Tag Archives: capabilities

Three new reasons to love the TSI explorer

Today we’re pleased to announce three new Time Series Insights (TSI) explorer capabilities that we think our users are going to love. 

  1. First, we are delighted to share that the TSI explorer, the visualization service of TSI, is now generally available and backed by our SLA. 
  2. Second, we’ve made the TSI explorer more accessible and easier to use for those with visual and fine-motor disabilities.
  3. And finally, we’ve made it easy to export aggregate event data to other analytics tools like Microsoft Excel. 

Now that the TSI explorer is generally available, users will notice that the explorer is backed by TSI’s service level agreement (SLA), and we’ve removed the preview moniker from the backsplash when the explorer is loading. We have many customers using TSI in production environments and we’re thrilled to offer them the same SLA that backs the rest of the product. The ActionPoint IoT-PREDICT solution is a great example of one of those customers using the TSI explorer to enable their customers to explore and analyze time series data quickly. Check out their solution below.

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There are no limits to what people can achieve when technology reflects the diversity of everyone who uses it. Transparency, accountability, and inclusion aren’t just built into our culture. They’re reflected in products and services designed for people of all abilities. With this in mind, it’s critical to our team that everyone can easily glean insights from their data using TSI, and these new capabilities significantly improve TSI’s usability for those with visual and fine-motor skill disabilities. The most obvious example of this work is the new table control that allows users to view aggregated data in a tabular format. While we made many less obvious improvements that make TSI more inclusive, two that I’m especially excited to share is TSI’s improved keyboard navigation and the addition of full narrator support. While we’re proud of the new functionality we delivered today, we think of accessibility and inclusion as core design principles and will continue to invest in feature work that takes advantage of them. 

Finally, we are excited to deliver a feature that many of our customers have been asking for – aggregate event data integration with Microsoft Excel. With the addition of the table, users can now simply export aggregate data as a CSV for integration with other analytics apps, like Microsoft Excel. This new capability enables users to take advantage of familiar tools that are already a part of their workflow for analyzing and processing data. Users will be able to take aggregate data from TSI and export it to any tool that can read CSV files. Users will still be able to export raw data as a CSV or JSON, but aggregate data export fulfills a common ask from our community. 

Here’s a screenshot of the new table and the CSV export:

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We are excited about these new updates, but we are even more excited about what’s to come, so stay up to date on all things Time Series Insights by following us on Twitter. Don’t forget to check out the Microsoft Internet of Things blog for news from our peers in the Azure IoT engineering group. 

Microsoft scoops up NAS vendor Avere for hybrid cloud services

Microsoft moved to bolster its cloud storage capabilities with the acquisition of NAS vendor Avere Systems, giving it a high-performance file system to manage unstructured data in hybrid clouds.

The Pittsburgh-based NAS vendor Avere’s OS file system is incorporated in FXT Edge filers in all-flash or spinning disk versions for on-premises or hybrid cloud configurations. Avere also provides a virtual appliance, the Virtual FXT Edge filers, which are available for Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the Google Cloud Platform. 

The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Microsoft disclosed the acquisition in a blog post on its website but declined an interview request to provide more details about its plans for the cloud NAS vendor. Microsoft acquired early cloud NAS vendor StorSimple in 2012, and gives that technology to Azure subscribers to tier data into the cloud.

However, Avere CEO Ron Bianchini wrote in a company blog post that the two companies’ “shared vision” is to use Avere technology “in the data center, in the cloud and in hybrid cloud storage …” while tightly integrating it with Azure.

“Avere and Microsoft recognize that there are many ways for enterprises to leverage data center resources and the cloud,” Bianchini wrote. “Our shared vision is to continue our focus on all of Avere’s use cases — in the data center, in the cloud and in hybrid cloud storage and cloud bursting environments. Tighter integration with Azure will result in a much more seamless experience for our customers.”

Avere was founded in 2008 as a company that focused on the data center with its FXT Core Filers that used flash to accelerate network-attached storage (NAS) performance on disk systems. The company later transitioned to the cloud with its Avere FXT Edge Filers that served as NAS public clouds, allowing customers to connect on-premises storage to AWS, Google Cloud and Azure services.

In addition to NFS and SMB protocols, the Avere Cloud NAS appliance supports object storage from IBM Cleversafe, Western Digital, SwiftStack and others through its C2N Cloud-Core NAS platform.

The only other vendor that offers end-to-end is Oracle. But Oracle does not have a global namespace. Avere has a global namespace.
Marc Staimerfounder, Dragon Slayer Consulting

The NAS vendor also sells FlashCloud, which runs on FXT Edge Filers with object APIs to connect to public and private clouds. The systems can be clustered so that cloud-based NAS can scale on premises while also providing high-availability access to data in the cloud. Customers can use FlashCloud software as a file system for object storage and move data to the cloud without requiring a gateway.

“They provide a true NAS filer,” said Marc Staimer, founder of Dragon Slayer Consulting. “They provide a complete, end-to-end package. The only other vendor that offers end-to-end is Oracle. But Oracle does not have a global namespace. Avere has a global namespace.”

Avere founders Bianchini, CTO Michael Kazar and technical director Daniel Nydick came from NetApp, which acquired their previous company Spinnaker Networks in 2004 for its clustered NAS technology.

Some of Avere’s customers include Sony Pictures’ Imageworks, animation studio Illumination Mac Guff, the Library of Congress, Johns Hopkins University and Teradyne Inc. The company is private so it does not disclose revenue, but a source close to the vendor put its bookings at $7 million in the fourth quarter of 2016 and $22 million for the year. Those bookings were up from $4.8 million in the fourth quarter and $14.5 million in 2015.

In March of 2017, Google became an Avere investor during the company’s $14 million Series E funding round. Avere raised about $100 million in total funding. Previous investors include Menlo Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Tenaya Capital and Western Digital Technologies.

The Avere team will continue to work out of its Pittsburgh office for Microsoft.

SwiftStack object storage integrates file protocol support

SwiftStack Inc.’s new 6.0 product release adds Universal Access capabilities to enable customers to read and write files to object storage in private or public clouds without a gateway.

The San Francisco-based software vendor originally gained a following through its commercially supported version of open source OpenStack Swift object storage. But SwiftStack object storage has steadily added capabilities and, with the version 6 release, the startup now refers to its product as “multi-cloud data management” that provides a “cloud-native” single namespace for unstructured data.

SwiftStack object storage always supported the OpenStack Swift and Amazon S3 APIs. With its 2.0 product release, SwiftStack added a gateway to enable users to put file data into an object storage system via API and take it out via file, or vice versa, noted Mario Blandini, the company’s vice president of marketing.

“The reality is, no one used our file system gateway because what they really wanted is it to be as fast as their NAS and as cool as their NAS but then cheap as in object storage,” Blandini said. “Architecturally, a gateway could not delight our customers.”

Diagram of SwiftStack storage
SwiftStack storage with file access

Integrated support for SMB/NFS file protocols

SwiftStack’s Universal Access now enables users or applications to access unstructured data from any private or public cloud location through the SMB and NFS file protocols and Amazon S3 and Swift object interfaces. The system can read and write data to a cloud-based single namespace in both formats. For instance, it can ingest data via file and read via object, or vice versa.

“Any workflow comprised of any number of parts works, as long as the file interfaces are SMB or NFS, and the object interfaces are Swift or S3,” Blandini said.

Try not to label us as an object storage company … because at the end of the day, no one cares about object storage.
Mario Blandinivice president of marketing, SwiftStack

Combining Universal Access with SwiftStack’s previously released Cloud Sync capabilities enables IT managers to control the placement of data in private or public clouds based on policies tailored to specific application workloads and facilitate multiprotocol access to the information. Blandini said the true benefit is being able to “put the right stuff in the right place at the right time without having your users do it — having your IT governance control where the data is placed.”

He said the new capabilities would enable SwiftStack, for the first time, to “ask people to please stop thinking of us as an open source company,” and “while you’re at it, if you could try not to label us as an object storage company, that’d be even better, because at the end of the day, no one cares about object storage.”

“When people write to a public cloud, they don’t care that it’s object storage,” Blandini said. “One of the things that’s made object storage elusive for most users is the fact that it’s been made up to be way more complicated than it needs to be. With cloud-first initiatives coming from CIOs and the mandate to provide DR and site recovery for a lot of businesses who can’t afford a second data center, we’re seeing a lot more momentum going to these things because it’s practical to do now.”

George Crump, founder and president of Storage Switzerland LLC, said SwiftStack’s Universal Access provides “some feature uniqueness that nobody else at least at this point has delivered.” But he said it’s probably not the one feature by itself that could push SwiftStack over the edge to significant market share.

“They have really good technology. Now it comes down to can they market,” Crump said. “I’d say the jury is out at this point.”

Howard Marks, founder and chief scientist at DeepStorage LLC, said SwiftStack’s pioneering work to have a single system that facilitates access to the same data via file and object APIs means developers won’t have to rewrite file-based applications for object storage paradigms and can write new applications to the S3 object API without having to worry about support for file APIs.

“It certainly opens  up a new market” for SwiftStack, Marks said. “Their market before had been people building object storage for cloud-type applications. They open it up to the people who have applications using files now that want to make the transition to object and use that as their transition to a cloud strategy.”

Stiff competition for SwiftStack object storage

Marks noted that SwiftStack object storage faces stiff competition in a busy market populated with well-established vendors, startups and open source options such as Ceph. He said the company is taking the right approach in de-emphasizing its OpenStack Swift roots.

“The general-purpose object market is way bigger than OpenStack, and they don’t want to be ghettoized,” Marks said. “OpenStack is starting to get the smell of failure on it. People are starting to look down on OpenStack.”

Torsten Volk, a senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, said SwiftStack version 6 could serve as a complement to traditional NAS. “For latency-sensitive use cases, traditional NAS can stay in place. However, you could use SwiftStack to get more mileage out of existing filers by moving off the less demanding data,” Volk wrote in an email.

Volk said SwiftStack’s software could also be helpful for container users. “Containers notoriously are fighting with data mapping. SwiftStack gives them API access so that you don’t have to worry about Kubernetes storage drives or plug-ins,” he wrote.

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.

Microsoft and SAP join forces to give customers a trusted path to digital transformation in the cloud | News Center

Expanded partnership offers customers joint cloud capabilities and a trusted road map.

REDMOND, Wash., and WALLDORF, Germany — Nov. 27, 2017 — Microsoft Corp. and SAP SE on Monday announced integrated offerings to provide enterprise customers with a clear road map to confidently drive more business innovation in the cloud. In a bold show of commitment, the two companies also announced they will be deploying each other’s cloud solutions internally. Through their unique partnership, the companies will co-engineer, go to market together with premier solutions and provide joint support services to ensure the best cloud experience for customers.

SAP HANA® Enterprise Cloud — SAP’s private managed cloud service — on Microsoft Azure will allow customers to run SAP S/4HANA in a secure, managed cloud. Additionally, Microsoft will deploy SAP S/4HANA® on Azure to help run its own internal finance processes, and SAP will move its key internal business critical systems to Azure. Finally, SAP Ariba is currently utilizing Azure and is exploring further use within its procurement applications. Together, SAP and Microsoft will help companies make the most of running SAP applications in the cloud.

“As technology transforms every business and every industry, organizations are looking for the right platforms and trusted partners to help accelerate their digital transformation,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. “Building on our longtime partnership, Microsoft and SAP are harnessing each other’s products to not only power our own organizations, but to empower our enterprise customers to run their most mission-critical applications and workloads with SAP S/4HANA on Azure.”

Enterprise companies are increasingly moving business-critical systems to the cloud for the benefits digital transformation provides: better customer relationships, more empowered employees, streamlined operations, new business models, and new products and services. According to research firm Gartner Inc., two-thirds of all business leaders believe that their companies must pick up the pace of digitalization to remain competitive.* As leaders in enterprise software, SAP and Microsoft are aligning closely to provide customers with the safe and trusted path to digital transformation.

“We are taking our partnership to the next level with this new capability to run SAP S/4HANA in the Microsoft Azure environment,” said SAP CEO Bill McDermott. “The world’s significant businesses trust Microsoft and SAP. Together, we will help companies win the customer-driven growth revolution.”

SAP and Microsoft both will run SAP S/4HANA on Azure for their internal operations. Microsoft is transforming its internal systems — which include legacy SAP finance applications — and will implement the SAP S/4HANA Finance solution running on Azure. Microsoft also plans to connect SAP S/4HANA to Azure AI and analytics services for more efficient financial reporting and more powerful decision-making. SAP is migrating more than a dozen business-critical systems to Azure for the optimal efficiencies, flexibility and innovation the platform offers. This includes the SAP S/4HANA software supporting Concur, an SAP company.

Both companies will document the internal projects to provide customers with guidance and enterprise architecture for deployment of SAP applications on Azure.

            With SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud on Azure, customers get the best of both worlds: application management and product expertise from SAP and a global, trusted and intelligent cloud from Microsoft Azure, including the range of Microsoft cloud services.

Enterprise customers of all types, such as The Coca-Cola Company, Columbia Sportswear Company, Coats and Costco Wholesale Corp., count on SAP and Azure today for their businesses.

“The strategic partnership announced between Microsoft and SAP is an extremely important development for the Coca-Cola System,” said Barry Simpson, senior vice president and chief information officer at The Coca-Cola Company. “The value of aligned engineering, sales and delivery between these two strategic partners will allow our system to accelerate our digital agenda. This is a very positive and exciting development for us.”

“SAP and Microsoft are key partners with Costco, and this alliance will help drive our cloud strategy and digital business forward,” said Jim Rutherford, senior vice president of Information Systems at Costco Wholesale.

“Microsoft and SAP are strategic partners helping us grow our wholesale and direct-to-consumer businesses. Their close alignment is an integral part of advancing our technical architecture and cloud strategy to better serve our customers around the world,” said Mike Hirt, vice president and chief information officer at Columbia Sportswear Company. “We produce innovative products that allow our customers to pursue and enjoy their outdoor passions. Our partnership with Microsoft and SAP is essential to us continuing to deliver on that commitment.”

“With SAP HANA on Azure, we have the data intelligence to operate more efficiently across all aspects of our business and accelerate the delivery of finished goods to our customers,” said Hizmy Hassen, chief digital and technology officer, Coats. “The Microsoft and SAP alliance provides us with the assurance we need for our innovation in the cloud.”

About SAP

As market leader in enterprise application software, SAP (NYSE: SAP) helps companies of all sizes and industries run better. From back office to boardroom, warehouse to storefront, desktop to mobile device – SAP empowers people and organizations to work together more efficiently and use business insight more effectively to stay ahead of the competition. SAP applications and services enable more than 365,000 business and public-sector customers to operate profitably, adapt continuously, and grow sustainably. For more information, visit www.sap.com.

Visit the SAP News Center. Follow SAP on Twitter at @sapnews.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) is the leading platform and productivity company for the mobile-first, cloud-first world, and its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

*Gartner, Smarter with Gartner, Embrace the Urgency of Digital Transformation, Oct. 30, 2017, https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/embrace-the-urgency-of-digital-transformation/.

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Quobyte preps 2.0 Data Center File System software update

Quobyte’s updated Data Center File System software adds volume-mirroring capabilities for disaster recovery, support for Mac and Windows clients, and shared access control lists.

The startup, based in Santa Clara, Calif., this week released the 2.0 version of its distributed POSIX-compliant parallel file system to beta testers and expects to make the updated product generally available in January.

The Quobyte software supports file, block and object storage, and it’s designed to scale out IOPS, throughput and capacity linearly on commodity hardware ranging from four to thousands of servers. Policy-based data placement lets users earmark high-performance workloads to flash drives, including faster new NVMe-based PCIe solid-state drives.

Software-defined storage startups face challenges

Despite the additions, industry analysts question whether Quobyte has done enough to stand out in a crowded field of file-system vendors.

Marc Staimer, president of Dragon Slayer Consulting, said Quobyte faces significant hurdles against competition ranging from established giants, such as Dell EMC, to startups, including Elastifile, Qumulo, Rozo Systems, StorOne and WekaIO.

Staimer called features such as shared access control lists (ACLs) and volume mirroring table stakes in the software-defined storage market. He said mirroring — a technology that was hot 20 years ago — protects against hardware failures, but doesn’t go far enough for disaster recovery. He said Quobyte must consider adding versioning and time stamping to protect against software corruption, malware, accidental deletion and problems of that nature.

Steven Hill, a senior storage analyst at 451 Research, said it takes more than features to gain share in the enterprise storage market. He said Quobyte would do well to forge closer hardware partnerships to provide better integration, optimization, support and services.

“Even though software-delivered storage appears to be the trend, many storage customers still seem more interested in the fully supported hardware [and] software appliance model, rather than taking a roll-your-own approach to enterprise storage,  especially when there can be so many different production requirements in play at the same time,” Hill wrote in an email.

Quobyte CEO Bjorn Kolbeck and CTO Felix Hupfeld worked in storage engineering at Google before starting Quobyte in 2013. And Kolbeck claimed the “Google-style operations” that the Quobyte architecture enables would allow users to grow the system and run 24/7 without the need for additional manpower.

According to Kolbeck, fault tolerance is the most important enabler for Google-style operations. He said Quobyte achieves fault tolerance through automated replication, erasure coding, disaster recovery and end-to-end checksums that ensure data integrity. With those capabilities, users can fix broken hardware on their own schedules, he said.

“That’s the key to managing very large installations with hundreds of petabytes with a small team,” Kolbeck said.

Quobyte 2.0

Kolbeck said Quobyte made volume mirroring a priority following requests from commercial customers. The software uses continuous asynchronous replication across geographic regions and clouds to facilitate disaster recovery. Kolbeck said customers would be able replicate the primary site and use erasure coding with remote sites to lower the storage footprint, if they choose.

To expand data sharing across platforms and interfaces, Quobyte 2.0 finalized native drivers for Mac and Windows clients. Its previous version supported Linux, Hadoop and Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) options for users to read, write and access files.

Kolbeck said adding access control lists will allow users to read and modify them from all interfaces now that Mac and Windows ACLs and S3 permissions map to Quobyte’s internal NFSv4 ACLs.

Quobyte also moved to simplify installation and management through the creation of a cloud-based service to assist with domain name system service configuration. Kolbeck said the company “moved as far away from the command line as possible,” and the system now can walk customers through the installation process.

Kolbeck said Quobyte currently has about 25 customers running the software in production. He said the company targets commercial high-performance computing and “all markets that are challenged by data growth,” including financial services, life sciences, exploratory data analysis and chip design, media and entertainment, and manufacturing and internet of things.

Quobyte’s subscription pricing model, based on usable capacity, will remain unchanged with the 2.0 product release.

Versa SD-WAN gets features focused on voice, video calling

Versa Networks has added to its SD-WAN product capabilities the vendor claims will help organizations maintain the quality of video and voice calling in the branch office.

The company introduced this week Versa SD-WAN technology that formulates a mean opinion score (MOS) for communication traffic and lets network engineers set policies that trigger specific actions if the score falls below a baseline. MOS is a number from one to five that indicates the voice or video quality at the destination end of the circuit. Satisfactory voice calls, for example, are typically in the 3.5 to 4.2 range.

Versa has developed algorithms that determine the MOS of each call based on metrics extrapolated from Real-Time Transport Protocol (RTP) and Real-Time Transport Control Protocol (RTCP) traffic flows. RTP combines its data transport with the RTCP. The latter lets monitoring applications detect packet loss and compensate for delays that lead to jitter.

Other factors used to reach a mean opinion score are the codecs used in a company’s voice over IP and video conferencing application. In general, codecs compress digital data to move it faster over the network and then decompress it at the destination point. In doing its work, however, a codec causes some degradation in quality.

Network engineers can set policies that tell the Versa SD-WAN to take specific actions when the MOS is too low. Those steps could include changing the transport of the data flow, moving other traffic off the route to increase available bandwidth and cloning the communication traffic so it can be sent across multiple circuits.

Analysts split on value of MOS in Versa SD-WAN

Other SD-WAN vendors, such as VeloCloud, which was recently acquired by VMware, also provide mechanisms for monitoring and taking corrective actions to help maintain voice and video quality. In general, most products take into account common network problems, such as the loss of packets or delay in their delivery.

“The added support [within Versa ] for real-time voice and video will help ensure good-quality communications are maintained,” said Mike Fratto, an analyst at Current Analysis, which is owned by London-based GlobalData.

Not all analysts, however, agreed that MOS scoring would improve voice and video calling.

“My guess is that this won’t improve calling all that much, because SD-WAN solutions are already looking at things like jitter, latency, etc., for voice traffic,” said Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill. “They also can’t deal with factors inside the LAN, such as poor Wi-Fi performance that can adversely impact call quality.”

At its core, SD-WAN lets engineers steer traffic across multiple links, such as MPLS, Long Term Evolution and broadband. The connections they choose depends on the needs of the applications generating the traffic. Companies can select MPLS for data that needs a high-level of reliability, while using cheaper broadband for less sensitive data flows.

Vendors have added WAN optimization, firewalls, routing and quality-of-service features for communications as differentiators and to demand higher prices for their SD-WAN platforms.