” said Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill.

LogMeIn closed a deal to acquire GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar and GoToTraining from Citrix for $1.8 billion in early 2017. The company’s portfolio also includes Join.me, a web conferencing platform for small businesses, and OpenVoice, a conference call service.

Earlier this year, LogMeIn bought unified-communications-as-a-service vendor Jive Communications, which provides hosted VoIP services to small and midsize businesses. LogMeIn has yet to release details about an expected consolidation of Jive’s offerings with GoToMeeting.

GoToMeeting client gets automated transcription, Alexa integration

GoToMeeting will now automatically transcribe meeting recordings for customers subscribed to its upper-tier “pro” and “plus” plans. The vendor will also let customers store recordings in the cloud for the first time.

Automated transcription is quickly becoming a must-have feature for cloud-based web conferencing platforms. Zoom, BlueJeans and Microsoft Teams all announced transcription capabilities of some kind earlier this year.

GoToMeeting’s transcripts will be searchable and include timestamps that hyperlink to specific locations within the video recording. They will also identify speakers by name and provide a breakdown of how many minutes each participant spent talking during the meeting.

New integrations with Amazon Alexa, meanwhile, will let GoToMeeting users schedule, reschedule, join and cancel meetings using Echo voice assistant devices. Users will also be able to check their daily meeting schedule.

Google adds single-tenant VMs for compliance, license cares

Google’s latest VM runs counter to standard public cloud frameworks, but its added flexibility checks off another box for enterprise clients.

Google Cloud customers can now access sole-tenant nodes on Google Compute Engine. The benefits for these single-tenant VMs, currently in beta, are threefold: They reduce the “noisy neighbor” issue that can arise on shared servers; add another layer of security, particularly for users with data residency concerns; and make it easier to migrate certain on-premises workloads with stringent licensing restrictions.

The public cloud model was built on the concept of multi-tenancy, which allows providers to squeeze more than one account onto the same physical host, and thus operate at economies of scale. Early customers happily waived some of those advantages of dedicated hardware in exchange for less infrastructure management and the ability to quickly scale out.

But as more traditional corporations adopt public cloud, providers have added isolation capabilities to approximate what’s inside enterprises’ own data centers, such as private networks, virtual private clouds and bare-metal servers. Single tenancy applies that approach down to the hardware level, while maintaining a virtualized architecture. AWS was the first to offer single-tenant VMs with its Dedicated Instances.

Customers access Google’s single-tenant VMs the same way as its other compute instances, except they’re placed on a dedicated server. The location of that node is either auto-selected through a placement algorithm, or customers can manually select the location at launch. These instances are customizable in size, and are charged per second for vCPU and system memory, as well as a 10% sole-tenancy premium.

Single-tenant VMs another step for Google Cloud’s enterprise appeal

Google still lags behind AWS and Microsoft Azure in public cloud capabilities, but it has added services and support in recent months to shake its image as a cloud valued solely for its engineering. Google must expand its enterprise customer base, especially with large organizations in which multiple stakeholders sign off on use of a particular cloud, said Fernando Montenegro, a 451 Research analyst.

Not all companies will pay the premium for this functionality, but it could be critical to those with compliance concerns, including those that must prove they’re on dedicated hardware in a specific location. For example, a DevOps team may want to build a CI/CD pipeline that releases into production, but a risk-averse security team might have some trepidations. With sole tenancy, that DevOps team has flexibility to spin up and down, while the security team can sign off on it because it meets some internal or external requirement.

“I can see security people being happy that, we can meet our DevOps team halfway, so they can have their DevOps cake and we can have our security compliance cake, too,” Montenegro said.

I can see security people being happy … our DevOps team … can have their DevOps cake and we can have our security compliance cake, too.
Fernando Montenegroanalyst, 451 Research

A less obvious benefit of dedicated hardware involves the lift and shift of legacy systems to the cloud. A traditional ERP contract may require a specific set of sockets or hosts, and it can be a daunting task to ensure a customer complies with licensing stipulations on a multi-tenant platform because the requirements aren’t tied to the VM.

In a bring-your-own-license scenario, these dedicated hosts can optimize customers’ license spending and reduce the cost to run those systems on a public cloud, said Deepak Mohan, an IDC analyst.

“This is certainly an important feature from an enterprise app migration perspective, where security and licensing are often top priority considerations when moving to cloud,” he said.

The noisy neighbor problem arises when a user is concerned that high CPU or IO usage by another VM on the same server will impact the performance of its own application, Mohan said.

“One of the interesting customer examples I heard was a latency-sensitive function that needed to compute and send the response within as short a duration as possible,” he said. “They used dedicated hosts on AWS because they could control resource usage on the server.”

Still, don’t expect this to be the type of feature that a ton of users rush to implement.

“[A single-tenant VM] is most useful where strict compliance/governance is required, and you need it in the public cloud,” said Abhi Dugar, an IDC analyst. “If operating under such strict criteria, it is likely easier to just keep it on prem, so I think it’s a relatively niche use case to put dedicated instances in the cloud.”

Apstra adds EVPN configuration to AOS

Apstra has added to its AOS intent-based operating system tools that remove the manual chore of configuring the Ethernet VPN protocol used in securing multi-tenancy environments in a private data center.

Apstra added the capability in AOS 2.2, which the company released this week. The latest OS version contains other enhancements, including integration with authentication systems, support for more network hardware and software and better anomaly detection.

The EVPN configuration capability, however, is likely to have the broadest appeal to network operators. Engineers typically use the protocol with the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) and the Virtual Extensible LAN (VXLAN) encapsulation protocol. VXLAN creates an overlay network on an existing Layer 3 infrastructure.

Apstra customers use EVPN, BGP and VXLAN together to segment the physical network in a multi-tenancy architecture. IT operations use multi-tenancy to serve multiple customers on a single instance of a software application. Network segmentation isolates customers so data and malware can’t travel between them.

The benefit of EVPN configuration

Apstra added EVPN configuration in its AOS software to remove an arduous task from the to-do list of IT staff, said Carly Stoughton, a senior technical marketing engineer at Apstra.

“We’ll actually automate that complex EVPN configuration for you, which is huge,” she said. “Configuring this plus BGP, plus VXLAN, if you’re doing that on every single switch in your data center, that’s a very complex configuration, and it’s a human, error-prone process.”

Apstra already provided tools for configuring BGP and VXLAN, so the EVPN capability filled a hole in AOS.

Apstra’s AOS software is part of the network management layer. The product monitors the configurations of multi-vendor network hardware and software and alerts IT managers when the intent of the setting is violated. Other startups taking an intent-based approach to network management include Forward Networks, Intentionet and Veriflow.

Other improvements in AOS 2.2 include support for switches from Mellanox Technologies and Dell EMC, a unit of Dell Technologies. New software support comprises OpenSwitch, an open source network operating system, version 3.6 of the Cumulus NOS and version 16.04 of the Ubuntu server OS.

In January, Apstra introduced customizable analytics in AOS. The feature lets network operators define the type of data they want the software to collect and then set the rules for extracting intelligence from the information.

Apstra said it would release the latest version of AOS this month at no additional cost to customers.

Green House Data merger boosts Microsoft consulting skills

Green House Data, a managed service provider based in Cheyenne, Wyo., has added Microsoft consulting capabilities, automation skills and greater geographic reach in its merger with Infront Consulting Group Ltd.

The deal, announced May 31, combines Green House Data’s cloud hosting, managed IaaS and hybrid IT services with Infront Consulting Group’s consulting services for Microsoft infrastructure and Azure cloud. Infront Consulting Group, based in Toronto, is a Gold Managed Microsoft Partner. The Microsoft managed partner designation means that the partner is field-managed by Microsoft and reflects a deeper level of engagement with the company.

The Green House Data merger comes amid a flurry of mergers and acquisitions in the IT services and cloud consulting space. Reliam and Converge Technology Partners, for example, have been snapping up managed public cloud providers and regional IT infrastructure companies, respectively. Fusion Agiletech Partners Inc. earlier this year kicked off a strategy of acquiring Microsoft-oriented partners, acquiring digital consulting firm Quisitive.

Shawn Mills, CEO at Green House Data, said the Infront Consulting Group merger stems from the company’s decision last year to target Microsoft Azure as a hyperscale provider in light of the cloud platform’s rapid growth. The company started looking for a Microsoft partner to join forces with and was attracted to Infront Consulting Group and its Fortune 250 customer base, Mills noted. He said Green House Data generally plays in the midmarket.

“It makes a tremendous amount of sense for us to combine,” Mills said.

Shawn Mills, CEO at Green House DataShawn Mills

Infront Consulting Group offers consulting services in areas such as Office 365 advanced threat prevention, Microsoft System Center Operations Manager and Configuration Manager deployment, and blockchain. The company also provides Azure migration services and offers a cloud governance and automation tool called the Azure Automation Framework.

“We are not looking for a rollout strategy,” Mills said regarding his company’s acquisition approach. “We are looking for capabilities.”

Green House Data merger seeks MS skills

Infront Consulting Group’s Microsoft consulting and Azure experience were the main capabilities behind Green House Data’s interest. But as a secondary benefit, the Toronto company offers the ability to deploy Green House Data’s suite of services in the Canadian market, Mills added.

It makes a tremendous amount of sense for us to combine.
Shawn MillsCEO, Green House Data

Green House Data and Infront Consulting Group will operate under their respective brands going forward.

“Both entities have a pretty strong brand presence in their own individual respective capabilities,” Mills explained. “We want to continue to capitalize on that.”

As for back-office infrastructure, the combined companies have near-term plans to merge sales, marketing, accounting and other operations. The go-to-market strategy calls for Green House Data to deliver managed services to Infront Consulting Group customers that require them, while Infront Consulting Group will deliver consulting services to Green House Data customers.

Automation a plus

The consulting firm will also lend its automation and DevOps capabilities to the merger. Mills said Green House Data will use that expertise internally to build out its automated tools for delivering services. In addition, Infront Consulting Group’s governance tools can help the organization more efficiently use software licensing to minimize costs, he added.

While the Green House Data merger expands the range of services the company can offer, the company will continue to partner with managed service providers (MSPs) in the small business market — companies with 500 employees or fewer. Green House Data launched a channel program in 2016 to partner with MSPs and VARs.

Mills said its channel partners will continue to cover the small business market, while Green House Data focuses on the midmarket and Infront Consulting Group pursues large enterprises.

Mac Mini 2012 – i5, 8GB, 256GB SSD

Have a 2012 Mac Mini for sale. Have upgraded RAM + added SSD. Good condition.

Have no box, packaging, or accessories – so would greatly prefer collection or exchange in person.

£300

View attachment 999756

Price and currency: 300
Delivery: Goods must be exchanged in person
Payment method: BT/Cash
Location: Chipping Norton
Advertised elsewhere?: Not advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I prefer the goods to be collected…

Mac Mini 2012 – i5, 8GB, 256GB SSD

Mac Mini 2012 – i5, 8GB, 256GB SSD

Have a 2012 Mac Mini for sale. Have upgraded RAM + added SSD. Good condition.

Have no box, packaging, or accessories – so would greatly prefer collection or exchange in person.

£300

View attachment 999756

Price and currency: 300
Delivery: Goods must be exchanged in person
Payment method: BT/Cash
Location: Chipping Norton
Advertised elsewhere?: Not advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I prefer the goods to be collected…

Mac Mini 2012 – i5, 8GB, 256GB SSD

Mac Mini 2012 – i5, 8GB, 256GB SSD

Have a 2012 Mac Mini for sale. Have upgraded RAM + added SSD. Good condition.

Have no box, packaging, or accessories – so would greatly prefer collection or exchange in person.

£300

View attachment 999756

Price and currency: 300
Delivery: Goods must be exchanged in person
Payment method: BT/Cash
Location: Chipping Norton
Advertised elsewhere?: Not advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I prefer the goods to be collected…

Mac Mini 2012 – i5, 8GB, 256GB SSD