Tag Archives: Conference

Microsoft’s Top 100 Security Researchers – Black Hat 2018 Edition

This morning we are excited to unveil the security researcher leaderboard at the Black Hat Security Conference.  This list recognizes the top security researchers who have contributed research to the Microsoft products and services.  If you are curious on how we build the list, check out our blog from last week on The Making of the Top 100 Researcher List

We appreciate all the work and partnerships with the security community over the years.  This is a good annual reflection point on the past year’s contributions.  Keep up the great work and we look forward to hearing from you this year too.

Microsoft’s Top 100 Security Researcher List

Ranking Researcher Name
1 Ashar Javed
2 Junghoon Lee
3 Yuki Chen
4 Cameron Vincent
5 Richard Shupak
6 Suresh Chelladurai
7 MaoFeng Ran
8 Mateusz Jurczyk
9 Ivan Fratric
10 Gal De Leon
11 Jaanus Kääp
12 James Forshaw
13 Kai Song
13 Hui Gao
15 Andreas Sandblad
16 Ajay Kulal
17 Yeivin Nadav
18 Fan Xiaocao
19 Liu Long
20 Zhang Yunhai
21 Dmitri Kaslov
22 Marcin Towalski
23 Qixun Zhao
24 Wayne Low
25 Huang Anwen
26 Dhanesh Kizhakkinan
27 Peter Hlavaty
28 Simon Zuckerbraun
29 Xiao Wei
30 Yassine Nafiai
31 Alex Ionescu
32 WenQunWang
32 Debasish Mandal
34 Ismail Talib
35 Cem Karagun
36 Adrian Ivascu
36 Ahmed Jerbi
38 Kdot
39 Zhong Zhaochen
40 Hung Huynh
40 Rancho Han
42 Jens Muller
43 Linan Hao
43 Lucas Leong
43 Ying Xinlei
43 J00Sean
47 Hamza Bettache
48 Aradnok
48 Zhou Yu
50 Mohamed Hamed
51 Vikash Chaudhary
52 Alec Blance
53 Zhenhuan Li
54 Xiong Wenbin
54 Richard Zhu
56 Minh Tran
57 Frans Rosen
57 Steven Seeley
59 Mario Gomes
60 Matt Nelson
61 Zhang Sen
62 Scott Bell
62 Honggang Ren
62 Ke Liu
63 Nethaniel Gelernter
63 Vladislav Stolyarov
67 Ivan Vagunin
67 Mustafa Hasan
69 SaifAllah Massaoud
70 Adesh Nandkishor Kolte
70 Roman Blachman
70 Omair
73 Tao Yan
73 Giwan Go
73 Nick Freeman
76 Amal Mohandas
77 Lucas Moreira Giungi
78 Marcin Wiazowski
79 Adam Bauer
79 Oleksandr Mirosh
79 Yangkang
79 Wanglu
79 Yong Chuan Koh
79 Jin Chen
79 Rgod
79 Ding Maoyin
79 Song Shenlei
88 Jovon Itwaru
88 Hungtt28
90 Abdulrahman Alqabandi
90 Christian Holler
92 Arik Isik
92 Manish Kumar Gupta
92 Kévin Chalet
92 Linang Yin
96 Ahmed Radi
97 Guangmingliu
97 Amir Shaahin
97 Omair Ahmed
97 nyaacate

Phillip Misner,

Principal Security Group Manager

Microsoft Security Response Center

Black Hat 2018 survey: Cybersecurity staffing, budgets still lacking

Attendees for next week’s 2018 Black Hat USA conference said they are still facing significant challenges when it comes to cybersecurity staffing and budgets.

According to the 2018 Black Hat USA Attendee Survey, which was conducted in May with 315 infosec professionals, a majority of respondents said they don’t have “the staffing or budget to defend adequately against current and emerging threats.” Sixty-five percent of infosec professionals said they do not have enough qualified staff members to deal with potential threats; this is the fourth consecutive year, according to the study, that approximately two-thirds of respondents believed they had inadequate staff.

In addition, 66% of respondents said they do not possess enough skills and training to perform all of the job functions required of them by their organizations. The cybersecurity skills shortage was also the most frequently cited answer from respondents (34%) when asked for the primary reason for why enterprise security strategies fail.

“While the shortcomings of current security technology and potential vulnerabilities in emerging cloud services are new aspects of security’s current landscape, it is an old nemesis — staffing shortages — that continues to plague the data centers and minds of Black Hat Attendee Survey respondents,” the report states.

Another cybersecurity staffing issue reared its head in the survey: Nearly half the respondents (47%) said the lack of women and minority infosec professionals was a concern to them. The gender gap in the infosec industry has been cited as a major issue in recent research from other organizations such as ISACA.

While cybersecurity staffing continues to be a major obstacle, budgets are also a consistent pain point, according to the survey. Fifty-three percent of respondents said they do not have enough of a cybersecurity budget to defend their organizations against current threats. However, that number is an improvement from both 2016 and 2017, when 63% and 58% of respondents said they had inadequate budgets.

This year’s Black Hat conference has several Community track sessions that deal with cybersecurity staffing and related workforce issues, including a session on hiring and retaining female engineers. Other sessions will focus on negative influences on the cybersecurity workforce such as sexual harassment, addiction, depression, suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Black Hat USA will take place Aug. 4-9 in Las Vegas.

Google’s Edge TPU breaks model inferencing out of the cloud

Google is bringing tensor processing units to the edge. At the Google Cloud Next conference in San Francisco, the company introduced Edge TPU, an application-specific integrated circuit designed to run TensorFlow Lite machine learning models on mobile and embedded devices.  

The announcement is indicative of both the red-hot AI hardware market, as well as the growing influence machine learning is having on the internet of things and wireless devices. But the Edge TPU also gives Google a more comprehensive edge-to-cloud AI stack to compete against the likes of Microsoft, Amazon and IBM as it looks to attract a new generation of application developers.

Analysts called the move a good one. “This fills in a big gap that Google had,” said Forrester’s Mike Gualtieri.

Spotlight on model inferencing

Google’s cloud environment is a fertile ground for training AI models, a nontrivial process that requires enormous amounts of data and processing power. Once a model has been trained, it’s put into production where it performs what’s known as inferencing, or where it uses its training to make predictions.

Forrester, AI, Machine learning, edge TPUMike Gualtieri

A growing trend is to push inferencing out to edge devices such as wireless thermostats or smart parking meters that don’t need a lot of power or even connectivity to the cloud, according to David Schatsky, managing director at Deloitte LLP. “These applications will avoid the latency that can be present when shuttling data back and forth to the cloud because they’ll be able to perform inferencing locally and on the device,” he said.

But Google customers who wanted to embed their models into edge devices had to turn to another provider — Nvidia or Intel — for that kind of functionality. Until now. The Edge TPU will give Google customers a more seamless environment to train machine learning models in its cloud and then deploy them into production at the edge.

Deloitte, AI, machine learning, GoogleDavid Schatsky

It also appears to be a nod to the burgeoning relationship between AI and IoT. According to Schatsky, venture capital funding in AI-focused IoT startups outpaced funding to IoT startups overall last year. “AI is so useful in deriving insight from IoT data that it may soon become rare to find an IoT application that doesn’t use AI,” he said.

A competitive stack

They’re not just saying this is a TPU and you can run it on the edge. No, they’re saying this is a fundamentally new chip designed specifically for inferencing.
Mike Gualtierianalyst, Forrester

The Edge TPU is in the same vein as an announcement Microsoft made last year with Project Brainwave, a deep learning platform that converts trained models to run more efficiently on Intel’s Field-Programmable Gate Arrays than on GPUs, according to Gualtieri. “There is a fundamental difference in training a model versus inferencing a model,” he said. “Google recognizes this. They’re not just saying this is a TPU and you can run it on the edge. No, they’re saying this is a fundamentally new chip designed specifically for inferencing.”

Indeed, Gualtieri said, the Edge TPU makes Google more competitive with Microsoft, Amazon and even IBM, all of which made moves to differentiate between model training and model inferencing sooner. “This is an effort, I believe, for Google to make its cloud more attractive, oddly by saying, well, yes, we have the cloud, but we also have the edge — the non-cloud,” he said.

James Kobielus, lead analyst at SiliconAngle Wikibon, also sees the Edge TPU as a strategic move. He called the Edge TPU an example of how the internet giant is creating a complete AI stack of hardware, software and tools for its customers while adding a force multiplier to compete against other vendors in the space.

Wikibon, AI, machine learning, GoogleJames Kobielus

“Google is making a strong play to build a comprehensive application development and services environment in the cloud to reach out to partners, developers and so forth to give them the tools they need to build the new generation of apps,” he said.

Kobielus highlighted the introduction of the Edge TPU software development kit as another example of how Google is planning to compete. The dev kit, which is still in beta and available to only those who apply for access, shows a “great effort” to convince developers to build their apps on the Google cloud and to catch up to Amazon and Microsoft, both of which have a strong developer orientation, he said. “They needed to do this — to reach out to the developer market now while the iron is hot,” he said.

What is the Google AI stack missing? It’s too soon to tell, both Kobielus and Gualtieri said. But with innovation in AI happening at breakneck speed, companies should see this as a part of an evolution and not an end point.

“Different applications are going to require even different chips,” Gualtieri said. “Google is not behind on this. It’s just what’s going to happen because there may be very data-heavy applications or power requirements on smaller devices. So I would expect a whole bunch of different chips to come out. Is that a gap? I would say no because of maturity in this industry.”

CIO position: Evolve conference shows many ways to manage IT

The annual Evolve Technology Conference, which ran last month in Las Vegas, put the spotlight on the CIO position and drove home one point in particular on the top-level technology management job: There’s more than one way to do it.

Trace3, an IT solutions provider based in Irvine, Calif., hosts the Evolve leadership and technology event, which attracts numerous CIOs and IT managers who discuss emerging technology and business trends. The conference program, which this year included keynotes from retired NFL quarterback and five-time league MVP Peyton Manning and entrepreneur and author Peter Hinssen, culminates with the Outlier Award. The award recognizes a technology manager who “consistently delivers dynamic innovation and outstanding leadership,” according to Trace3.

I had the opportunity to speak with the eight finalists for the Outlier Award at the Evolve conference. I was one of seven judges pulled together from the ranks of CIOs and tech writers to evaluate the candidates and cast our votes. The two-day process revealed a variety of takes on IT management philosophy among those holding a CIO position or similar tech role.

Harnessing emerging technologies

Some of the finalists take a deep dive in technology. Darren Haas, senior vice president of software engineering at GE Digital and the Outlier Award winner, is the technologist’s technologist. Haas co-founded Siri and is one of the personal assistant application’s original developers, harnessing in recent years such technologies as Apache Mesos, an open source cluster manager. After Apple’s Siri acquisition in 2010, Haas helped devise Apple’s proprietary cloud services platform. Haas now is pursuing a similar task at GE Digital, where he supports a number of initiatives, including an edge-to-cloud IoT deployment.

Outlier finalist Ravi Nekkalapu also deals with cutting-edge technology in his role as CIO and head of IT at Drive Shack, a company that’s building virtual reality golfing complexes. He didn’t have much of a choice: The virtual reality- and augmented reality-driven golfing systems Drive Shack envisioned didn’t exist when he took the job in 2016. Nekkalapu had to evaluate technology and vendors and essentially build everything from scratch to equip Drive Shack’s 60,000 square-foot facility in Orlando, Fla. The prospect of fielding new technology attracted Nekkalapu to the Drive Shack assignment, but perhaps not the sport of golf. He acknowledged he had little interest in golf prior to joining Drive Shack from a previous IT management role at Wyndham Worldwide.

Building the foundation for innovation

Innovation is well and good, but the technology foundation must be rock solid. Philip Irby, Outlier finalist and CIO at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas said he takes an architecture-first view of IT, in which stability is the core objective and security is “part of our DNA.” In his IT management philosophy, innovative systems can be built on a reliable and secure platform. To wit, the hotel resort and casino has launched a new online component to its rewards program that delivers offers directly to customers’ mobile devices.

Stability as the foundation of innovation is also a key theme for Michael McGibbney, senior vice president of delivery and operations at SAP SuccessFactors and an Outlier finalist. For a SaaS company such as SAP SuccessFactors, which provides cloud-based human capital management software, the ability to handle peak usage periods is critical for customer satisfaction and retention. McGibbney’s IT team created a “Service Delivery & Operations” organization to focus on peak-season performance.

For Paul Chapman, who holds the CIO position at Box and an Outlier finalist, his role might be seen as creating the cultural conditions in which innovation can occur. He emphasizes people, rather than technology, as the key to maintaining the accelerating pace of transformation. At Box, which has a heavily millennial workforce, Chapman’s to-do list includes working to create a new-look workplace that’s collaborative and employs such features as voice-enabled conference rooms.

Aligning with the business mission

Some CIOs may see their roles as driving new technology adoption or taking a more pragmatic line on innovation. Others, meanwhile, put a premium on the CIO position as business partner.

The Outlier finalists demonstrate there’s no common path to a CIO position or an IT management role.

For Michelle McKenna-Doyle, her role as senior vice president and CIO at the National Football League ranges from working with team owners to upgrade stadium infrastructure and the fan’s digital experience to expanding the league’s business partnerships. As for the latter, the Outlier finalist sparked an initiative to land multimillion-dollar corporate partnerships with technology giants such as Microsoft; the NFL had previously cultivated ties with established consumer brands. The CIO also created a career path for technical personnel within the NFL. Today positions such as chief architect carry the same weight as senior vice president.

At Western Digital Corp., Terry Dembitz, vice president of IT and Outlier finalist, helped build out the Office of the CIO to include an IT Business Partner Program, which serves as the business advocate within the IT organization. IT staffers within the IT Business Partner Program work with the business side on technology roadmaps and individual projects. One especially large project was getting Western Digital and two acquired companies — Hitachi Global Storage Technologies and SanDisk — on one ERP system. Instead of selecting one of three companies’ ERP systems to standardize on, Western Digital opted for a fourth approach: Adopt a cloud-based ERP system. Dembitz’s thinking was to “turn integration into transformation” and position the company for the future.

The “businessperson-first” philosophy informs Bryan Kissinger’s outlook as vice president and CISO at Banner Health. A few months after joining Banner Health in 2017, the Outlier finalist gained support from the health system’s clinical leadership to deploy a single sign-on system that aims to save each clinician several hours a week in multiple, manual logins. Banner Health uses Imprivata’s single sign-on technology, which integrates with its Cerner electronic health records system. In another IT initiative, Kissinger said Banner Health is looking to invest in technology startups that can advance the health system’s patient care mission.

The CIO position: Horses for courses

The differences in technology management approaches stem to some degree from the workplace milieu. A greenfield operation, for instance, is going to call for a tech-heavy approach, at least during the early going. A manager’s educational and professional experiences also play an important role in shaping a CIO’s IT management philosophy. CIO and technology managers participating in the Trace3 event come from a range of backgrounds, including finance, business administration, IT and military.

Indeed, the Outlier finalists demonstrate there’s no common path to a CIO position or an IT management role.

Join Microsoft Education at ISTE 2018 |

Please join us at the 2018 ISTE Conference & Expo taking place June 24th-27th in Chicago, Illinois.

Register for ISTE 2018 here. If you won’t be at ISTE this year, don’t worry! You can tune into What’s New in EDU: Live from ISTE each day the week of ISTE. You can also tune in on Facebook Live for HacktheClassroom.

10 Happenings from Microsoft Education at ISTE (and online for those #NOTAtISTE):

1. See ALL things Microsoft Education on our ISTE page.

2. Visit the Booth: Microsoft Education in the Expo Hall at #1102. We have dozens of sessions and training opportunities planned to help teachers save time by showing them ways to keep classrooms organized, create lessons, give students personalized feedback and track grades.

In the Booth: CLASSROOM, DEVICES, DEMOS

Explore. Drop by booth #1102 to attend our sessions and your get hands on our latest education devices. Plus, you can enter to win a Surface!*

In the Booth: STEM, BBC OCEANS, MIXED REALITY

Build. Visit booth #1102 to try out some of the best #hackingstem projects. You can build a project & learn about lesson plans to try in your own classroom. You can also learn about the new BBC Oceans Films.

3. Join Edtech Influencers and change-makers, Steven Andersen and Shaelynn Farnsworth, at 1:00 PM CT on Tuesday in the Microsoft Booth for, “Differentiation: Meeting the Diverse Needs of Learners with Technology,” a Microsoft-exclusive session. You can find info on all the Microsoft sessions here.

4. Register for the Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Academies:

Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Teacher Academy

Bring your own device to this one-day training designed for K-12 classroom educators who want to learn more about Microsoft’s tools and resources. Saturday, June 23rd at 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Register now.

Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Trainer Academy

This two-day, in-depth training is exclusively for K-12 education teacher trainers responsible for delivering professional development training in their school districts. Saturday, June 23rd and Sunday, June 24th, 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Register now.

5. Minecraft: Education Edition Training: Bring your Windows 10 device to this one-day training to learn how to use Minecraft in your classroom to promote creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving. Sunday, June 24th, 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Register now.

6. Hands on Learning Lab | NEW! Play. Explore the latest technology through an immersive experience in Convention Center Room 185A. Enter a drawing sweepstakes for a chance to win a Surface Studio, attend a hands-on learning Make Code workshop, explore Collaboration Tools and much more!

7. Hack the Classroom | LIVE! Get Inspired. Hack the Classroom is an exciting, online, live event designed to show you what’s possible and ignite new ideas. This year, we will be live from ISTE bringing you the latest tools designed to empower your students to create the world of tomorrow! Learn more here.

8. Free Certifications | Grow. In our mission to support educators, we are offering FREE Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS), Microsoft Certified Educator (MCE) and Microsoft Technical Certified – Touch Develop (MTC) exam testing. Drop by the Marriott Room Shedd AB. To prepare and learn more please continue to visit aka.ms/ISTE18 for additional information and resources on Certification Testing.

9. IT Bootcamp | Get hands on. Looking to experience an IT Bootcamp through the eyes of a student? Join the IT Bootcamp Classroom in our Expo Floor Meeting Space area.

10. MIE Teacher Sessions | Listen & Learn. Join Microsoft Educators at the Hyatt Clark room to learn what’s new in Inclusive and Accessibility Tools; explore Collaboration tools between teachers, students and staff; and see how to inspire creativity with digital inking, mixed reality and 3D + STEM topics like Minecraft, Make code, Hacking Stem, Girls in Stem and Computer Science.

11. Get 1:1 support and connect with a Microsoft Training Partner at ISTE. You can even find your local Microsoft Learning Consultant at ISTE. Microsoft Learning Consultants attending ISTE include:

More happenings you won’t want to miss:

Spotlight on Solutions

Share & Learn. Join our panel sessions in room 183B. Panel members will be a mix of school leaders, school teachers along with both community and Microsoft team members to foster an open dialog with several points of view.

Microsoft Partners

Explore and learn. Visit the Microsoft Booth #1102 to learn more about inspiring Education Apps available in the Microsoft Store for Education. There will be a blend of demos from teachers sharing their practices throughout the booth experience.

ISTE + Microsoft Collaboration

Collaboration. Join Microsoft Educators in the official ISTE + Microsoft Collaboration Room. We will cover various educational technology topics to keep you at the forefront of how students are learning in today’s modern classrooms. Join us in the Convention Center #184D.

Computer Science Firehose

Dig Deep. Please join Microsoft Educators at the CS Firehose Track. They will share all the latest on Minecraft: Education Edition with code builder, Makecode.com, #HackingStem, Youthspark’s Make What’s Next Initiative and an overview of Microsoft Imagine Academy’s CS curriculum offerings.

You can view all the 2018 sessions here.

*Enter for your chance to win a Surface device at Booth #1102. Simply pick up an activity card at the Booth’s welcome desk, complete the activities listed, then return it to that same welcome desk. We’ll be drawing three winners each day!

Practical info on tap at SAP Sapphire Now 2018

Next-generation technologies such as AI are likely to dominate the stage at SAP Sapphire Now 2018. The annual conference of SAP users, partners and vendors takes place June 5-7 in Orlando, Fla.

Like past conferences, it’s expected that SAP will showcase its latest technology and product advancements, but attendees also expect to see practical applications of how the technologies solve real problems.

Gavin Quinn, founder and CEO of Mindset, a Minneapolis-based SAP partner that specializes in SAP Fiori development and implementations, believes that machine learning and AI will be the biggest overall focus, but he wants to see how SAP is using this in realistic ways.

“Last year was more about ‘here’s Leonardo and look at these exciting things we’re doing,’ but now we want to know how much the rubber hits the road,” Quinn said.

There’s evidence that this will happen, in that SAP has been putting AI and machine learning features into live applications, but the proof may lie in the keynotes. Quinn explained that he would like to see major customers provide testimonials about how AI features have changed their businesses, which may put SAP ahead of the other major vendors that are integrating AI into ERP platforms.

“There’s been a lot of talk running up, but those kinds of success stories would lock it in for me,” Quinn said. “I think SAP CoPilot could get a lot of play, which is their bot play in a lot of ways, so I think that will get a lot of gravity during Sapphire.”

More clarity on ERP applications, please

SAP Sapphire Now 2018 attendees should hear a lot about Leonardo and connectivity, but SAP needs to strike the right balance between high-level conceptual discourse and practical applications of their technology, according to Cindy Jutras, president of Mint Jutras, an ERP consulting firm.

All too often they talk at such a high level of abstraction that it becomes somewhat meaningless, either that or they get into the weeds of the technical details.
Cindy Jutraspresident, Mint Jutras

“All too often they talk at such a high level of abstraction that it becomes somewhat meaningless, either that or they get into the weeds of the technical details,” Jutras said. “I would also like to hear if they are bringing SAP Leonardo down into the midmarket and if so, how.”

Midmarket companies don’t want to focus on technical possibilities, Jutras said. They want technology to solve problems and don’t have the time, money or expertise to develop their own applications.

Jutras is most interested in seeing what SAP is doing on the ERP applications front, including S/4HANA, SAP Business One and SAP Business ByDesign, but she noted that Sapphire is not usually known for that focus.

“On the SME side I am hoping to get an update on the process of turning Business One into a platform and I’d like to get some clarity on Business ByDesign,” she said. “It seems like Business ByDesign and S4/HANA are starting to encroach on each other’s market segments, and I’d also like some additional clarity on S4/HANA Cloud specifically.”

SAP targets Salesforce in CRM market

SAP appears to be clearly targeting Salesforce, which is expected to be a main theme at SAP Sapphire Now 2018, according to Kelsey Mason, senior analyst at Technology Business Research.

“It will be interesting to see how they take all of their various [CRM] front-office assets — Hybris, Callidus, Gigya — and create one comprehensive suite and how they tie Leonardo, specifically the AI and IoT aspects, to that portfolio,” Mason said. “I expect that CRM rebrand to share center stage with S/4HANA and SAP Leonardo, and the theme once again will be the intelligent enterprise.”

Mason would also like to see how SAP’s concept of “customer empathy” comes into play, particularly in light of the indirect access issue of the past year.

“This will likely be touted on the main stage, first as a way to show customers that SAP has heard their complaints and has addressed them, and second a proof point to show that SAP is the only vendor to have clear pricing strategies for digital access in IoT scenarios,” she said.

Mason expects a lot of hype around S/4HANA, the new CRM portfolio, and SAP Leonardo, but would like to see how SAP ties its “orbiting applications,” including SuccessFactors, SAP Ariba and Concur, into its intelligent enterprise vision, rather than treating them as an afterthought.

“I would also like to get a sense for traction within the S/4HANA portfolio,” she said. “Most of the customers to date have chosen the on-premises version, but it would be great to hear the breakdown of customers using public cloud, HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC) hosted, and on-premises S/4HANA. It would also be nice to understand how many customers have chosen just one aspect of S/4HANA such as Simple Finance versus how many have chosen the full S/4HANA suite.”

Mason would also like to see SAP Services have a presence alongside major SAP service providers, including Accenture, Deloitte and EY.

SAP Services is a big part of the S/4HANA and SAP Leonardo stories, but one that doesn’t seem to be highlighted as much,” she said. “It does complicate SAP’s relationships with some of its major partners, but that’s why I think putting them together on stage to talk about how they can work together to help customers form and execute digital transformations and become the intelligent enterprise would be good to hear for both customers and partners. I’m not holding my breath that this will happen, but certainly something that would be nice to see.”

Polycom cloud service simplifies device management

Polycom has released a cloud service for provisioning, managing and monitoring its desk and conference room phones. The hardware vendor’s latest attempt to penetrate the cloud market comes a few months before its proposed acquisition by headset-maker Plantronics is set to close.

Polycom Device Management Services for Enterprises (PDMS-E) is a web-based application for controlling Polycom phones from a single user interface. It will let IT administrators manage the settings of individual phones — or every phone all at once. It also will provide analytics on call quality and connectivity issues. The product is now available in North America.

Next quarter, Polycom plans to expand the capabilities of PDMS-E to include Polycom video endpoints and, eventually, the video endpoints of Cisco, Avaya and Lifesize. The vendor will fold Polycom RealConnect — its platform for managing interoperability between its devices and Microsoft Skype for Business — into its new cloud offering.

Also in the third quarter, Polycom plans to release a version of PDMS for service providers, aiming to help those partners improve uptime and enhance their customer portals. The service provider offering will make use of technology and partnerships Polycom inherited from Obihai Technology, which it acquired in January.

“Polycom makes great phones,” said Ira Weinstein, managing partner of Recon Research Inc., based in Coral Springs, Fla. “But the important thing here is for Polycom to have greater value and a stronger footprint in the enterprise, they need to add more value.”

The Polycom cloud service will provide provisioning, management and analytics tools that many businesses aren’t getting from their service providers, Weinstein said. And Polycom can provide more insight than anyone into its own devices.

But Polycom will need to battle against its own public image. “I don’t think the typical person in our industry sees Polycom as a cloud service provider,” Weinstein said.

In announcing PDMS, company executives said they would not comment on the company’s impending acquisition by Plantronics — a $2 billion deal that is set to close in the third quarter of 2018. Polycom has continued to operate as an independent company as the acquisition closes, said Amy Barzdukas, the vendor’s chief marketing officer.

Polycom cloud service extends hardware-based strategy

Polycom decided years ago to make its phones and cameras compatible with the software of a wide range of service providers, rather than build its own calling or web conferencing service.

In a conference call with reporters and analysts this week, CEO Mary McDowell said the company’s longtime strategy had proven to be successful, saying revenue had grown last year for the first time in six years. The formerly public company struggled financially in the years preceding its 2016 acquisition by private equity firm Siris Capital Group LLC.

With the release of PDMS, Polycom is looking to gain a foothold in the cloud market without directly competing with the software vendors that power its hardware, such as Microsoft and Zoom, said Rob Arnold, analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

“It’s pretty much a follow-through on what they said they were going to do last year: focus on device and not infrastructure,” Arnold said. “This way, they are not competing with their partners, and they are staying focused on the hardware and the devices, as they had mentioned.”

As phones become more advanced, with built-in video conferencing capabilities and touchscreen apps, businesses need better monitoring and management tools for those endpoints, Arnold said.

Polycom plans to expand its cloud offerings to include meeting room features, such as automatic attendance rosters, facial recognition and natural language controls.

Microsoft announces quarterly earnings release date

Microsoft to host earnings conference call webcast

REDMOND, Wash. — April 4, 2018 — Microsoft Corp. will publish fiscal year 2018 third-quarter financial results after the close of the market on Thursday, April 26, 2018, on the Microsoft Investor Relations website at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/Investor/. A live webcast of the earnings conference call will be made available at 2:30 p.m. PDT.

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, financial analysts and investors only:

Investor Relations, Microsoft, (425) 706-4400

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications, (425) 638-7777, rrt@we-worldwide.com

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may since have changed. Shareholder and financial information is available at http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/Investor/.

 

The post Microsoft announces quarterly earnings release date appeared first on Stories.

Video conference tools spread among buyers and sellers

Video conference tools are becoming more versatile. As a result, video conferencing vendors are expected to support more features and high definition across multiple endpoints, including mobile devices, desktops and conference rooms. Buyers, too, need to assess more options, as use cases have expanded.

New video conferencing use cases are making visual collaboration a strategic imperative for enterprises, according to a recent report from Aragon Research Inc., an advisory firm based in Morgan Hill, Calif. Aragon views video conference use cases as part of the larger unified communications and collaboration landscape.

More and more, enterprises are trying to align collaboration investments with business outcomes, the report found. As a result, Aragon said it expects to see further growth in video conference tools. For enterprises, video conference use cases — along with quality and reliability — will be key buying criteria. As is the case with most technology purchases, video conference use cases will dictate vendor selection.

“Our advice to enterprise buyers is to first consider what your core requirements are with regard to web and video conferencing,” the report reads. “We encourage buyers to consider which capabilities and products best fit the required use cases that pertain to your enterprise.”

For example, if an enterprise has internal and external-facing use cases for a large number of people, then webcasting tools may be the best fit. In the near future, Aragon added, expect new video conference use cases to arise in 2018 as endpoints become fully mobile, with cars and drones playing a larger role.

Video conference tools across modalities

For video conference vendors, mobility is the new competitive frontier, Aragon said, as vendors look to enable video meetings from anywhere on any device. But buyers beware, as video experiences on mobile devices and the ease of accessing meetings can vary.

The Aragon report advised buyers to carefully evaluate providers for ease of connectivity. For instance, the mobile application should automatically connect to the meeting via voice over IP or dial-in. Additionally, the mobile app should not require a passcode and provide one-click connectivity.

“Ease of use is not optional, no matter the device or the environment,” the report stated. “Albeit there are still providers today who are not optimized for mobile.”

In addition to mobile, video conference vendors are expected to support desktop and room-based meetings to allow seamless switching among devices.

Conference rooms get video upgrades

Because of cloud technology and lower hardware prices, Aragon predicted fivefold growth in video-enabled conference rooms from 2017 to 2022. In five years, 65% of conference rooms will be video-enabled, Aragon said.

Enterprises need to digitize conference rooms, open workspaces and smaller huddle areas, Aragon advised, as employees face new work demands, including increased collaboration across groups, distances and affiliations.

Collaboration providers that fail to support business process and application integration will miss this wave and be left behind.

Aragon also cited the importance of “intelligent” video rooms, where meetings can be automated and employ artificial intelligence to gain a deeper understanding of meeting activity and the devices and users involved. Many providers have also looked to enhance meetings by using HD video with auto-zoom and HD audio with auto-muting of background noise.

As video conference tools evolve, businesses are demanding high-quality, high-resolution meetings. To date, Avaya, Cisco, Google and Vidyo offer 4K video support, Aragon said. The research firm said it expects to see more support for 4K video in 2018 and beyond.

In addition to HD quality, video conference vendors are now expected to integrate with other business applications. Collaboration providers that fail to support business process and application integration will miss this wave and be left behind, Aragon said.

Chart vendor roadmaps

Overall, as video conference tools evolve — thanks to cloud technology — vendors and buyers are also expected to evolve to stay competitive and enhance collaboration workflows. The cloud is one of the key reasons for the widespread video conference tools today.  

The wide-ranging Aragon report, written by Aragon CEO and lead analyst Jim Lundy, highlights the convergence of web and video conferencing services and examines 22 providers in the market. The report, released this month, stated real-time video conference tools bring together geographically dispersed teams visually, which can improve collaboration.

“Enterprises need to realize visual collaboration can help speed up internal employee and external customer journeys to get to faster business outcomes,” Lundy said in a statement. “The enterprises who are leveraging visual collaboration have a competitive advantage because they’re supporting how their people and customers need and want to work.”

The report advised enterprises to ask for detailed roadmaps from providers to ensure they mesh with enterprise technology and business direction.