Tag Archives: Customers

VMware’s Kubernetes-based products ease container migration

VMware hopes a raft of new Kubernetes-based enhancements can position the company as the right choice for customers interested in container migration while they retain investments in vSphere.

The strategy centers on Tanzu, a product portfolio VMware introduced at the VMworld conference in August. A chief component is the Kubernetes Grid, a distribution of the container orchestration engine that sets up clusters in a consistent way across various public clouds and on-premises infrastructure.

Another product, Tanzu Mission Control, provides management tooling for Kubernetes clusters. VMware has also pushed its acquisition of Bitnami under the Tanzu header. Bitnami, which offers a catalog of pre-packaged software such as the MySQL database for quick deployment across multiple environments, is now called Tanzu Application Catalog.

Finally, VMware has rebranded Pivotal Application Service to Tanzu Application Service and changed its Wavefront monitoring software’s name to Tanzu Observability by Wavefront.

This flurry of product development and marketing around Kubernetes has a critical purpose for VMware.

“Kubernetes has practically stolen virtualization from VMware, so now it needs to upgrade the engine room, while keeping the promenade deck the same and hoping the passengers stay on board and do not jump ship,” said Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research.

Kubernetes ecosystem
VMware hopes to be a big player in the Kubernetes ecosystem with its Tanzu portfolio.

A big part of this plan involves the new vSphere 7, which has been reworked to run both container and virtual machine workloads by embedding Tanzu Kubernetes Grid and other components. This vSphere option is initially available only through VMware Cloud Foundation 4, which is supported on AWS, Azure, Google, Oracle, Rackspace and IBM’s public cloud services, as well as through other VMware partners.

VMware also plans to release a separate, Kubernetes-less edition of vSphere 7 for customers who don’t want that functionality. Tanzu Kubernetes Grid, Application Catalog and Mission Control are available now, while Cloud Foundation 4 and vSphere 7 are slated for release before May 1.

Users gravitate towards containers

VMware’s announcements further confirm the industrywide trend of users moving away from their core virtualization platforms and more seriously exploring container migration. With VMware the longtime industry leader in virtualization, the announcements carry added weight.

“There is a transition happening in compute technology of what is being used to deliver the apps that is moving away from virtualization to containers — not that virtualization isn’t useful for other things,” said Gary Chen, IDC’s research director of software-defined compute. “VMware is trying to make that transition, and they appear to be pretty serious about it.”

VMware’s efforts around Kubernetes stem back a few years. It previously offered Pivotal Container Service as an add-on to its core platform, and acquired a batch of Kubernetes talent and related IP through its purchase of Heptio in 2018. Two of the three original authors of Kubernetes now work at VMware.

“At the end of the day, Kubernetes is still an orchestration tool for automating containers, but what if you are not in a developer group?” said Brian Kirsch, an IT architect and instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College. “What they are introducing here is for people writing their own software and moving toward containers, but will there be enough support on the back end for those not ready for Kubernetes or containers, or who may never need them? We support 45,000 students here, but we still buy our software and don’t write it.”

Many companies in large vertical markets, such as manufacturing and healthcare, are often slow to move to another DevOps environment once they have settled on a product. Traditionally, many applications in those markets aren’t updated often by the vendors and it can be a monumental task to pursue container migration, even for long-time vSphere users.

“Up until just a few years ago, some of the larger EHR apps were still in VB [Microsoft’s Visual Basic] for the front end,” Kirsch said. “It just takes time.”

While VMware executives tout that Cloud Foundation and vSphere products can work on competitors’ cloud platforms, Kirsch said he thinks the company is overplaying the importance of that capability.

“Writing an app once and have it run wherever you want is good for some, but I don’t know that many people who want to hop around that much,” Kirsch said. “My question is: How many times have you left your cloud provider unless it goes belly up? A lot of work is involved with this and no matter how transparent it is, it’s almost never like just flipping a switch,” he said.

Controlling the control plane

Some analysts see the VMware announcements around container migration as counterpunching the competitive efforts of IBM-Red Hat and others to gain a firm grasp of the management software piece of both the cloud and on-premises applications.

“If Red Hat succeeded in commoditizing the enterprise OS space, making RHEL and Windows Server the two de facto standards, then the next layer to be commoditized is the control plane, which I still believe to be the PaaS layer,” said Geoff Woollacott, senior strategy consultant and principal analyst at Technology Business Review. “Right now, the main rivals for that are VMware with this announcement, Azure and OpenShift.”

The U.S. Air Force is in the midst of evaluating multiple Kubernetes distributions and management tools, including Red Hat OpenShift, Rancher and a beta version of Tanzu Kubernetes Grid. The various IT teams within the military branch can use whichever Kubernetes platform they choose. For the Air Force’s purposes, the latest Red Hat OpenShift versions will beat VMware to the punch in disconnected and Kubernetes edge environments, along with real-time operating system support that the Air Force will use in F16 fighter jets. The Air Force will also wait until all of VMware’s Tanzu product line becomes generally available before it commits to using it, and carefully watch how VMware brings together its new business units and their products.

“VMware is checking all the boxes, but details matter,” said Nicolas Chaillan, the Air Force’s chief software officer, and co-lead for the Enterprise DevSecOps Initiative in the office of the Department of Defense CIO. “With mergers, there are always people leaving, conflicts, and you never know what’s going to happen.”

However, VMware retains its lead in server virtualization, and the Kubernetes IP and expertise the company has assembled with its Heptio acquisition and Pivotal merger can’t be overlooked, Chaillan added.

The vSphere piece, and the ability to tie that back to Kubernetes, is very interesting, and that alone could win the market.
Nicolas ChaillanChief software officer, Air Force

“The vSphere piece, and the ability to tie that back to Kubernetes, is very interesting, and that alone could win the market,” he said. “A lot of companies in finance and healthcare still need a virtualization stack on premises, and otherwise would have to use Google Anthos, Azure Stack or Amazon Outposts — or they could go through vSphere, and have a single company that brings [them] the whole thing.”

Redesigning the crown jewels

VSphere 7.0, formerly called Project Pacific, has been significantly redesigned, according to Krishna Prasad, vice president and general manager of VMware’s Cloud Platform Business. A large part of that redesigning was to tightly integrate Kubernetes into vSphere. One advantage of this for corporate users is when they stand up a cluster based on the company’s ESX Server virtualization layer, those become Kubernetes clusters along with the company’s vCenter control plane, Prasad said.

“When we started rearchitecting, it wasn’t driven by the need to accommodate Kubernetes workloads — that was just one of the driving factors,” Prasad said. “We realized it [Kubernetes] was a foundational piece we could bring into vSphere at the platform level that would enhance the platform itself. It would make the platform more modern like Kubernetes itself.”

Another important consideration for the redesign was a direct response to what the company’s core customers were asking for: to be able to deliver their infrastructure to their developers through a cloud consumption model.

“They want and we want to deliver infrastructure completely as code,” Prasad said.

To this end, VMware also unveiled an improved version of NSX-T that now offers full-stack networking and security services that connect and protect both VMs and containers.

“With the enhancements to NSX-T, as you deploy Kubernetes workloads it automates everything right through to the Kubernetes UI,” Prasad said. “This is about writing infrastructure as code and automating the whole deployment instead of bringing in your own components. We think it is a critical part of delivering Kubernetes with full automation.”

Senior News Writer Beth Pariseau contributed to this report.

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Nvidia scoops up object storage startup SwiftStack

Nvidia plans to acquire object storage vendor SwiftStack to help its customers accelerate their artificial intelligence, high-performance computing and data analytics workloads.

The GPU vendor, based in Santa Clara, Calif., will not sell SwiftStack software but will use SwiftStack’s 1space as part of its internal artificial intelligence (AI) stack. It will also enable customers to use the SwiftStack software as part of their AI stacks, according to Nvidia’s head of enterprise computing, Manuvir Das.

SwiftStack and Nvidia disclosed the acquisition today. They did not reveal the purchase price, but they said it expects the deal to close with weeks.

Nvidia previously worked with SwiftStack

Nvidia worked with San Francisco-based SwiftStack for more than 18 months on tackling the data challenges associated with running AI applications at a massive scale. Nvidia found 1space particularly helpful. SwiftStack introduced 1space in 2018 to accelerate data access across public and private clouds through a single object namespace.

“Simply put, it’s a way of placing the right data in the right place at the right time, so that when the GPU is busy, the data can be sent to it quickly,” Das said.

Das said Nvidia customers would be able to use enterprise storage from any vendor. The SwiftStack 1space technology will form the “storage orchestration layer” that sits between the compute and the storage to properly place the data so the AI stack runs optimally, Das said.

“We are not a storage vendor. We do not intend to be a storage vendor. We’re not in the business of selling storage in any form,” Das said. “We work very closely with our storage partners. This acquisition is designed to further the integration between different storage technologies and the work we do for AI.”

We are not a storage vendor. We do not intend to be a storage vendor.
Manuvir DasHead of enterprise computing, Nvidia

Nvidia partners with storage vendors such as Pure Storage, NetApp, Dell EMC and IBM. The storage vendors integrate Nvidia GPUs into their arrays or sell the GPUs along with their storage in reference architectures.

Nvidia attracted to open source tech

Das said Nvidia found SwiftStack attractive because its software is based on open source technology. SwiftStack’s eponymous object- and file-based storage and data management software is rooted in open source OpenStack Swift. Das said Nvidia plans to continue to work with the SwiftStack team to advance and optimize the technology and make it available through open source avenues.

“The SwiftStack team is part of Nvidia now,” he said. “They’re super talented. So, the innovation will continue to happen, and all that innovation will be upstreamed into the open source SwiftStack. It will be available to anybody.”

Joe ArnoldJoe Arnold

SwiftStack laid off an undisclosed number of sales and marketing employees in late 2019, but kept the engineering and support team intact, according to president Joe Arnold. He attributed the layoffs to a shift in sales focus from classic backup and archiving to AI, machine learning and data analytics use cases.

The SwiftStack 7.0 software update that emerged late last year took aim at analytics HPC, AI and ML use cases, such as autonomous vehicle applications that feed data to GPU-based servers. SwiftStack said at the time that it had worked with customers to design clusters that could scale to handle multiple petabytes of data and support throughput in excess of 100 GB per second.

Das said Nvidia has been using SwiftStack’s object storage technology as well as 1space. He said Nvidia’s internal work on data science and AI applications had quickly showed the company that accelerating the computer shifts the bottleneck elsewhere, to the storage. That played a factor in Nvidia’s acquisition of SwiftStack, he noted.

“We recognized a long time ago that the way to help the customers is not just to provide them a GPU or a library, but to help them create the entire stack, all the way from the GPU up to the applications themselves. If you look at Nvidia now, we spend most of our energy on the software for different kinds of AI applications,” Das said.

He said Nvidia would fully support SwiftStack’s customer base. SwiftStack claims it has around 125 customers. It products lineup included SwiftStack’s object storage software, ProxyFS file system for integrated file and object API access, and 1space. SwiftStack’s software is designed to run on commodity hardware on premises, and its 1space technology can run in the public cloud.

SwiftStack spent more than eight years expanding its software’s capabilities since the company’s 2011 founding. Das said Nvidia has no reason to sell the SwiftStack’s proprietary software because it does not compete head-to-head with other object storage providers.

“Our philosophy here at Nvidia is we are not trying to compete with infrastructure vendors by selling some kind of a stack that competes with other peoples’ stacks,” Das said. “Our goal is simply to make people successful with AI. We think, if that happens, everybody wins, including Nvidia, because we believe GPUs are the best platform for AI.”

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SAP S/4HANA migration should be business-driven

As SAP customers contemplate an SAP S/4HANA migration, they have to work through big questions like what infrastructure it will run on and how to handle business processes. One of the keys to a successful S/4HANA migration will be which part of the organization sets the project parameters, IT or business.

SAP expert Ekrem Hatip, senior solution architect at Syntax Systems, advises that because an S/4HANA migration is a fundamentally different project than a normal system upgrade, such as from SAP R/3 to SAP ECC, organizations must approach it differently. In this Q&A, Hatip discusses some of the issues that organizations need to consider as they embark on an S/4HANA journey.

Syntax Systems is based in Montreal and provides managed services for SAP systems, including hosting SAP systems in Syntax Systems data centers and running SAP systems on public cloud provider infrastructures.

How are Syntax customers approaching a possible S/4HANA migration? Is it on their minds?

Ekrem Hatip, Syntax senior solution architectEkrem Hatip

Ekrem Hatip: Over the last few years we have brought up the S/4HANA topic even if the customer doesn’t show immediate interest in doing that. We discuss with them what S/4HANA is, what are the advantages, and what are the innovations that S/4HANA introduces. We look at the customers’ existing landscape and discuss the possible migration paths from their system to an S/4HANA system. We talk about the business requirements, because an S/4HANA conversion is not a technical upgrade — it’s not a technical conversion from one database to another. It touches every aspect of their business processes, and we want to make sure that customers are aware that it is a sizable project.

Are customers eager to move or are they holding back now?

Hatip: Most customers are happy with what they have right now — with their SAP implementation. It satisfies their current needs and they don’t see an immediate reason to go to S/4HANA other than the fact that SAP has put the 2025 date in front of them [when SAP will end support for SAP ECC]. We can help our customers to understand what is ahead of them.

So educating them on what to expect is the first step of an S/4HANA migration?

Hatip: Absolutely. Most people don’t know much about SAP HANA let alone S/4HANA. Their expectation is, just like when they upgraded from R/3 to ECC, they will go ahead and just upgrade their system over one weekend. Then come Monday morning, they will continue running as they used to run on a shiny new system. We have to make sure that they understand this is not the case. Most of their business processes will be touched and most of the business processes might need to be modified or dropped. I also tell customers — especially if they’re going with a greenfield implementation — to keep their customizations at minimum. Everything seems to be going into cloud and S/4HANA Cloud is out there. So, I tell them if they can limit their customizations, they’ll be able to go to S/4HANA Cloud for the true SaaS experience.

Are customers considering any other systems as an alternative to an S/4HANA migration?

Hatip: For many customers SAP is the core of their business operations, and I haven’t yet seen any customers who are considering going to other solutions than SAP for their core business. So, it’s more likely they’re considering if they want to remain on ECC for as long as they can before moving to S/4HANA. With that said, I have seen that some customers are now considering alternatives to some of the peripheral systems offered by SAP. For example, one customer who was using BOB-J [SAP BusinessObjects BI] for its reporting is now considering using Microsoft Power BI on Azure. Do I know whether this is driven by the fact that they need to go to S/4HANA or not? I don’t know, but my observation is that some customers are considering alternatives for the systems surrounding their core SAP environment.

What are the most critical issues to consider as you make the S/4HANA decision?

Hatip: Unlike the previous conversions or upgrades, an S/4HANA conversion is not an IT-driven decision. It should definitely be a business-driven decision. It should be coming from the top and presented to the IT department, as opposed to the IT department going back and saying, this operating system is going out of support or that database is going out of support, so we have to upgrade. It should definitely be coming from the business side. Therefore, not only should the CIO be convinced to go to S/4HANA, at the same time CEOs and COOs should also be in the decision-making process. An S/4HANA conversion is a lengthy and fairly complex project, but at the same time it allows customers to clean up their existing legacy systems. Customers can use the opportunity to clean up data and review hardware or server requirements, or they can definitely leverage the public cloud offerings when they decide to go to S/4HANA. Finally, CIOs and the IT department should try to keep their customizations at a minimum in order to future-proof their environment. 

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Cloud consultants set for massive workload shift to cloud

Cloud consultants take heed: Customers are pushing the bulk of their workloads to cloud infrastructure and a significant number are adopting related technologies such as containers.

AllCloud, a cloud and managed service provider based in Tel Aviv, Israel, said 85% of the 150 respondents to its cloud infrastructure survey expect to operate the majority of their workloads in the cloud by the end of 2020. Twenty-four percent of the IT decision-makers polled said they plan to be cloud-only organizations. The respondents work for companies with at least 300 employees and represent a range of industries.

AllCloud’s survey, published Jan. 15, also points to growing acceptance of containers, a trend other cloud consultants view as accelerating. More than 56% of respondents reported at least half of their cloud workloads use containers or microservices.

AllCloud CEO Eran Gil said cloud adoption, as reflected in the survey sample, is further along than he anticipated. He also said the amount of containers adoption surprised him.  

“It is interesting to see how many organizations are leveraging them,” he said of containers. “It’s far more than I expected to see.”

Eran Gil, CEO at AllCloudEran Gil

For cloud consultants, the transition from small-scale, individual workload migrations to more decisive shifts to the cloud may open opportunities for IT modernization.

“We are talking to [customers] about modernizing their infrastructure — not just simply taking what they have on premises and hosting it on AWS or other vendors,” Gil said.

Amid broader cloud adoption, AllCloud plans to expand in North America. The company in 2018 launched operations in North America, acquiring Figur8, a Salesforce partner with offices in San Francisco, Toronto, New York City and Vancouver, B.C. AllCloud is a Salesforce Platinum partner and an AWS Premier Consulting Partner.

“We are focusing on growing North America in particular,” Gil said, noting the company has received a new round of funding to support its expansion. “You will hear us announce acquisitions this year in either one of our ecosystems.”

The funding will also help AllCloud grow organically. Gil said the company plans to hire an AWS practice leader, who will report to Doug Shepard, AllCloud’s general manager for North America. Shepard previously was president of the Google business unit at Cloud Sherpas, a cloud consultancy Gil co-founded in 2008. Accenture acquired Cloud Sherpas in 2015.

Gil said the fundamental drivers of cloud adoption have changed dramatically since the launch of Cloud Sherpas. Back then, he said, cost was the main consideration, and security and reliability concerns were obstacles to acceptance. Security, however, emerged in AllCloud’s survey as the top consideration in cloud selection, followed by reliability. Cost ranked fourth in the list of adoption drivers.

“All the factors 10, 12 years ago that were the determents are now the drivers,” Gil said. 

New channel hires

  • DevOps lifecycle tool provider GitLab has appointed Michelle Hodges as vice president of global channels. GitLab, which plans to go public this year, said Hodges’ hiring is part of an initiative to ramp up the company’s channel strategy. Hodges joins GitLab from Gigamon, where she served as vice president of worldwide channels.
  • Avaya named William Madison as its vice president of North America cloud sales. Madison’s prior roles included vice president of global channel development and channel chief at Masergy Communications.
  • Managed services automation company BitTitan hired Kirk Swanson as its corporate development associate. Swanson will help BitTitan pursue acquisitions in the enterprise cloud market, targeting companies with SaaS products and relationships with IT service providers and MSPs, the company said. Prior to BitTitan, Swanson served as an associate at investment firm D.A. Davidson & Co.
  • Exclusive Networks, a cloud and cybersecurity distributor, named Christine Banker as vice president of North American sales. Banker will lead vendor recruitment, inside and field sales, and Exclusive’s PC and server business, among other departments and teams, the company said.
  • Anexinet Corp., a digital business solutions provider based in Philadelphia, has appointed Suzanne Lentz as chief marketing officer. She was previously chief marketing officer of Capgemini Invent NA.
  • Workspace-as-a-service vendor CloudJumper named Amie Ray as its enterprise channel sales manager. Ray comes to CloudJumper from PrinterLogic, where she was national channel account manager.

Other news

  • WESCO International Inc. has agreed to acquire distributor Anixter International Inc. for $4.5 billion. WESCO outbid Clayton, Dubilier & Rice LLC. The deal is expected to close in the second or third quarter of 2020. According to Pittsburgh-based WESCO, the combined entity would have revenue of about $17 billion. The pending deal follows Apollo Global Management’s agreement to acquire Tech Data Corp., a distributor based in Tampa, Fla.
  • Lemongrass Consulting, a professional services and managed service provider based in Atlanta, has completed a $10 million Series C round of financing, a move the company said will help it build out its senior leadership team, boost product development, and expands sales and marketing. Rodney Rogers, co-founder and general partner of Blue Lagoon Capital, joins Lemongrass as chairman. Blue Lagoon led the new funding round. Mike Rosenbloom is taking on the group CEO role at Lemongrass. He was formerly managing director of Accenture’s Intelligent Cloud & Infrastructure business. Walter Beek, who has been group CEO at Lemongrass, will stay on with company as co-founder and chief innovation officer. Lemongrass focuses on SAP applications running on AWS infrastructure.
  • Strategy and revenue are getting a heightened focus among CIOs, according to a Logicalis survey. The London-based IT solutions provider’s poll of 888 global CIOs found 61% of the respondents “spent more time on strategic planning in the last 12 months, while 43% are now being measured on their contribution to revenue growth.” The emphasis on strategy and revenue comes at the expense of innovation. About a third of the CIOs surveyed said the time available to spend on innovation has decreased over the last 12 months.
  • IT infrastructure management vendor Kaseya said it ended 2019 with a valuation exceeding $2 billion. Kaseya added more than 5,000 new customers and had more than $300 million in annual bookings, according to the company. Kaseya noted that the company had an organic growth rate of about 30%.
  • Cybersecurity vendor WatchGuard Technologies updated its FlexPay program with automated, monthly billing for its network security hardware and services. Partners can acquire subscriptions from WatchGuard’s distributor partners in various purchasing models, including one- and three-year contracts and pay-as-you-go terms, WatchGuard said. In the U.S., WatchGuard Subscriptions are available exclusively through the Synnex Stellr online marketplace.
  • Copper, which provides CRM for G Suite, rolled out its 2020 Partner Ambassador Program. The referral program has four partner tiers with incremental incentives, marketing resources, and training and certifications.
  • GTT Communications Inc., a cloud networking provider based in McLean, Va., has added Fortinet Secure SD-WAN to its SD-WAN service offering.
  • EditShare, a storage vendor that specializes in media creation and management, signed Key Code Media to its channel program. Key Code Media is an A/V, broadcast and post-production reseller and systems integrator.
  • Accenture opened an intelligent operation center in St. Catharines, Ont., as a hub for its intelligent sales and customer operations business. Accenture said the location is the company’s third intelligent operations center in Canada and its second in the Niagara region.

Market Share is a news roundup published every Friday.

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New Oracle Enterprise Manager release advances hybrid cloud

In a bid to meet customers’ needs for hybrid cloud deployments, Oracle has injected its Oracle Enterprise Manager system with new capabilities to ease cloud migration and hybrid cloud database management.

The software giant unveiled the new Oracle Enterprise Manager release 13.4 on Wednesday, with general availability expected by the end of the first quarter.

The release includes new analytics features for users to make the most of a single database and optimize performance. Lifecycle automation for databases gets a boost in the new release. The update also provides users with new tools to enable enterprises to migrate from an on-premises database to one in the cloud.

“Managing across hybrid on-prem and public cloud resources can be challenging in terms of planning and executing database migrations,” said Mary Johnston Turner, research vice president for cloud management at IDC. “The new Migration Workbench addresses this need by providing customers with guided support for updating and modernizing across platforms, as appropriate for the customer’s specific requirements.”

Beyond helping with migration, Turner noted that Oracle Enterprise Manager 13.4 supports customer choice by enabling consistent management across Oracle Cloud and traditional on-premises resources, which is a recognition that most enterprises are adopting multi-cloud architectures.

The other key addition in Oracle Enterprise Manager 13.4 is advanced machine learning analytics, Turner noted.

“Prior to this release the analytics capabilities were mostly limited to Oracle Management Cloud SaaS [software as a service] solutions, so adding this capability to Enterprise Manager is significant,” she said.

Oracle Enterprise Manager 13.4 features

Nearly all large Oracle customers use Enterprise Manager already, said Mughees Minhas, vice president of product management at Oracle. He said Oracle doesn’t want to force a new management tool on customers that choose to adopt the cloud, which is why the vendor is increasingly integrating cloud management features with Oracle Enterprise Manager.

Managing across hybrid on-prem and public cloud resources can be challenging in terms of planning and executing database migrations.
Mary Johnston TurnerResearch vice president for cloud management, IDC

As users decide to move data from on-premises deployments to the cloud, it’s rarely just an exercise in moving an application from one environment to another without stopping to redesign the workflow, Minhas said.

The migration tool in the new enterprise manager update includes a SQL performance analyzer feature to ensure that database operations are optimized as they move to the cloud. The tool also includes a compatibility checker to verify that on-premises database applications are compatible with the autonomous versions of Oracle database that runs in the cloud.

Migrating to new databases with Enterprise Manager 13.4

Helping organizations migrate to new database versions is one of the key capabilities of the latest version of Oracle Enterprise Manager.

“Normally, you would create a separate test system on-prem where you would install it and then once you’re done with the testing, then you’d upgrade the actual system,” Minhas said. “So we are promoting these use cases to Enterprise Manager through the use of real application testing tools, where we let you create a new database in the cloud to test.”

Intelligent analytics

The new Oracle Enterprise Manager release also benefits from Exadata Warehouse technology, which now enables analytics for Oracle database workloads.

“The goal of a great admin or cloud DBA [database administrator] is that they want to avoid problems before they happen, and not afterwards,” Minhas said. “So we are building analytical capabilities and some algorithms, so they can do some forecasting, so they know limits and are able to take action.”

Minhas said hybrid management will continue to be Oracle’s focus for Oracle Enterprise Manager.

“Over time, you’ll see us doing more use cases where we also let you do the same thing you’re doing on premises in the cloud, using the same APIs users are already familiar with,” Minhas said.

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Public cloud vendors launch faulty services as race heats up

The public cloud services arena has turned a corner, introducing new challenges for customers, according to the latest edition of “Technology Radar,” a biannual report by global software consultancy ThoughtWorks. Competition has heated up, so top public cloud vendors are creating new cloud services at a fast clip. But in their rush to market, those vendors can roll out flawed services, which opens the door for resellers to help clients evaluate cloud options.

Public cloud has become a widely deployed technology, overcoming much of the resistance it had seen in the past. “Fears about items like security and sovereignty have been calmed,” noted Scott Shaw, director of technology for Asia Pacific region at ThoughtWorks. “Regulators have become more comfortable with the technology, so cloud interest has been turning into adoption.”

The cloud market shifts

With the sales of public cloud services rising, competition has intensified. Initially, Amazon Web Services dominated the market, but recently Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform have been gaining traction among enterprise customers.

Corporations adopting public cloud have not had as much success as they had hoped for.
Scott ShawDirector of technology for Asia Pacific region, ThoughtWorks

One ripple effect is that the major public cloud providers have been trying to rapidly roll out differentiating new services. However, in their haste to keep pace, they can deliver services with rough edges and incomplete feature sets, according to ThoughtWorks.

Customers can get caught in this quicksand. “Corporations adopting public cloud have not had as much success as they had hoped for,” Shaw said.

Businesses try to deploy public cloud services based on the promised functionality but frequently hit roadblocks during implementations. “The emphasis on speed and product proliferation, through either acquisition or hastily created services, often results not merely in bugs but also in poor documentation, difficult automation and incomplete integration with vendors’ own parts,” the report noted.

Top public cloud vendors chart
The global public cloud market share in 2019.

Testing is required

ThoughtWorks recommended that organizations not assume all public cloud vendors’ services are of equal quality. They need to test out key capabilities and be open to alternatives, such as open source options and multi-cloud strategies.

Resellers can act as advisors to help customers make the right decisions as they consider new public cloud services, pointing out the strengths and flaws in individual cloud options, Shaw said.

To serve as advisors, however, resellers need in-depth, hands-on experience with the cloud services. “Channel partners cannot simply rely on a feature checklist,” Shaw explained. “To be successful, they need to have worked with the service and understand how it operates in practice and not just in theory.”

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Cradlepoint NetCloud update avoids unnecessary data usage

Cradlepoint has introduced technology that helps customers control costs by flagging unusual increases in data use across the wireless links managed by the vendor’s software-defined WAN.

The vendor unveiled this week the latest analytics in its cloud-based Cradlepoint NetCloud management platform. Cradlepoint is aiming the technology at retailers, government agencies and enterprises that have widely distributed operations. Those organizations typically have a WAN dependent on 4G and other wireless links.

The latest algorithms determine patterns of data usage based on historical data gathered over time across a company’s wireless links, the vendor said. Cradlepoint NetCloud will notify network managers when data usage deviates from past patterns.

The feature provides early notification of surges in usage that might be unrelated to normal business operations, such as video streaming by employees or misconfigured networking gear.

Cradlepoint pitches itself as particularly useful to retailers. The company claims that 75% of the top retailers globally uses its technology. Customers include David’s Bridal, which sells wedding dresses through 330 stores in North America and the United Kingdom. Another sizable retail customer is the jewelry manufacturer Pandora, which distributes its products through stores in more than 100 countries.

Companies outside of retail also use Cradlepoint technology. DSC Dredge LLC uses Cradlepoint for managing 4G LTE, 4G and 3G connectivity across its fleet of dredging machines. The company supplies the equipment in more than 40 countries for use in constructing dams and improving waterway drainage and navigability.

DSC has equipped each of its dredges with a Cradelpoint router and oversees the technology through the NetCloud management software.

Cradlepoint sells subscription-based packages that converge multiple network services on a single edge router. The bundle, for example, could include a router with Ethernet ports, and support for Wi-Fi with a guest portal and LTE integration.

Cradlepoint sells subscriptions on a one-, three- or five-year basis.

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Actifio 10c adds container support and DR orchestration

Actifio customers who are heavily invested in public cloud got a hefty update this week with version 10c.

Actifio 10c added features aimed at universal portability between on-premises and cloud environments. It now supports seven major cloud providers: Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Alibaba Cloud, IBM Cloud, Oracle Cloud, VMware Cloud, AWS and Microsoft Azure. Customers can write backups to multiple targets, either to their data center or one or more public clouds, and can fail over to another cloud entirely if they want. The goal is to give customers full flexibility and interoperability regardless of where the data resides.

Another major feature added in 10c focused on containers. Actifio’s backup cloning feature for spinning up copies of data in test environments now supports Kubernetes, allowing customers to quickly clone data directly into containers. Brian Reagan, chief marketing officer at Actifio, said he has noticed increased adoption and demand for container support among test/dev customers. He also sees the use of containers as something that will feed greater demand for universal portability.

Reagan claims 10c can deliver SSD-like storage speed from object store using clever caching. A layer of intelligence during the read/write process between on-premises SSD and S3-compatible object storage creates a cache of recoverable data in its original format, avoiding the need to rehydrate. S3 and other forms of object store tend to be cheaper than other storage options, but the cost comes in the form of lower recall speed.

Reagan said Actifio 10c added more than 20 features or functionality upgrades. Other noteworthy features include one-click disaster recovery (DR) orchestration and wizards to simplify backing up databases including SAP HANA, ASE and MaxDB as well as Oracle, MySQL and Db2. Actifio 10c also added an agentless VM snapshot management feature for AWS and Azure.

Actifio 10c is in early access and is expected to become generally available in early 2020.

Targeting test/dev

Actifio competes with established backup vendors such as Veritas, Dell EMC, Veeam and Commvault along with relative newcomers such as Cohesity, Rubrik and Druva. Although Actifio’s replication technology is ideal for backup and initially targeted the backup market, the company has made a concerted effort in the last few years to pivot toward the test/dev market. Reagan said a majority of new Actifio customers now start with test/dev purposes in mind rather than backup.

He said enterprises today gain market advantage by developing faster than their competitors. Many of these customers are looking to improve on that front rather than invest in backup. Actifio is pushing the development use case to capture these customers, but can use its technology to provide for the backup use case as well.

screenshot of Actifio 10c
Actifio 10c’s DR orchestration lets users set the order of automated recovery.

Storage and data protection industry analysts say backup as we know it is on the way out, and that backup vendors should be looking to support secondary data use cases that go beyond simple backup and recovery. Reusing copies of data to serve business ends such as test/dev and analytics is one such area of potential expansion.

However, George Crump, president of storage analyst firm Storage Switzerland and an IT consultant himself, said most people still struggle with basic backup and recovery. A combination of data growth, shrinking IT staff and expertise and stricter service-level agreements (SLAs) makes it harder for organizations to reliably create recoverable backups and restore from them when something goes wrong. Backup itself is not always a specialty anymore, and instead has often become the responsibility of a staff member or team with other IT duties.

“Generally, nowadays, you don’t have a backup specialist on staff,” Crump said.

Crump also added that from his experience with his own clients, most of them use Actifio for backup and DR rather than any of its test/dev-focused use cases.

Crump said vendors can combat this is by simplifying backup as much as possible. He sees 10c’s DR orchestration and backup setup wizards as serving that need, and it’s as important a feature as container support and object store performance enhancement. He pointed out that Veeam, Commvault, Cohesity and other vendors have made moves toward automated DR. Despite these new tools, Crump recommends that organizations still struggling with backup reevaluate their staffing around how they handle their IT infrastructure.           

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Microsoft extends Office 365 benefit to nonprofit volunteers

Microsoft on Thursday announced a new Office 365 benefit, offering enterprise-sized nonprofit customers free additional Office 365 F1 seats for their volunteers.

The new Office 365 benefit enables nonprofit customers who have Enterprise Agreements with Microsoft to receive 10 free Office 365 F1 seats for their volunteers per licensed Microsoft 365 E3 or E5 seat. Office 365 F1 includes applications for email, calendars, team collaboration, messaging, intranet, file storage and sharing. Nonprofits with 250 or more users in their organization are eligible for the Enterprise Agreement. The offer starts Jan. 1, according to the company.

Microsoft Cloud Solution Providers will be able to offer the Volunteer Use Benefit to customers directly via the Cloud Solution Provider Channel in spring 2020, according to the company.

The news comes after the company’s announcement in September offering nonprofits free Microsoft 365 Business for up to 10 users. Thursday’s announcement extended this Office 365 benefit to nonprofit volunteers.

This is not the first time Microsoft has donated or provided services for free. Some of their collaboration software programs, such as Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint and Teams, are available to qualified nonprofits. “But it does mark a significant expansion of access for nonprofits who already pay for Office 365. Keep in mind that Microsoft has long had steep discounts for students and educators, as well,” said Nicole France, principal analyst and vice president at Constellation Research.

The recent move is motivated by several factors, she said. “One is certainly ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ or Salesforces, as the case may be, in terms of publicizing and extending support for the nonprofit sector,” France said.

Another factor has to do with the way Microsoft wants to be perceived by current and potential employees, especially millennials, France said. “We know that this demographic group in particular — an increasingly important one, in terms of recruiting and retention — is strongly motivated by an employer’s mission in the world, not just its commercial business. I suspect this is a significant part of the rationale for giving the nonprofit sector some additional love and attention.”

Lastly, she said, the offering addresses the pressing need for nonprofits to provide appropriate tools to their large numbers of volunteers.

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Salesforce Trailblazer community must keep pace to fuel growth

Salesforce customers need help to use Salesforce. It takes self-trained, motivated admins, developers and consultants to plug the Salesforce platform into a company’s operations. If it’s a successful implementation, it takes even more talent to scale up as the Salesforce customer’s business grows.

On its present growth trajectory in the wake of acquiring Tableau and MuleSoft, Salesforce will need to persuade triple the current number of these independent experts to join its tribe in the next decade. The number could end up being even higher, considering Salesforce customers like Heidi Melin, CMO of cloud office collaboration and project management provider Workfront, say they already see Salesforce admins and developers in short supply.

 “Salesforce is at a place from a scale and a breadth perspective that they should — and probably are — turning up their Trailblazer efforts,” said Melin, who added that many cloud software companies, including Workfront, need more skilled ambassadors to integrate their applications into their customers’ workflow to enable success. “The more people that are trained and are ready to use Salesforce, the higher propensity to influence their customers’ technology choices.”

To help develop the talent pool, Salesforce launched Trailhead, a free training site with an outdoorsy theme that includes a gamification element to mark learners’ progress. A Salesforce Trailblazer, or trainee, will then earn credentials called “badges” and gain skills following guided training paths. Trailblazers earn “superbadges” to show advanced competencies in areas such as app development, data management and Salesforce administration, as well as AI and analytics capabilities.

“This is part of the brilliance of Salesforce, building and continuing to curate this massive community of people — most of whom are not, and have never been — employed by Salesforce but are activists and fanatical fans out there,” said Constellation Research analyst Nicole France. “They’re involved on a daily basis using and shaping Salesforce systems.”

The genesis of Salesforce Trailblazers

Considering Salesforce just passed its 20th anniversary, Trailhead is relatively new, given that it debuted in 2014. New training videos and a mobile app were among the upgrades highlighted at its Dreamforce conference last month.

Sarah Franklin, executive vice president and general manager of platform, Trailhead and developers at Salesforce, helped create Trailhead from scratch. The idea, she said, was to make the training accessible and consumable by anyone, anywhere. That requires plain language, free of jargon, as well as making content renderable for people with disabilities. She said she wants everyone who wants to be a Salesforce Trailblazer — Salesforce’s word for customers and Trailhead learners — to join the community.

“There’s a bunch of generic words names in the industry — citizen developers, champions,” Franklin said, adding that Salesforce wanted to create a Trailhead culture where the people earning the badges were being celebrated, not Salesforce itself. She had to convince Benioff to use that particular word, Trailblazer, which is now emblazoned in white script lettering on black hoodies ubiquitous at Salesforce user gatherings.

We wanted to give our community an identity that they can relate to, and that they own.
Sarah Franklin Executive vice president and general manager of platform, Trailhead and developers at Salesforce

“The hoodie is symbolic. What is written is not ‘Trailhead.’ It’s not ‘Salesforce.’ We did not take a Salesforce logo and plaster it on their chest,” Franklin said. “We wanted to give our community an identity that they can relate to, and that they own.”

More than 1.7 million Salesforce Trailblazers have earned more than 17.5 million badges, according to the company, with 25% of Trailhead users indicating in a recent IDC report that a badge earned them a new job. Career site Indeed.com said job postings for Salesforce developers increased 129% from 2018 to 2019.

Salesforce Trailblazer roadmap: No-cost bachelor’s degrees

Over the next decade, Franklin’s setting her sights on making Trailhead a venue where users can earn a free bachelor’s degree. It must be fully accredited, she said, because accreditation is “the one thing employers have from our government to filter out applicants from skilled labor positions.”

If her team’s successful in doing that, it will give Trailhead a flashy tool to recruit more admins and developers to keep up with market demand and help lay a foundation for the future of Salesforce.

Another part of Franklin’s Trailhead strategy is to focus on diversity and inclusivity, and to find people ripe for job retraining such as recently discharged military veterans re-entering the civilian world.

 Salesforce Trailblazer Sheldon Simmons
U.S. Navy veteran and Texas Salesforce consultant Sheldon Simmons, pictured here at Dreamforce 2019 with co-CEO Keith Block, forged a post-military tech career by taking free Trailhead courses.

That was the case for Sheldon Simmons, a Navy boatswain’s mate who fueled aircraft for eight years and bounced around the Austin, Texas, region after discharge. Working at a semiconductor plant and living part-time in his car, he took a Java course at a community college, which didn’t pan out to a job as he’d hoped. After that, a representative from the Merivis Foundation, a group that connects military veterans with Salesforce employment, introduced Simmons to Trailhead.

Five Trailhead badges later, Simmons is a Salesforce consultant with three years’ experience under his belt. Last month, Salesforce featured Simmons in a Dreamforce keynote with Salesforce co-CEO Keith Block.

“My [Navy] job wasn’t technical, so when I got out of the service, no one was going to hire me as a gas man,” said Simmons, who now recruits fellow veterans for Salesforce Trailblazer training as a Merivis Foundation board member. He said he believes vets bring attitude and perspective that is conducive to success working on Salesforce teams.

“Sometimes I hear people complain about stuff, and I’m like, ‘Man, at least we get to go home, at least we’re not sleeping on a helicopter in 120-degree weather,'” Simmons said. “I remember those times and what I would give to be sitting in an office right now. There’s nothing that’s going to rattle me, and the work isn’t going to be too much.”

This is the second of two parts on how Salesforce can serve its customers while chasing ambitious growth. Read the first part here.

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