Tag Archives: platform

Pure Storage FlashArray gets file support, meatier DR

Pure Storage built file storage natively into its block storage platform, and bolstered disaster recovery with continuous snapshots and replication across distances.

The vendor launched the upgrades at its Pure Accelerate virtual conference this week. It integrated file system protocols in version 6 of the Purity FA operating system for FlashArray with technology acquired from Compuverde in 2019.

The DR features include ActiveDR geosynchronous replication between FlashArray nodes and the public cloud.

File and block share pooled flash

Pure Storage FlashArray and the vendor’s FlashBlade NAS platform run separate versions of Purity OS. Pure released Purity 3 for FlashBlade in May.

File storage relies on a file system to organize data in a hierarchical structure, including POSIX and other legacy file systems. Block arrays that need to access file data usually require a workaround such as a NAS gateway or running a file system in the system kernel.

Early models of FlashArray SAN systems supported Fibre Channel and iSCSI block storage. Pure added NVMe support in 2017 with the launch of its RoCE-enabled DirectFlash memory modules. The Compuverde file system makes up the new Pure FlashArray File Services, which require no gateway.

Compuverde gave Pure a file system and the ability to build NFS and SMB protocols directly into FlashArray architecture. The feature allows block and file workloads to run on shared flash with global data reduction.

“We added file protocols, but not as another layer you have to manage. This is not a file system sitting on top of a volume,” said Prakash Darji, the vice president and general manager of Pure Storage FlashArray.

The ability to serve block and file from the same all-flash devices opens the door to serving workloads that would have been impossible before now, said Steve McDowell, a senior analyst of storage and data center technologies at Moor Insights & Strategy.

“I think we all expected Pure to take that acquisition and head straight into the cloud with it, much as NetApp has done with its cloud-based file services. Instead, Pure surprised us by putting those capabilities into FlashArray,” McDowell said.

File protocols give Pure a pathway to adjacent markets, McDowell said, particularly applications for high-end file service such as home directories and virtual desktop infrastructure. It also aids storage consolidation by serving unified storage from a single device.

“The caveat, of course, is that this is Pure’s first release and they’re still getting comfortable with the technology. The real payoff will be down the road as Pure fleshes out the offering with enterprise capabilities,” McDowell said.

While FlashArray and FlashBlade both support file storage now, Pure positions them for different use cases. FlashArray is recommended for databases over NFS or SMB file protocols and other enterprise file-sharing use cases. FlashBlade, which also supports object storage, is designed for artificial intelligence, machine learning, analytics, high-performance computing and backup.

Snapshot options on Pure Storage FlashArray

ActiveDR uses passive-active continuous replication between FlashArray pods. The vendor claims its single-command failover and intelligent failback support fast recovery time. The new data protection augments ActiveCluster active-active synchronous replication for real-time array failover of Pure Storage FlashArray.

Pure said ActiveDR allows space-efficient snapshot to extend across geographic distances to deliver near-zero data recovery.

“It allows businesses to do nondisruptive DR testing to better mitigate the risks” of losing data, said Shawn Rosemarin, Pure’s vice president of worldwide systems engineering.

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Logi Analytics unveils new platform for developers

Logi Analytics unveiled Logi Composer on Wednesday, marking the launch of a new platform for developers to create embedded analytics applications.

Logi, founded in 2000 and based in McLean, Va., specializes in providing tools for developers to build applications. CEO Steven Schneider said that the release of Logi Composer, which is now generally available, is the culmination of more than seven years of research and development and is the most significant new product in the vendor’s history.

The new platform doesn’t replace existing Logi products such as Info and can be used in concert with Logi’s other analytics products.

“This is our most significant release since our founding,” Schneider said. “All of our other product releases are essentially add-ons to Logi Info to extend its capabilities. Composer is the first product that we took with the experience of having done [embedded application software development] for 17 years and built from the ground up to optimize around this use case for applications.”

Logi Composer has a cloud-ready, microservices architecture and comes with data connectors that help users access their data and speed up queries. Meanwhile, using the platform, developers can customize and embed data visualizations and embed self-service features, which can be tailored to the skill level of the end users.

And beyond its technological capabilities, the platform was designed with both ease of use and customization in mind, according to Schneider.

A sample dashboard from Logi Analytics displays an organization's event sales data.
An organization’s event sales data is displayed on a sample Logi Analytics dashboard.

“We believe we cracked the code between ease of use — an application you get into production and make it easy to use and create new content — and ultimate control,” Schneider said. “There are a lot of products out there that are pretty easy to embed and pretty easy to deliver, but when you really want to customize the end-user experience down to the nth degree, it’s really hard to do that.”

Key to its capabilities, Schneider added, is that Logi Composer was built independently of other Logi analytics tools and not as an add-on. In addition, he said, Logi’s 2019 acquisition of Zoomdata and partnership with ERP vendor QAD played roles in the development of the final product.

Analysts, meanwhile, view the new platform as a significant tool for embedded application developers.

“I think this announcement is a doubling down of sorts for the company,” said Mike Leone, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. “Logi has had a fantastic presence with developers already and this announcement is enabling them to empower even more developers to build faster, iterate faster, integrate more, and the result will be an improved level of time-to-value.”

Similarly, Doug Henschen, principal analyst at Constellation Research, noted that the release of Logi Composer is a substantial move for the analytics vendor.

Composer is the first product that we took with the experience of having done [embedded application software development] for 17 years and built from the ground up to optimize around this use case for applications.
Steven SchneiderCEO, Logi Analytics

“Logi is clearly upping its game on developer-oriented microservices, APIs and support for containerized deployment,” he said. “They’re also taking advantage of query engine and performance-enhancing back-end improvements leveraged from last year’s Zoomdata acquisition. The announcement brings progress on multiple fronts.”

While Logi has specialized in providing a platform for developers, it isn’t the only analytics software vendor equipping developers with the tools they need to create applications.

Both Salesforce and Microsoft have tools geared toward low-code/no-code application development. And among vendors specializing in analytics, Looker, Sisense and Yellowfin all recently introduced new tools for developers.

Logi, however, remains one of the analytics vendors most focused on tools for developers.

“Logi Analytics was early to specialize in embedded capabilities aimed at developers, so it has a great deal of experience in catering to this market, but it does face increased competition,” Henschen said. “It’s an important announcement for Logi, but it’s not going to put it way out ahead of competitors.”

Leone, however, posited that the release of Logi Composer, with its focus on development teams rather than end users, differentiates Logi’s platform.

“I would argue that Logi is one of the better BI players when it comes to being developer-centric,” he said. “I think this announcement keeps them there and if anything, separates them a bit more. While virtually all players in this space are focused on the developers … a majority are coming from a business analyst point of view. Logi’s existing presence within development teams enables them to expand that presence.”

Schneider, meanwhile, said he recognizes that other vendors are adding tools for developers to their platforms but sees a significant difference in the way Logi is going about it.

“This is all we do,” he said, adding that when competing for business he rarely sees potential customers looking at BI vendors for their embedded application development needs.

With Logi Composer now on the market after seven years in the pipeline, self-service analytics and the needs of DevOps teams will remain a focus for the vendor with product development focused in those areas.

Adding more capabilities related to monitoring and scale is prominent on the vendor’s roadmap, Schneider said, as is ease of use.

“We have a pretty aggressive list of things we want to add to the product,” he said.

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How to take advantage of Teams-Exchange integration

When Microsoft introduced Teams, there was already an appetite in the marketplace for a platform that supports real-time chat, collaboration, meetings and calling.

The Slack success story motivated Microsoft to release its own version of a team messaging app in 2017. The introduction of Microsoft Teams provided a new way to communicate and collaborate, leading to less use of some Exchange functions. Because Exchange and email continue to be important, Microsoft developed Teams-Exchange integration functionality to give organizations a way to customize how they work with each application.

Exchange is still the go-to tool to organize and manage meetings, send email and centralize all key contact information, such as phone numbers and addresses. For users who rely on Microsoft Teams for collaboration, there are several ways to pull data from Outlook or Exchange Online into the Microsoft Teams channels or vice versa. The following examples highlight some of the Teams-Exchange integration requests administrators might get from users.

Access key Exchange data from within Microsoft Teams

Users who spend most of their time within Teams will want a way to retrieve email and calendars. Teams users can add a new tab with any content they like.

For Outlook email, add a tab by clicking on the (+) symbol in Teams as shown in Figure 1.1.

Teams content tab
Figure 1.1: Click the + symbol in Microsoft Teams to set up a new tab.

From the icons list at the top, select the one labeled Website. Give it a name and add the URL https://outlook.office365.com/mail/inbox for Outlook on the web as show in Figure 1.2.

Teams tab setup
Figure 1.2: To complete the setup for a new tab showing Outlook in Microsoft teams, give the tab a name and add the URL for Outlook on the web.

Use the tabs to add shared calendars for Teams

One of the other areas that users have missed from Teams relates to group calendars. Without direct access to a team’s calendars, many workers must switch between Outlook and Teams to view these shared calendars. A workaround is to create a new tab as explained above, but in this case, set it up to display the group’s shared calendar. Microsoft has this on its 2020 roadmap, but the following instructions will work today.

First, click on the office group calendar from the Outlook web client as shown in Figure 2.1.

office group calendar URL
Figure 2.1: Select the office group calendar from the Outlook web client to get the URL for the calendar.

After clicking the calendar icon, copy the URL from the address bar in the browser as shown in Figure 2.2.

copy calendar link
Figure 2.2: Copy the calendar URL from the address bar in the browser.

Next, go to Teams and add a new tab to the Team channel, select the Website icon and then paste the URL stored from the earlier step to complete the new tab as show in Figure 2.3.

Teams tab calendar setup
Figure 2.3: Complete the tab setup for a shared calendar in Teams by giving the tab a name and adding the calendar URL.

Notify users within Teams of certain email

Another capability that users might find helpful is getting a notification within Microsoft Teams when they receive a specific email.

For this setup, the Exchange administrator will use the automation platform called Power Automate, formerly known as Microsoft Flow. Power Automate is a service included with Office 365 to connect apps on the Microsoft platform so administrators can build customized routines that run automatically when certain conditions are met.

To start, sign into Power Automate and create a new flow. Select the trigger for Outlook named When a new email arrives and add the action in Teams called Post a message as shown in Figure 3.1.

Power Automate flow created
Figure 3.1: Use Power Automate to set up an automated task that triggers when a new email arrives from a specific person and results in a notification posted in a Teams channel.

You will need to perform basic configurations such as email account, filters for what type of email to monitor for and where to post the message. By default, once a flow is created it is active.

Notify users within Teams of certain events

Another useful automation routine to set up is to forward reminders in Teams for specific events. Since Exchange is the platform that manages all calendars and events, you can use a Power Automate task similar to the previous tip that triggers with an email.

Use Power Automate to build a flow that monitors a calendar — the user calendar, shared resource calendars or shared calendars — for a certain event, then automatically post a message to Teams when the start time approaches as shown in Figure 4.1.

Power Automate flow
Figure 4.1: Build a flow in Power Automate to monitor a calendar and then send a notification to a channel in Teams.

There are many more integration opportunities between Microsoft Teams and Exchange Online. For example, administrators can investigate the bots feature in Teams for another way to connect and process commands related to Exchange email, calendars and tasks. Services such as the Virtual Assistant and Bot Framework can offer more advanced integration capabilities without the help of a software developer.

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Microsoft integration adds more AI to Tibco analytics suite

Tibco continues to add to the augmented intelligence capabilities of its analytics platform, most recently revealing that Tibco Spotfire and Tibco Data Science now support Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services.

Azure Cognitive Services is a system from Microsoft that enables application developers to embed AI and machine learning capabilities. Spotfire, meanwhile, is Tibco’s chief business intelligence tool for data visualizations and Data Science is a BI tool focused less on visualization and more on hard core data analysis, and the two can be used together or independently of one another.

Tibco, founded in 1997 and based in Palo Alto, Calif., is adding support for Azure Cognitive Services following other AI investments in its analytics platform. In January 2020, the vendor added to the natural language generation capabilities of Spotfire via an integration with Arria NLG Studio for BI, and in the fall of 2019 it unveiled new products and added to existing ones with the credo of AI everywhere.

Meanwhile, the vendor’s addition of native support for Azure Cognitive Services, revealed June 2, comes after Tibco expanded the multi-cloud capabilities of its analytics platform through an integration with Microsoft Azure late in 2019; it already had an integration with Amazon Web Services and supports Google Cloud, among other cloud service providers.

“We don’t believe that AI is a marketing tool or a marketing term,” said Matt Quinn, Tibco’s COO. “We see that AI can actually be used as foundational element in people’s systems, and so working with Microsoft, doing this integration, is all about us being able to use our own technology, inside of our own products, as a foundational layer.”

A sample Tibco dashboard displays an organization's data.
An organization’s data is displayed on a sample Tibco dashboard.

AI, meanwhile, is an area where Tibco should be focused, according to Rick Sherman, founder and managing partner of Athena IT Solutions.

“With Spotfire, AI is definitely where they should be,” he said. “AI, machine learning and data science is where they’re great. They’re geared to sophisticated users, and if you’re doing a deeper dive, doing serious visualizations, Tibco is a way you want to go.”

Beyond simply adding a new integration, Tibco’s move to enable application developers to embed AI and machine learning capabilities by using Azure Cognitive Services continues the vendor’s process of expanding its analytics platform.

While some longtime BI vendors have struggled to maintain an innovative platform, Tibco, after losing some momentum in the early 2000s, has been able to remain among the top vendors with a suite of BI tools that are considered innovative.

We see that AI can actually be used as foundational element in people’s systems, and so working with Microsoft, doing this integration, is all about us being able to use our own technology, inside of our own products, as a foundational layer.
Matt QuinnCOO, Tibco

Tibco’s platform is entirely cloud-based, which allows Tibco to deliver new and upgraded features without having to roll out a major update each time, and its partnership strategy gives it the ability to embed products such as Azure Cognitive Services and Arria NLG Studio for BI without having to develop them in-house.

“Tibco has really evolved into a much more partner-centric company,” Quinn said. “We realize we are part of a broader ecosystem of tools and technologies, and so these partnerships that we’ve created are pretty special and pretty important, and we’ve been really happy with the bidirectional of those, especially the relationship with Microsoft. It’s clear that they have evolved as we have evolved.”

As far as motivation for the addition of Azure Cognitive Services to the Tibco analytics platform, Quinn said it’s simply about making data scientists more productive.

Customers, he added, were asking for the integration, while Tibco had a preexisting relationship with Microsoft that made adding Azure Cognitive Services a natural fit.

“Data scientists use all sorts of tools from all different walks of life, and because of our integration heritage we’re really good at integrating those types of things, so what we’re doing is we’re opening up the universe of all the Microsoft pieces to this data science group that just wants to be more productive,” Quinn said. “It enhances the richness of the platform.”

Similarly, Sherman said that the new integration is a positive move for data scientists.

Tibco’s acquisitions in recent years, such as its 2018 purchase of Scribe Software and its 2019 purchase of SnappyData, helped advance the capabilities of Tibco’s analytics platform, and now integrations are giving it further powers.

“They’re doing some excellent things,” Sherman said. “They’re aiming at deeper analytics, digging deeper into data science and data engineering, and this move to get their analytics closer to their data science makes a heck of a lot of sense.”

In the coming months, Quinn said that Tibco plans to continue adding integrations in order to add to the capabilities of its analytics platform. In addition, ease of use will be a significant focus for the vendor.

Meanwhile, ModelOps — the lifecycle of model development — will be a new area of emphasis for Tibco.

“ModelOps is really the set of things you have to do to take a model, whether it’s AI or just plain data science, and move it into the real world, and then how do you change it, how do you evolve it, who needs to sign off on it,” Quinn said. “For Tibco it’s great because it really brings together the data science piece with the hardcore engineering stuff that people have known us for.”

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WANdisco, Azure do data migration dance

WANdisco has integrated its big data migration with the Microsoft Azure cloud.

WANdisco LiveData Platform for Azure — in customer preview — is designed to make it easier to move petabytes of data to Azure. Customers can discover LiveData through Marketplace and access its services directly through Portal and Azure command line interface (CLI). With LiveData, customers can perform large-scale migration of Hadoop data to Azure, and enable backup and disaster recovery (DR) in the cloud and cloud bursting. As a native service, LiveData Platform for Azure will show up on the same bill as Azure.

WANdisco also launched LiveData Migrator and LiveData Plane for the new Azure-based platform. These two work together to allow consistency between an on-premises Hadoop environment and Azure Data Lake Storage. LiveData Migrator performs a one-time scan of the on-premises data and feeds it to LiveData Plane, which captures any changes after that point.

LiveData can scan through petabyte-scale data and generate a copy in the cloud while ensuring both copies are the same. It is powered by WANdisco Fusion, a consensus engine that keeps data consistent and available across multiple environments. Because it is a single scan and data migration is continuous, nothing needs to be shut down. This integration with Azure makes it easier for Azure customers to discover and deploy LiveData.

LiveData’s ability to move petabytes of data without interrupting production and without risk of losing the data midflight is something no other vendor does, said Merv Adrian, Gartner research vice president of data and analytics. Moving data at this scale takes a long time, and traditionally involves a combination of physically shipping servers loaded with data to a cloud provider and/or transferring data to the cloud during non-peak hours. The data is inaccessible during migration using these methods. Adrian said as a result, enterprises tend not to move live, active data this way.

“Taking everything down until I’m finished isn’t an option,” Adrian said.

LiveData doesn’t technically “finish” the migration until later, but customers can access and make changes to all the data mid-migration. LiveData ensures those changes are reflected in all copies. Adrian said that’s an important differentiator from other migration tools.

WANdisco LiveData does not yet have similar integration with AWS or Google Cloud, but Adrian said that the Azure integration makes most sense. AWS has larger adoption, but Adrian pointed out that AWS and Google have no on-premises presence — those customers are already on the cloud. Microsoft customers are most likely hybrid, running Microsoft products in their data centers while also dipping into Azure for their cloud needs. They are the customers most likely looking to juggle petabytes of data between on-premises and cloud.

screenshot of WANdisco LiveData in Azure
LiveData Platform for Azure can be discovered and deployed in the Azure Portal.

WANdisco CEO and founder David Richards said WANdisco focuses on serving the enterprise market. He said while AWS has higher general market adoption, it has similar adoption among enterprises as Azure. He also said Azure adoption is growing faster among the enterprise, partly because Microsoft’s office productivity and collaboration tools both on- and off-premises are widely popular.

Richards said cloud demand is spiking because of an increase in at-home workers as well as companies investing in AI and machine learning. Business has slowed across the board due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and companies are thinking of ways to modernize and transform their businesses in response. Investing in AI — specifically, the ability to make better decisions automatically — is a way for businesses to differentiate themselves.

“Businesses have to now reinvent themselves, but that has to come with severe IT mobilization,” Richards said. “The boldest move a company can make is looking at AI.”

Adrian brought up another point about the interplay between COVID-19 and cloud: many businesses are looking to cut costs, and CTOs are going to look at putting hardware on the chopping block. He said it depends on the workload, but in most cases, the total cost of ownership over three years for hosting on the cloud is cheaper than provisioning all the necessary hardware, floor space and cooling to host it on-premises.

Determining these costs and identifying which workloads are actually cheaper on the cloud is still a “black art,” Adrian said. It takes meticulous modeling to map out costs, and those models could still be wrong because the demands of the workloads and the cost of the cloud could grow or shrink unpredictably. However, Adrian said AI and machine learning are absolutely better done on the cloud because of the “bursty” nature of their compute demands.

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Moogsoft AIOps platform taps WWT in partner initiative

Moogsoft Inc., an AIOps platform provider, is partnering with World Wide Technology Inc. as part of its plan to work with channel partners that can help transform customers’ network operations centers.

World Wide Technology (WWT), a technology solution provider based in St. Louis, will use Moogsoft’s technology within its AIOps practice. WWT joins other Moogsoft partners such as Windward Consulting Group, a Herndon, Va., company that recently rolled out managed services around the Moogsoft platform.

Terry Ramos, Moogsoft’s senior vice president of alliances and channel, joined the company in February 2020. Since then, the company’s channel program has aimed to recruit partners able to help customers through an AIOps transformation.

“We’re focusing on a small number of partners who understand the transformation of taking hundreds of thousands of events and narrowing that down to a set number of situations that a customer really needs to focus on and get resolved,” Ramos said.

IT service providers have recently become more active in AIOps and intelligent operations. Companies building practices in those areas assess customers’ environments, suggest strategies for building on what they have already and help them integrate new tools.

AIOps use cases chart

The Moogsoft AIOps platform integrates with monitoring tools to ingest event data, provides noise reduction and ties together similar alerts into what the company terms “situations.” Moogsoft’s machine learning technology identifies the probable root cause of a situation, which network operations center (NOC) or security operations center personnel can then resolve.

Regarding integrations, Moogsoft will operate alongside Cisco’s AppDynamics in WWT’s AIOps practice. “We have a partnership with AppDynamics, as well,” Ramos noted. Moogsoft ingests monitoring and observability data from AppDynamics, according to Moogsoft.

Moogsoft, meanwhile, is promoting the concept of the virtual NOC, which lets ITOps and DevOps groups collaborate outside of a physical facility. Moogsoft Enterprise 8.0, based on the Moogsoft AIOps Platform, includes a Situation Room that lets personnel collaborate remotely.

Wipro launches channel partner program

Wipro Ltd. will collaborate with channel partners as it looks to accelerate the adoption of its products and platforms, which span areas from AI to virtual desktops.

The company’s newly launched Global Channel Partner Program aims to facilitate relationships with IT services providers, products companies, consulting firms and resellers. Mandar Vanarse, general manager of the intellectual property unit at Wipro, said the company offers 60 industry-specific platforms and products as well as “industry-agnostic” technology offerings.

The company’s portfolio also includes the Wipro Holmes AI and automation platform, Wipro’s VirtuaDesk desktop-as-a-service offering and the Open Banking API platform.

“We are open to our partners selling … one or several of the products from our portfolio,” Vanarse said. He added channel partners can sell Wipro’s products “as is” or as a joint offering with their own products.

Wipro channel partner firms will target the enterprise market segment, which is also Wipro’s primary segment. Vanarse said Wipro will avoid channel conflict with a “well-defined approach, which will be based on market, segment and accounts, which will help align our efforts to expand coverage and deployment.”

Wipro will also offer deal registration through the program. “Channel partners will register their leads with Wipro,” Vanarse said. “Wipro, in turn, will validate the leads and qualify the partner to pursue the lead.”

According to Wipro, the company’s channel partner staff will receive training at the Wipro Product Academy and have access to “special pricing models, sales enablement support, benefit calculators, and other sales and marketing material.”

Other news

  • ServiceNow updated its partner initiative with a partner marketplace and an app monetization program. The company unveiled the ServiceNow Partner Industry Solutions marketplace, which features partner offerings that address joint customers’ industry-specific workflow and digital transformation needs. The initial group of partners offering the industry solutions includes Accenture, Atos, Deloitte, DXC Technology, Ernst & Young and KPMG. ServiceNow also launched the Built on Now program, which provides a framework for app monetization. The company said the framework lets partners build, test, certify, distribute and sell digital workflows on the Now Platform. A year ago, ServiceNow said it would heavily invest in its partners as it pursues its goal of becoming a $10 billion company.
  • UiPath, a robotic process automation software company, said it is offering new partner training, certification and marketing programs through its UiPath Services Network. The additions include an expanded set of materials such as product training and solution guides; new turnkey digital marketing programs; and new technology integrations with vendors such as Oracle, Salesforce, ServiceNow and Workday. The company earlier this year launched UiPath Academy for Partners, a partner-specific training portal.
  • Omdia, a market research firm based in London, said the COVID-19 pandemic will boost SaaS market revenue in 2020 by 4 to 5 percentage points compared with earlier estimates. However, IT infrastructure service revenue will fall by 2 to 3 percentage points this year compared with previous forecasts. The company said the rise in remote working and e-learning is bolstering demand for SaaS, while business closures have reduced demand for IaaS and other infrastructure services.
  • MarketsandMarkets, a market researcher based in Pune, India, forecasted the global managed network services market size to grow from $52.7 billion in 2020 to $71.6 billion by 2025. The research firm said the main drivers behind the market expansion include organizations needing to lower capital and operating expenditures, growing interest in digital transformation and new demands for connectivity. MarketsandMarkets predicted that managed WAN will be the largest managed network service segment during the forecast period.
  • Mitel, a business communications firm based in Dallas, said its MiCloud Flex private cloud is now available on Google Cloud as a wholesale offering. Availability is in the U.S., United Kingdom and France. Mitel said MiCloud Flex on Google Cloud offers its channel partners the potential to create new recurring revenue streams.
  • Agosto, a Pythian company and cloud services and development firm, rolled out a Managed G Suite Administration Services practice. The practice offers administrative and engineering support around G Suite onboarding and off boarding processes; user moves/changes/adds/deletes; ticket escalation and incident management; license management; change management; continuous training; and an annual G Suite review with a remediation plan.
  • Peak-Ryzex, a digital supply chain and mobile workforce solutions provider based in Columbia, Md., has entered a partnership with ShipTrack, a cloud-based logistics management platform.
  • Niagara Networks, based in San Jose, Calif., has expanded its channel program in the Americas, having previously established its Niagara Networks Majestics Partner Program in other regions. The company said that program is now fully operational in North America, noting several dozen channel companies joined the program prior to its formal introduction.
  • Exabeam, a SIEM vendor in Foster City, Calif., launched a formal practice for managed security service providers (MSSPs) and managed detection and response (MDR) providers within its partner program. The addition will provide structure and support for MSSP and MDR provider business models, the company said. Separately, Exabeam disclosed a “significant investment” in its Asia-Pacific and Japan region to accommodate increasing demand for its cybersecurity offerings.
  • SADA, a business and technology consultancy based in Los Angeles, officially launched the National Response Portal, which provides data and analytics in support of COVID-19 recovery. SADA built the portal, collaborating with HCA Healthcare, which originated the idea, and Google Cloud.
  • Infoblox, a company that offers cloud-managed network services based in Santa Clara, Calif., said it now provides a dedicated team of business development specialists for channel partners. Other channel partner program investments include new sales incentives and the expansion of its Professional Services Program to EMEA and Asia-Pacific.
  • Pulseway, a remote monitoring and management vendor, rolled out a new software package for MSPs. The package is tailored for MSPs supporting remote working environments, the vendor said. The package includes its IT management platform, as well as several built-in features, including unlimited remote control concurrent sessions, remote user chat and file transfer, and automation workflows. The pricing starts from $1.04 per license, a Pulseway spokesperson said.
  • Veristor Systems, a business technology solutions provider based in Atlanta, has been named a strategic member of Respond Software’s partner program. Veristor will offer its customers Respond Analyst, a software automation offering for security operations.
  • High Wire Networks, a cybersecurity service firm that sells to MSPs, added cloud detection and response (CDR) capabilities to its Overwatch Managed Security Platform as a Service offering. The company said the CDR technology aims to safeguard SaaS apps and public cloud infrastructure with automated attack detection, manual and automated threat hunting, prebuilt compliance reports, and manual and automated response.
  • Cloud distributor Pax8 is hosting a webinar series in place of its Wingman2020 event, originally planned as an in-person event in Denver next month. The Wingman Webinar Series will cover a range of partner-related topics, Pax8 said.

Market Share is a news roundup published every Friday.

Additional reporting by Spencer Smith.

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What’s New in Microsoft Teams | May 2020

This month, we have new meetings, calling, devices, chat, collaboration, platform, and industry features we will not want you to miss. Read on to stay up-to-date. If you are interested in our recent Microsoft Build news, check out our Teams Build blog!

What’s New: Meetings, Calling, and Devices
Improved meeting join launcher experience
When launching a Teams meeting from a link, you will be provided with clearer options for how to join the meeting. You will be prompted with an option to join on the web, download the Teams client, or join with the native Teams client. We are gradually rolling this out over the coming weeks, and in the interim, you may continue to see this and the former experience.

Easily access meeting options during a Teams meeting
We are making it easier for meeting organizers to quickly and easily change their presenter and lobby settings once a meeting has started by providing a link directly in the participants pane. This new functionality is available for both scheduled and “Meet Now” meetings.

Download a participant report in a Teams meeting
Meeting organizers, especially teachers, often need to know who joined their Teams meetings. You can download a participant report, found in the roster view that includes join and leave times for participants. Available in the roster view, meeting organizers can download the report that includes those users who joined while the organizer was present. This feature is only available within the meeting while the meeting is active. Available on desktop (Windows and Mac) and the web.

Set tenant-wide default selection for “Who Can Present” in meetings
Tenant admins can now update their Teams meeting policies to allow for a new default selection when choosing who can present in new Teams meetings (everyone, people in my organization, specific people, or only me). Today, the default selection is “everyone” unless the meeting organizer selects otherwise through the meetings option configuration. To start, organizations can set this policy via a PowerShell cmdlet, and soon after we will have this policy configurable in the Admin portal.

Set background effects policy at a user-level
Tenant admins can soon assign a user-level policy to control how users engage with background effects in Teams meetings. Options include: offer no filters; background blur only; use background blur and default provided images; and all, which includes the ability for users to upload their own custom images.

Better policy controls over screen sharing from chats
Screen share from chat allows you to immediately start sharing your screen in a 1-1 chat or group chat. This entry point was previously governed by the AllowPrivateCalling policy. If this policy is disabled, users are not able to screen share from chat. The option to start a screen share from chat will now be governed by the ScreenSharingMode policy. Further, the ability to “add audio” to a screen share from chat session (if you want to talk to someone while screen sharing) will be governed by a user’s AllowPrivateCalling setting. This ensures that users who have AllowPrivateCalling disabled cannot start audio calls via screen share from chat.

Teams and Skype Interoperability
Teams and Skype interoperability will enable collaboration with more partners, customers, and suppliers who rely upon Skype for Consumer (SFC) as their communication app. On either platform, customers will be able to discover users via email search, then chat or call using audio/video. Clients supported include Desktop, Web and Mobile (iOS/Android). Admins will be able to control user access to this feature from The Teams Admin Center.

Reverse Number Lookup (RNL) Enhancements
In the past, the caller name sometimes did not show when they called you. Back in October 2019 we released the feature to make it easier to identify the caller. With the latest enhancements to RNL, the Telco display name will now also show up in your Activity Feed, Call History, and Voicemail as well.

Microsoft Teams Rooms, app version 4.4.41.0 now available
While physical meeting rooms may not be a focal point for many right now, there are still organizations and industries whose essential workers continue to rely on these spaces during this time. We also recognize the vital role Microsoft Teams Rooms will play when organizations return to work. The latest update, app version 4.4.41.0, is now available on the Windows store and is coming to every Teams room over the next few weeks. New features include: Modern authentication support, New application splash screen, Ability to project content to a single display when using a HDMI cable in a dual display configuration, Support for dynamic emergency calling, and more. To learn more about these new features, read the Microsoft Teams Rooms May Update blog.

Poly announces new solution for Microsoft Teams Rooms
Poly Room Solution for Microsoft Teams not only delivers the premium Poly audio and video for Teams, but also provides a clutter-free experience from start to finish, with simple installation and maintenance in any size room. To learn more about the Poly solutions for Microsoft Teams Rooms, coming later this year, click here.

Jabra PanaCast now certified for Microsoft Teams
The Jabra PanaCast is a plug-and-play device, certified for Microsoft Teams. The Jabra PanaCast is designed to improve meetings by using three 13-megapixel cameras and real-time video stitching to give a full 180° view. Enjoy a natural, inclusive human perspective, with no blind spots ensuring quick, easy collaboration with hassle-free video and audio. To learn more about the Jabra PanaCast, click here.

Yealink, EPOS, and Jabra announce new Teams peripherals
With increased demand for remote work and virtual communication, having the right set of personal devices provides painless interaction and increases time for meaningful connection. With Teams certified devices, you can join professional meetings anywhere with high audio fidelity that removes distracting background noise and ensures that your voice is heard clearly.

Here are some new releases this month:

  • EPOS ADAPT 360, 460T, 560, and 660 headsets range from in ear and over the ear options that optimize concentration and productivity any environment with Active Noise Cancellation, Bluetooth connectivity, and a dedicated Teams button. Availability varies by product: ADAPT 360 (July 3), ADAPT 460T (June 29), ADAPT 560 (June 26), ADAPT 660 (June 22). You can learn more here.

  • Yealink UH36 Dual/Mono is a simple and lightweight USB headset with a dedicated Teams button for long conference calls. Availability starting on May 15. You can learn more here.

  • Jabra Speak 750 is a speaker phone with a dedicated Teams button helps users hold natural conversations with USB and Bluetooth. Availability starting on June 1. You can learn more here.

Limited time partner offers available for Teams Devices
Crestron
Crestron is offering a program for customers looking to upgrade existing systems to those certified for Microsoft Teams. Special offers are available for a Crestron Smart Soundbar, Flex C-Series Integrator Kit and Mercury system. Offers end June 30, 2020 and are available in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Asia and EMEA. Purchase orders must be placed through an authorized Crestron dealer.

Poly
For customers using Trio Visual+ in Skype for Business who would like to move to a Microsoft Teams environment, Poly is offering a Trio Visual+ to Poly Studio X30 Trade In program. With this promotion, Poly Microsoft customers can replace Trio with Poly Studio X30 and TC8 controller, or pair Trio with the Poly Studio X30, for Teams video meetings in huddle and small room spaces. Between April 15, 2020 and December 31, 2020, customers can trade in Trio Visual+ and save up to $200 when they upgrade to a Poly Studio X30 or up to $300 when they upgrade to a Poly Studio X30 with TC8 controller. This program is globally available.

Yealink
For a limited time, Yealink is offering a devices bundle trial program for remote workers, giving customers 50% off MSRP on any two WFH devices (limit one per device model). This offer is valid through July 31, 2020 and is globally available. Additionally, Yealink is offering a coupon code for the VC210 Teams edition collaboration bar on the Microsoft Teams devices showcase. Use the coupon code: Yealink4Teams at checkout to access the discounted price. This offer is available in the US and Canada only and is valid through July 31, 2020.

What’s New: Chat & Collaboration
Templates in Teams
Create a new team even faster with a variety of templates for common team types. Options will include event management, crisis response, hospital ward and bank branch, just to name a few. Templates comes with pre-defined channels, apps, and guidance on how to utilize and customize it. IT professionals can standardize team structures by creating new custom templates for their organization. Templates in Teams will roll out in the next few months and appear automatically. Check out the deep dive blog to learn more.

Microsoft Lists in Teams
Microsoft Lists helps you track information and organize work. Lists are simple, smart, and flexible, so you can track issues, assets, routines, contacts, inventory and more using customizable views and smart rules and alerts to keep everyone in sync. To learn more, visit the new Microsoft Lists resource center and get first looks at the Microsoft Lists product demo video.

Create a new list directly inside Teams or bring in one that already exists in Microsoft 365.

You can create, share, and track list all from within Microsoft Teams.

Bring more people together in group chats and teams
Whether you need to collaborate with others to deliver a big project or work with a large group of people to complete an ad-hoc task, Microsoft Teams now allows you to bring more people together. Group chats will now be able to accommodate up to 250 users and teams can now have up to 10,000 members.

Pop out chats into separate windows
Users can now streamline their workflow and pop out chats into separate windows. This allows people to move more easily between ongoing conversations. This is now generally available.

What’s New: Onboarding your organization to Teams
New Skype for Business to Teams Upgrade Advisor
Our newest Advisor for Teams, the Skype for Business Upgrade plan, has launched within the Microsoft Teams Admin Center. Whether you’re just getting started with Microsoft Teams, already using Teams alongside Skype for Business, or ready to upgrade, this provides everything you need for a successful transition. Designed for Skype for Business customers with online or on-premises environments, the Skype for Business Upgrade plan shares a proven success framework for implementing change and step-by-step process to enable your organization’s technical and end-user readiness. We’ll connect you with valuable upgrade resources including planning guidance and best practices, free workbooks, schedules and communication templates and live 1:many planning workshops. Learn more here about using Advisor for Teams to help you roll out Teams and upgrade from Skype for Business.

What’s New: Developer, Platform, and App management
Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code Extension for Teams
Developers can use the new Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code Teams extension to quickly build project scaffolding, configure features, create app package manifest and setup hosting, validate app package manifest, and start the app publishing process (for yourself, to your organization’s catalog, or to the Teams app store). Visual Studio Code extension is available in public preview today. Visual Studio extension coming soon!

Bringing low-code bots to Teams, with Power Virtual Agents
We are working with the newest component of the Power Platform – Power Virtual Agents, which is a low-code chatbot platform. New features will make it easier to create and manage low-code chatbots from within Teams and more streamlined for end users to use Power Virtual Agents bots in Teams. These new features are:

  • Bot Template: FAQ bot template available in GitHub
  • Single sign-on: Power Virtual Agents bots will be available, removing the need for users to sign in again when using a Power Virtual Agents bot in Teams

Simplified Power Apps and Power Virtual Agents “Add to Teams”
Coming soon, Power Apps makers will be able to click a single “Add to Teams” button in Power Apps, which will push the app to the Teams app store. Similarly, the process of adding low-code bots from Power Virtual Agents will be simplified, so developers can spend more time building and less time deploying.

Enhanced workflow automation with Power Automate + Teams
There are several new Power Automate triggers and actions built specifically for Teams to unlock custom message extensions, allow for automated @mentioning, and provide a customized bot experience. To make the process of building automation even easier, we are also rolling out new business process scenario templates built for Teams. When users create a new flow, they will see these templates when they select the “Create from Template option.”

Improved Power BI sharing to Teams
We have made it even easier to share Power BI reports to Teams – simply select the report to share and click the new “Share to Teams” button in Power BI. You’ll be prompted to select the user or channel to send the report to, which will automatically be posted to the conversation.

Users can now also copy individual charts in a Power BI report, and when they are pasted to a Teams conversation, the chat will include a rich thumbnail preview of the chart, as well as an adaptive card allowing users to take actions on that chart.

If you want to read more about all our new developer capabilities, check out our Teams Developer blog post: What’s New in the Microsoft Teams Platform | Build 2020.

What’s New: Education
Change in meeting join experience for our education customers
Today, we allow anyone within an organization to start a Teams meeting, regardless if they are the meeting organizer or not. Moving forward, we will restrict the ability to start a meeting to only those users who have been assigned a policy to create a meeting within their organization. Meeting attendees without the ability to create a meeting will see a pre-join screen indicating that the meeting hasn’t started. These individuals will be automatically admitted into the meeting once a user with permissions joins and starts the meeting. For example, where teachers are assigned a policy that enables them to create meetings, but students are not: if a student clicks on a Teams meeting not yet started by a teacher, they will be admitted into the meeting once a teacher has started a meeting.

Keeping distance learning engaging and secure
With many school and universities closed for the foreseeable future, Teams supports faculty, educators, and students to connect, engage, and learn. Here is the latest guidance on how to maximize learning at a distance and keep students safe:

  • Manage student, faculty, and staff engagement in meetings, live events, chat, and more. Learn more about these settings and how to manage them here.
  • Get started in Teams with student and educator quick start guides and create, run, and attend safe Teams meetings with this guidance.
  • Customize your school’s distance learning toolkit with these LMS integrations in Teams.

What’s New: US Government
In-line message translation in GCC and GCC High
In-line message translation will ensure that every worker in the team has a voice and facilitate global collaboration. With a simple click, people who speak different languages can fluidly communicate with one another by translating posts in channels and chat. This is now generally available.

To see many of these new capabilities in action with demonstrations, check out today’s Microsoft Mechanics video: Microsoft Teams updates | May 2020 and beyond.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

U.K. agency uses Oracle analytics to ID annual savings

A top United Kingdom government agency turned to the Oracle analytics platform in pursuit of a billion pounds sterling ($1.23 billion USD) in annual cost savings.

The National Health Service Business Services Authority (NHSBSA), part of the U.K.’s Department of Health with a focus on supporting the government-run National Health System, manages 36 billion pounds of the NHS’ spending each year.

In 2014, the agency was told to identify and deliver the recurring savings by 2018. Analytics would be key in carrying out the mandate, said Andrew Mason, the NHSBSA’s data warehouse and BI manager, appearing Thursday at a session of the virtually held Oracle Analytics Summit. Oracle is spacing out the event, which started May 12, until August 18.

“It was this really that kick-started the data, analytics and insight area of the NHSBSA,” Mason said. “We set up a data science team. We quickly identified 100 million pounds worth of savings in the first six months, and that got us the buy-in [from the NHS] we needed to carry on our analytics journey.”

After building a data and analytics team, the NHSBSA considered various analytics platforms, including Informatica and even building its own. Ultimately, with its data coming in from both internal and external sources as well as on premises and from the cloud, the agency chose the Oracle analytics suite with Oracle Exadata as its database platform.

“At that moment in time — and probably still is — [we believe] it’s the best hardware you can buy for this kind of analytics,” Mason said, referring to the Exadata platform’s servers. “It was secure, it was stable, and we had lots of support from Oracle helping us get set up.”

Two years later, in 2016, the NHSBSA expanded its analytics capabilities to make data the driver behind its decisions. It began developing machine learning algorithms, building up its enterprise data warehouse and further developing its business intelligence capabilities by adding Oracle Analytics Cloud.

That allowed the agency to make more sense of its transactional data, evolve its internal management information and improve its products and services, all of which lead to cost efficiencies.

Now, using the Oracle analytics platform, the NHSBSA is able to bring all of its raw data into a landing area, move it into a staging area where it gets transformed, visualize the data and finally use it to create aggregate tables and prebuilt reports. And according to Mason, the agency’s analytics stack from Oracle can load 1.5 million database transactions in 45 minutes, stage the data in another 90 minutes, and move it to the final stage for analysis in 12 more minutes.

By 2019, the NHSBSA had reached the target of identifying savings of a billion pounds, and data analytics supported that to the tune of over 800 million pounds. But we didn’t stop there. We continue to push ourselves in the data and analytics arena.
Andrew MasonData warehouse and BI manager, U.K. National Health Service Business Services Administration

Meanwhile, the agency has 4,000 registered users running about 8,000 queries per day, each of which averages just 14 seconds.

“By 2019, the NHSBSA had reached the target of identifying savings of a billion pounds, and data analytics supported that to the tune of over 800 million pounds,” Mason said. “But we didn’t stop there. We continue to push ourselves in the data and analytics arena.”

Among the ways the Oracle analytics platform helped the NHSBSA find ways to reduce spending is to identify fraud and waste.

Mason said that over a billion pounds in U.K. healthcare funding is lost to fraud annually, and “data and analytics can help tackle this.” It can help identify such fraud as incidences of unnecessary prescriptions and activity in the name of deceased patients.

Meanwhile, the NHSBSA’s use of Oracle analytics can help it identify wasted spending on brand-name pharmaceuticals when generic options are available, according to the agency.

Another way the Oracle analytics platform helps the agency reduce costs is to improve prescription behavior, in particular over-prescribing of antibiotics and other drugs. It also can help pinpoint incidences of polypharmacy, the taking of medications concurrently that can sometimes lead to dangerous consequences.

A patient holds a bottle of medication while looking up information on her phone.
A patient looks up information about medication.

“The data scientists did the grunt work,” Mason said. “They came up with the insights, and then we productionized that through our data warehouse and BI dashboards and started pushing that data out to the wider NHS to start improving behaviors as well as putting that data in the hands of policymakers to make more informed decisions.”

Over the past two years, according to Mason, general practitioners in the U.K. had prescribed more than a million fewer antibiotics. Meanwhile, nearly 10,000 fewer patients are on 10 or more medications.

Now, amid the COVID-19 crisis, the NHSBSA is using the Oracle analytics platform to help the U.K. combat the virus.

Its data has helped reduce in-office visits by identifying patients who could benefit from getting prescriptions filled electronically, The data also identifies potential pressures on pharmacists by looking at how many regular customers are over 70 years old. In addition, the system helps administrators discover who should be on the U.K.’s shielded patient list — those at high risk of complications who were advised at the start of the lockdown to stay at home for 12 weeks.

“For our data sets to be used in such important work, I don’t think there’s any bigger compliment,” Mason said. “It makes all the blood, sweat and tears worth it.”

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Steer clear of trouble while following the Office 365 roadmap

Microsoft will make several changes to the Office 365 platform this year that will affect enterprise users. Email client changes and new features in the Office suite and subscriptions can increase support calls, but administrators can help themselves through training and engagement.

Microsoft, which was once tolerant of customers on older products, is pushing customers to adopt the latest Windows 10 build and Office suite to take advantage of new Office 365 functionality and capabilities. At time of publication, the Office 365 roadmap shows nearly 250 features in development with nearly 150 rolling out. Some of the changes include:

  • After October 2020, only Office 2019 and Office Pro Plus will be allowed to connect to Office 365 services, such as email on Exchange Online and SharePoint Online;
  • Microsoft Outlook will receive several changes to its user interface throughout 2020;
  • Office Groups and Microsoft Teams will be the focus for collaboration tool development;
  • Office ProPlus is no longer supported in Windows 8.1, Windows 7 or older on the client operating system and Windows Server 2012, 2012 R2 and 2016 on the server side.

Given the number of updates in the works, many administrators realize that the wave of change will affect many of their users, especially if it requires upgrading any legacy Office suite products such as Office 2013, 2016 and even 2010. To ensure a smooth transition with many of the new Office 365 tools and expected changes, IT workers must take several steps to prepare.

Develop an Office 365 or Office 2019 adoption plan

One of the first steps for IT is to plot out a strategy that outlines the upcoming changes and what needs to be done to complete the adoption process. During this step, the IT team must detail the various software changes to implement — upgrades to the Office suite, introduction of Microsoft Teams and other similar items. The adoption plan can define the details around training material, schedules, resources and timelines needed.

Identify platform champions to help encourage adoption

To be more effective when it comes to gaining the trust of their end users and keeping them invested with the upcoming Office 365 roadmap features, administrators must identify a few platform champions within the business to help build support within the end-user groups and outside of IT.

Build excitement around the upcoming changes

Changes are generally met with some resistance from end users, and this is especially the case when it comes to changing tools that are heavily used such as Outlook, Word, Excel and certain online services. To motivate end users to embrace some of the new applications coming out in 2020, administrators must highlight the benefits such as global smart search, a new look and feel for the email client and several enhancements coming in Microsoft Teams.

Be flexible with training materials and methods

Everyone learns differently, so any training content that administrators provide to the end users must come in several formats. Some of the popular delivery mechanisms include short videos, one-page PDF guides with tips and tricks, blog postings and even podcasts. One other option is to outsource the training process by using a third-party vendor that can deliver training material, tests and other content through an online learning system. Some of the groups that offer this service include BrainStorm, Microsoft Learning and Global Knowledge Training.

Monitor progress and highlight success stories

Once IT begins to roll out the adoption plan and the training to the end users, it is important to monitor the progress by performing frequent checks to identify the users actively participating in the training and using the different tools available to them. One way for the administrators to monitor Office activation is through the Office 365 admin portal under the reports section. Some of the Office usage and activation reports will identify who is making full use of the platform and the ones lagging behind who might require extra assistance to build their skills.

Stay on top of the upcoming changes from Microsoft

End users are not the only ones who need training. Given the fast rate that the Office 365 platform changes, IT administrators have a full-time job in continuing to review the new additions and changes to the applications and services. Online resources like Microsoft 365 Roadmap and blog posts by Microsoft and general technology sites provide valuable insights into what is being rolled out and what upcoming changes to expect.

Share stories and keep the door open for continuous conversations

Microsoft Teams and Yammer are highly recommended for administrators to interact with their end users as they are adopting new Office 365 tools. This gives end users a way to share feedback and allows others to join the conversation to help IT gauge the overall sentiment around the changes in Office 365. They also provide IT with an avenue to make some announcements related to major future changes and evaluate how their end users respond.

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Looker analytics platform adding app development capability

Looker is maintaining a focus on application development as it continues to add new features to its analytics platform six months after its last major release and three months after it finally joined forces with Google Cloud.

The vendor, which was founded in 2012 and is based in Santa Cruz, Calif., was acquired by Google for $2.6 billion in June 2019, just four days before Tableau was purchased by Salesforce for $15.7 billion. Unlike Tableau, however, which serves a largely on-premises customer base and delivers platform updates quarterly, Looker is entirely cloud-based and therefore, beyond its one major update each year, delivers new and upgraded features throughout the year.

Looker 7, released in November 2019, included a new application development framework and enhanced embedded BI capabilities. Since then, Looker has kept adding to its set of tools for application developers, enhancing the power of its no-code query capabilities and providing new ways to embed analytics into the applications customers use in their everyday workflows.

“Developers are their bread and butter,” said Mike Leone, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. “It’s all about enabling developers to seamlessly, intelligently and rapidly incorporate analytics at scale into modern applications. This is and has been a top priority for Looker.”

Meanwhile, as Looker has continued to build up its analytics platform, the vendor’s acquisition was finalized. The purchase closed so recently, however, that there hasn’t yet been any obvious evidence of collaboration between Looker and Google Cloud, analysts said.

Developers are their bread and butter. It’s all about enabling developers to seamlessly, intelligently and rapidly incorporate analytics at scale into modern applications. This is and has been a top priority for Looker.
Mike LeoneSenior analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group

“I have not seen anything yet to suggest that they’ve made a dramatic change yet in their approach,” said Dave Menninger, research director of data and analytics research at Ventana Research.

He added, however, that Looker and Google Cloud share a lot of similarities and the two are a natural fit. In particular, the way Looker uses its LookML language to enable developers to build applications without having to write complex code fits in with Google Cloud’s focus.

“Looker has found a good partner in Google in the sense that Looker is really targeted at building custom apps,” Menninger said. “Looker is all about the LookML language and constructing these analyses, these displays that are enhanced by the LookML language. And a large part of Google, the Google Cloud Platform division, is really focused on that developer community. So Looker fits into that family well.”

Leone, meanwhile, also said he’s still waiting to see Google’s influence on Looker but added that he expects to hear more about their integration in the near future.

And collaboration, according to Pedro Arellano, Looker’s vice president of product marketing, is indeed on the horizon. The two are working together on new features, and given that Looker is entirely cloud-based and that Looker and Google Cloud not only had a strong partnership before they joined forces but had 350 shared customers, Looker’s integration into the Google Cloud portfolio is proceeding more rapidly than it might have had Looker had a host of on-premises customers.

“It’s exciting to talk with the product teams and understand where the potential integration points are and think about these really exciting thing that we’ll be able to develop, some things that I expect will be out in a relatively short amount of time,” Arellano said. “That work case is happening, and it’s absolutely something we’re doing today.”

As far as features Looker has added to the analytics platform since last fall, one of the key additions is the Slack integration the vendor unveiled at the time Looker 7 was released but was still in beta testing. The tool delivers insights directly into customers’ Slack conversations.

Beyond the Slack integration, Looker has added to its extension network, which is its low-code/no-code tool set for developers. Among the latest new tools are the Data Dictionary, which pulls up metadata about fields built by developers using the LookML model and displays them in a digestible format, as well as tools that help developers customize user interfaces and create dashboard extensions such as adding a chat widget.

In terms of query power, Looker has developed what it calls aggregate awareness, a feature that uses augmented intelligence and machine learning to reduce the amount of time it takes a user to run a query and helps them run more focused queries.

“We really think of Looker as a platform for developing and building and deploying any kind of data experience that our customers might imagine,” Arellano said. “We recognize that we can’t anticipate all the data experiences they might come up with. We’re very focused on the developers because these are the people that are building those experiences.”

In addition to the new features Looker has added since the release of Looker 7, the vendor put together the Looker COVID-19 Data Block, a free hub for data related to the ongoing pandemic that includes data models and links to public sources such Johns Hopkins University, the New York Times and the COVID Tracking Project. The hub uses LookML to power frequent updates and deliver the data in prebuilt dashboards.

“This was an opportunity to do good things with technology and with data,” Arellano said.

As Looker continues to enhance its analytics platform, one of its next areas the vendor says it will focus on will be the platform’s mobile capabilities.

Mobile has long been a difficult medium for BI vendors with data difficult to digest on the small screens of phones and tablets. Many, as a result, have long ignored mobile. Recently, however, vendors such as Yellowfin and MicroStrategy have made significant investments in their mobile capabilities, and Arellano said that Looker plans to offer an improved mobile experience sometime in the second half of 2020.

That fits in with what Leone expects from Looker now that it’s under the Google Cloud umbrella, which is a broadening of the vendor’s focus and capabilities.

“I think, individually, they were behind a few of the leaders in the space, but the Google acquisition almost instantly brought them back on par with direct competition,” he said. “Google’s influence will be beneficial, especially around the ideas of democratizing analytics/insights, faster on-ramp and a much wider vision that incorporates a powerful AI vision.”

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