Tag Archives: plan

SAP defends S/4HANA HCM upgrade amid questions

SAP’s new plan to extend on-premises ERP human capital management support from 2025 to 2030 is raising eyebrows. That’s because maintaining on-premises systems means migrating to S/4HANA HCM, which complicates the decision-making for on-premises users.

The upgrade won’t be available until 2023, and the license for the S/4HANA HCM only runs until “at least” 2030. This doesn’t prevent the vendor from extending support, but users, for now, don’t know.

SAP said it has about 14,000 on-premises HCM customers, with about 80% outside of North America.

SAP believes the S/4HANA HCM migration is best for these users, arguing that the upgrade cost will be offset by the benefits of the in-memory system.

But cloud-based SAP SuccessFactors remains the ultimate HCM upgrade path for its users. This means uncertainty about whether on-premises systems will continue.

“The important thing is that the intention for this is to make life easier for our customers so that they can run their business in the best possible way,” said Amy Wilson, an SAP product manager, in an interview. “It’s not something that we’ve concocted for any other purpose other than this is what our customers are asking for. We care about them, and we empathize with them,” she said.

But there are questions. “Simply extending support for the existing R/3 SAP HCM would probably be very difficult, especially as support has already been extended from 2020 to 2025,” said Paul Cooper, chairman of the U.K. and Ireland SAP User Group, in a statement in response to questions from TechTarget.

“At this stage, it is far enough out for SAP to be encouraging users to move to S/4, rather than extending the deadline further,” Cooper said.

User-group surveys “highlighted that many users have concerns regarding the integration of legacy [SAP HR] and new apps [SuccessFactors] with S/4HANA, so the S/4 HCM announcement does begin to help address this to an extent,” Cooper said.

But Cooper said the announcement also raises issues.

“However, without seeing the product and more information on its scope, it is difficult to judge the complexity of the migration,” Cooper said. “Projects of this nature are time-consuming, resource-hungry and, therefore, they can be disruptive to an organization. The question for a lot of organizations will be, are they prepared to buy and license ‘on-premises’ software that only has a potential life of seven years and won’t be available until 2023?”

Wilson said the upgrade to S/4HANA HCM should be “nondisruptive.”

It’s not something that we’ve concocted for any other purpose other than this is what our customers are asking for.
Amy Wilsonproduct manager at SAP

“In the on-premises world, there’s technical upgrades and then there’s functional upgrades. When you’re talking about a technical upgrade, there is some work to do and some testing and that sort of thing, but it’s more similar to a cloud update,” Wilson said.

SAP’s plan has drawn sharp criticism from Jarret Pazahanick, an SAP HCM consultant who is managing partner of EIC Experts, based in Houston. He also has a large following on his Global SAP and SuccessFactors LinkedIn groups.

Pazahanick said he believes SAP should have extended its support beyond 2025 for its HCM customers.

SAP’s action is “not customer-centric,” Pazahanick said in an email responding to TechTarget questions.

“They are asking loyal maintenance paying customers to wait at least five years [2023] to upgrade to a new SAP HCM on-premises ‘sidecar’ offering and take full ownership of the migration cost and risk associated with that,” Pazahanick said.

There is no native HCM in S/4HANA, hence the “sidecar” meaning. SAP HCM for S/4HANA will run on a separate instance, but tightly integrated with S/4HANA. SAP said it has the tools and services to support this approach.

“All SAP had to do was make an announcement of, ‘We will support SAP HCM and customers until 2030 on their current offering,’ which would have been simple, clear and, ultimately, what some portion of their customer base wants,” Pazahanick said.

Colleges to share Oracle ERP system in effort to cut costs

Three Vermont private colleges plan to share a cloud-based Oracle ERP system. It’s taking cooperation and agreement to change their business practices. But if it’s successful, the colleges expect to save millions in costs.

What Champlain College, Middlebury College and Saint Michael’s College are doing is rare for private institutions. But as more schools seek ways to control back-office costs, this idea may spread.

The three independent, nonprofit colleges did not have a history of working together. But in 2013, they formed the Green Mountain Higher Education Consortium to examine sharing an ERP system.

“Private liberal arts schools and the education that they offer is becoming more and more unaffordable for many students,” said Corinna Noelke, the consortium’s executive director and a doctorate-holding economist who was director of special projects at Middlebury.

The consortium went through a request-for-proposal process and picked Oracle ERP systems. They will use Oracle’s Human Capital Management Cloud, its ERP Cloud and the Enterprise Performance Management Cloud.

“The schools discovered that they could really work together on one software platform, as long as it allowed them to separate the schools efficiently,” Noelke said.

The implementation begins this year. The three colleges are now using Ellucian systems: One is using Banner, and two are using Colleague. Two of the colleges ran the ERP systems on premises, and the third outsourced.

A goal for the three schools was to implement best practices in a SaaS environment and to take advantage of using shared services.

Using best practices “has nothing to do with your culture and nothing to do with your special niche as a school,” Noelke said.

Public colleges have long shared IT platforms

[Using best practices] has nothing to do with your culture and nothing to do with your special niche as a school.
Corinna Noelkeexecutive director, Green Mountain Higher Education Consortium

Public universities have long shared systems across the various campuses, but it’s rare for nonprofit, private colleges to share services, said Kenneth Green, the founding director of The Campus Computing Project, which runs a continuing study of the role of IT in higher education

The Vermont colleges’ effort “is interesting and it is innovative, and it will be carefully watched,” Green said.

Back-office systems collaboration may be a growing trend in higher education. In a separate effort, over 100 smaller colleges recently banded together to collectively negotiate ERP pricing with major vendors.

“Why can’t we leverage our collective voices with you, the vendors, to get better pricing,” said Carol Smith, CIO of DePauw University and president of the board of directors of the Higher Education Systems & Services Consortium (HESS). This effort to negotiate as a group with ERP systems vendors began in 2016.

Most of the HESS Consortium schools have student full-time-equivalent populations of less than 8,000 and some only a few thousand students. But a goal of HESS is to give its members the contract negotiation clout of a large university system.

Transparency on ERP pricing is one goal

HESS is also working to normalize ERP pricing and services between vendors to make it easier for colleges to conduct apples-to-apples comparisons. The schools, some of which previously have gotten little vendor attention, hope that now changes. They are meeting collectively with their respective vendors to discuss their needs.

Instead of negotiating the ERP contracts independently, and then wondering whether they got a good price, Smith said participating HESS colleges will “feel confident” that they got the best consortium price for the ERP system.

The Green Mountain effort takes the idea of ERP collaboration a step further.

The consortium had four ERP candidates: Oracle, Workday, Unit4 and Campus Management.

In its selection, the Oracle ERP system gained the edge with its pricing, functionality and ability to set up a shared environment, Noelke said.

The Oracle ERP system architecture allows you to be in one instance and have three separate and distinct operations for each of the campuses. Employees at their respective schools don’t see information from other colleges unless they want to have a shared service. Each college will have independent user interfaces and data will be separated, but otherwise, they are operating on one platform.

“The architecture is very elegant and is really letting you be separate where you want to be separate, but also to come together where you want to come together,” Noelke said.

Configurations are being discouraged

The introduction of the SaaS platform is requiring the schools to make substantive changes to their business practices. They are holding workshops involving finance and HR and working with implementation firms. The schools may do some processes differently as they shift to a “best practices environment.” They are holding “process reimagine and redesign” workshops facilitated by CampusWorks Inc., and their implementation contractor is Hitachi Consulting for Oracle.

The basic premise is the schools will only customize configurations where needed, and the departments will have to make a business case for it. As soon as you configure differently between the three schools, it makes it harder to update the system, Noelke said.

The implementations will continue through much of the year. They will have to make “a million little decisions every day” with the implementers.

The three colleges expect to pay less with the Oracle ERP system. They have cut licensing costs by about 20% by acting together. The implementation costs are much less, because they are doing it together, Noelke said. This doesn’t account for long-term productivity gains helped by the elimination or reduction of manual, paper-based processes.

Over an eight-year period — fiscal year 2018 through fiscal year 2025 — buying software together and implementing it together at the same time is saving $20 million versus each school buying the software themselves and implementing it themselves, Noelke said.

Education systems require specialized software related to student needs, such as registration, class schedules and financial assistance. Oracle is developing a new student system using the knowledge they have on needs and requirements from the PeopleSoft product. This work is still in development. The consortium is likely to use Oracle’s approach, but will make a final determination once the development work is completed.

The motivation for these joint efforts is clear. At DePauw, Smith said she personally believes these types of collaborations among private schools will expand.

“We’re here to provide an educational experience for our students, so that they can be the best they can be,” Smith said. “I think we have to try to preserve every ounce of resources that we possibly can.”

SDS, HCI and CDP are key to dream enterprise storage system

What better way to start a new year than to plan and build something brand new? My pet project would be an enterprise storage system. (OK, I really had my eye on that do-it-yourself Ferrari Portofino kit, but this is a storage column after all.)

Unfortunately, my extremely limited engineering abilities and all-thumbs hands mean I won’t be able to cobble my dream enterprise storage system together myself. My imagination doesn’t have those limitations, however, so I’ll describe it here. I want my new storage system to do everything and to do it well.

Some of the newer storage techs that have gotten a foot in the data center door over the past few years share a common theme: Storage has been too hard — hard to buy, hard to set up and configure, hard to use and hard to maintain. Easy, the new industry byword, might be a difficult concept for some storage pros to wrap their heads around. However, today, LUNs are shunned and provisioning is no longer a three-day turnaround, but rather a menu pick for end users.

HCI to the max

Nowadays, if you can’t call your storage hyper-converged or software-defined, it’s probably not really storage — at least not in the 21st-century sense. Given that, my custom-built enterprise storage system would be built around a hyper-converged infrastructure architecture, but with a couple of variations on the HCI theme.

My system would integrate the key components that make HCI, well, HCI — storage, servers and networking. But it would have such closely integrated software-defined storage management with software-defined networking and software-defined servers, everything could be throttled up and down and configured and reconfigured on the fly, so storage performance and capacity could be rejiggered as needed. Every component — CPU, memory, network interface card, network, whatever — can be manipulated. That kind of endless flexibility would allow my system to morph into whatever was necessary at any given moment — to make sophisticated decisions like what data to tier, when to tier it and what to tier it to. It will be one big whole software-defined enchilada.

My HCI system will also let servers outside the architecture access its storage resources. That way legacy gear can be part of the new world order as well. And the enterprise storage system will allow you to carve out storage regions that provide custom media configurations based on need. This means the system would accommodate all kinds of media: really fast flash; fairly fast flash; and pokey, cheap and commodious hard drives.

Cloud access would be built in — of course! — to allow access to multiple cloud providers for live, backup or archive data. This would be enabled by a file system that works like an automatic transmission, shifting transparently among protocols — block, NFS, SMB or object — as required by the apps accessing data. Seriously, users shouldn’t have to go under the hood of the storage machine to get that kind of protocol flexibility. It should just happen.

Built-in backup

If you can’t call your storage hyper-converged or software-defined, it’s probably not really storage — at least not in the 21st-century sense.

I’d also add continuous data protection-based backup, which has been languishing too long on the storage sidelines. It’s time for ongoing data protection that backs up data automatically to other storage systems or the cloud or Venus. Wherever it makes the most sense and recovery is easiest, just as long as you don’t have to do anything but point the system in the right direction. While it really doesn’t matter how it gets done, whether it’s via native software or third-party apps, we definitely want to do away with proprietary formats. So we can recover data with other tools or simple copy commands.

Encryption — in flight and at rest — will be the default. And if I can’t incorporate full-fledged security tools, the system will at least alert users when anything doesn’t quite look kosher, such as off-hours access, sudden activity or unexpected access to secondary data.

Storage, manage thyself

This dream enterprise storage system would also support mega-metadata. It’s an amped-up level of metadata that enables data to be smarter than us, or at least more on the ball than we typically are. So the data knows what to do with itself, what level of protection it needs based on its sensitivity or usefulness, how and when it should be tiered, who can read it and copy it, and when it should self-destruct by pressing its own delete button.

And, of course, all of this should have endless scalability to grow to those elusive n numbers of nodes or whatever — storage, servers, network, you name it. Your starter kit might be the size of a Cracker Jack box, but it should be able to expand to Google-ish dimensions using easy, in-place upgrades to ensure you’re always running on the latest technology.

Truth or fiction?

A lot of the stuff described here is actually available, so it’s not all pipe dream stuff. The problem is you’d be hard pressed to find a single product that has it all. The first vendor that gets there will corner the storage market for sure. OK, maybe not the whole market; maybe just me.

For Sale – Netgear 24 Port switches, cat5e cable and wall plates

Hi Guys n Gals,

After a recent change of plan, my networking gear is up for sale.

1. Netgear Prosafe GS724TP 24 Port switch with POE Gigabit ports – £70 inc post
2. Netgear Prosafe gs724t 24 Port switch Gigabit but no POE – £40 inc post
3. Excel cat5e cable, around 295m. 4 Pair UTP LSOH Solid Cable £30 collection only
4. 2 Reels of cat5e 4 Pair UTP LSOH Solid Cable , around 200m on each.(will confirm brands) £40 for the pair collection only.
5. 11 Eurolite Chrome stainless 1gcat 5e faceplates and 10 keystone jacks £30 inc postage.
6. 9 Excel white single gang faceplates with blanking plates £12.50 inc postage.

Would prefer collection from dudley if possible, but I have put some prices inc postage on some of the items

Price and currency: £various
Delivery: Delivery cost is not included
Payment method: bt/ppg
Location: West Midlands
Advertised elsewhere?: Advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I prefer the goods to be collected

______________________________________________________
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By replying to this thread you agree to abide by the trading rules detailed here.
Please be advised, all buyers and sellers should satisfy themselves that the other party is genuine by providing the following via private conversation to each other after negotiations are complete and prior to dispatching goods and making payment:

  • Landline telephone number. Make a call to check out the area code and number are correct, too
  • Name and address including postcode
  • Valid e-mail address

DO NOT proceed with a deal until you are completely satisfied with all details being correct. It’s in your best interest to check out these details yourself.

Freshsales CRM

Freshsales CRM (which begins at $12 per user per month, with a free plan available) is an affordable customer relationship managegment (CRM) platform that lets sales professionals better understand their customers. Its entry level free plan is a great choice for small businesses new to the concept of CRM, and it also acts as a long-term free trial for companies deciding which product to choose.

The software is very easy to use and takes care of many manual tasks, such as logging phone calls, tracking emails, and customer research. It doesn’t quite rise to the level of our three Editors’ Choice products—Apptivo, Salesforce Sales Cloud Lightning Professional, and Zoho CRM—all of which offer more third-party integrations.

Freshsales CRM Pricing

Freshsales has four pricing tiers: Sprout, Blossom, Garden, and Estate. The Sprout plan is free and includes built-in phone, email integration, basic reporting, mobile apps, and integration with Freshdesk, Google G Suite, and Zapier. The Blossom plan ($12 per user per month) adds to that pipeline management, workflows, email sync, templates, MailChimp integration, and more. Next up, the Garden plan ($25 per user per month) adds advanced reporting and forecasting, territories, and more. Finally, the Estate plan ($49 per user per month) includes reports dashboards, multiple pipelines, lead scoring, and other advanced features. All plans include 24/7 email support and 24-hour phone support on weekdays.

Users can take advantage of the 30-day free trial (no credit card information required) by clicking on the sign-up button on the top right of the screen or the “sign up for free” button in the middle. Input your name, email, company, and phone number, and create a custom domain (name.freshsales.io). That field auto-fills as your company name, but you can change it to whatever you want. Once you submit that information, Freshsales opens with a tour of the software that outlines the main features. After the tour, you’re prompted to invite your team. Finally, you need to activate your account via email and then create a password. Remember your domain name, as that’s how you’ll have to log in to your account.

Contacts, Leads, Deals, and Reports

After you log in, you see your list of leads, which includes a sample record. Along the top of the screen, you can see how many days remain in your free trial, click to upgrade to a paid account, create a new record (lead, contact, account, etc.), compose an email, view notifications, and manage account settings. Along the left side of the screen, you can access other parts of the CRM. Underneath leads are contacts, accounts, deals, conversations, calendar, reports, dashboard, and settings. You’ll also find sample data in contacts and accounts, and sample tasks in the calendar. The tasks reminders were sent to my email, seemingly to encourage me to play around with the software.

Freshsales uses the lead as the entry point. Once a lead is converted to a contact, the associated company information populates into an account record; add the website URL and Freshsales automatically adds public information about the company, including its website, logo, social media, company size, address, and other details, just as it does with contacts and leads. When we added PC Magazine as account, it pulled in the correct street address, phone number, and social media accounts.

When you add or update a new record, a panel opens on the right side of your screen so you can input the information without navigating away from whatever you were working on. You can also upload leads from a CSV file, but you can’t connect it directly to another CRM. Users can also capture leads by embedding a form on their website.

When you add a new lead or contact and include their email address, Freshsales auto-enriches the profile by pulling in associated Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles. This way you can see what your leads and contacts are interested in and what they’re talking about, so you have a starting point.

You can filter leads, contacts, and accounts by any field, as well as by lead score, and based on when they were last contacted. Users can also conduct bulk actions, including sending an email and assigning records to different sales reps.

The Deals section of Freshsales is set up in a Kanban-style view, and deals can be dragged and dropped to different stages along the pipeline. You can customize the stages in the pipeline and change the order to your liking.

Freshsales offers several communication tools, including email templates, campaigns, and integrated phone and voicemail, and call recording. The idea is to be able to conduct all of your outreach without leaving the software or having to input updates manually. You can save files (up to 20MB) from your computer or cloud storage, such as Google Drive and Dropbox, in the software too and add them as email attachments. Users can track email open- and click-rates for any messages sent through the software or via connected email accounts; there are also metrics available for email templates so you can gauge which are the most successful. A team inbox feature syncs with generic company email addresses, such as info@company.com, so that those emails can be tracked, and new leads are automatically added to the system.

You can connect any IMAP-compatible email account to Freshsales, including Gmail, Office 365, and Zoho Mail. This will sync the inbox and sent folder. On the Conversation tab, you can view an “Awaiting Response” folder so you can see where you need to follow up. Freshsales has a built-in calendar and task manager and can also sync with Google Calendar.

Automating manual tasks is a big part of Freshsales, and that includes the ability to set up workflows. You can set up triggers and conditions for any record in Freshsales. For example, you can have it create a task when a lead sends an email. Or you can set it up so that an email is sent to a contact after a certain amount of time passes without communication.

Freshsales also has a full-featured mobile app for Android and iOS that sales reps can use in the field to access information and update records after meetings and phone calls. Once a contact becomes a customer, all relevant information can be shared with customer service agents if you’re also using Freshdesk support. This way, agents have the most up to date information.

Reports are available for conversations, tasks, appointments, and leads, contacts, and accounts. There are several built into the software, but you can also customize your own. The reports can be viewed in chart form and exported as a CSV or a PDF file. You can even schedule reports to be emailed monthly, weekly, or daily.

Freshsales has some third-party integrations, including the email and calendar programs mentioned above, as well as with , , one of our Editors’ Choice products in this category, which is also affordable. Or you should consider Salesforce Sales Cloud Lightning Professional, which is more expensive but highly customizable.

Blackbaud and Microsoft to strengthen strategic partnership to digitally transform the nonprofit sector – News Center

Social good software leader Blackbaud bets big on Microsoft Azure as the two companies plan to go deeper on integrations, innovation and sector leadership to scale global good

BALTIMORE — Oct. 18, 2017 As part of bbcon 2017, Blackbaud (Nasdaq: BLKB), the world’s leading cloud software company powering social good, and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), plan to expand their partnership in support of their mutual goals to digitally transform the nonprofit sector.

The nonprofit sector represents the third largest workforce behind retail and manufacturing in the United States with approximately 3 million organizations globally. Blackbaud, the largest vertical cloud software provider in the space, announced its intention to fully power its social good-optimized cloud, Blackbaud SKY™, with Microsoft Azure. The two companies highlighted a three-point commitment to collaboration for the good of the global nonprofit community. This announcement comes just days after Microsoft launched its new Tech for Social Impact Group, which is dedicated to accelerating technology adoption and digital transformation with the nonprofit industry to deliver greater impact on the world’s most critical social issues.

“This newly expanded partnership between Microsoft and Blackbaud will allow both companies to better meet the unique technology challenges nonprofits face,” said Justin Spelhaug, general manager of Microsoft Tech for Social Impact. “By combining Microsoft’s cloud platforms and expertise with Blackbaud’s leading industry solutions, we will create new opportunities for digital transformation to empower nonprofits to make an even bigger impact on the world.”

“The nonprofit community plays a vital role in the health of the entire social economy, and we’ve been working for more than three decades to help these inspiring organizations achieve big, bold mission outcomes,” said Mike Gianoni, president and CEO of Blackbaud. “For nearly that long we’ve also been a Microsoft partner, and we’re incredibly enthusiastic about forging new ground together as we tackle some of the most pressing issues nonprofits face. Both companies couldn’t be more committed to this space, so the nonprofit community should expect great things from this expanded partnership.”

The newly expanded partnership between Microsoft and Blackbaud will focus on three key areas:

Deeper integration between Microsoft and Blackbaud solutions, with Blackbaud’s cloud platform for social good, Blackbaud SKY, powered by Microsoft Azure

Blackbaud has been developing on the Microsoft stack for over three decades. As a leading Global ISV Partner, Blackbaud is already one of Microsoft’s top Azure-based providers. Today, Blackbaud announced its intention to fully power Blackbaud SKY™, its high-performance cloud exclusively designed for the social good community, in Microsoft’s Azure environment.

“Blackbaud’s expanded Azure commitment will be one of the most significant partner bets on Microsoft’s hyperscale cloud, and the most significant to transform the social good space,” Spelhaug said. “We often highlight the engineering work behind Blackbaud SKY™, because it demonstrates the power of Microsoft Azure and the kind of forward-looking innovation and leadership that the nonprofit sector greatly needs.”

Details of the investment are not publicly available but the companies plan to share more about the partnership in coming months. Blackbaud also announced its plans to become a CSP (Cloud Solution Provider) partner for the Microsoft platform, simplifying the purchase, provisioning and management of Blackbaud and Microsoft cloud offerings. For nonprofits that want the security, power and flexibility of the cloud plus the services and support of a trusted solution provider that deeply understands their unique needs, Blackbaud will be able to deliver both Microsoft and Blackbaud solutions through a unified purchase experience.

A commitment to pursuing best-in-class nonprofit cloud solutions that bring together the best of both companies’ innovation for a performance-enhanced experience for nonprofits — from funding, to mission operations, to program delivery

Blackbaud and Microsoft plan to pursue innovative ways to fully harness the power, security and reliability of Microsoft’s Azure-Powered solutions (e.g., Office 365, Dynamics) and Blackbaud’s industry-leading, outcome-focused solutions that cater specifically to the unique workflow and operating model needs of nonprofits — all with the goal of improving nonprofit performance across the entire mission lifecycle.

This includes exploring how both companies’ respective cloud artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics innovations can be leveraged in new ways to drive even greater sector impact.

“There is massive opportunity to empower the nonprofit community through creative tech innovation,” said Kevin McDearis, chief products officer at Blackbaud. “Every 1 percent improvement in fundraising effectiveness makes $2.8 billion available for frontline program work. This is just one example of the type of impact Blackbaud focuses on with our workflows and embedded intelligence, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to team up with Microsoft to push into new areas of innovation that move the sector forward, faster.”

Joint sector leadership initiatives that make innovation, research and best practices more accessible to nonprofits around the world

Nonprofits are addressing some of the world’s most complicated issues. As shared value companies, Microsoft and Blackbaud share a commitment to helping nonprofits meet those needs. Microsoft is globally known for its unmatched philanthropic reach and impact. And Blackbaud, which exclusively builds software for social good, invests more in R&D and best-practice-driven research for global good than any technology provider. Both companies were among just 56 companies named to the Fortune 2017 Change the World list.

Together, Microsoft and Blackbaud intend to partner on initiatives that make innovation more accessible for nonprofits large and small, while also exploring ways the companies’ data assets, community outreach and sector leadership can be synergistically and responsibly applied to improve the effectiveness and impact of the entire nonprofit community.

Microsoft and Blackbaud will share further details in the coming months. Learn more about Microsoft’s Technology for Social Impact Group here. Visit www.Blackbaud.com for more on Blackbaud.

About Blackbaud

Blackbaud (NASDAQ: BLKB) is the world’s leading cloud software company powering social good. Serving the entire social good community—nonprofits, foundations, corporations, education institutions, healthcare institutions and individual change agents—Blackbaud connects and empowers organizations to increase their impact through software, services, expertise, and data intelligence. The Blackbaud portfolio is tailored to the unique needs of vertical markets, with solutions for fundraising and CRM, marketing, advocacy, peer-to-peer fundraising, corporate social responsibility, school management, ticketing, grantmaking, financial management, payment processing, and analytics. Serving the industry for more than three decades, Blackbaud is headquartered in Charleston, South Carolina and has operations in the United States, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. For more information, visit www.blackbaud.com.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) is the leading platform and productivity company for the mobile-first, cloud-first world, and its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

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

Nicole McGougan, Public Relations Manager for Blackbaud, (843) 654-3307, media@blackbaud.com

Cisco ACI fabric in the cloud won’t solve use case dilemma

Cisco’s plan to make its Application Centric Infrastructure available on three of the largest public cloud providers addresses the growing demand for data center networking technology that can support hybrid cloud environments.

But just having the tools to build an ACI fabric in Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure won’t create the killer use case needed to take the software-based networking technology out of the doldrums in the data center. Roughly seven in 10 companies buying Cisco Nexus 9000 switches, which come with ACI, do not turn on the technology, said Andrew Lerner, an analyst at Gartner. That number has remained consistent all year.

For those companies that use ACI, having it available in a public cloud means the network policies they create and send to infrastructure hardware in the data center can also be applied to virtual switches, firewalls and load balancers assisting cloud applications. Maintaining policy consistency in a hybrid cloud environment would be a big plus for an ACI fabric user.

“Not only would it save time, it would help to eliminate human error when trying to recreate internal policies on public clouds,” said Andrew Froehlich, a network consultant and TechTarget contributor.

Those benefits, however, are theoretical, since the Cisco announcement did not provide technical details. Also, the company did not say when ACI would be available in the public clouds, other than “soon.”

VMware NSX outpacing ACI

Meanwhile, companies can get hands-on experience today with rival VMware’s hybrid cloud technology. Through a partnership announced late last year, enterprises can run the same VMware-powered virtualization infrastructure in Amazon and the data center.

[Cisco] needs to give their customers reasons to not say no to ACI. It means finding the killer use cases and targeting the right IT initiatives.
Shamus McGillicuddyanalyst at Enterprise Management Associates

Within the data center, more companies are using VMware’s software-defined networking (SDN) product, NSX, than Cisco ACI, analysts said. NSX is a network virtualization platform that abstracts network operations from the underlying hardware to allow virtual networking among hypervisors, which are the platforms for running virtualized applications.

A use case driving NSX adoption is its ability to have virtual firewalls enforce rules for communications between groups of virtual machines running business applications. Placing restrictions on communications between applications increases the difficulty for malware to spread across a network.

Compelling ACI fabric use case missing

Unlike NSX, ACI has yet to find its sweet spot in the data center.

“They [Cisco] need to give their customers reasons to not say no to ACI,” said Shamus McGillicuddy, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates Inc., based in Boulder, Colo. “It means finding the killer use cases and targeting the right IT initiatives.”

EMA has identified three IT initiatives that have led companies to consider SDN products like ACI. They include running workloads in private and public clouds, disaster recovery strategies, and regulatory compliance and risk mitigation programs.

Whichever initiative Cisco gloms onto, the company has to raise ACI fabric use in the data center to be successful in the public cloud. “Unless premises-based use of ACI increases, there won’t be any jumps in ACI adoption just because it now works in the cloud,” said Will Murrell, a senior network engineer at UNICOM Systems Inc., which designs and develops software for large enterprises and is based in Mission Hills, Calif.

Hybrid cloud networking an immature market

In general, products that apply consistent networking and security policies from the data center to public clouds are immature. “It is a huge area of potential innovation in the networking space in the next several years,” Lerner said.

Besides Cisco and VMware, startups are also developing tools to create a networking and security platform for hybrid clouds. Examples include Zentera and Aviatrix.

“There are multiple approaches ranging from basic management to advanced orchestration, and network overlays and agent deployments,” Lerner said. “So, there is no single easy answer at this point and a lot of potential ways this could play out.”

Cloud unified communications use drops amid large enterprises

The percentage of enterprises that plan to adopt cloud unified communications services has fallen in the last year, as large companies find on-premises UC a superior option to the cloud.

A survey of 800 enterprises found the percentage skipping the cloud increased from 8% last year to 15% in 2017, according to Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill. The poll found in large-scale deployments, cloud-based UC did not reduce costs and lacked important management and security features.

Big organizations with large IT staffs can usually manage and maintain on-premises systems for less money than the price of a cloud subscription, the study found. “Many of these companies believe they can run UC better and more efficiently internally,” said Nemertes analyst Robin Gareiss.

While cloud unified communications has yet to meet the needs of large enterprises, it remains attractive to small and medium-sized enterprises, which have much fewer users. Those organizations, which account for the majority of enterprises, are driving market growth. — Duncan McCay, news writer

Vyopta service monitors UCC performance

UC analytics company Vyopta has launched a UC and collaboration (UCC) monitoring and optimization service that offers a single tool to monitor UC environments and improve the user experience and adoption.

The service is aimed at organizations facing challenges with scaling their UCC investments in large, complex environments. These challenges result in underused UCC assets, employee frustration and lost productivity.

The service includes UCC monitoring for multivendor and multimodal environments across thousands of UC endpoints. It also allows organizations to onboard new users faster, and it includes an executive dashboard with data on performance and usage.

Vyopta, based in Austin, Texas, has partnered with UC providers such as Microsoft, Zoom, Polycom, Vidyo and Pexip. With the new UCC monitoring service, Vyopta has expanded support for Cisco collaboration products, such as Unified Communications Manager, WebEx and Spark.

Vyopta launched a service for UCC monitoring to improve user experience and optimize UC resources.
Vyopta’s UCC optimization platform includes a dashboard with data on performance and usage.

CyberLink launches web collaboration app

CyberLink Corp. has released U, a unified web communications app for online meetings, presentations and messaging. The app is designed to replace legacy web conferencing services and includes three modules.

U Messenger allows users to create team rooms for collaboration and file sharing. Users can share files with a drag-and-drop feature, create forums for business decisions and send bulletins to group members.

U Meeting offers high-definition, browser-based video meetings for up to 100 participants. The service is compatible with Outlook and Google Calendar scheduling.

U Webinar offers Microsoft PowerPoint integration, screen sharing, live annotations and the ability to rearrange PowerPoint content. Users can record presentations and schedule a prerecorded session to play on a dedicated URL at a specific time.

CyberLink U is available now, with subscription plans tailored toward specific business requirements. A freemium version offers meetings and webinars for up to 25 participants for a maximum of 50 minutes and 60 minutes, respectively. CyberLink is based in Taipei, Taiwan, and has offices in the U.S. and Europe.

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Athima Chansanchai
Microsoft News Center Staff

Tags: Apps, travel, Windows Store