Tag Archives: gain

SUSE buys Rancher Labs for Kubernetes expertise

Enterprise Linux provider SUSE plans to acquire Rancher Labs in a bid to gain credibility within the Kubernetes container management market.

Rancher Labs, based in Cupertino, Calif., helps enterprise customers manage their Kubernetes environments at scale. Terms of the pending deal were not disclosed.

Rancher’s open source products include Kubernetes distributions, multi-cloud management software and operating systems and storage for containerized workloads.

Arun ChandrasekaranArun Chandrasekaran

“The Rancher acquisition allows SUSE to support containerized workloads more effectively across on-premises, public cloud and edge environments based on OSS,” said Arun Chandrasekaran, a Gartner analyst. “It also provides SUSE a pathway to better engage with platform engineering teams, who are often at the forefront of DevOps efforts.”

Sheng LiangSheng Liang

Rancher CEO Sheng Liang will assume the role of president of engineering innovation at SUSE. “I’m going to take over all of those engineers and just manage them all as one big team,” Liang said in an interview. As the deal has not closed, Rancher hasn’t had a chance to plan how to deal with product engineering, but the company’s sales and marketing team will join SUSE’s, he added.

With more enterprises moving more workloads to the cloud via containers, the importance of Kubernetes continues to grow. Indeed, adoption of cloud-native applications and infrastructure will increase use of container management to more than 75% of large enterprises in mature economies by 2024 — up from less than 35% in 2020, according to Gartner.

The container management software market is very competitive, particularly given the recent hybrid and multi-cloud efforts of hyperscale providers — such as Google’s Anthos platform — as well as the broader consolidation among software vendors.

“Being part of a larger OSS entity can hopefully provide Rancher better go-to-market capabilities and field presence to compete with these larger providers, Chandrasekaran said.

Rancher has always had a grassroots approach to gaining customers, according to Liang.

“SUSE is at a whole different level,” he said. “They’re a completely proven brand with a loyal and growing customer base. … We’re also very interested in their partner ecosystem.”

SUSE hones its Kubernetes chops with Rancher

For SUSE, buying Rancher gives the company stronger footing in the Kubernetes market.

“Of all the major Linux vendors who moved to the cloud, SUSE didn’t have a proper Kubernetes strategy,” said Krishnan Subramanian, an analyst at Rishidot Research in Redmond, Wash. “This fills that gap and gives them legitimacy.”

Of all the major Linux vendors who moved to the cloud, SUSE didn’t have a proper Kubernetes strategy.
Krishnan SubramanianAnalyst, Rishidot Research

SUSE is following the proven success path of Red Hat, a fellow Linux vendor and competitor, some observers said. It is nearly a must for Linux vendors to have a Kubernetes platform, and SUSE gets that from Rancher.

“SUSE now has a shot at managing hybrid enterprise workloads with Rancher across on-premises SUSE environments, as well as across the leading cloud vendor platforms,” said Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research. “That is what CXOs [chief experience officers] want for their next-generation applications, the workload portability across deployment platforms.”

Although, Linux and Kubernetes have become an expected pair, the SUSE move caught some observers by surprise.

“As the Kubernetes market consolidated, there was some pressure on Rancher to find some exit, but I thought the recent funding round gave them enough time to go big,” Subramanian said. In March, Rancher Labs raised $40 million in a series D round of funding led by Telstra Ventures. That brought the company’s funding total to $95 million.

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As hiring booms, HR survey raises warning for recruiters

The U.S. labor market data Friday, which showed a gain of 266,000 jobs, called out a few areas as high growth. It cited “notable job gains” in healthcare and professional and technical services. They are two areas that pose big challenges for recruiters, according to a new HR survey.

Professional services firm PwC surveyed 10,000 U.S. workers — all professionals — either in the workforce or looking for work. A key finding in the HR survey data was this: Almost half, 49%, of the professionals surveyed have turned down an offer due to a bad recruiting experience.

They identified themselves as prospective candidates who were made offers but still rejected the job, the HR survey reported.

There are reasons for the high rejection rate, according to Bhushan Sethi, the global people and organization leader at PwC. It could be the result of a lengthy recruiting process, inconsistencies in the attitudes of the people prospective employees met with, or repeated requests for documentation, such as work authorizations.

Sethi said that candidate experience is often thought of as a technology problem. But it’s the more human elements, such as a timely follow-up with candidates, that could be the source of the blame. Candidates, especially those who “probably have multiple choices for their future employment,” want human interaction throughout the recruiting process, Sethi said.

Professional jobs see large gains

Will there be a sector of the workforce that will trade their transparency — so you understand everything about them — for a better opportunity?
Bhushan SethiGlobal people and organization leader, PwC

The government labor report said that employment in professional and technical services increased by 31,000 last month and by 278,000 over the last 12 months. The labor category comprises workers who perform professional, scientific and technical activities for others. It includes accounting, architectural and engineering services, as well as computer design services, among others.

Sethi said organizations need consistent and transparent recruiting processes.

Separately, 62% of professionals want to work at firms committed to improving workplace diversity and inclusion. Social issues, such as climate change, are part of this, and employee activism has been on the rise, publicly and internally.

Candidates are willing to sacrifice higher pay for opportunities like these, Sethi said. They are “willing to trade salary for good work experience and a place that aligns with their own values.” This includes upskilling or training opportunities.

Candidates are willing to make tradeoffs

A surprising finding in the HR survey data is the willingness of candidates to share social media data, if it helps get a good job. Just over 60% said they would give a prospective employer access to social media data now kept private.

“Will there be a sector of the workforce that will trade their transparency — so you understand everything about them — for a better opportunity?” Sethi said. The survey suggested candidates might be willing to make that tradeoff, but few firms are asking for social media access, he said.

Companies that invest in virtual reality as part of the candidate experience may see a payoff. The survey indicated that 62% “say they’re more likely to consider taking a role if they had a chance to experience the actual job through technology.”

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CyberPeace Institute fills a critical need for cyberattack victims – Microsoft on the Issues

Today, with the launch of the CyberPeace Institute, the world will gain an important new ally in understanding the impact of cyberattacks, in working to develop rules for proper conduct in cyberspace and in helping the most vulnerable victims of cyberattacks become more resilient.

Today’s news is important because cybersecurity is one of the more critical issues of our time. The escalating attacks we’ve seen in recent years are not just about computers attacking computers – these attacks threaten and often harm the lives and livelihoods of real people, including their ability to access basic services like heath care, banking and electricity. In May 2017 it took the WannaCry attack just hours to impact more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries including systems that supported the National Health Service in Great Britain. Six weeks later, NotPetya disabled an estimated 10 percent of all computers in Ukraine, crippling businesses, transit systems and banks there before halting the systems of multinational corporations around the world and suspending operations of one of the world’s leading shipping companies. At Microsoft we track cyberattacks by dozens of nation-state actors, and activity continues to increase.

It will take a multi-stakeholder effort to address these issues. The internet is the creation of the private sector, which is primarily responsible for its operation, evolution and security. But governments have an important role to play in observing and enforcing norms for conduct in cyberspace and in deterring damaging attacks by other nations. Governments, the private sector, civil society and academia must be part of discussing solutions and taking concrete steps to protect people. Badly needed in the fight against cyberattacks is a credible source of research and analysis about the impact of cyberattacks around the globe on world citizens. Another important gap is the need for immediate help and advocacy for the most vulnerable victims of these attacks. For years, nongovernmental organizations around the world have provided on-the-ground help and vocal advocacy for victims of wars and natural disasters, and have convened important discussions about protecting the victims they serve. It’s become clear that victims of attacks originating on the internet deserve similar assistance, and the CyberPeace Institute will do just that.

For these reasons, Microsoft has joined the Hewlett Foundation, Mastercard and other leading organizations as initial funders of the institute. The institute will be independent, and we anticipate it will have significant impact in the three core areas where it will function:

  • Assistance: Coordinating recovery efforts for the most vulnerable victims of cyberattacks and helping vulnerable communities and organizations become more resilient to attacks.
  • Accountability: Facilitating the collective analysis, research and investigation of cyberattacks, including by assessing their harm, and bringing greater transparency to the problem so everyone has better information to inform action.
  • Advancement: Promoting responsible behavior in cyberspace and advancing international laws and rules.

While the institute will fill an important unmet need, it joins a range of other critical work underway to help secure the internet. The Cybersecurity Tech Accord, a global voice for the tech community, now includes more than 100 companies committed to principles like protecting all customers around the world and opposing cyberattacks on civilians. The Paris Peace Call for Trust & Security in Cyberspace has signatories from 67 countries, 139 international and civil society organizations, and 358 private companies and entities committed to preventing cyber activity that threatens the availability of the internet, stopping internet-enabled interference in elections and guarding against supply chain attacks. And the United Nations has important processes underway to build consensus on new rules that have the potential of protecting billions.

We’re encouraged by all of these efforts and by the potential the CyberPeace Institute has to improve people’s lives, and we believe that as other companies, nonprofits and individuals see the institute’s progress in the coming months, they will join the effort to back its important work.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Oracle Cloud Infrastructure updates hone in on security

SAN FRANCISCO — Oracle hopes a focus on advanced security can help its market-lagging IaaS gain ground against the likes of AWS, Microsoft and Google.

A new feature called Maximum Security Zones lets customers denote enclaves within their Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) environments that have all security measures turned on by default. Resources within the zones are limited to configurations that are known to be secure. The system will also prevent alterations to configurations and provide continuous monitoring and defenses against anomalies, Oracle said on the opening day of its OpenWorld conference.

Through Maximum Security Zones, customers “will be better protected from the consequences of misconfigurations than they are in other cloud environments today,” Oracle said in an obvious allusion to recent data breaches, such as the Capital One-AWS hack, which have been blamed on misconfigured systems that gave intruders a way in.

“Ultimately, our goal is to deliver to you a fully autonomous cloud,” said Oracle executive chairman and CTO Larry Ellison, during a keynote. 

“If you spend the night drinking and get into your Ford F-150 and crash it, that’s not Ford’s problem,” he said. “If you get into an autonomous Tesla, it should get you home safely.”

Oracle wants to differentiate itself and OCI from AWS, which consistently promotes a shared responsibility model for security between itself and customers. “We’re trying to leapfrog that construct,” said Vinay Kumar, vice president of product management for Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.

“The cloud has always been about, you have to bring your own expertise and architecture to get this right,” said Leo Leung, senior director of products and strategy at OCI. “Think about this as a best-practice deployment automatically. … We’re going to turn all the security on and let the customer decide what is ultimately right for them.”

Security is too important to rely solely on human effort.
Holger MuellerVice president and principal analyst, Constellation Research.

Oracle’s Autonomous Database, which is expected to be a big focal point at this year’s OpenWorld, will benefit from a new service called Oracle Data Safe. This provides a set of controls for securing the database beyond built-in features such as always-on encryption and will be included as part of the cost of Oracle Database Cloud services, according to a statement.

Finally, Oracle announced Cloud Guard, which it says can spot threats and misconfigurations and “hunt down and kill” them automatically. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Cloud Guard is a homegrown Oracle product or made by a third-party vendor. Security vendor Check Point offers an IaaS security product called CloudGuard for use with OCI.

Starting in 2017, Oracle began to talk up new autonomous management and security features for its database, and the OpenWorld announcements repeat that mantra, said Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research in Cupertino, Calif. “Security is too important to rely solely on human effort,” he said.

OCI expansions target disaster recovery, compliance

Oracle also said it will broadly expand OCI’s global cloud footprint, with the launch of 20 new regions by the end of next year. The rollout will bring Oracle’s region count to 36, spread across North America, Europe, South America, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, India and Australia.

This expansion will add multiple regions in certain geographies, allowing for localized disaster recovery scenarios as well as improved regulatory compliance around data location. Oracle plans to add multi-region support in every country it offers OCI and claimed this approach is superior to the practice of including multiple availability zones in a single region.

Oracle’s recently announced cloud interoperability partnership with Microsoft is also getting a boost. The interconnect that ties together OCI and Azure, now available in Virginia and London, will also be offered in the Western U.S., Asia and Europe over the next nine months, according to a statement. In most cases, Oracle is leasing data center space from providers such as Equinix, according to Kumar.

Holger MuellerHolger Mueller

SaaS vendors are another key customer target for Oracle with OCI. To that end, it announced new integrated third-party billing capabilities for the OCI software marketplace released earlier this year. Oracle also cited SaaS providers who are taking advantage of Oracle Cloud Infrastructure for their own underlying infrastructure, including McAfee and Cisco.

There’s something of value for enterprise customers in OCI attracting more independent software vendors, an area where Oracle also lags against the likes of AWS, Microsoft and Google, according to Mueller.

“In contrast to enterprises, they bring a lot of workloads, often to be transferred from on-premises or even other clouds to their preferred vendor,” he said. “For the IaaS vendor, that means a lot of scale, in a market that lives by economies of scale: More workloads means lower prices.”

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Microsoft Ignite 2018 conference coverage


Microsoft continues to gain market momentum fueled in part by an internal culture shift and the growing popularity of the Azure cloud platform that powers the company’s popular Office 365 product.

When CEO Satya Nadella took the helm in 2014, he made a concerted effort to turn the company away from its proprietary background to win over developers and enterprises with cloud and DevOps ambitions.

To reinforce this new agenda, Microsoft acquired GitHub, the popular software development platform, for $7.5 billion in June and expanded its developer-friendly offerings in Azure — from Kubernetes management to a Linux-based distribution for use with IoT devices. But many in IT have long memories and don’t easily forget the company’s blunders, which can wipe away any measure of good faith at a moment’s notice.

PowerShell, the popular automation tool, continues to experience growing pains after Microsoft converted it to an open source project that runs on Linux and macOS systems. As Linux workloads on Azure continue to climb — around 40% of Azure’s VMs run on Linux according to some reports — and Microsoft releases Linux versions of on-premises software, PowerShell Core is one way Microsoft is addressing the needs of companies with mixed OS environments.

While this past year solidified Microsoft’s place in the cloud and open source arenas, Nadella wants the company to remain on the cutting edge and incorporate AI into every aspect of the business. The steady draw of income from its Azure product and Office 365 — more than 135 million users — as well as its digital transformation agenda, have proven successful so far. So what’s in store for 2019?

This Microsoft Ignite 2018 guide gives you a look at the company’s tactics over the past year along with news from the show to help IT pros and administrators prepare for what’s coming next on the Microsoft roadmap. 

1Latest news on Microsoft

Recent news on Microsoft’s product and service developments

Stay current on Microsoft’s new products and updated offerings before and during the Microsoft Ignite 2018 show.

2A closer look

Analyzing Microsoft’s moves in 2018

Take a deeper dive into Microsoft’s developments with machine learning, DevOps and the cloud with these articles.


Definitions related to Microsoft products and technologies

Data migration software coming for SAP CRM

ORLANDO — The goal of every major CRM vendor is to gain more of the market share and potentially capture customers from competitors. But doing that can prove difficult for a number of reasons, including organizations relying on legacy systems, challenges with data migration and the cost associated with migration.

Along with unveiling C/4HANA, SAP’s new suite of applications that it says will provide that full 360-degree view of the customer, the company also told SearchCRM.com you can expect data migration software to help automate that migration process from SAP later this year.

In this Q&A from Sapphire Now, Giles House, EVP and chief product officer for SAP Customer Experience talks about the future of CRM within the SAP sphere, as well as what customers of CallidusCloud can expect from the product. SAP bought CallidusCloud earlier this year, putting the finishing touches on its C/4HANA suite. House was chief product officer and chief marketing officer for CallidusCloud before its acquisition by SAP.

Beyond tying together the front- and back-office processes of C/4HANA, SAP hopes that adding data migration software to the suite later this year will help persuade unhappy CRM customers to migrate.

After the CallidusCloud sale, can customers expect anything different with CallidusCloud? What should they look for? Has there been any concern from non-SAP customers?

Giles House: An obvious one is tighter integration with SAP — Callidus was a great partner with SAP for many years and, more recently, the last couple years, SAP rolled it out internally. The biggest thing for those customers is, through us, a lot more investment in technology and innovation.

We’ll still be open and talk with other CRMs, and the answer is absolutely. In the modern world, have to recognize there are sales departments making their people suffer in other systems. We have to make sure they get the best incentives and CPQ [configure price quote] platform on the market.

How do you convince potential customers that you’re not lagging behind in CRM?

House: The intent, the acquisitions and the fact we’ve got these integrations in already two months after the sale closed starts to show progress and give people confidence. As we get through the rest of this year, you’ll see a completely different conversation happening around SAP CRM and the product itself.

Giles House, EVP and chief product officer for SAP Customer Experience
Giles House, SAP

The reason why is simple: there’s $1 billion-plus of churn in the CRM market and about $2 billion of resentment. Many companies want to get off their current, expensive CRM platform because it doesn’t give them that 360-degree view, and every year the sales person comes knocking for a 10% increase in licensing fee.

There’s been a desire to switch, but there hasn’t been something good to switch to because the other propositions are that same patchwork quilt — integrate it yourself, good luck on the analytics. Different for SAP is it will all be integrated and all will be running on the SAP Analytics Cloud and all running on the best cloud platform out there. Not a cloud platform that pays $1 billion to a legacy database vendor like Oracle.

There are software customers that would like to migrate, but data migration software is expensive and the process is challenging. How are you hoping to get them to actually commit to that migration?

[Data migration] can all be automated and that’s another thing we’re bringing out later this year is the automation of that migration.
Giles HouseSAP

House: I think number one is we have to lower that cost. There was a customer where they were quoted it would be eight figures to move. Under the covers, it’s not that hard because what CRM is doing today for a lot of people is not that hard. CRM is a notepad on a database. ‘Here’s what’s going on in the deal, here’s an account of the customer.’ It’s not that hard if you think about it, but we need to help migrate that and automate that migration.

Do the data mapping, make it simple, create the new fields in the new systems and help update the workflows. That can all be automated and that’s another thing we’re bringing out later this year is the automation of that migration.

So automating that process from previous CRM systems to C/4HANA with data migration software will be part of the suite?

House: It has to be. We need to automate it — whether that’s using some of the automation technology that we already have at SAP or whether it’s a whole new [data migration software] solution, we need to get the details of that ironed out, but it’s doable and it will be done.

Third-party E911 services expand call management tools

Organizations are turning to third-party E911 services to gain management capabilities they can’t get natively from their IP telephony provider, according to a report from Nemertes Research.

IP telephony providers may offer basic 911 management capabilities, such as tracking phone locations, but organizations may have needs that go beyond phone tracking. The report, sponsored by telecom provider West Corporation, lists the main reasons why organizations would use third-party E911 services.

Some organizations may deploy third-party E911 management for call routing to ensure an individual 911 call is routed to the correct public safety answering point (PSAP). Routing to the correct PSAP is difficult for organizations with remote and mobile workers. But third-party E911 services can offer real-time location tracking of all endpoints and use that information to route to the proper PSAP, according to the report.

Many larger organizations have multivendor environments that may include multiple IP telephony vendors. Third-party E911 services offer a single method of managing location information across endpoints, regardless of the underlying telephony platform.

The report also found third-party E911 management can reduce costs for organizations by automating the initial setup and maintenance of 911 databases in the organization. Third-party E911 services may also support centralized call routing, which could eliminate the need for local PSTN connections at remote sites and reduce the operating and hardware expenses at those sites.

Genesys unveils Amazon integration

Contact center vendor Genesys, based in Daly City, Calif., revealed an Amazon Web Services partnership that integrates AI and Genesys’ PureCloud customer engagement platform.

Genesys has integrated PureCloud with Amazon Lex, a service that lets developers build natural language, conversational bots, or chatbots. The integration allows businesses to build and maintain conversational interactive voice response (IVR) flows that route calls more efficiently.

Amazon Lex helps IVR flows better understand natural language by enabling IVR flows to recognize what callers are saying and their intent, which makes it more likely for the call to be directed to the appropriate resource the first time without error.

The chatbot integration also allows organizations to consolidate multiple interactions into a single flow that can be applied over different self-service channels. This reduces the number of call flows that organizations need to maintain and can simplify contact center administration.

The chatbot integration will be available to Genesys customers in 2018.

Conference calls face user, security challenges

A survey of 1,000 professionals found that businesses in the U.S. and U.K. are losing $34 billion due to delays and distractions during conference calls, a significant increase from $16 billion in a 2015 survey.

The survey found employees waste an average of 15 minutes per conference call getting it started and dealing with distractions. More than half of respondents said distractions have a moderate-to-major negative effect on productivity, enthusiasm to participate and the ability to concentrate.

The survey was conducted by remote meetings provider LoopUp and surveyed 1,000 professionals in the U.S. and U.K. who regularly participate in conference calls at organizations ranging from 50 to more than 1,000 employees.

The survey also found certain security challenges with conference calls. Nearly 70% of professionals said it’s normal to discuss confidential information over a call, while more than half of respondents said it’s normal to not know who is on a call.

Users are also not fully comfortable with video conferencing, according to the survey. Half of respondents said video conferencing is useful for day-to-day calls, but 61% still prefer to use the phone to dial in to conference calls.

Windows Server version 1709 hits turbulence upon release

Enterprises that use DevOps methodologies for advanced cloud-based applications will likely gain a new appreciation…


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for Microsoft and Windows Server. That’s because the release of Windows Server version 1709, which came out in October, improves container support and has added functions that fortify its software-defined networking capabilities.

Every six months, Microsoft plans to introduce a new edition of Windows Server for the needs of these businesses that want the newest features and updates. Admins need to know what’s in Windows Server version 1709 and how it differs from the original Windows Server 2016 release that was introduced in October 2016. Here is a roundup of those changes and several others that are worthy of further scrutiny.

Microsoft makes containers the focus

Microsoft changed the mission of Nano Server in Windows Server version 1709. No longer considered a lighter version of Server Core to host various infrastructure workloads, Nano Server is now only available as a base image for containers. This role change allowed Microsoft to shrink Nano Server to about 80 MB, a drop from about 400 MB. This reduction means Nano Server no longer includes Windows PowerShell, .NET Core and Windows Management Instrumentation by default. Microsoft also removed the servicing stack from Nano Server, so admins have to redeploy the image for every update or patch. And all troubleshooting? That’s done in Docker, too.

There are other container improvements in Windows Server version 1709:

  • The Server Core container image is much smaller. According to Microsoft, it is just under 3 GB when it had been nearly 6 GB in the Windows Server 2016 release-to-manufacturing (RTM) version.
  • Windows Server version 1709 supports Linux containers on Hyper-V. These containers act like Docker containers but have kernel isolation provided by Hyper-V to so that they are completely independent. By comparison, traditional containers share a kernel but virtualize the rest of the OS.

For admins with significant investments in containers, these are great changes. For a business without a need for application virtualization, Microsoft says the updated Server Core in the Semi-Annual Channel release is where admins in those enterprises should put their infrastructure workloads.

Say aloha to Project Honolulu

Around the time Microsoft released Windows Server version 1709, the company also provided a technical preview of Project Honolulu — a free, GUI-based remote server management tool. Project Honolulu makes it easier to manage Server Core for admins who aren’t fluent in PowerShell.

Project Honolulu is a responsive web interface that enables admins to manage multiple remote servers, both on premises and in the cloud. It runs on a client machine or on a Windows Server instance and has similar functionality to local Microsoft Management Console-based GUI tools and Server Manager. Admins can use Project Honolulu to manage machines that run Windows Server 2012, including Server Core and the free Hyper-V Server.

Project Honolulu wraps up a number of administrative tools into a unified interface. It makes Server Core management less onerous and improves things to the point where I can recommend Server Core as the preferred installation option for any infrastructure servers you plan to deploy.

Microsoft improves SDN features

Windows Server version 1709 also added enhancements to its networking features, such as these two that were designed specifically for software-defined networking (SDN).

  • This Semi-Annual Channel release extends support for shielded VMs to Linux workloads. Microsoft introduced shielded VMs in Windows Server 2016 RTM. The feature enables these VMs to only run on authentic, verified hypervisor hosts. They remain encrypted and unbootable if an admin tries to access them from another host.
  • Microsoft added Virtual Network Encryption, which enables admins to mark subnets that connect different VMs as “Encryption Enabled” to require nonclear text transmissions over those links.

There were also several improvements in IPv6 support as that technology moves closer to widespread use in production. Those changes include support for domain name system configuration using router advertisements, flow labels for more efficient load balancing and the deprecation of Intra-Site Automatic Tunnel Addressing Protocol and 6to4 support.

Storage Spaces Direct drops from version 1709

In a curious move, Microsoft pulled support for Storage Spaces Direct (S2D) clusters, one of the better aspects of the original Windows Server 2016 release, in Windows Server version 1709.

S2D creates clusters of file servers with directly attached storage. This provides an easier and more cost-effective storage option for companies that would normally take a cluster of servers and attach them to a storage area network or a just a bunch of disks enclosure. S2D displays all of the directly attached disks as one big storage space, which the admin divvies into volumes.

Admins cannot create new S2D clusters on version 1709, and a machine cannot participate in any existing S2D cluster. If you use S2D clusters — or plan to — version 1709 is not for you. Microsoft says S2D is alive and well as a technology, but the company just couldn’t get it right in time for the 1709 release.

Growing pains for Windows Server

As Microsoft will offer a new version of Windows Server every six months, the removal of S2D should make admins wonder if the company will continue to play feature roulette in the Semi-Annual Channel. If an organization adopts a new feature, what happens if it’s pulled in the next release? More conservative businesses might want to wait for Windows Server version 1803 to make sure further features don’t fall by the wayside.

This raises another question: If Microsoft can’t hit the six-month targets, then why promise them at all? It’s too early to make a final judgment, but businesses that aren’t all-in on containers might want to wait until version 1803 to make sure other features aren’t removed before they commit to the Semi-Annual Channel.

Next Steps

Server Core can help and hinder IT

Pets vs. cattle and the future of management

Windows Server 2016 innovations challenge admins

Box Skills, machine learning technology pique IT interest

SAN FRANCISCO — Box shops will be able to help users gain more intelligent insight into their content with new machine learning technology in the content management tool.

Box Skills, introduced here at the company’s annual BoxWorks conference, makes it easier to search for visual and audio content and view information about it. Box Feed uses machine learning to curate content for specific users. Plus, new features in Box Relay aim to improve employee workflows. These capabilities caught the interest of attendees at the show.

“It was kind of nice to see Box incorporating [AI] to start relaying things to certain people at the right time in the right place,” said Ryan Foltz, business systems engineer at Barnhardt Manufacturing Company in Charlotte, N.C.

How Box Skills works

Box Skills is a framework that serves as a layer of abstraction between the content organizations upload to Box and the machine learning. It focuses on three areas: Image Intelligence, Audio Intelligence and Video Intelligence.

With the Image Intelligence component, based on Google Cloud Platform technology, Box automatically tags aspects of an image such as the subject, colors and logos, as well as uploads any text from it. Users can click the tags to access other images with similar contents.

The whole workflow looks really nice.
Will Sheppardtechnical support specialist, The Enthusiast Network

Video Intelligence uses Microsoft Cognitive Services to provide facial recognition to identify people in a video. It also can show users where repeated phrases come up, and extracts a transcript of the video that users can apply as closed captioning. Audio Intelligence functions similarly, without the visual aspect, and is based on IBM Watson technology.

Using the new Box Skills Kit for developers, organizations can also customize what information within a file the machine learning technology tracks. The tool can track tone of voice in a phone conversation, for example, or pull out specific words a company is interested in and show within the Box content when those words were said. Developers can also customize information in documents such as invoices or contracts, and have Box extract information such as dates, signatures, payment amounts and vendor names. That not only extracts the data, but allows users to fill that information in automatically moving forward.

Image Intelligence is currently in beta, and Video Intelligence and Audio Intelligence will come to beta in 2018, Box said.

Box Feed puts relevant information in front of users

Box Feed, powered by Box Graph machine learning technology, was also previewed at the conference and will be available next year. This feature can help users find the content most relevant to them. It shows users active content — files they have been working on or are mentioned in — as well as other relevant content, which appears in a feed based on who is working on the file and what the content is. If a user generally collaborates with another user who is working on a document, for example, it will likely show up in the relevant section. It also shows trending files, or ones that many users throughout the organization are accessing. 

As interesting as these new features are, some companies might need some time to apply them. Barnhardt Manufacturing Company, for instance, is an old organization, but its leaders are getting more and more interested in business data intelligence, said Pete Chantry, application systems manager at the company.

 “We’ve got to allow a little bit of time for them to get accustomed to the basic [enterprise content management] features of Box,” Chantry said.

Updates to Box Relay

Box Relay for workflow automation, announced last year and generally available next month, will get some enhancements as well.

First, the add-on will allow workflows to launch automatically, so if a user uploads a resume of a prospective employee for example, the workflow associated with that kind of document will start automatically. Box also plans to release APIs so IT can integrate Relay with existing third-party applications and automated processes. In addition, users will be able to e-sign documents directly in Box. Finally, a new dashboard will let users manage multiple workflows at the same time by showing every active workflow and what step it is on.   

“I like the way that all ties together,” said Will Sheppard, technical support specialist at The Enthusiast Network based in Los Angeles. “The whole workflow looks really nice.”

Other new features in Box Relay include the ability to invite other users to edit a document and assign them tasks with due dates within the document. There is also a new annotation tool that allows users to write a comment on a specific aspect of a document and tag other users to look at that exact area.

In addition, users no longer have to download previous versions of a document; they can preview them with a single click. Plus, when a user accesses a document, Box will highlight any changes that other users have made since the last time he was in it, and show which user made the edits. Finally, users can thread comments and mark them as resolved.   

Like Box Skills, Relay presents some enticing features for IT, but those at Barnhardt Manufacturing Company are unsure of how to apply Relay immediately.

“I don’t know how often we’d use it, but if we had it, it’d certainly be a nice feature for us,” Foltz said.