Tag Archives: cloudbased

Top 5 ERP software for small businesses

As ERP software providers have created cloud-based versions of their products, they’ve opened up these capabilities to small businesses.

The per-user, per-month pricing model makes ERP software more accessible to small businesses, and running it in the cloud means that they don’t need to invest in servers or IT staff to deploy, manage and troubleshoot it.

ERP software is ideal for small businesses that have outgrown their spreadsheets, paper-based systems or general small business accounting software. These software systems are now more widely available to businesses that had outgrown spreadsheets or small business accounting software and are looking for something that could better handle accounting, customer relationship management and other business functions.

There’s no hard-and-fast rule as to when small businesses should switch to ERP software. But if they’re struggling with a lot of manual tasks, want to get a better picture of the financial health of their business and take advantage of analytics, it might be time to start evaluating different vendors. Some other indicators that it’s time to look at ERP software include spending too much time trying to integrate other software packages to get a full picture of inventory, supply chain and customers, as well as difficulty meeting customer demands.

Here are the top five ERP software choices for small businesses:

OnCloudERP

Aimed squarely at small businesses in the distribution, wholesale, retail and services sector, OnCloud ERP is a fully cloud-based ERP software product. The OnCloud ERP suite of applications includes the expected accounting modules for real-time information on cash flow, as well as sales, inventory, purchase order and receipt tracking, inventory management and production planning. Add-on modules provide the ability to manage payroll, track and maintain assets, leverage CRM functions like lead tracking and manage projects.

One of the most attractive features for small businesses is that companies can implement OnCloud ERP without an IT department and uses a single platform for all the ERP functions. The software also offers mobile device and remote access capabilities.

OnCloud ERP offers a free trial for 14 days. Pricing starts at $10 per user per month for the “StartUp” plan, with a minimum of five users.

Microsoft Dynamics Business Central

While Microsoft Dynamics 365 is geared toward larger businesses, Microsoft offers a Business Central application for small businesses. This product includes financials, supply chain management, customer service and project management in one product.

The analytics capabilities in Business Central include the ability to connect data across accounting, sales, purchasing, inventory and customer transactions, then run reports in real-time using business intelligence dashboards. The product also enables users to access data modeling and analysis to create financial forecasts.

Because it’s a Microsoft product, users can integrate the product with Excel, Word, Outlook and Azure. Microsoft also offers pre-built add-on products like Continia Document Capture 365 for recognizing documents and approving invoices and Jet Reports to create financial reports inside Excel.

The pricing model is a per-user, per-month fee, based on whether the company chooses a basic or premium version. Microsoft delivers Business Central entirely in the cloud, and the vendor also offers a mobile application for remote access.

Oracle NetSuite

While Oracle markets NetSuite as ideal for businesses of any size, where NetSuite really shines is with smaller businesses. It’s an all-in-one software suite that includes financials, customer service and e-commerce capabilities, so small business owners don’t have to figure out how to use APIs to connect different software packages. NetSuite also packages analytics in with its ERP software to provide insight into how the business is performing, using key performance indicators.

NetSuite is delivered entirely in the cloud, on the NetSuite Cloud Platform. This enables organizations to add other applications and modules — such as SuitePeople, its human capital management system — to the software. The product is billed as good for manufacturing, media and publishing, nonprofit, retail, services, advertising, distribution and wholesale and software industries.

Potential users must contact NetSuite for pricing information.

Sage Intacct

The focus of Sage Intacct is finance and accounting, and Sage bills it as being “built for finance by finance.” Some of the features it offers includes the ability to automate complex processes, analyze data, create structured transactions and approvals, and manage multiple currencies and locations. It also provides the ability to track multiple accounts in real-time.

For companies that want to extend Sage Intacct beyond core financial functions, the software offers modules for fixed assets, inventory management, and time and expense management, among others. It also offers web services in the form of APIs to integrate with other software systems, as well as a built-in Salesforce integration.

Sage Intacct is priced on a quote basis and is cloud-based.

SAP Business One

As SAP’s ERP product for small businesses, SAP Business One is a single suite that includes financial management, sales and customer management, purchasing and inventory control, and analytics and reporting capabilities. It also includes a mobile access module so that users can check inventory, manage sales and service, and complete approvals from iOS or Android devices.

Companies can customize SAP Business One for their industries, including consumer products, manufacturing, retail, wholesale distribution and professional services. The can also customize the software using application extensions from SAP partners, create web applications that run on desktops or mobile devices, and use self-service options within SAP Business One to create additional fields, tables and forms.

Unlike a lot of other small business ERP products, companies can implement SAP Business One on premises. It’s also delivered in a cloud-based model, priced on a per-user, per-month basis. It’s sold exclusively through SAP partners.

ERP selection advice

Before beginning the ERP software evaluation process, small business leaders need to first identify the business problems they’re trying to solve. They will also want to audit their existing processes to see if the ERP system they’re considering has these processes built in or will let them create workflows.

As small businesses begin the evaluation process, it’s important to keep in mind what the company actually needs and what it can support. Most of these systems will let companies add users as needed, as well as extend capabilities using APIs. These top five ERP software for small business have features that go beyond basic accounting and let small businesses compete with larger companies, using tools that previously were not affordable.

Go to Original Article
Author:

Jira Roadmaps connect to Confluence, await Code Barrel

Atlassian’s Jira Roadmaps began to sync up with the rest of its cloud-based product line this week, and more integrations will become available this quarter, as users await further streamlining of the company’s tools.

Jira Roadmaps, which offer high-level views into team projects and their projected delivery timelines, became available for the latest version of Jira Software Cloud in October 2018. Jira Software Cloud is distinct from Jira Server, a much older on-premises version of the nearly 20-year-old product.

This week’s updates include several refinements to the Roadmaps workflow interface, such as clearer visualizations of dependencies between Roadmap projects, and finer-grained workflow editing features in the top-level UI. Most significantly, users can now add multiple live Jira Roadmaps images to Confluence documents that offer business managers an organization-wide view of software projects, a key component of enterprise BizDevOps strategy.

“We use Confluence for our internal wiki,” said Chester Dean, director of business technology operations at Looker, a business intelligence firm in Santa Cruz, Calif. “The new integration will give us access to embedded visualizations of next-gen workflows.”

Looker, which Google acquired in June 2019, uses its own project-tracking tools within the previous version of Jira, known as Jira classic, which Atlassian also offers to customers through a partnership between the two companies. Looker still uses the older version of Jira along with the latest version, dubbed Jira next-gen, as users can get started quickly on projects in the newer edition, but the company still relies on some older features.

“We get people to model what they want in next-gen, then build it in classic,” he said. “Next-gen reduces the amount of admin time it takes to learn and understand how to use Jira, but it isn’t yet ready to replace classic for us.”

Jira Roadmaps in Confluence
Atlassian’s Jira Roadmaps can now be embedded in Confluence documents

Jira Roadmaps, Code Barrel offer ease of use

One feature the latest version of Jira lacks is the ability to link workflows between different projects, but an Atlassian spokesperson said that feature is in the works. Dean said he understands that the priority for Atlassian is to keep Jira Roadmaps and the latest version of Jira Software Cloud current.

“There are a bunch of [vendors] building project management tools, and Atlassian has to be there for the next generation of developers,” he said.

Next month, Atlassian will also roll out integration between the latest version of Jira and the Jira automation tools it acquired with Code Barrel last fall. Code Barrel’s rules builder software automates routine tasks for Jira administrators, such as automatically pre-populating issues with associated subtasks.

Non-technical teams at Looker such as marketing and customer service have taken to the latest version of Jira because of such usability features, Dean said.

Still, Dean isn’t alone in wanting more cohesion between the two versions of Jira Software Cloud, as well as between the multiple products in the overall Jira line. Jira Roadmaps for the older version of the product are not yet generally available, but were previewed at the Atlassian Open summit in Boston last October, and users at that event also said they’d like to share information more easily between the two versions of the product.

However, Jira Roadmaps workflows are fundamentally designed to be independent from one another, so that Jira administrators don’t have to manage changes. This may complicate upgrades for users of the older version, but in the long run, analysts warn that enterprises should expect such disruptions.

“From one generation to another, there are new ways of working,” said Thomas Murphy, an analyst at Gartner. “Customers are used to a certain way of doing things, but those features might operate differently than they expect in a new product.”

Atlassian’s software integration balancing act

While cloud-only users wish for more features in common between Jira next-gen and classic, enterprise companies in on-premises and hybrid cloud environments would also like to see some next-gen Jira features added to Atlassian’s Jira Server.

But the company has made clear that its emphasis will be on cloud and next-gen products, and it says more than half of its enterprise customers have already moved to the cloud version. Some 45% of Jira users have also moved to next-gen as of this month, the company said. At this point, Jira Software Cloud and Server products are developed separately on different codebases, which introduce different constraints, making it unlikely they will share features.

In part, this is because Atlassian increasingly competes with Agile planning and DevOps software vendors that don’t offer on-premises products at all, such as Zendesk and GitLab, Gartner’s Murphy said. Another competitive product, Microsoft’s Azure DevOps, offers the same features both on-premises and in the cloud, but Azure DevOps users face their own integration and upgrade challenges as Microsoft moves toward GitHub.

Meanwhile, Atlassian sweetened the cloud deal for reluctant enterprise users when it shored up its cloud security features and began offering a cloud SLA last year, after a move to AWS in 2018 improved its reliability. In November 2019, the company introduced Atlassian Forge, a framework software partners and IT pros can use to convert popular plugins available for on-premises products for use with the cloud suite, which had been another major hindrance to enterprise cloud migration.

Atlassian has pledged to streamline and rationalize all of its Jira products, which include Portfolio for Jira and Jira Align, based on Atlassian’s acquisition of AgileCraft in 2019, and link them through a unified data repository. Company spokespeople said this week that work will continue throughout 2020, along with CI/CD pipeline integration for Jira, likely to be launched at Atlassian Summit in early April.

Go to Original Article
Author:

On-premises server monitoring tools meet business needs, budget

Although the market has shifted and more vendors are providing cloud-based monitoring, there are still a wide range of feature-rich server monitoring tools for organizations that must keep their workloads on site for security and compliance reasons.  

Here we examine open source and commercial on-premises server monitoring tools from eight vendors. Although these products broadly achieve the same IT goals, they differ in their approach, complexity of setup — including the ongoing aspects of maintenance and licensing — and cost. 

Cacti

Cacti is an open source network monitoring and graphing front-end application for RRDtool, an industry-standard open source data logging tool. RRDtool is the data collection portion of the product, while Cacti handles network graphing for the data that’s collected. Since both Cacti and RRDtool are open source, they may be practical options for organizations that are on a budget. Cacti support is community-driven.

Cacti can be ideal for organizations that already have RRDtool in place and want to expand on what it can display graphically. For organizations that don’t have RRDtool installed, or aren’t familiar with Linux commands or tools, both Cacti and RRDtool could be a bit of a challenge to install, as they don’t include a simple wizard or agents. This should be familiar territory for Linux administrators, but may require additional effort for Windows admins. Note that Cacti is a graphing product and isn’t really an alerting or remediation product. 

ManageEngine Applications Manager

The ManageEngine system is part of an extensive line of server monitoring tools that include application-specific tools as well as cloud and mobile device management. The application monitoring framework enables organizations to purchase agents from various vendors, such as Oracle and SAP, as well as customer application-specific tools. These server monitoring tools enable admins to perform cradle-to-grave monitoring, which can help them troubleshoot and resolve application server issues before they impact end-user performance. ManageEngine platform strengths include its licensing model and the large number of agents available. Although the monitoring license per device is all-inclusive for interfaces or sensors needed per device, the agents are sold individually.

Thirty-day trials are available for many of the more than 100 agents. Licensing costs range from less than $1,000 for 25 monitors and one user to more than $7,000 for 250 monitors with one user and an additional $245 per user. Support costs are often rolled into the cost of the monitors. This can be ideal for organizations that want to make a smaller initial investment and grow over time.

Microsoft System Center Operations Manager

The product monitors servers, enterprise infrastructure and applications, such as Exchange and SQL, and works with both Windows and Linux clients. Microsoft System Center features include configuration management, orchestration, VM management and data protection. System Center isn’t as expansive on third-party applications as it is with native Microsoft applications. System Center is based on core licensing to match Server 2016 and later licensing models.

The base price for Microsoft System Center Operations Manager starts at $3,600, assuming two CPUs and 16 cores total and can be expanded with core pack licenses. With Microsoft licensing, the larger the environment in terms of CPU cores, the more a customer site can expect to pay. While Microsoft offers a 180-day trial of System Center, this version is designed for the larger Hyper-V environments. Support is dependent on the contract the organization selects.  

Nagios Core

Nagios Core is free open source software that provides metrics to monitor server and network performance. Nagios can help organizations provide increased server, services, process and application availability. While Nagios Core comes with a graphical front end, the scope of what it can monitor is somewhat limited. But admins can deploy additional community-provided front ends that offer more views and additional functionality. Nagios Core natively installs and operates on Linux systems and Unix variants.

For additional features and functionality, the commercial Nagios XI product offers true dashboards, reporting, GUI configuration and enhanced notifications. Pricing for this commercial version ranges from less than $7,000 for 500 nodes and an additional $1,500 per enterprise for reporting and capacity planning tools. In addition to agents for OSes, users can also add network monitoring for a single point of service. Free 60-day trials and community support are available for the products that work with the free Nagios Core download.

Opsview

Opsview system monitoring software includes on-premises agents as well as agents from all the major cloud vendors. While the free version provides 25 hosts to monitor, the product’s main benefit is that it can support both SMBs and the enterprise. Pricing for a comprehensive offering that includes 300 hosts, reporting, multiple collectors and network analyzer is less than $20,000 a year, depending on the agents selected.  

Enterprise packages are available via custom quote. The vendor offers both on-premises and cloud variations. The list of agents Opsview can monitor is one of the most expansive of any of the products, bridging cloud, application, web and infrastructure. Opsview also offers a dedicated mobile application. Support for most packages is 24/7 and includes customer portals and a knowledgebase.

Paessler PRTG Network Manager

PRTG can monitor from the infrastructure to the application stack. The licensing model for PRTG Network Monitor follows a sensor model format over a node, core or host model. This means a traditional host might have more than 20 sensors monitoring anything from CPU to bandwidth. Services range from networking and bandwidth monitoring to other more application-specific services such as low Microsoft OneDrive or Dropbox drive space. A fully functional 30-day demo is available and pricing ranges from less than $6,000 for 2,500 sensors to less than $15,000 for an unlimited number of sensors. Support is email-based.

SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor

SolarWinds offers more than 1,000 monitoring templates for various applications and systems, such as Active Directory, as well as several virtualization platforms and cloud-based applications. It also provides dedicated virtualization, networking, databases and security monitoring products. In addition to standard performance metrics, SolarWinds provides application response templates to help admins with troubleshooting. A free 30-day trial is available. Pricing for 500 nodes is $73,995 and includes a year of maintenance.  

Zabbix

This free, open source, enterprise-scale monitoring product includes an impressive number of agents that an admin can download. Although most features aren’t point and click, the dashboards are similar to other open source platforms and are more than adequate. Given the free cost of entry and the sheer number of agents, this could be an ideal product for organizations that have the time and Linux experience to bring it online. Support is community-based and additional support can be purchased from a reseller.

The bottom line on server monitoring tools

The products examined here differ slightly in size, scope and licensing model. Outside of the open source products, many commercial server monitoring tools are licensed by node or agent type. It’s important that IT buyers understand all the possible options when getting quotes, as they can be difficult to understand.

Pricing varies widely, as do the features of the dashboards of the various server monitoring tools. Ensure the staff is comfortable with the dashboard and alerting functionality of each system as well as mobile ability and notifications. If an organization chooses an open source platform, keep in mind that the installation could require more effort if the staff isn’t Linux savvy.  

The dashboards for the open source monitors typically aren’t as graphical as the paid products, but that’s part of the tradeoff with open source. Many of the commercial products are cloud-ready or have that ability, so even if an organization doesn’t plan to monitor its servers in the cloud today, they can take advantage of this technology in the future. 

Go to Original Article
Author:

Vendors detail cloud-based backup past, present, future

It’s safe to say cloud-based backup has gone mainstream.

In the last five years, cloud backup grew from something that organizations often greeted with skepticism to a technology that’s at least a part of many businesses’ data protection plans.

Some of that evolution is a result of users getting more comfortable with the idea of backing up data in the cloud and the security there. Some of it is a result of vendors adding functionality such as security, backup of cloud-born software as a service (SaaS) data and other enhancements. Challenges remain, though.

In part one of this feature, several experts in cloud-based backup detailed how the market has developed and what businesses can expect in the years to come. In part two, executives from backup vendors, including cloud backup pioneers, discuss their impressions of the past, present and future of the technology.

How has cloud-based backup evolved in the last five years?

Eran Farajun, executive vice president, Asigra: [Cloud-based backup has] become a lot more mainstream as a service.

Headshot of Asigra's Eran FarajunEran Farajun

Because it’s become so popular, it’s become a target. So, it’s moved from becoming a defensive mechanism to it becoming an attack vector. It’s a way that people get attacked, which has then caused even more evolution in the last, I would say two or three years, where cloud backup now has to include security and safety elements. Otherwise, you’re not going to be able to recover confidently with it.

Hal Lonas, CTO, Carbonite: We have seen a rise in the popularity of cloud, especially over the past five years as it becomes a more scalable and economical solution for businesses — particularly SMBs that are expanding rapidly. It has also been highly embraced by the service provider and solution market.

Public cloud has also come a long way, especially among highly regulated industries such as healthcare and finance. We’re seeing these organizations turn to the cloud more frequently than before, as it provides an easier and more cost-effective way to meet their recovery time objective and recovery point objective requirements.

Danny Allan, CTO, Veeam: The first perspective of customers was, ‘I’ll just take my backups and [move them] to the cloud,’ and there wasn’t really thought given to what that meant.

We’ve become a lot more efficient about the data movement, both in and out, and secondly, there are now options that didn’t exist in the past. If you need to recover data in the cloud, you can, or you can recover back on premises. And if you are recovering it back on premises, you can do that efficiently.

Headshot of Arcserve's Oussama El-HilaliOussama El-Hilali

Oussama El-Hilali, CTO, Arcserve: [There has been] tremendous evolution both in quantity and quality of the cloud backup. We’ve seen a number of vendors emerge to provide backup to the cloud. We’ve seen the size of the backups grow. We’ve seen the number of people who are interested in going to cloud backup grow as well.

I think one of the fundamental things in data protection has been creating the distance between the primary and secondary data, in case of disaster.

Where are we in the story of cloud-based backup? Is it at the height of its popularity?

Farajun: I don’t think it’s at the height. It’s still growing fairly quickly as an overall service. So, it’s not flat; it’s still growing in double-digit figures year over year.

And I think what lends to its popularity is future evolution. It’ll get more secure. It has to be more secure.

There will be new types of workloads that get included as part of your backup service. For example, backing up machines today is fairly common. Backing up containers is not as common today, but it will be in three to five years.

The cloud market is mature and is fast becoming the infrastructure of choice for many companies, whether at the SMB or enterprise level.
Hal LonasCTO, Carbonite

I think cloud backup for SaaS applications [will grow]. A lot of cloud backup services and vendors support Office 365, Salesforce and G Suite, but as more and more end customers adopt more software as a service, the data itself also has to be protected. So, you’ll see more cloud backup functionality and capabilities protect a broader set of SaaS applications beyond just the big ones.

Lonas: The cloud market is mature and is fast becoming the infrastructure of choice for many companies, whether at the SMB or enterprise level. This can be proven with the popularity of Microsoft Azure, AWS and Google along with other cloud providers.

Right now, many still equate cloud with security and while cloud solves some problems, it is not a complete cure. Rather, we will see more cloud-oriented security solutions protecting cloud assets and their specific issues in the upcoming years.

One of the biggest pain points with cloud adoption today is migrating data to these infrastructures. The good news is that there are a number of tools available now to alleviate the traditional issues related to data loss, hours of downtime and diverted key resources.

Allan: We’re not at the height of its popularity. We’re in early stages of customers sending their data into the cloud. It’s been growing exponentially. I know cloud has been around for 10 years, but it’s only really in the last year that customers are actually sending backup data into the cloud. I would attribute that to intelligent cloud backup — using intelligence to know how to do it and how to leverage it efficiently. 

El-Hilali: It’s a good step, but we’re not at the peak, or anywhere close to the peak.

The reason being is that if you look at the cloud providers, whether it’s public cloud like AWS or companies like us, the features are still evolving. And the refinement is still ongoing.

What do you expect in the cloud backup market in the next five years?

Farajun: I think there will be more consolidation. I think that more of the old-school vendors, the big broad vendors, will continue to add more cloud backup service capability as part of their offerings portfolio. They’ll either acquire companies that do it or they will stand up services that do it themselves. There will be more acquisitions by bigger MSPs that buy smaller MSPs because they deliver cloud backup services and they have the expertise.

I think you’ll see an increase of channel partners bringing [cloud-based backup] back in-house and actually being the service provider instead of just being a broker. And that will happen because it adds more value to their business.

And I think you’ll see unfortunately ransomware attacking more and more backup software, whether it’s delivered as a service or on premises, just because it’s so damaging.

Lonas: Looking ahead, we will see cloud backup and data protection continue to gain popularity, especially as businesses implement cyber-resiliency plans.

More organizations now trust the cloud to be available, secure and meet their business needs. We will continue to see Moore’s Law drive down network and storage costs so that businesses can continue to reduce their on-premises footprint. Some of this change is technical, and some is cultural, as most of us trust the cloud in our personal lives more than businesses do; and we expect to see this trend continue to shift for businesses in the future.

Allan: I think there’s going to be a whole emergence of machine learning-based companies that exist only in the cloud, and all they need is access to your data. In the past, what was the problem with machine learning and artificial intelligence on premises? You had to install it on premises to get access to that data or you needed to pick up petabytes of data and get it to that company. If it’s already there, you can imagine a marketplace emerging that will give you value-added services on top of this data.

El-Hilali: I think the potential for DRaaS will continue to grow and I say that because the availability of the data, the spontaneity of recovery, is becoming more of a need than a good-to-have.

Go to Original Article
Author:

Juniper Mist roadmap includes SD-WAN, security integrations

Juniper Networks plans to broaden the reach of its cloud-based Mist AI engine from access points and switches to security and SD-WAN products on the wired and wireless LAN.

The vendor plans to finish by the middle of next year integrations between Juniper Mist and cloud-based versions of Sky Advanced Threat Prevention (ATP) and Contrail Service Orchestration (CSO). The former is Juniper’s malware detection service, and the latter is the management software for the company’s Contrail SD-WAN.

“[The integration] is something which has just started, so it’s beyond the design board,” said Sujai Hajela, who heads the Juniper company Mist. Hajela was CEO of Mist before Juniper acquired it this year.

Juniper bought Mist in an attempt to catch up with Cisco and Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, in the wired and wireless LAN market. Both companies are market leaders, according to Gartner’s latest Magic Quadrant report.

Before Mist, Juniper partnered with other vendors to combine wireless LAN technology with its campus switches. Today, Juniper has a wired and wireless portfolio with cloud-based analytics and management tools competitive with products from Cisco and Aruba. The latter two vendors introduced their cloud offerings in June.

Juniper Mist integration use cases

Hajela expects to formally release the Mist, CSO and Sky ATP integrations by early in the first half of 2020. At that time, the Mist AI engine will provide correlations on data drawn from access points (APs), Juniper’s EX campus switches, Contrail SD-WAN and Sky ATP.

The product integrations will let Mist’s AI engine solve a broader set of network problems on Juniper-based networks. Instead of stopping at APs and EX switches, the software could discover other bottlenecks, such as congestion on a LAN circuit managed through the Contrail SD-WAN.

With Sky ATP data, Mist could identify devices on the network that are infected with malware, giving IT staff the option of quarantining the group or booting them off the grid.

Pricing

Juniper plans to offer future Mist AI capabilities through a tiered pricing model. A standard tier, for example, would provide state information on network operations while a higher-priced tier would include advanced remediation of problems. Another level could consist of location-based services for retailers or asset management in a hospital.

“We’re going to provide you with a single, full vertical stack of software, and [let] you decide,” Hajela said during a recent interview.

Vendors focusing on installed base

Juniper’s Mist acquisition gives the vendor a wireless product it can sell to companies using the vendor’s networking gear. In 2018, Juniper ranked sixth in the global market for campus switching, according to Gartner.

However, some Juniper customers are keeping an open mind when it comes to their wireless LAN. The University of Washington is watching all the leading networking vendors as it draws up plans to transition to next-generation wireless technology, particularly Wi-Fi 6 and 5G.

The emerging technologies are disruptive enough to require significant changes to Washington’s campus network. “There’s just a huge point of change — of brand-new architectures — happening in the next year,” said David Morton, director of networks and telecommunications at the school.

Today, Washington’s wireless LAN comprises between 17,000 and 18,000 Aruba APs. The university manages the network with HPE and Aruba software and runs the campus’s wired network on Juniper switches.

Go to Original Article
Author:

Vonage Meetings rounds out vendor’s cloud portfolio

Vonage plans to add a homegrown video conferencing app to its cloud-based business communications portfolio in December. The move is the latest example of a UC vendor combining calling, messaging and meetings.

Vonage Meetings, currently in beta, is scheduled to launch in December for businesses subscribed to Vonage’s cloud UC product. The vendor said it would not make the meetings platform available as a stand-alone offering.

Vonage currently provides video conferencing capabilities to customers through a partnership with Amazon Web Services, which makes the meetings app Amazon Chime. Vonage built the new platform using technology inherited through its acquisition of TokBox in 2018.

The release of Vonage Meetings follows moves by competitors, including 8×8, which launched a revamped meetings product in September. Market leaders Microsoft and Cisco have also built out all-in-one communications suites that include video over the last couple of years.

Vonage has a strategy of building a technology stack that doesn’t rely on third parties, said Raúl Castañón-Martinez, analyst at 451 Research. “This is a bold move but will allow them more flexibility in terms of defining their roadmap.”

Vonage Meetings will be fully integrated with the vendor’s voice platform to let users quickly move between voice and video calls. Guests will be able to join meetings using a web browser without installing a client or plug-in.

Vonage said it would provide customers with a log of past meetings, including a record of in-meeting chats.

Vonage now has a single cloud platform from which it can deliver voice and video services, said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research. “I think that will work as a very good competitive advantage for them moving forward.”

In the future, Vonage will need to integrate Vonage Meetings with conference room equipment and software, Kerravala said. Also, the vendor should focus on improving its relatively basic messaging app.

Vonage announced the meetings platform this week at Vonage Campus 2019, a user conference in San Francisco. The company also released a new logo as it continues to pivot away from the consumer market.

Founded in 2001, Vonage was among the first vendors to offer internet-based phone service to consumers, but, more recently, has transformed into a business-to-business company.

“I think the Vonage that we knew as the consumer-first company is quickly winding down,” Kerravala said.

Go to Original Article
Author:

IBM Spectrum Protect supports container backups

IBM Storage will tackle data protection for containerized and cloud-based workloads with upcoming updates to its Spectrum Protect Plus backup product and Red Hat OpenShift container platform.

Like other vendors, IBM has offered primary storage options for container-based applications. Now IBM Spectrum Protect Plus will support backup and recovery of persistent container volumes for customers who use Kubernetes orchestration engines.

IBM Spectrum Protect Plus supports the Container Storage Interface (CSI) to enable Kubernetes users to schedule snapshots of persistent Ceph storage volumes, according to IBM. The company said the Spectrum Protect backup software offloads copies of the snapshots to repositories outside Kubernetes production environments.

IBM will offer a tech preview of the container backup support in the OpenShift platform that it gained through its Red Hat acquisition. The tech preview is scheduled for this year with general availability expected in the first quarter of 2020, subject to the availability of CSI snapshot support in Red Hat OpenShift, according to Eric Herzog, CMO and vice president of world storage channels at IBM.

“The problem with Kubernetes is there’s really no standard storage architecture. So you’re starting to see all of the vendors scramble to implement CSI driver support, which links your Kubernetes containers with backend storage,” said Steve McDowell, a senior analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy.

CSI snapshots

McDowell said IBM and other vendors are stepping up to provide CSI drivers for general-purpose backend storage for containers. He said few, if any, tier one vendors support CSI snapshots for data protection of Kubernetes clusters.

But enterprise demand is still nascent for persistent storage for containerized applications and, by extension, backup and disaster recovery, according to IDC research manager Andrew Smith. He said many organizations are still in the early discovery or initial proof of concept phase.

Smith said IBM can fill a gap in the OpenShift Kubernetes ecosystem if it can establish Spectrum Protect as a platform for data protection and management moving forward.

Randy Kerns, a senior strategist and analyst at Evaluator Group, said early adopters often stand up their container-based applications separately from their virtual machine environments.

“Now you’re starting to see them look and say, ‘What data protection software do I have that’ll work with containers? And, does that work in my virtual machine environment as well?'” Kerns said. “This is an early stage thing for a lot of customers, but it’s really becoming more current as we go along. OpenShift is going to be one of the major deployment environments for containers, and IBM and Red Hat have a close relationship now.”

IBM Spectrum Protect Plus for VMware

In virtual environments, VMware administrators will be able to deploy IBM Spectrum Protect Plus in VMware Cloud on AWS. IBM said Spectrum Protect would support VMware Cloud on AWS, in addition to the IBM Cloud and various on-premises options available in the past. Herzog said IBM Spectrum Protect Plus would support backups to additional public clouds starting in 2020, in keeping with the storage division’s long-standing multi-cloud strategy.

Also this week, IBM introduced a new TS7770 Virtual Tape Library built with its latest Power 9 processors and higher density disks. The TS7770 will target customers of IBM’s new z15 mainframe, Herzog said.

Go to Original Article
Author:

Cobalt Iron extends data protection SaaS tool’s capabilities

Cobalt Iron, a cloud-based data protection and backup vendor, this week rolled out a new feature in its Adaptive Data Protection SaaS tool, aimed at improving data security and cyberattack prevention.

The addition, called Cyber Shield, is intended to identify and contain cyberattacks by locking down data access control while saving companies the cost of adding new security measures. The software includes functions such as data access control, data security, ransomware detection and ransomware responsiveness, which are intended to provide quick response to threats as well as recovery functions to reduce the impact of cyberattacks, the company said.

Cobalt Iron’s update comes amidst the industry’s shift in security investments from threat prevention to threat detection and as enterprises are facing more complicated cyberattacks. Gartner recently identified expanding capabilities for security operation centers as one of its top priorities for enterprises in 2019.

Cobalt Iron said Cyber Shield is available now with no added cost as a part of Cobalt Iron’s Adaptive Data Protection SaaS, and does not require additional equipment, software or licenses.

Competitors in the cloud-based data protection market includes Symantec, McAfee and Druva. Symantec’s Cloud Data Protection claims to enable organizations to use cloud applications such as Salesforce.com and ServiceNow and secure sensitive data while complying with data privacy regulations. McAfee MVISION Cloud Encrypt can block downloads of corporate data to personal devices and provide sensitive data encryption, which is inaccessible to any third party, according to the company. Druva promises lower costs due to elimination of onsite hardware and software and offers a free trial of its products and pay-as-you-go pricing.

Go to Original Article
Author:

Microsoft PowerApps pricing proposal puts users on edge

BOSTON — Microsoft’s proposed licensing changes for PowerApps, the cloud-based development tools for Office 365 and Dynamics 365, have confused users and made them fearful the software will become prohibitively expensive.

Last week, at Microsoft’s SPTechCon user conference, some organizations said the pricing changes, scheduled to take effect Oct. 1, were convoluted. Others said the new pricing — if it remains as previewed by Microsoft earlier this summer — would force them to limit the use of the mobile app development tools.

“We were at the point where we were going to be expanding our usage, instead of using it for small things, using it for larger things,” Katherine Prouty, a developer at the nonprofit Greater Lynn Senior Services, based in Lynn, Mass., said. “This is what our IT folks are always petrified of; [the proposed pricing change] is confirmation of their worst nightmares.”

This is what our IT folks are always petrified of; this is confirmation of their worst nightmares.
Katherine ProutyDeveloper, Greater Lynn Senior Services

Planned apps the nonprofit group might have to scrap if the pricing changes take effect include those for managing health and safety risks for its employees and clients in a regulatory-compliant way, and protecting the privacy of employees as they post to social media on behalf of the organization, Prouty said.

Developers weigh in

The latest pricing proposal primarily affects organizations building PowerApps that tap data sources outside of Office 365 and Dynamics 365. People connecting to Salesforce, for example, would pay $10 per user, per month, unless they opt to pay $40 per user, per month for unlimited use of data connectors to third-party apps.

The new pricing would take effect even if customers were only connecting Office 365 to Dynamics 365 or vice versa. That additional cost for using apps they’re already paying for does not sit well with some customers, while others find the pricing scheme perplexing. 

“It’s all very convoluted right now,” said David Drever, senior manager at IT consultancy Protiviti, based in Menlo Park, Calif.

Manufacturing and service companies that create apps using multiple data sources are among the businesses likely to pay a lot more in PowerApps licensing fees, said IT consultant Daniel Christian of PowerApps911, based in Maineville, Ohio.

Annual PowerApps pricing changes

However, pricing isn’t the only problem, Christian said. Microsoft’s yearly overhaul of PowerApps fees also contributes to customer handwringing over costs.

“Select [a pricing model] and stick with it,” he said. “I’m OK with change; we’ll manage it and figure it out. It’s the repetitive changes that bug me.”

Microsoft began restricting PowerApps access to outside data sources earlier this year, putting into effect changes announced last fall. The new policy required users to purchase a special PowerApps plan to connect to popular business applications such as Salesforce Chatter, GotoMeeting and Oracle Database. The coming changes as presented earlier this summer would take that one step further by introducing per-app fees and closing loopholes that were available on a plan that previously cost $7 per user per month.

Matt Wade, VP of client services at H3 Solutions Inc., based in Manassas, Va., said customers should watch Microsoft’s official PowerApps blog for future information that might clarify costs and influence possible tweaks to the final pricing model. H3 Solutions is the maker of AtBot, a platform for developing bots for Microsoft’s cloud-based applications.

“People who are in charge of administering Office 365 and the Power Platform need to be hyper-aware of what’s going on,” Wade said. “Follow the blog, comment, provide feedback — and do it respectfully.”

Go to Original Article
Author:

From farm to cloud to table, ButcherBox serves up a new approach to meat delivery | Transform

The path to a future of mining cloud-based data started in a decidedly low-tech way for Boston company ButcherBox after its founder, Mike Salguero, found himself in a Massachusetts parking lot buying garbage bags of beef from a local farmer.

Salguero’s wife, Karlene, has a thyroid condition, and the couple wanted to switch to an anti-inflammatory diet including lean, grass-fed meat. But they found little beyond ground beef and the occasional grass-fed steak at their local grocery stores — hence the parking-lot purchase. That was too much meat for the couple to eat, so Salguero gave some to a friend, who remarked how convenient it would be to have high-quality meat delivered at home.

“That was the initial spark of the idea for ButcherBox,” Salguero says.

The company launched in 2015, delivering boxes of frozen grass-fed beef, free-range organic chicken and heritage breed pork to subscribers, or “members,” around the United States. ButcherBox sells only meats raised without antibiotics or added hormones, ships them in 100 percent curbside-recyclable boxes made of 95 percent recycled materials, and prides itself on partnering with vendors that use sustainable, humane approaches and fair labor practices.

ButcherBox CEO and founder Mike Salguero sits outdoors next to wife Karlene as they hold their twin daughters and their other young daughter sits beside them
ButcherBox CEO and founder Mike Salguero with wife Karlene and their three daughters.

The company offers 21 cuts of meat and subscription boxes ranging from $129 to $270 monthly, depending how many pounds of meat are included.

ButcherBox tapped into a trio of hot retail trends: a demand for sustainable products, consumers’ interest in knowing more about what they’re buying, and an explosion in subscription box companies selling everything from dog toys to fitness gear, even house plants and hygge kits.

ButcherBox doesn’t release sales figures, but Salguero says the company has grown exponentially since its launch, even without seeking venture capital. Collecting and analyzing data became increasingly important as ButcherBox expanded, but the limited data the company had was mainly in Excel spreadsheets and didn’t provide the depth of information employees needed.

Customer service agents, for example, didn’t have access to warehouse data and couldn’t check to see if a member’s box had been filled or where it was. Teams in various departments were pulling data together in ad hoc ways, leading to inconsistent and imprecise insights.

“Depending on which department it was and where they got the data, everyone had their own truths about what was going on in the business,” says Kevin Hall, ButcherBox’s head of technology. “People began to realize there was a need for a single source of truth.”

Salguero puts it another way: “People became entrepreneurial and enterprising in finding ways to answer questions, but as an organization that’s pretty risky, because we don’t even know if it’s right.”

Image of ButcherBox employees posing on the street in front of the company's headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The ButcherBox team at the company’s headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.

So the company turned to Microsoft, adopting Azure as its cloud platform about a year ago. It developed a “demand plan” that uses members’ purchasing data to determine how much meat must be ordered and replenished in fulfillment centers. It enabled its approximately 70 employees to create and read dashboards using Microsoft’s Power BI data visualization tool. It interviewed more than 100 ButcherBox subscribers, then used Azure’s Databricks service to analyze their feedback and organize it into easily understandable reports in Power BI.

The interviews revealed a key insight — that the number one reason people were canceling their subscriptions wasn’t lack of freezer space, as previously thought, but value. Based on that finding, the company implemented an “add-on” program offering members perks (free bacon!) and specials on certain products, often undercutting grocery store prices on those promotional items.

More robust data also enabled the company to better determine how much dry ice is needed for each shipped box based on geographic location — a crucial calculation, since too much ice can cause leaks and too little can mean a thawed shipment.

“If someone doesn’t get his or her box or it shows up late, it’s ruined,” Salguero says. “So really understanding our data — what’s shipping, where the boxes are — became the rallying cry of the company in a big way to understand our members and build out our data infrastructure.”

Photo of a ButcherBox cardboard box, made of 95 percent recycled paper, that the company ships its products in.hat ButcherBox ships its products in
The company uses fully recyclable boxes made of 95 percent recycled cardboard to ship its products.

But even the most sophisticated data can’t necessarily provide the type of information gleaned from talking with people face-to-face. Last year, Salguero embarked on what employees jokingly refer to as his “freezer road show,” visiting members’ homes, asking them about their cooking and eating habits and yes, peering into their freezers.

The exercise provided useful insights about the degree to which members rely on ButcherBox meats to feed their families, Salguero says, and showed that subscribers who most often use the food in their freezers tend to plan out their meals. That finding could help with tackling one of the biggest challenges facing a company that sells frozen meat — which is, ironically, to get members to stop using their freezers so much.

“A lot of people think of a freezer as a savings account,” Salguero says. “It’s there for a rainy day, not necessarily the place you go if you want to eat dinner tonight.”

The company is exploring how technology might be used to get more information about what customers are eating, whether through a meal-planning app or other tool, with the goal of prompting them to move food out of the deep freeze and onto the dinner table.

“All of that is a data problem at its core,” Salguero says. “We should know what members are eating and in what order. If we do our job well, we’ll know that member A is eating through X and they have a pork shoulder left over, so if we’re going to send a recipe, we should be sending one for pork shoulder.”

ButcherBox is now focusing on using data science and analytics to provide more personalized service, starting with identifying “clusters” of members who have similar likes and buying habits to determine which products and services to market to them.

“It doesn’t make sense to show someone beef if they’re really a chicken or salmon member,” Hall says. “We’re really looking to understand the data so we can serve members in a much more personalized way.”

Photo of two bone-in pork chops on a wooden board, with bows of salt and peppercorns and a plate with fresh figs and fresh sage leaves
ButcherBox offers 21 different cuts of meat and a range of custom and curated boxes.

Since data showed that members who buy certain types of boxes are more likely to leave, the company began proactively suggesting different options to those members and introduced new subscription plans with varying delivery schedules.

“We’re giving people more flexibility to switch to a plan that comes less often,” says Reba Hatcher, ButcherBox’s chief of staff. “Giving people those options has been really helpful.”

The company’s approach suits Ismael Santos, who lives in Youngsville, a small city in south-central Louisiana. Santos tried various approaches to get high-quality, sustainably raised meat free of antibiotics and added hormones — driving to a grocery store more than 50 miles away, buying at local farmers markets, splitting a quarter- or half-cow with friends. None of the options was ideal, so Santos signed up for ButcherBox almost a year ago.

“It’s hard to get that quality at a good price, and conveniently and reliably here,” he says. “You can go out and buy beef, but you’re either going to pay a ton or you’re not going to get what you’re looking for sometimes. The cost (of ButcherBox) is good compared with going to a store and buying the same quality and quantity.”

Santos also tried several meal-kit subscription services but didn’t consider them a good value and didn’t like being restricted to cooking a particular meal. With ButcherBox, he gets the main part of his meal and builds around it, picking up other ingredients at his local market as needed and sometimes adding items to his box, like ribs or breakfast sausage.

“I like that you can change it up,” he says.

Photo of seven people, mostly ButcherBox employees, standing a ranch between two farm vehicles, with a herd of black cows in background
The company partners with vendors that use sustainable, humane approaches and fair labor practices.

ButcherBox is still in the early stages of using Azure, but Salguero says the move has already radically changed how employees think and operate.

“It’s pretty amazing to see the cultural change because of what we’re doing with Microsoft,” he says. “It’s a totally different conversation. People used to sit around a table and say, ‘I don’t really know what’s happening.’ Now it’s like, ‘Did you pull the data for that?’ or, ‘Let’s look at this dashboard and make a decision based on what we see.’

“The culture has really moved to a reliance on the data that we have,” Salguero says. “People trust the data, and it’s only getting better and better.”

Top photo: ButcherBox CEO and founder Mike Salguero. (All photos courtesy of ButcherBox)

Go to Original Article
Author: Steve Clarke