We are living in unprecedented times. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of people around the world and changed the way we go about our daily lives. Here at Microsoft, we’re constantly asking ourselves what we can do to support people during this challenging time. To me, the most important thing to remember is that we’re all living and learning through this together.
I have previously stated that I believe gaming has a unique power to bring people together, to entertain, to inspire and connect us, and I believe that’s even more true under these unique circumstances. Many are looking to gaming to remain connected with their friends while practicing social distancing, and we are seeing an unprecedented demand for gaming from our customers right now.
With hundreds of millions of kids at home due to coronavirus-related school closures more kids are going online to spend time with their friends, explore online worlds and learn through play. Families are trying to navigate the need to help their children with distance learning and balance that with taking time to have fun. That’s why we announced today that we are adding a new Education category to the Minecraft Marketplace with free educational content players and parents can download.
The educational content we’ve curated lets players explore the International Space Station though a partnership with NASA, learn to code with a robot, visit famous Washington D.C. landmarks, find and build 3D fractals, learn what it’s like to be a marine biologist, and so much more. This is launching for free download today and will be available through June 30, 2020.
With so many turning to gaming, helping everyone stay safer online is also a top priority for us. This is why we provide family settings that help parents choose the screen time limits, content filters, purchase limits, communication and sharing settings that are right for their families. While kids may be home from school, family settings can help balance gaming with offline schoolwork and other responsibilities.
There are also some ways that we can bring brand-new players into the fold. For example, our Copilot feature can be especially helpful for children, new gamers or those who need unique configurations to play, allowing two controllers to play as if they were one.
We understand the important role gaming is playing right now to connect people and provide joy in these isolating and stressful times, and our teams are working diligently to ensure we can be there for our players. To that end, we are actively monitoring performance and usage trends to ensure we’re optimizing the service for our customers worldwide and accommodating for new growth and demand.
While these are unprecedented times we are living in, I have no doubt that we’ll come through this experience stronger than ever.
With more people working from home due to the coronavirus, some companies have had to adjust how they handle backup and business continuity.
The spread of COVID-19, which is the disease caused by the new coronavirus, created a unique challenge for data protection experts. Instead of threatening data or applications, this disaster directly affects personnel. Because of social distancing and shelter-in-place orders, many employees must work remotely. Not all businesses’ IT infrastructure can easily accommodate this shift.
In recent months, MDL AutoMation, based out of Roswell, Ga., has been testing a business continuity plan for when its employees can no longer come to work. This includes Carbonite software installed on all laptops, Dell DDPE encryption and Absolute DDS for asset tracking and security. This level of endpoint data protection is largely unnecessary when everyone works in the office, but MDL AutoMation manager of infrastructure Eric Gutmann said they may not have that option for long.
“We will be able to continue functioning as a company with all our employees working remotely as if they were in the office,” Gutmann said.
MDL is a software company that sells car tracking capabilities to car dealerships. It has a client base of about 250 dealerships and manages 1.4 TB of data gathered from IoT devices.
Gutmann said he has VPN and remote desktop protocol (RDP) ready, and the switch to remote working and enhanced endpoint data protection is meant to be temporary. He is prepared to implement it for two months.
No going back
Marc Staimer, president of Dragon Slayer Consulting, said it’s highly unlikely that any business that implements endpoint data protection will want to go back. Endpoint data protection is a separate investment from workstation data protection and involves extra security measures such as geolocation and remote wiping. Businesses that do not already have this will need to invest time and money into such a system, and will likely want to keep it after making that investment.
Many businesses may already be in a good position to support remote work. Staimer said organizations that use virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) do not have to worry about backing up laptops, and less data-intensive businesses can have everyone work off of the cloud. Bandwidth is also much more abundant now, eliminating what used to be a roadblock to remote work.
With SaaS-based applications such as Microsoft Office 365 and Google Docs and cloud-based storage such as OneDrive and Dropbox, teleworking isn’t complicated to implement. The difficulty, according to Steven Hill, senior analyst at 451 Research, part of S&P Global Market Intelligence, comes from making sure everything on the cloud is just as protected as anything on premises.
Unlike endpoint data protection, using the cloud is more about locking down storage being used than protecting multiple devices. Whether it’s Dropbox, OneDrive or a private cloud NAS, an administrator only has to worry about protecting and securing that one management point. Aside from native tools, third-party vendors such as Backblaze and CloudAlly can provide data protection for these storage environments.
“Rather than storing business information locally, you could dictate that everything goes to and comes from the cloud,” Hill said.
Staimer said the pandemic will make many businesses realize they don’t need all of their workers in a single location. While some organizations won’t treat the coronavirus seriously enough to implement any of these systems, Staimer expects that for many, it will be the impetus to do what they should’ve been doing.
Marc StaimerPresident, Dragon Slayer Consulting
“Coronavirus is going to change the way we work — permanently,” Staimer said.
For some businesses, the biggest challenge will be accommodating workers who cannot perform their jobs from home. They may include partners or customers, as well as a company’s employees.
KCF Technologies, based in State College, Penn., which manufactures industrial diagnostic equipment, is already invested in endpoint data protection. Myron Semack, chief infrastructure architect at KCF, said the company is cloud-centric and many of its workers can work from anywhere.
However, the business would still be impacted if it or its customers go into lockdown because of the coronavirus. Not only would KCF be unable to produce its sensor products, but any installation or project work in the field would have to be suspended. This isn’t anything IT can fix.
“Our manufacturing line employees cannot work from home, unfortunately. If they were forced to stay home, our ability to build or ship product would be impacted,” Semack said.
At Microsoft, our goal within healthcare is to empower people and organizations to address the complex challenges facing the healthcare industry today. We help do this by co-innovating and collaborating with our customers and partners as a trusted technology provider. Today, we’re excited to share progress on the latest innovations from Microsoft aimed at helping address the most prevalent and persistent health and business challenges:
Empower care teams with Microsoft 365: Available in the coming weeks, the new Bookings app in Microsoft Teams will empower care teams to schedule, manage and conduct virtual visits with remote patients via video conference. Also coming soon, clinicians will be able to target Teams messages to recipients based on the shift they are working. Finally, healthcare customers can support their security and compliance requirements with the HIPAA/HITECH assessment in Microsoft Compliance Score.
Protect health information with Azure Sphere: Microsoft’s integrated security solution for IoT (Internet of Things) devices and equipment – is now widely available for the development and deployment of secure, connected devices. Azure Sphere helps securely personalize patient experiences with connected devices and solutions. And, to make it easier for healthcare leaders to develop their own IoT strategies, today we’re launching a new IoT Signals report focused on the healthcare industry that provides an industry pulse on the state of IoT adoption and helpful insights for IoT strategies. Learn more about Microsoft’s IoT offerings for healthcare here.
Enable personalized virtual care with Microsoft Healthcare Bot: Today, we’re pleased to announce that Microsoft Healthcare Bot, our HITRUST-certified platform for creating virtual health assistants, is enriching its healthcare intelligence with new built-in templates for healthcare-specific use cases, and expanding its integrated medical content options. With the addition of Infermedica, a cutting-edge triage engine based on advanced artificial intelligence (AI) that enables symptom checking in 17 languages Healthcare Bot is empowering providers to offer global access to care.
Reimagine healthcare using new data platform innovations: With the 2019 release of Azure API for FHIR, Microsoft became the first cloud provider with a fully managed, enterprise-grade service for health data in the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) format. We’re excited to expand those offerings with several new innovations around connecting, converting and transforming data. The first is Power BI FHIR Connector, which makes it simple and easy to bring FHIR data into Power BI for analytics and insights. The second, IoMT (Internet of Medical Things) FHIR Connector, is now available as open source software (OSS) and allows for seamless ingestion, normalization and transformation of Protected Health Information data from health devices into FHIR. Another new open source project, FHIR Converter, provides an easy way to convert healthcare data from legacy formats (i.e., HL7v2) into FHIR. And lastly, FHIR Tools for Anonymization, is now offered via OSS and enables anonymization and pseudonymization of data in the FHIR format. Including capabilities for redaction and date shifting in accordance with the HIPAA privacy rule.
Frictionless exchange of health information in FHIR makes it easier for researchers and clinicians to collaborate, innovate and improve patient care. As we move forward working with our customers and partners and others across the health ecosystem, Microsoft is committed to enabling and improving interoperability and required standards to make it easier for patients to manage their healthcare and control their information. At the same time, trust, privacy and compliance are a top priority – making sure Protected Health Information (PHI) remains under control and custodianship of healthcare providers and their patients.
We’ve seen a growing number of healthcare organizations not only deploy new technologies, but also begin to develop their own digital capabilities and solutions that use data and AI to transform and innovate healthcare and life sciences in profoundly positive ways. Over the past year, together with our customers and partners, we’ve announced new strategic partnerships aimed at empowering this transformation.
For example, to enable caregivers to focus more on patients by dramatically reducing the burden of documenting doctor-patient visits, Nuance has released Nuance Dragon Ambient eXperience (DAX). This ambient clinical intelligence technologies (ACI) is enriched by AI and cloud capabilities from Microsoft, including the ambient intelligence technology, EmpowerMD, which is coming to market as part of Nuance’s DAX solution. The solution aims to transform the exam room by deploying ACI to capture, with patient consent, interactions between clinicians and patients so that clinical documentation writes itself.
Among health systems, Providence St. Joseph Health is using Microsoft’s cloud, AI, productivity and collaboration technologies to deploy next-generation healthcare solutions while empowering their employees. NHS Calderdale is enabling patients and their providers to hold appointments virtually via Microsoft Teams for routine and follow-up visits, which helps lower costs while maintaining the quality of care. The U.S. Veterans Affairs Departmentis embracing mixed reality by working with technology providers Medivis, Microsoft and Verizon to roll out its first 5G-enabled hospital. And specifically for health consumers, Walgreens Boots Alliance will harness the power of our cloud, AI and productivity technologies to empower care teams and deliver new retail solutions to make healthcare delivery more personal, affordable and accessible.
Major payor, pharmaceutical and health technology platform companies are also transforming healthcare in collaboration with us. Humana will develop predictive solutions for personalized and secure patient support, and by using Azure, Azure AI and Microsoft 365, they’ll also equip home healthcare workers with real-time access to information and voice technology to better understand key factors that influence patient health. In pharmaceuticals, Novartiswill bring Microsoft AI capabilities together with its deep expertise in life sciences to address specific challenges that make the process of discovering, developing and delivering new medicines so costly and time-consuming.
We’re pleased to showcase how together with our customers and partners, we’re working to bring healthcare solutions to life and positively impact the health ecosystem.
About the authors: As Corporate Vice President of Health Technology and Alliances, Dr. Greg Moore leads the dedicated research and development collaborations with our strategic partners, to deliver next-generation technologies and experiences for healthcare.
Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Rhew recently joined Microsoft’s Worldwide Commercial Business Healthcare leadership team and provides executive-level support, engaging in business opportunities with our customers and partners.
As Corporate Vice President of Healthcare, Peter Lee leads the Microsoft organization that works on technologies for better and more efficient healthcare, with a special focus on AI and cloud computing.
With COVID-19 continuing to impact people and countries around the world, teams everywhere are moving to remote work. Earlier this week, I posted a letter from Lily Zheng, our colleague in Shanghai, detailing her team’s experience using Microsoft Teams to work from home during the outbreak. Lily’s team is one of many. Here at Microsoft in the Puget Sound, we’re encouraging our teams to work from home as much as possible, as are many organizations in this region. And we expect this trend to continue across the world. At Microsoft, our top priority is the health and safety of employees, customers, partners, and communities. By making Teams available to as many people as possible, we aim to support public health and safety by keeping teams connected while they work apart.
As we have read through your responses to Lily’s letter, it has become clear that there are two big questions on your minds. First, how can people access the free Teams offerings that Lily referenced? Second, what is our plan for avoiding service interruptions during times of increased usage? Below, you’ll find detailed answers to both. And over the next few days we’ll be sharing more tips, updates, and information related to remote work here. So check back often.
Making Teams available for everyone
Teams is a part of Office 365. If your organization is licensed for Office 365, you already have it. But we want to make sure everyone has access to it during this time. Here are some simple ways to get Teams right away.
If you want to get started with Teams, we can get you up and running right away.
If you have an email address through work or school, sign in using this link. We’ll get you into Teams in no time.
If you’re using an email address like Gmail or Outlook, you can sign up for the freemium version of Teams by following this link.
The self-service links above work great for individuals, but if you’re an IT professional who wants to roll out Teams centrally, here’s what to do.
If you work for a business that isn’t currently licensed for Teams, we’ve got you covered with a free Office 365 E1 offer for six months. Contact your Microsoft partner or sales representative to get started today. (Note: the same offer is available in the Government Cloud, but not available in GCC High and the Department of Defense.)
If you work in education and want to set up teachers, students, and administrators on Teams, use Office 365 A1. This free version of Office 365 is available to all educational institutions. Sign up by following this link.
Keeping Teams up and running
You and your team depend on our tools to stay connected and get work done. We take that responsibility seriously, and we have a plan in place to make sure services stay up and running during impactful events like this. Our business continuity plan anticipates three types of impacts to the core aspects of the service:
Systems: When there’s a sudden increase in usage, like the surge we recently saw in China.
Location: When there’s an unexpected event that is location-specific, such as an earthquake or a powerful storm.
People: When there’s an event that may impact the team maintaining the system, like the COVID-19 outbreak in the Puget Sound area.
We’ve recently tested service continuity during a usage spike in China. Since January 31, we’ve seen a 500 percent increase in Teams meetings, calling, and conferences there, and a 200 percent increase in Teams usage on mobile devices. Despite this usage increase, service has been fluid there throughout the outbreak. Our approach to delivering a highly available and resilient service centers on the following things.
Active/Active design: In Microsoft 365, we are driving towards having all services architected and operated in an active/active design which increases resiliency. This means that there are always multiple instances of a service running that can respond to user requests and that they are hosted in geographically dispersed datacenters. All user traffic comes in through the Microsoft Front Door service and is automatically routed to the optimally located instance of the service and around any service failures to prevent or reduce impact to our customers.
Reduce incident scope: We seek to avoid incidents in the first place, but when they do happen, we strive to limit the scope of all incidents by having multiple instances of each service partitioned off from each other. In addition, we’re continuously driving improvements in monitoring through automation, enabling faster incident detection and response.
Fault isolation: Just as the services are designed and operated in an active/active fashion and are partitioned off from each other to prevent a failure in one from affecting another, the code base of the service is developed using similar partitioning principles called fault isolation. Fault isolation measures are incremental protections made within the code base itself. These measures help prevent an issue in one area from cascading into other areas of operation. You can read more about how we do this, along with all the details of our service continuity plan, in this document.
Adjusting to remote work can be a challenge. We get it, and we are here to provide the tools, tips, and information you need to help you and your team meet that challenge. We’re inspired by the agility and ingenuity that impacted schools, hospitals, and businesses have shown throughout COVID-19, and we are committed to helping organizations everywhere stay connected and productive during this difficult time.
Q. What happens when an individual signs in with work or school credentials? A. If the individual is licensed for Teams, they will be logged into the product. If the individual is not licensed for Teams, they will be logged into the product and automatically receive a free license of Teams that is valid through January 2021. This includes video meetings for up to 250 participants and Live Events for up to 10,000, recording and screen sharing, along with chat and collaboration. Details for IT.
Q. What does the freemium version of Teams include? A. This version gives you unlimited chat, built-in group and one-on-one audio or video calling, 10 GB of team file storage, and 2 GB of personal file storage per user. You also get real-time collaboration with the Office apps for web, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. There is no end date. Details here.
Q. Is there a user limit in the freemium version? A. Beginning March 10, we are rolling out updates to the free version of Teams that will lift restrictions on user limits.
Q. Can I schedule meetings in the freemium version? A. In the future, we will make it possible for users to schedule meetings. In the meantime, you can conduct impromptu video meetings and calls.
Q. How can IT admins access Teams for Education? A. Teams has always been free to students and education professionals as a part of the Office 365 A1 offer. Access it here.
COVID-19 has impacted the lives of people around the world. As Jared and Lily Zheng shared yesterday, the daily routines of millions, including educators and students, have been impacted. And our Microsoft Education team is committed to helping teachers and students stay connected and engaged.
As some schools look to continue learning remotely for the safety of their students and faculty, Microsoft Teams for Education provides an online classroom so students and teachers can find new ways to continue to focus on learning. Free for schools and universities, Teams provides an online classroom that brings together virtual face-to-face connections, assignments, files and conversations into a single place accessible on either mobile, tablet, PC or browser.
We have heard incredible stories about how educators are supporting students and have also received questions regarding how students and educators can stay connected using technology. We want to take this time to share some of the ways you can stay connected and engaged with classrooms and faculty during this time.
To learn more about Microsoft Teams and how to get started, you can join the live webinars on March 5th, from 8:00 – 9:30 AM PST, after which they will be available on demand. To see all the webinars, click here.
Part 1 – Online lectures & classes with students: Explore how you can create a persistent online classroom with meetings for up to 250 participants. This webinar is designed to help first time users of Teams get started and host classes and lectures with online meetings.
Part 2 – Online meetings with a selected group of your students: Discover how you can keep students engaged with online meetings for small groups. This webinar is for educators who need to create ad-hoc meetings with selected groups of students and will cover virtual office hours, tutoring sessions, and other group meetings.
Microsoft Teams is included in Office 365 A1, which is free for educational institutions. For IT guidance on how to deploy Office 365 and get your entire school started on Teams, check out this page. Once Teams is enabled, students and faculty can start using it by entering their school email address at teams.microsoft.com. For any support questions or issues, file a ticket here and for more information on Teams training or other professional development workshops, contact your local Microsoft store.
We are learning so much from schools all around the globe that are enabling remote learning in ingenious ways and you can learn more about Microsoft Teams for Education here. No matter which tools you use, we wish your students, faculty, staff, and families all the best.
Companies at the forefront of digital transformation recognize how critical it is to enable all of their people with the right technology and tools. That’s why, in industries like retail, hospitality, and manufacturing, there’s a movement underway to digitally empower the Firstline Workforce—the more than 2 billion people worldwide who work in service- or task-oriented roles.
With Microsoft 365, the world’s productivity cloud, we’re in a unique position to help companies of all sizes and across all industries provide their employees the tools and expertise they need to do their best work, without sacrificing the security of their organization or customers’ data. Giving Firstline Workers the tools they need requires companies to address unique user experience, security and compliance, and IT management.
Microsoft 365 for Firstline Workers
Microsoft 365 combines intuitive best-in-class productivity apps with intelligent cloud services to empower your Firstline Workforce.
It’s inspiring to see how industry leaders, like IKEA and Mattress Firm, are driving higher levels of employee engagement and enhancing the customer experience by putting tools like Microsoft Teams into the hands of their Firstline Workforce. IKEA is connecting everyone in the organization with familiar features like chat and video calls and digitizing firstline processes such as shift management to save time and cost.
This video was created by Microsoft, with the agreement of Ingka Group.
Mattress Firm is empowering Firstline Workers with real-time access to the information, resources, and expertise they need to delight customers and provide a better shopping experience.
Ahead of next week’s National Retail Federation (NRF) tradeshow, we are excited to introduce new capabilities for Firstline Workers coming to Microsoft 365. Here’s a look at what’s coming soon:
New tools that make it easier for Firstline Workers to communicate and manage tasks
Walkie Talkie in Teams—This new push-to-talk experience enables clear, instant, and secure voice communication over the cloud, turning employee- or company-owned smartphones and tablets into a walkie-talkie. This functionality, built natively into Teams, reduces the number of devices employees must carry, and lowers costs for IT. Unlike analog devices with unsecure networks, customers no longer have to worry about crosstalk or eavesdropping from outsiders. And since Walkie Talkie functions over Wi-Fi or cellular data, this capability can be used across geographic locations. Walkie Talkie will be available in private preview in Teams in the first half of this year.
Intuitive push-to-talk experience to connect team members across departments and locations.
Tasks targeting, publishing, and reporting—With Tasks in Teams, now customers can drive consistent execution of store operations at scale across all of an organization’s locations. Corporate and regional leadership can send task lists targeted to the relevant locations, such as specific retail stores, and track their progress through automatic real-time reports. Managers have tools to easily direct activities within their stores, and Firstline Workers have a simple prioritized list available via their personal or company-issued device showing them exactly what to do next. Tasks targeting, publishing, and reporting is coming to Teams in the first half of this year.
Corporate headquarters can target, assign, and track tasks across locations. Firstline Workers can view tasks assigned to them and across the store.
Workforce management integrations—Customers using leading third-party workforce management systems—such as Kronos and JDA—for scheduling and time and attendance can now start integrating directly with Shifts via Shifts Graph APIs and SDK. Supported scenarios include management of shifts, schedules, schedule groups, swap requests, time off requests, and open shift requests. The JDA connector for Shifts is open sourced and available on GitHub. The Kronos connector for Shifts will also be available on GitHub later this quarter.
Enhanced identity and access management features that make it easier for IT pros to keep Firstline Workers productive and secure
SMS sign-in—With SMS sign-in, Firstline Workers are able to sign in to their Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) account using one-time SMS codes—reducing the need to remember usernames and passwords for all their Microsoft 365 and custom applications. Once enrolled, the user is prompted to enter their phone number, which generates an SMS text with a one-time password. SMS sign-in is a single sign-on (SSO) experience, enabling Firstline Workers to seamlessly access all the apps they are authorized to use. This new sign-in method can be enabled for select groups and configured at the user level in the My Staff portal—helping to reduce the burden on IT.
One-time SMS codes on mobile devices to streamline the sign-in experience for Firstline Workers.
Shared device sign-out—Many Firstline Workers use a single tablet or mobile device that is shared between shifts. This can pose unique security challenges to the organization when different employees who have access to different types of data use the same device over the course of a day. With shared device sign-out, Firstline Workers will be able to log out of all their Microsoft 365 and custom applications and browser sessions with one click at the end of their shift—preventing their data as well as any access to customer data from being accessible to the next user of that device.
With one click, Firstline Workers can sign out of a shared Android device and log out of all applications and browser sessions to prevent sensitive data being shared with another device user.
Off-shift access controls for Teams app—IT administrators can now configure Teams to limit employee access to the app on their personal device outside of working hours. This feature helps ensure employees are not involuntarily working while not on shift and helps employers to comply with labor regulations. This feature will begin rolling out to customers this quarter.
Display a message and/or disable access to Teams app when Firstline Workers are off shift.
Delegated user management—Firstline Managers can approve password resets and enable employees to use their phone numbers for SMS sign-in, all via a single customizable portal enabled by IT for Firstline Managers. Delegated user management can give Firstline Managers access to the My Staff portal, so they can unblock staff issues—reducing the burden of identity management on IT, and keeping employees connected to the apps they need on the job.
Through the My Staff portal, delegated user management enables a Firstline Manager to manage their team’s credentials and assist with password resets.
Inbound provisioning from SAP SuccessFactors to Azure AD—Azure AD’s user provisioning service now integrates with SAP SuccessFactors, making it easier than ever to onboard and manage Firstline Workers’ identities at scale, across any application using Azure AD. This feature—in public preview—builds upon the ability to provision users to Azure AD from Workday, another popular human capital management (HCM) system, already generally available. Integrating with these systems of record helps IT to scale Firstline Workers’ onboarding and productivity from day one.
With Azure AD’s user provisioning service now integrated with SAP SuccessFactors, as well as Workday, it’s easier than ever to onboard Firstline Workers user identities at scale. Shown here, you can start the provisioning cycle and use the progress bar and provisioning logs to track the provisioning process.
All of these capabilities are expected to roll out in the first half of this year except where noted.
Empowering Firstline Workers to gain a competitive advantage
New research in partnership with Harvard Business Review Analytic Services highlights the untapped potential of Firstline Workers in retail.
This is just the next step in our journey to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. We aim to build tools and experiences for the modern workplace and for workers at all levels of the organization. We’ll continue to develop and bring to market purpose-built Firstline Worker capabilities and experiences in partnership with our customers and industry leaders. And we’ll continue to innovate and build features that simplify work, bring people together, and help organizations big and small achieve more. Come see us next week at NRF 2020 in booth #4501.
People often talk about Kubernetes “Day 1,” when you get the platform up and running. Now Kasten wants to help with “Day 2.”
Kasten’s K10 is a data management and backup platform for Kubernetes. The latest release, K10 2.0, focuses on security and simplicity.
K10 2.0 includes support for Kubernetes authentication, role-based access control, OpenID Connect, AWS Identity and Access Management roles, customer-managed keys, and integrated encryption of artifacts at rest and in flight.
“Once you put data into storage, the Day 2 operations are critical,” said Krishnan Subramanian, chief research advisor at Rishidot Research. “Day 2 is as critical as Day 1.”
Day 2 — which includes data protection, mobility, backup and restore, and disaster recovery — is becoming a pain point for Kubernetes users, Kasten CEO Niraj Tolia said.
“In 2.0, we are focused on making Kubernetes backup easy and secure,” Tolia said.
Other features the new Kasten backup software offers, which became generally available earlier in November, include a Kubernetes-native API, auto-discovery of the application environment, policy-driven operations, multi-tenancy support, and advanced logging and monitoring. The Kasten backup enables teams to operate their environments, while supporting developers’ ability to use tools of their choice, according to the vendor.
Kasten backup eyes market opportunity
Kasten, which launched its original product in December 2017, generally releases an update to its customers every two weeks. A typical update that’s not as major as 2.0 typically has bug fixes, new features and increased depth in current features. Tolia said there were 55 releases between 1.0 and 2.0.
Krishnan SubramanianFounder and chief research advisor, Rishidot Research
Backup for container storage has become a hot trend in data protection. Kubernetes specifically is an open source system used to manage containers across private, public and hybrid cloud environments. Kubernetes can be used to manage microservice architectures and is deployable on most cloud providers.
“Everyone’s waking up to the fact that this is going to be the next VMware,” as in, the next infrastructure of choice, Tolia said.
Kubernetes backup products are popping up, but it looks like Kasten is a bit ahead of its time, Rishidot’s Subramanian said. He said he is seeing more enterprises using Kubernetes in production, for example, in moving legacy workloads to the platform, and that makes backup a critical element.
“Kubernetes is just starting to take off,” Subramanian said.
Kubernetes backup “has really taken off in the last two or three quarters,” Tolia said.
Subramanian said he is starting to see legacy vendors such as Dell EMC and NetApp tackling Kubernetes backup, as well as smaller vendors such as Portworx and Robin. He said Kasten had needed stronger security but caught up with K10 2.0. Down the road, he said he will look for Kasten to improve its governance and analytics.
Tolia said Kasten backup stands out because it’s “purpose-built for Kubernetes” and extends into multilayered data management.
In August, Kasten, which is based in Los Altos, Calif., closed a $14 million Series A funding round, led by Insight Partners. Tolia did not give Kasten’s customer count but said it has deployments across multiple continents.
More than 20 million people now use Microsoft Teams daily — up from 13 million in July. The product’s impressive growth has many analysts and investors worried about the long-term prospects of rival collaboration vendor Slack.
Slack’s stock was down more than 8% Tuesday in apparent reaction to Microsoft’s announcement. The company’s value has been steadily declining since June as more and more financial analysts have voiced concerns about the rise of Microsoft Teams.
Unlike Slack, Microsoft has a massive base of existing customers to target. More than 200 million people use Office 365 every month, and those customers usually have access to Microsoft Teams at no additional cost.
“Microsoft has the advantage of including Teams collaboration with a lot of their Office 365 packages,” said Rob Arnold, analyst at Frost & Sullivan. “And that literally gets it in front of more users than Slack can ever hope to.”
Microsoft also has a vast network of partners worldwide that provide services and support to businesses using its software. Slack launched its partner program last week, but so far has only recruited small and midsize firms.
Slack has attempted to undercut Microsoft’s growing user count by focusing on user engagement. Among paid customers, Slack users spend nine hours connected to the app and 90 minutes actively using it each day, the company said.
“As we’ve said before, you can’t transform a workplace if people aren’t actually using your product,” a Slack spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday.
There is, however, no evidence to suggest Teams users are less engaged with the app, as Microsoft has not released comparable statistics on the subject. Microsoft said Tuesday that users conducted 27 million voice and video calls in Teams last month, and interacted with documents stored in Teams 220 million times.
More than 12 million people used Slack daily in September. Use of the app has more than tripled over the past three years, making the vendor a leader in the market for team-based workplace communications software.
Slack often leads larger rivals Microsoft and Cisco in adding innovative features. For example, Slack developed a way to export emails to Slack in a few clicks earlier this year, while Microsoft won’t launch a similar feature until early 2020.
But Slack has never made a profit, losing nearly $139 million on $400 million in revenue last year. Attaining profitability will require selling to more businesses with thousands, if not tens of thousands, of employees. Many of those companies already use Office 365.
In an interview last month with the Wall Street Journal, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield said 70% of its 50 largest customers were using Office 365. He also pointed out that many of the top Google Search trends for Microsoft Teams were related to uninstalling the app.
Over the past year, Slack has been redesigning aspects of its user interface to be friendlier to the average office worker. The company launched the tool originally for software engineers, which led to quirks in the way users interact with bots and integrations.
This month, Slack is in the process of rolling out a new toolbar for writing messages that resembles what users are accustomed to when using apps like Microsoft Word. The toolbar lets users bold, underline and italicize text, and create numbered and bulleted lists. Previously, users had to do unintuitive things like put asterisks on either side of a word to make it bold.
But Microsoft has also been investing heavily in Teams, naming it the successor to Skype for Business. Just last week, Microsoft announced a partnership with Salesforce to integrate that vendor’s online sales and service platforms with Teams. The move could further boost the adoption of Microsoft’s product.