Tag Archives: Infrastructure

CISA warns Microsoft SMB v3 vulnerability is under attack

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued an alert Friday about a critical vulnerability in Microsoft’s Server Message Block, which the agency said is under attack.

The Microsoft SMB v3 vulnerability, CVE-2020-0796, was disclosed and patched in March. CISA’s alert said a functional proof-of-concept (PoC) code exploits the flaw in systems that haven’t been patched.

“Although Microsoft disclosed and provided updates for this vulnerability in March 2020, malicious cyber actors are targeting unpatched systems with the new PoC, according to recent open-source reports,” the CISA alert said.

It is unknown which PoC code is currently being used for exploitation, or who the threat actors are that are taking advantage of the SMB vulnerability. Microsoft did not respond to questions about the reported attacks on CVE-2020-0796, but a spokesperson offered the following comment:

“We recommend customers install updates as soon as possible as publicly disclosed vulnerabilities have the potential to be leveraged by bad actors. An update for this vulnerability was released in March, and customers who have installed the updates, or have automatic updates enabled, are already protected,” the spokesperson wrote to SearchSecurity in an email.

In addition to their above comment, the Microsoft spokesperson provided two workarounds that protect against attacks: disabling SMB compression and blocking port 445. Detailed guidance can be found here.

The vulnerability itself is a remote code execution vulnerability is present in the way Microsoft’s Server Message Block 3.1.1 (SMBv3) protocol handles certain requests. If the vulnerability is successfully exploited, a threat actor could execute code on the targeted system. Rated as critical severity, it has been given a Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) base score of 10 — the highest possible.

The SMB vulnerability was accidentally disclosed in March when Cisco Talos published a report on Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday, which included information about the flaw and “wormable” attacks that could exploit it. However, CVE-2020-0796 was not included in that month’s Patch Tuesday. Microsoft released patches for the vulnerability two days later.

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CISA identifies malware from North Korean hacking group

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), in conjunction with the FBI and Department of Defense, identified three new variants of malware used by a state-sponsored North Korean hacking group.

The three malware variants are known as Copperhedge, Pebbledash and Taintedscribe; Copperhedge is a remote access tool, and the latter two are Trojans. CISA attributed the malware to Hidden Cobra (AKA Lazarus Group), which is credited with much of the nation’s malicious state-sponsored activity, including Copperhedge, Pebbledash and Taintedscribe.

The CISA alert did not specify how the malware variants were being used by nation-state hackers, or what entities were being targeting, but the agency did say the malware was being used in current threat activity.

“[The] FBI has high confidence that Hidden Cobra actors are using malware variants in conjunction with proxy servers to maintain a presence on victim networks and to further network exploitation,” the CISA malware analysis report said.

U.S. Cyber Command put the malware samples of all three variants on VirusTotal, a website and tool for file and URL analysis, so that other organizations and enterprises can analyze and block them. The CISA alert urged users and administrators to review the samples in VirusTotal, as well as CISA’s malware analysis reports, to better defend themselves against the threats.

North Korea has a history of malicious cyber activity, which includes notable exploits such as the 2014 Sony Pictures hack and the 2013 Dark Seoul attacks. Much of its reported malware has consisted of Trojans, but other types of malware are represented as well, such as proxy malware, worms, the WannaCry ransomware and more.

A CISA representative declined to comment further on the alert.

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Las Vegas shores up SecOps with multi-factor authentication

The city of Las Vegas used AI-driven infrastructure security tools to stop an attacker in January before sensitive IT systems were accessed, but the city’s leadership bets future attempts won’t even get that far.

“Between CrowdStrike [endpoint security] and Darktrace [threat detection], both tools did exactly what they were supposed to do,” said Michael Sherwood, chief innovation officer for Las Vegas. “We had [a user] account compromised, and that allowed someone to gain short-term access to our systems.”

The city’s IT staff thwarted that attacker almost immediately in the early morning of Jan. 7. IT pros took measures to keep the attacker from accessing any of the city’s data once security monitoring tools alerted them to the intrusion.

The city has also used Okta access management tools for the last two years to consolidate user identity and authentication for its internal employees and automate access to applications through a self-service portal. Next, it will reinforce that process with multi-factor authentication using the same set of tools, in the hopes further cyberattacks will be stopped well outside its IT infrastructure.

Multi-factor security will couple a physical device — such as an employee badge or a USB key issued by the city — with usernames and passwords. This will reduce the likelihood that such an account compromise will happen again, Sherwood said. Having access management and user-level SecOps centralized within Okta has been key for the city to expand its security measures quickly based on what it learned from this breach. By mid-February, its IT team was able to test different types of multi-factor authentication systems and planned to roll one out within 60 days of the security incident.

Michael SherwoodMichael Sherwood

“With dual-factor authentication, you can’t just have a user ID and password — something you know,” Sherwood said. “A bad actor might know a user ID and password, but now they have to [physically] have something as well.”

SecOps automation a shrewd gamble for Las Vegas

Las Vegas initially rolled out Okta in 2018 to improve the efficiency of its IT help desk. Sherwood estimated the access management system cut down on help desk calls relating to forgotten passwords and password resets by 25%. The help desk also no longer had to manually install new applications for users because of an internal web portal connected to Okta that automatically manages authorization and permissions for self-service downloads. That freed up help desk employees for more strategic SecOps work, which now includes the multi-factor authentication rollout.

Another SecOps update slated for this year will add city employees’ mobile devices to the Okta identity management system, and an Okta single sign-on service for Las Vegas citizens that use the city’s web portal.

Residents will get one login for all services under this plan, Sherwood said. “If they get a parking citation and they’re used to paying their sewer bill, it’s the same login, and they can pay them both through a shopping cart.”

With dual-factor authentication, you can’t just have a user ID and password — something you know. A bad actor might know a user ID and password, but now they have to [physically] have something as well.
Michael SherwoodChief innovation officer, city of Las Vegas

Okta replaced a hodgepodge of different access management systems the city used previously, usually built into individual IT systems. When Las Vegas evaluated centralized access management tools two years ago, Okta was the only vendor in the group that was completely cloud-hosted, Sherwood said. This was a selling point for the city, since it minimized the operational overhead to set up and run the system.

Okta’s service competes with the likes of Microsoft Active Directory, OneLogin and Auth0. Las Vegas also uses Active Directory for access management in its back-end IT infrastructure, while Okta serves the customer and employee side of the organization.

“There is still separation between certain things, even though one product may well be capable of [handling] both,” he said.

Ultimately, the city would like to institute a centralized online payment system for citizens to go along with website single sign-on, and Sherwood said he’d like to see Okta offer that feature and electronic signatures as well.

“They’d have lot of opportunity there,” he said. “We can do payments and electronic signatures with different providers, but it would be great having that more integrated into the authentication process.”

An Okta representative said the company doesn’t have plans to support payment credentials at this time but that the company welcomes customer feedback.

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For VMware, DSC provides ESXi host and resource management

PowerShell Desired State Configuration has been a favorite among Windows infrastructure engineers for years, and the advent of the VMware DSC module means users who already use DSC to manage Windows servers can use it to manage VMware, too. As VMware has continued to develop the module, it has increased the numbers of vSphere components the tool can manage, including VMware Update Manager.

DSC has been the configuration management tool of choice for Windows since it was released. No other tool offers such a wide array of capabilities to manage a Windows OS in code instead of through a GUI.

VMware also uses PowerShell technology to manage vSphere. The vendor officially states that PowerCLI, its PowerShell module, is the best automation tool it offers. So, it only makes sense that VMware would eventually incorporate DSC so that its existing PowerShell customers can manage their assets in code.

Why use DSC?

Managing a machine through configuration as code is not new, especially in the world of DevOps. You can write a server’s desired state in code, which ensures you can quickly resolve any drift in configuration by applying that configuration frequently.

In vSphere, ESXi hosts, in particular, are the prime candidates for this type of management. An ESXi host’s configurations do not change often, and when they do happen to change, admins must personally make that change. This means any change in the DSC configuration will apply to the hosts.

You can use this tool to manage a number of vSphere components, such as VMware Update Manger and vSphere Standard Switch.

How the LCM works

In DSC, the LCM makes up the brains of a node.

In DSC, Local Configuration Manager (LCM) makes up the brains of a node. It takes in the configuration file and then parses and applies the change locally.

ESXi and vCenter do not have LCM, so in the context of vSphere, you must use an LCM proxy, which runs as a Windows machine with PowerShell v5.1 and PowerCLI 10.1.1.

Installing the module

Installing the module is simple, as the DSC module is part of PowerShell Gallery. It only takes a single cmdlet to install the module on your LCM proxy:

C:> Install-Module -Name VMware.vSphereDSC

Updating the module when Windows releases additional versions is also a simple task. You can use the Update-Module cmdlet in PowerCLI:

C:> Update-Module vmware.vspheredsc

Resources

DSC ties a resource to a particular area of a system it can manage. The DSC module vmware.vspheredsc, for example, can manage various aspects of vSphere, such as the following:

C:Usersdan> Get-DscResource -Module vmware.vspheredsc | Select NameName
----
Cluster
Datacenter
DatacenterFolder
DrsCluster
Folder
HACluster
PowerCLISettings
vCenterSettings
vCenterStatistics
VMHostAccount
VMHostDnsSettings
VMHostNtpSettings
VMHostSatpClaimRule
VMHostService
VMHostSettings
VMHostSyslog
VMHostTpsSettings
VMHostVss
VMHostVssBridge
VMHostVssSecurity
VMHostVssShaping
VMHostVssTeaming

Many such resources are associated with ESXi hosts. You can manage settings such as accounts, Network Time Protocol and service through DSC. For clusters, manage settings such as HAEnabled, Distributed Resource Scheduler and DRS distribution. You can view the resources DSC can manage with the Get-DSCResource cmdlet:

C:> Get-DscResource -Name Cluster -Module vmware.vspheredsc -Syntax
Cluster [String] #ResourceName
{
[DependsOn = [String[]]]
[PsDscRunAsCredential = [PSCredential]]
Server = [String]
Credential = [PSCredential]
Name = [String]
Location = [String] DatacenterName = [String]
DatacenterLocation = [String]
Ensure = [String]
[HAEnabled = [Boolean]]
[HAAdmissionControlEnabled = [Boolean]]
[HAFailoverLevel = [Int32]]
[HAIsolationResponse = [String]]
[HARestartPriority = [String]]
[DrsEnabled = [Boolean]]
[DrsAutomationLevel = [String]]
[DrsMigrationThreshold = [Int32]]
[DrsDistribution = [Int32]]
[MemoryLoadBalancing = [Int32]]
[CPUOverCommitment = [Int32]]
}

With the capabilities of DSC now available to VMware admins, as well as Windows admins, they can control a variety of server variables through code and make vSphere and vCenter automation easy and accessible. They can apply broad changes across an entire infrastructure of hosts and ensure consistent configuration.

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Pure Storage cloud sales surge, but earnings miss the target

Add Pure Storage to the list of infrastructure vendors that sense a softening global demand. The all-flash pioneer put the best face on last quarter’s financial numbers, focusing on solid margins and revenue, while downplaying its second earnings miss in the last three quarters.

Demand for Pure Storage cloud services boosted revenue to $428.4 million for the quarter that ended Oct. 31. That’s up 15% year over year, but lower than the $440 million expectation on Wall Street.

Pure Storage launched as a startup in 2009 and has grown steadily to a publicly traded company with $1.5 billion in revenue. On Pure’s earnings call last week, CEO Charles Giancarlo blamed the revenue miss on declining flash prices. Giancarlo said U.S. trade tensions with China and uncertainty surrounding Brexit create economic headwinds for infrastructure vendors — concerns also voiced recently by rivals Dell EMC and NetApp.

Pure: Looking for bright spot in cloud

Like most major storage vendors, Pure is rebranding to tap into the burgeoning demand for hybrid cloud. Recent additions to the Pure Storage cloud portfolio include Cloud Block Store, which allows users to run Pure’s FlashArray systems in Amazon Web Services, and consumption-based Pure as a Service (ES2), formerly Pure Evergreen.

Pure said deferred licensing revenue of $643 million rose 39%, fueled by record growth of ES2 sales. The Pure Storage cloud strategy resonates with customers that want storage with cloudlike agility, company executives said.

“Data storage still remains the least cloudlike layer of technology in the data center. Delivering data storage in an enterprise is still an extraordinarily manual process with storage arrays highly customized and dedicated to particular workloads,” Giancarlo said.

Pure claims it added nearly 400 customers last quarter, bringing its total to more than 7,000. That includes cloud IT services provider ServiceNow, which implements Pure Storage all-flash storage to underpin its production cloud.

“Companies are realizing IT services are not their main line of business — that a cloud-hosted services model is generally better. We’re right in the middle of that. We build enterprise data services and do all the work to manage the cloud” for corporate customers, Keith Martin, ServiceNow’s director of cloud capacity engineering, told SearchStorage in an interview this year.

Pure will use its increased product margin — which jumped 4.5 points last quarter to 73% — to ensure it “won’t lose on price” in competitive deals, outgoing president David Hatfield said.

A strong pipeline of Pure Storage cloud and on-premises deals gives it the ability to bundle multiple products and sell more terabytes. “It’s just taking a little bit longer from a deal-push perspective, but our win rates are holding nicely,” Hatfield said.

Hatfield said he is stepping away from president duties to deal with a family health issue, but he will remain Pure’s vice chairman and special advisor to Giancarlo. Former Riverbed Technology CEO Paul Mountford was introduced as Pure’s new COO. Kevan Krysler, most recently VMware’s senior vice president of finance and chief accounting officer, will take over in December as Pure’s CFO. He will replace Tim Ritters, who announced his departure in August.

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Dell EMC upgrades VxRail appliances for AI, SAP HANA

Dell EMC today added predictive analytics and network management to its VxRail hyper-converged infrastructure family while expanding NVMe support for SAP HANA and AI workloads.

Dell EMC VxRail appliances combine Dell PowerEdge servers and Dell-owned VMware’s vSAN hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) software. The launch of Dell’s flagship HCI platform includes two new all-NVMe appliance configurations, plus VxRail Analytic Consulting Engine (ACE) and support for SmartFabric Services (SFS) across multi-rack configurations.

The new Dell EMC VxRail appliance models are the P580N and the E560N. The P580N is a four-socket system designed for SAP HANA in-memory database workloads. It is the first appliance in the VxRail P Series performance line to support NVMe. The 1u E560N is aimed at high performance computing and compute-heavy workloads such as AI and machine learning, along with virtual desktop infrastructure.

The new 1U E Series systems support Nvidia T4 GPUs for extra processing power. The E Series also supports 8 TB solid-state drives, doubling the total capacity of previous models. The VxRail storage-heavy S570 nodes also now support the 8 TB SSDs.

ACE is generally available following a six-month early access program. ACE, developed on Dell’s Pivotal Cloud Foundry platform, performs monitoring and performance analytics across VxRail clusters. ACE provides alerts for possible system problems, capacity analysis and can help orchestrate upgrades.

The addition of ACE to VxRail comes a week after Dell EMC rival Hewlett Packard Enterprise made its InfoSight predictive analytics available on its SimpliVity HCI platform.

Wikibon senior analyst Stuart Miniman said the analytics, SFS and new VxRail appliances make it easier to manage HCI while expanding its use cases.

“Hyperconverged infrastructure is supposed to be simple,” he said. “When you add in AI and automated operations, that will make it simpler. We’ve been talking about intelligence and automation of storage our whole careers, but there has been a Cambrian explosion in that over the last year. Now they’re building analytics and automation into this platform.”

Bringing network management into HCI

Part of that simplicity includes making it easier to manage networking in HCI. Expanded capabilities for SFS on VxRail include the ability for HCI admins to manage networking switches across VxRail clusters without requiring dedicated networking expertise. SFS now applies across multi-rack VxRail clusters, automating switch configuration for up to six racks in one site. SFS supports from six switches in a two-rack configuration to 14 switches in a six-rack deployment.

Support for Mellanox 100 Gigabit Ethernet PCIe cards help accelerate streaming media and live broadcast functions.

“We believe that automation across the data center is key to fostering operational freedom,” Gil Shneorson, Dell EMC vice president and general manager for VxRail, wrote in a blog with details of today’s upgrades. “As customers expand VxRail clusters across multiple racks, their networking needs expand as well.”

Dell EMC VxRail vs. Nutanix: All about the hypervisor?

IDC lists Dell as the leader in the hyperconverged appliance market, which IDC said hit $1.8 billion in the second quarter of 2019. Dell had 29.2% of the market, well ahead of second-place Nutanix with 14.2%. Cisco was a distant third with 6.2.%

According to Miniman, the difference between Dell EMC and Nutanix often comes down to the hypervisor deployed by the user. VxRail closely supports market leader VMware, but VxRail appliances do not support other hypervisors. Nutanix supports VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V and the Nutanix AHV hypervisors. The Nutanix software stack competes with vSAN.

“Dell and Nutanix are close on feature parity,” Miniman said. “If you’re using VMware, then VxRail is the leading choice because it’s 100% VMware. VxRail is in lockstep with VMware, while Nutanix is obviously not in lockstep with VMware.”

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AWS gets behind Rust programming language

AWS has gotten behind the Rust programming language in a big way, to the point where the cloud infrastructure giant has become a sponsor of the language.

Since its first stable release four years ago, Rust has emerged as a viable alternative to C++. Known for enabling developers to build high-performing, reliable applications, as well as for boosting programmer productivity, Rust has been adopted as a system programming language by companies including Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, Yelp, Dropbox, Cloudflare and AWS.

“Rust is the first real alternative to C++ that we’ve seen in a long time,” said Cameron Purdy, CEO of Xqiz.it, a Lexington, Mass., startup developing its own programming language, known as Ecstasy. “Rust is built for systems-level work, and appears to be far better thought out than C++ was.”

Indeed, “Rust is making significant inroads as a language for systems programming,” said James Governor, an analyst at RedMonk.

The use of Rust at AWS has grown, as services such as Lambda, EC2 and S3 use Rust in performance-sensitive components. Also, AWS’s Firecracker virtualization technology is written using Rust.

The AWS sponsorship of Rust includes supporting the Rust project infrastructure. AWS provides promotional credits to the Rust project to be used to perform upstream and performance testing, CI/CD or storage of artifacts on AWS, the company said in a blog post. AWS also is offering similar promotional credits to other open source projects, including AdoptOpenJDK, Maven Central and the Julia programming language.

Jeffrey HammondJeffrey Hammond

“I think AWS is looking for opportunities to blunt the criticism — undeserved or not — that while it is a consumer and benefactor from its OSS consumption, it’s not a producer or community supporter of it,” said Jeffrey Hammond, an analyst at Forrester Research. “Projects like Coretto, Firecracker and sponsorship projects like this all go to counter that narrative.”

According to AWS, the Rust project uses AWS services to:

  • Store release artifacts such as compilers, libraries, tools and source code on S3.
  • Run ecosystem-wide regression tests with Crater on EC2.
  • Operate docs.rs, a website that hosts documentation for all packages published to the central crates.io package registry.

“It’s interesting that AWS recently made this approach explicit, but AWS is not alone,” Governor said. “I talk a lot about folks being ‘Rust curious,’ but it appears we’re now moving beyond curiosity. Microsoft is another major player making a strong call for more Rust-based development. Rust is no longer something for developers to play with on their weekends. It’s becoming a language of infrastructure.”

I talk a lot about folks being ‘Rust curious,’ but it appears we’re now moving beyond curiosity.
James GovernorAnalyst, RedMonk

Rust has been ranked as the “most loved” programming language in the annual Stack Overflow developer survey for four years in a row. With no runtime or garbage collector, Rust delivers faster performance. Rust also provides memory and thread safety, which helps to eliminate bugs.

In July, Microsoft said it was looking at Rust as an alternative to C and C++ based on its safety and performance. In other words, Rust enables developers to create secure, high-performant applications, said Ryan Levick, a principal cloud developer advocate at Microsoft, in a blog post.

“We believe Rust changes the game when it comes to writing safe systems software,” Levick said. “Rust provides the performance and control needed to write low-level systems, while empowering software developers to write robust, secure programs.”

However, Microsoft found some issues with Rust that will need to be addressed, including the lack of first-class interoperability with C++, and interoperability with existing Microsoft tooling, Levick said.

Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research in San Francisco, said the race for cloud market leadership is based on attracting developers to build next-generation applications on the leading cloud platforms.

“From time to time there is a new programming language that catches the attention of developers, usually for productivity and/or capability reasons,” he said. “That’s the case with Rust, which is gaining quickly in popularity and, hence, large IaaS providers need to support Rust.”

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Know your Office 365 backup options — just in case

Exchange administrators who migrate their email to Office 365 reduce their infrastructure responsibilities, but they must not ignore areas related to disaster recovery, security, compliance and email availability.

Different businesses rely on different applications for their day-to-day operations. Healthcare companies use medical records to treat patients or a manufacturing plant needs its ERP system to track production. But generally speaking, most businesses, regardless of their vertical, rely on email to communicate with their co-workers and customers. If the messaging platform goes down for any amount of time, users and the business suffer. A move to Microsoft’s cloud-based collaboration platform introduces new administrative challenges, such as determining whether the organization needs an Office 365 backup product.

IT pros tasked with all things related to Exchange Server administration — managing multiple email services, including system uptime; mailbox recoverability; system performance; maintenance; user setups; and general reactive system issues — will have to adjust when they move to Office 365. Many of the responsibilities related to system performance, maintenance and uptime become the responsibility of Microsoft. Unfortunately, not all of these outsourced activities meet the expectations of Exchange administrators. Some of them will resort to alternative methods to ensure their systems have the right protections to avoid serious disasters.

A move to Microsoft’s cloud-based collaboration platform introduces new administrative challenges, such as determining whether the organization needs an Office 365 backup product.

To keep on-premises Exchange running with high uptime, Exchange admins rely on setting up the environment with adequate redundancies, such as virtualization with high availability, clustering and proper backup if a recovery is required. In a hosted Exchange model with Office 365, email administrators rely heavily on the hosting provider to manage those redundancies and ensure system uptime. However, despite the promised service-level agreements (SLAs) by Microsoft, there are still some gaps that Exchange administrators must plan for to get the same level of system availability and data protection they previously experienced with their legacy on-premises Exchange platform.

Hosted email in Exchange Online, which can be purchased as a stand-alone service or as part of Office 365, has certainly attracted many companies. Microsoft did not provide exact numbers in its most recent quarterly report, but it is estimated to be around 180 million Office 365 commercial seats. Despite the popularity of the platform, one would assume Microsoft would offer an Office 365 backup option at minimum for the email service. Microsoft does, but not in the way Exchange administrators know backup and disaster recovery.

Microsoft does not have backups for Exchange Online

Microsoft provides some level of recoverability with mailboxes stored in Exchange Online. If a user loses email, then the Exchange administrator can restore deleted email by restoring an entire mailbox with PowerShell or through the Outlook recycle bin.

The Undo-SoftDeletedMailbox PowerShell command recovers the deleted mailbox, but there are some limitations. The command is only useful when a significant number of folders have been deleted from a mailbox and the recovery attempt occurs within 30 days. After 30 days, the content is not recoverable.

Due to this limited backup functionality, many administrators look to third-party Office 365 backup vendors such as SkyKick, BitTitan, Datto and Veeam to expand their backup and recovery needs beyond the 30 days that Microsoft offers. At the moment, this is the only way for Exchange administrators to satisfy their organization’s back up and disaster recovery requirements.

Microsoft promises 99.9% uptime with email

No cloud provider is immune to outages and Microsoft is no different. Despite instances of service loss, Microsoft guarantees at least 99.9% uptime for Office 365. This SLA translates into no more than nine hours of downtime per year.

For most IT executives, this guarantee does not absolve them of the need to plan for possible downtime. Administrators should investigate the costs and the technical abilities of an email continuity service from vendors, including Mimecast, Barracuda or TitanHQ, to avoid trouble from unplanned outages.

Email retention policies can go a long way for sensitive content

The ability to define different type of data access and retention policies is just as important as backup and disaster recovery for organizations with compliance requirements.

Groups that need to prevent accidental email deletion will need to work with the Office 365 administrator to set up the appropriate on-hold policies or archiving configuration to protect that content. These are native features in Exchange Online that administrators must build their familiarity to ensure they understand how to meet the different legal requirements of the different groups in their organization.

Define backup retention policies to meet business needs

For most backup offerings for on-premises Exchange, storage is always a concern for administrators. Since it is generally the dictating factor behind the retention period of email backup, Exchange admins have to keep disk space in mind when they determine the best backup scheme for their organization. Hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly backup schedules are influenced by the amount of available storage.

Office 365 backup products for email from vendors such as SkyKick, Dropsuite, Acronis and Datto ease the concerns related to storage space. This gives the administrator a way to develop the best protection scheme for their company without the added worry of wondering when to purchase additional storage hardware to accommodate these backups.

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VMware vSAN HCI: Complete stack or ‘vaporware’?

Days after VMware’s CEO proclaimed his vSAN product the winner in the hyper-converged infrastructure space, the CEO of VMWare rival Nutanix countered that VMware “sells a lot of vaporware.”

“We’re crushing Nu … I mean we’re winning in the marketplace,” VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger said during his opening VMworld keynote last week. “We’re separating from No. 2. We’re winning in the space.”

Two days later on Nutanix’s earnings call, CEO Dheeraj Pandey took a shot at VMware without mentioning the company by name. “We don’t sell vaporware,” he said, when referring to why Nutanix wins in competitive deals.

In an exclusive interview after the call, Pandey admitted the vaporware charge was aimed mostly at VMware’s vSAN HCI software.

Pat Gelsinger, VMware CEOPat Gelsinger

“VMware sells a lot of vaporware,” Pandey said. “A lot of that vaporware becomes evident to customers who buy that stuff. When bundled products don’t deliver on their promise, they call us. What we sell is not shelfware.”

Whatever VMware is selling with its vSAN HCI software, it is working. VMware reported license bookings of its vSAN HCI software grew 45% year-over-year last quarter, while Nutanix revenue and bookings slipped from last year. VMware’s parent Dell also claimed a 77% increase in orders of its Dell EMC VxRail HCI appliances that run vSAN software. Those numbers suggest Dell increased market share against Nutanix, even if Nutanix did better than expected last quarter following a disappointing period. IDC listed VMware as the HCI software market leader and Dell as the hardware HCI leader in the first quarter of 2019, with Nutanix second in both categories. Gartner lists Nutanix as the HCI software leader, but No. 2 VMware made up ground in Gartner’s first-quarter numbers.

Nutanix’s Pandey attributed at least some of VMware’s HCI success to bundling its vSAN software with its overall virtualization stack. Like VMware, Nutanix has its own hypervisor (AHV) and its share of hardware partners — including Dell — but VMware has a huge vSphere installed base to sell vSAN into.

Dheeraj Pandey, Nutanix CEODheeraj Pandey

Pandey said he was unimpressed by VMware’s Kubernetes and open source plans laid out at VMworld, which included Tanzu and Project Pacific. Both are still roadmap items but reflect a commitment from VMware to containers and open source software.

“That’s worse than vaporware, that’s slideware,” Pandey said of VMware’s announcements. “Everything works in slides. We’re based on Linux; we get a lot of leverage out of open source. AHV was based on Linux, and we’ve made it enterprise grade.”

Making vSAN part of its vSphere virtualization platform has paid off for VMware. Customers at VMworld pointed to their familiarity with VMware and vSAN’s integration with vSphere, and its NSX software-defined networking as reasons for going with vSAN HCI.

 “What really end up selling it for us was, we were already using VMware for our base product and the vast majority of the deliverables that our customers request is in vSphere,” said Lester Shisler, senior IT systems engineer at Harmony Healthcare IT, based in South Bend, Ind. “So whatever pain points we learned along the way with vSAN, we were going to have to learn [with a competing HCI product] as well, along with new software and new management and everything else.”

Matthew Douglas, chief enterprise architect at Sentara Healthcare in Norfolk, Va., said Nutanix was among the HCI options he looked at before picking vSAN.

“VMware was ultimately the choice,” he said. “All the others were missing some components. VMWare was a consistent platform for hyper-converged infrastructure. Plus, there was NSX and all these things that fit together in a nice, uniform fashion. And as an enterprise, I couldn’t make a choice of all these independent different tools. Having one consistent tool was the differentiator.”

Despite losing share, Nutanix’s last-quarter results were mixed. Its revenue of $300 million and billings of $372 million were both down from last year but better than expected following the disappointing previous quarter. Nutanix’s software and support revenue of $287 million increased 7%, a good sign for the HCI pioneer’s move to a software-centric business model. Nutanix also reported a 16% growth in deals over $1 million from the previous quarter.

However, operating expenses also increased. Sales and marketing spend jumped to $254 million from $183 million the previous year. Nutanix, which has never recorded a profit, lost $194 million in the quarter — more than double its losses from a year ago. It finished the quarter with $909 million in cash, down from $943 million last year.

Pandey said he is more concerned about growth and customer acquisition than profitability.

“Profitability is a nuanced word,” Pandey said. “We defer so much in our balance sheet. Right now we care about doing right by the customer when we sell them subscriptions.”

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IDC: SD-WAN market spend to top $5B in 2023

The global software-defined WAN infrastructure market will grow an average of nearly 31% annually through 2023 as vendors feed enterprise hunger for technology that connects employees to applications running on multiple cloud service providers.

That’s one of the findings of IDC’s latest SD-WAN forecast. The research firm said the market would reach $5.25 billion in 2023 from $1.4 billion in 2018, the beginning of the forecast period.

Enterprises have found SD-WAN a necessary technology for connecting branch locations and remote offices with SaaS applications and software running on public clouds, such as AWS and Microsoft Azure. Traditional WAN technology lacks most of the features needed for connecting to cloud and SaaS applications, such as simplified management, cost-effective bandwidth utilization and WAN flexibility, efficiency and security, IDC said.

The demand for SD-WAN will fuel a continuation of market consolidation through acquisition as companies with stronger business models buy weaker vendors for their intellectual property, customer base or presence in specific geographical regions, IDC said.

SD-WAN market consolidation

The SD-WAN market today has more than three dozen vendors, which is more than the market can support, analysts have said. The most significant acquisitions to date include VMware purchasing VeloCloud in 2017 and Cisco Systems acquiring Viptela and Oracle picking up Talari Networks in 2018.

Other trends spotted by IDC include SD-WAN evolving from a standalone product to a key feature within a broader SD-branch platform that encompasses additional network and security services.

“Vendors will compete intensely on this front during the next few years,” the IDC report said.

Businesses with lots of branch and remote offices are deploying SD-branch technology to simplify network operations through consolidation of WAN connectivity, network security, LAN and Wi-Fi in a unified platform, according to Lee Doyle, principal analyst for Doyle Research. Network and security vendors offering SD-branch options include Cisco Meraki, Cradlepoint, Fortinet, Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Aruba Networks, Riverbed and Versa Networks.

Market share leaders

IDC defines SD-WAN infrastructure as comprising edge routing software or hardware and traditional routers and WAN optimization technology if they are an in-use and integrated component of an SD-WAN product.

Other infrastructure components include SD-WAN controllers for centralized implementation of application policy and WAN routing, network visibility and analytics.

Based on IDC’s definition of SD-WAN infrastructure, Cisco’s broad portfolio of hardware and software made it the market leader with a 46.4% share, the researcher said. VMware, which sells only software, was second with an 8.8% share, followed by Silver Peak, 7.4%; Nuage Networks, a Nokia company, 4.9%; and Riverbed, 4.3%.

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