Tag Archives: platform

SafeBreach launches new platform to prioritize, mitigate security gaps

SafeBreach has launched the next version of the SafeBreach GRID platform — its Global Risk Director that helps security teams prioritize and manage security gaps revealed by breach simulation.

According to SafeBreach, GRID correlates data from multiple simulations to identify security gaps and then links them to their potential business impact. The platform then generates a priority-based set of recommendations that helps security teams decide which security gaps to address first.

Cybersecurity and risk management are among the top investment priorities in 2019 for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), according to this year’s ComputerWeekly/TechTarget IT Priorities research.

As companies equip themselves with new technologies to improve employee performance, smooth operations and boost productivity, concerns over breaches and attacks grow higher. As a result, 29% of EMEA and 34% of U.K. respondents said they were planning to increase investment in security to address new threats and compliance requirements to support digital transformation.

According to SafeBreach, the launch follows customers’ demand for higher team efficiency by discovering and tackling the most impactful security issues first. It claims GRID does that by analyzing the enterprise’s assets and the immediate threat landscape to discover any security gaps in its network.

The GRID product works exclusively with the SafeBreach platform and includes the following features:

  • risk indicators to help quantify business risk;
  • analysis of multiple simulation results to provide prioritization of remediation activities;
  • guidance on security configuration changes based on potential business impacts; and
  • integration via the SafeBreach platform with security tools to automatically gather SafeBreach’s analysis of enterprise network and endpoint security gaps for an organization.

A security startup based in Silicon Valley, SafeBreach is competing with other U.S.-based startups, such as Verodin and AttackIQ, in the breach and attack simulation technology market.

AttackIQ, which recently announced its partnership with BlackBerry Cylance to deliver enterprise endpoint security validation, promises to provide “customizable scenarios that mimic real-world threats” for organizations to measure their security control performance and identify security gaps, according to their website.

Verodin’s Security Instrumentation Platform also works to make sure an organization’s security control system is up to date with the current threat landscape. The product intends to integrate into and guide customers’ IT environments to test the effectiveness of their “network, endpoint, email and cloud controls” and then offers reports on how to optimize existing controls, according to the vendor.

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Alluxio updates data orchestration platform, launches 2.0

Alluxio has launched Alluxio 2.0, a platform designed for data engineers who manage and deploy analytical and AI workloads in the cloud.

According to Alluxio, the 2.0 version was built particularly with hybrid and multi-cloud environments in mind, with the aim of providing data orchestration to bring data locality, accessibility and elasticity to compute.

Alluxio 2.0 Community Edition and Enterprise Edition provide a handful of new capabilities, including data orchestration for multi-cloud, compute-optimized data access for cloud analytics, AWS support and architectural foundations using open source.

Data orchestration for multi-cloud

There are three main components to the data orchestration capabilities of Alluxio 2.0: policy-driven data management, administration of data access policies and cross-cloud storage data movement using data service.

Policy-driven data management enables data engineers to automate data movement across different storage systems based on predefined policies. Users can also automate tiering of data across any environment or any number of storage systems. Alluxio claims this will reduce storage costs because the data platform teams will only manage the most important data in the expensive storage systems, while moving less important data to cheaper alternatives.

The administration of data access policies enables users to configure policies at any directory or folder level to streamline data access and workload performance. This includes defining behaviors for individual data sets for core functions, such as writing data or syncing it with Alluxio storage systems.

With cross-cloud storage data movement using data service, Alluxio claims users get highly efficient data movement across cloud stores, such as AWS S3 and Google Cloud services.

Compute-optimized data access for cloud analytics

The compute-optimized data access capabilities include two components: compute-focused cluster partitioning and integration with external data sources over REST.

Compute-focused cluster partitioning enables users to partition a single Alluxio cluster based on any dimension. This keeps data sets within each framework or workload from being contaminated by the other. Alluxio claims that this reduces data transfer costs and constrains data to stay within a specific region or zone.

Integration with external data sources over REST enables users to import data from web-based sources, which can then be aggregated in Alluxio to perform analytics. Users can also direct web locations with files to Alluxio to be pulled in as needed.

AWS support

The new suite provides Amazon Elastic MapReduce (EMR) service integration. According to Alluxio, Amazon EMR is frequently used during the process of moving to cloud services to deploy analytical and AI workloads. Amazon EMR is now available as a data layer within EMR for Spark, Presto and Hive frameworks.

Architectural foundations using open source

According to Alluxio, core foundational elements have been rebuilt using open source technologies. RocksDB is now used for tiering metadata of files and objects for data that Alluxio manages to enable hyperscale. Alluxio uses gRPC as the core transport protocol for communication with clusters, as well as between the client and master.

In addition to the main components, other new features include the following:

  • Alluxio Data Service: A distributed clustered service.
  • Adaptive replication: Configures a range for the number of copies of data stored in Alluxio that are automatically managed.
  • Embedded journal: A fault tolerance and high availability mode for file and object metadata that uses the RAFT consensus algorithm and is separate from other external storage systems.
  • Alluxio POSIX API: A Portable OS Interface-compatible API that enables frameworks such as Tensorflow, Caffe and other Python-based models to directly access data from any storage system through Alluxio using traditional access.

Alluxio 2.0 Community Edition and Enterprise Edition are both generally available now.

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What are the steps for an Exchange certificate renewal?

An expired Exchange certificate can bring your messaging platform to a halt, but it’s easy enough to check and replace the expired certificate.

When mail stops flowing, Outlook access breaks and the Exchange Management Console/Shell gives errors, then it might be time to see if an Exchange certificate renewal is in order.

Exchange adds a certificate by default with your protocols during its installation, including Simple Mail Transfer Protocol and Internet Information Services (IIS). Many companies do not allow access to Outlook on the web, so mail is only accessible internally. This limits the Exchange Server capabilities as Microsoft designed it to be accessible from anywhere on any device.

For companies that choose to limit Exchange’s functionality, the IT staff often opts to use the default certificate, which has a five-year life span. In five years, IT might forget about the Exchange certificate renewal until they receive countdown emails warning that it will expire. If nobody sees these emails and the certificate expires, then problems will start, as Exchange services that require a valid certificate might not work.

To check a certificate’s status, run the following PowerShell command:

Get-ExchangeCertificate | fl

Assign a new certificate for Exchange 2010

If Exchange breaks due to an expired certificate, then you might want to push for a quick fix by issuing a certificate to an internal certificate authority. This won’t work because the certificate authority will not sign the certificate.

If you start to panic as help desk tickets start to flood in, this is when trouble typically happens. You might try to adjust the settings in IIS, but this can break Exchange. However, the fix is simple.

Run the New-ExchangeCertificate command to initiate the Exchange certificate renewal process. This PowerShell cmdlet will create a new self-signed certificate for Exchange 2010. The command prompts you to replace the existing certificate. Click Yes to proceed.

Exchange certificate replacement
Execute the PowerShell New-ExchangeCertificate cmdlet to build a new self-signed certificate for Exchange 2010.

Next, assign the services from the old certificate to the new one and perform an IISReset from an elevated command prompt to get Exchange services running again.

Finally, ensure the bindings in IIS are set to use the new certificate.

Remote monitoring and management: Netgear Insight Pro debuts

Netgear has launched Insight Pro, a cloud-based remote monitoring and management platform that the company said will bring managed service providers more network management capabilities, as well as attractive revenue opportunities when they resell the service.

Netgear executives said Insight Pro is a multi-tenancy platform designed for MSPs that want to manage numerous customers remotely. This is a change from the previous version of the product, called Insight, which was designed to manage the network ecosystem of only one small or medium-sized business.

The networking company, based in San Jose, Calif., introduced Netgear Insight Pro in August in North America and Asia, and it featured the product earlier this month at the CEDIA Expo conference in San Diego.

John McHugh, general manager and senior vice president for Netgear’s commercial business unit, said Insight Pro can help MSPs and their customers build a better business relationship. The aim is to help those parties gain transparency, greater efficiency and control over network operations.

Remote monitoring and management reporting

Once an MSP buys a Netgear Insight Pro subscription at $15 per device, per year, and resells the subscription service, customers that sign on can see a read-only view of their network. The remote monitoring and management offering generates reports that give users details on power usage, data consumption and storage utilization, among other usage statistics that show the health and vulnerabilities that exist across the network. 

“Insight will detect a hardware failure, bandwidth or loading issues and configuration problems,” McHugh said. “It will also help the MSP determine what the ‘peak’ loading is, which is critical to provide customers with guidance on where they might need additional capacity either now or in the future.”

Customers don’t want to commit to a cloud model and then get stuck in an arrangement that’s unaffordable.
John McHughgeneral manager and senior vice president for Netgear’s commercial business unit

To guard against network slowdowns, mitigate the impact of outages and protect the network against security breaches, Netgear Insight Pro is supported by a suite of Netgear products that include apps, firmware, wireless LANs, storage devices, network security tools and switches that run on Amazon Web Services’ cloud computing platforms.

As the cloud subscription model continues to reduce the need for value-added resellers to install hardware at customer sites, the Insight Pro product will help VARs transition to a service provider business, according to McHugh. He said many VARs are intimidated by the idea of managing a customer’s network on a 24/7 basis under a subscription model.

“In the case of a VAR who is becoming an IT service provider, they don’t have to purchase any equipment, and they don’t have to stand up a 24-by-7 data center or call centers to manage their customer’s network. All the notifications and alerts go straight to their phone,” McHugh said.

Netgear Insight Pro: Toggling the cloud

Another feature of the remote monitoring and management product: MSPs using Insight Pro can switch access to the cloud on or off. Once an MSP has authenticated itself and started a subscription, McHugh said, the MSP will have the option to choose whether it wants to manage a customer’s network locally or manage it through the cloud.

“Customers don’t want to commit to a cloud model and then get stuck in an arrangement that’s unaffordable,” McHugh said. “Partners and their customers demand that they have this flexibility as they work through their concerns over user experience and the cost of operations. Customers of Insight Pro only pay for what they use.”

Tibco analytics capabilities get upgrade in Spotfire X

Spotfire X, the latest iteration of the Tibco analytics and data visualization platform, aims to give users a more streamlined experience by incorporating more AI and machine learning capabilities when the upgraded platform is released this fall.

Notably, the platform update, characterized by what Tibco has dubbed a new “A(X) Experience,” will enable users to type in requests to navigate and visualize their data through natural language processing (NLP), to automatically record dataflows that can later be explored and edited. It also will natively stream data in real time from dozens of sources.

The new Spotfire X features are designed to create a faster and simpler user experience, according to Brad Hopper, vice president of product strategy, analytics and streaming at the integration and analytics software vendor. “This will allow us to take a complete novice off the street, put them in front of the tool, and no matter what they will get something back,” he said.

Search for simple

With the rise of citizen data scientists, it has become a trend for self-service analytics vendors to design platforms that are easier to use and more automatic, turning to employing AI and machine learning algorithms to do so.

Brad Hopper, TibcoBrad Hopper

Earlier this year, a Tibco competitor, Tableau, acquired MIT AI startup Empirical Systems, whose technology is expected to provide Tableau platforms with more advanced predictive analytics capabilities and better automated models. Also this year, Qlik, another big-name self-service analytics vendor, acquired startup Podium Data in a bid to better automate parts of its platforms and make them simpler to use.

“There is a trend in the market … for AI and machine learning to be used to explore all the possible data, all the possible variables,” said Rita Sallam, a Gartner analyst.

With the new Spotfire X features, Tibco analytics is looking forward, even if the features aren’t necessarily innovative on their own, she said.

“They’re leveraging natural language as a way to initiate a question and they are, based on that question, generating all the statistically meaningful insight on that data so the user can see all the possible insights on that data,” Sallam said.

A(X) Experience in Tibco Spotfire X
The A(X) Experience in Tibco’s Spotfire X enables faster and easier analytics with NLP tools and improved AI

AI advice

With the A(X) Experience, Spotfire X also will deliver AI-driven recommendations for users.

“We’ve built in a fairly sophisticated machine learning model behind the scenes,” Hopper said.

The Tibco analytics platform can already use AI to automatically index different pieces of data and suggest relationships between them.

Now from the Spotfire X’s NLP-powered search box, users will be able to receive a list of visualization recommendations, starting first with “classical recommendations” before getting to “a ranked list of interesting structural variations,” Hopper explained.

Forrester analyst Boris Evelson said the Tibco analytics and Spotfire X moves are “yet another confirmation of a trend that leading BI products need a dose of AI to remain effective.”

While AI is not replacing BI, BI tools that infuse AI functionality will displace the tools that don’t.
Boris Evelsonanalyst, Forrester

“While AI is not replacing BI, BI tools that infuse AI functionality will displace the tools that don’t,” Evelson said.

Tibco made the Spotfire X announcements during the Tibco Now conference in Las Vegas in early September 2018. 

The enhancements to Tibco analytics capabilities were among other product developments unveiled at the event. Others included the a user-partner collaboration program called Tibco Labs, more tools for Tibco Cloud, and a new collaboration between Tibco and manufacturing services company Jabil.

Microsoft seeks broader developer appeal with Azure DevOps

Microsoft has rebranded its primary DevOps platform as Azure DevOps to reach beyond Windows developers or Visual Studio developers and appeal to those who just want a solid DevOps platform.

Azure DevOps encompasses five services that span the breadth of the development lifecycle. The services aim to help developers plan, build, test, deploy and collaborate to ship software faster and with higher quality. These services include the following:

  • Azure Pipelines is a CI/CD service.
  • Azure Repos offers source code hosting with version control.
  • Azure Boards provides project management with support for Agile development using Kanban boards and bug tracking.
  • Azure Artifacts is a package management system to store artifacts.
  • Azure Test Plans lets developers define, organize, and run test cases and report any issues through Azure Boards.

Microsoft customers wanted the company to break up the Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS) platform so they could choose individual services, said Jamie Cool, Microsoft’s program manager for Azure DevOps. By doing so, the company also hopes to attract a wider audience that includes Mac and Linux developers, as well as open source developers in general, who avoid Visual Studio, Microsoft’s flagship development tool set.

Open source software continues to achieve broad acceptance within the software industry. However, many developers don’t want to switch to Git source control and stay with VSTS for everything else. Over the past few years, Microsoft has technically separated some of its developer tool functions.

But the company has struggled to convince developers about Microsoft’s cross-platform capabilities and that they can pick and choose areas from Microsoft versus elsewhere, said Rockford Lhotka, CTO of Magenic, an IT services company in St. Louis Park, Minn.

Rockford Lhotka, CTO, MagenicRockford Lhotka

“The idea of a single vendor or single platform developer is probably gone at this point,” he said. “A Microsoft developer may use ASP.NET, but must also use JavaScript, Angular and a host of non-Microsoft tools, as well. Similarly, a Java developer may well be building the back-end services to support a Xamarin mobile app.”

Most developers build for a lot of different platforms and use a lot of different development languages and tools. However, the features of Azure DevOps will work for everyone, Lhotka said.

Azure DevOps is Microsoft’s latest embrace of open source development, from participation in open source development to integrating tools and languages outside its own ecosystem, said Mike Saccotelli, director of modern apps at SPR, a digital technology consulting firm in Chicago.

In addition to the rebranded Azure DevOps platform, Microsoft also plans to provide free CI/CD technology for any open source project, including unlimited compute on Azure, with the ability to run up to 10 jobs concurrently, Cool said. Microsoft has also made Azure Pipelines the first of the Azure DevOps services to be available on the GitHub Marketplace.

AT&T revives [email protected] UCaaS deal with RingCentral

In an unexpected move, AT&T will continue supporting and reselling RingCentral’s unified-communications-as-a-service platform as part of a new partnership targeting the large-enterprise market. 

AT&T had informed customers in January 2018 that, within a year, it would no longer support RingCentral’s [email protected], a cloud-based calling and messaging platform the carrier had been selling to small and midsize businesses.

But, this week, the two companies struck a new deal: AT&T will now start selling the UCaaS product to large enterprises, as well as SMBs. Scott Velting, an associate vice president with AT&T, attributed the about-face to “rapidly changing market dynamics and technological advances.”

RingCentral previously purchased AT&T’s customer licenses for [email protected] in an agreement worth up to $26 million. The startup cautioned investors that revenue could be “significantly and adversely affected” if too many of those customers declined to transition from AT&T to RingCentral.

While some of those customers have already migrated, the businesses that have not yet switched will be able to remain on the [email protected] platform through AT&T, RingCentral said.

Leading up to the earlier decision to end the partnership, [email protected] sales had stagnated, with an “immaterial” number of new subscriptions sold in all of 2017, according to RingCentral. Sales through the AT&T channel accounted for 11% of RingCentral’s revenue that year — down from 14% in 2016. 

With the new deal announced this week, the technology behind [email protected] is the same, but RingCentral appears to have developed a more robust strategy for working with service-provider partners like AT&T, said Jeremy Duke, founder and chief analyst at Synergy Research Group, based in Reno, Nevada.

RingCentral is “currently growing at more than the average growth rate for the UCaaS market, and they want to continue that growth,” Duke said. “And they see the AT&T relationship as very important to continue building that momentum.”

RingCentral has more than doubled its revenue over the past three years, from $220 million in 2014 to $501 million last year, according to federal regulatory filings.

“I think this move helps RingCentral in its efforts to move upmarket. We continue to see RingCentral posting strong growth numbers; this expanded partnership should only help,” said Irwin Lazar, analyst at Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill.

AT&T partners with several other UCaaS vendors, including Cisco and BroadSoft, which was recently acquired by Cisco. It also has its own cloud communications platform, AT&T Collaborate.

Vendors target large enterprises with UCaaS

While SMBs drove most of the initial growth of the UCaaS market, more and more enterprises are also now buying cloud calling plans.

UCaaS sales in the enterprise market are growing at twice the rate of sales in the SMB market, according to data released last month by Synergy. There are now nearly 8 million UCaaS seats worldwide, a twofold increase since late 2015, the firm said.

As of the second quarter of 2018, RingCentral remains the leader, with an 18% market share, trailed by Mitel at 16%, 8×8 at 13%, Cisco at 7%, and Vonage at 7%, according to Synergy. Mitel recently acquired UCaaS vendor ShoreTel.

Still, UCaaS platforms account for less than 10% of the total PBX market, according to Synergy.

“Our data shows that larger enterprises are still laggards when it comes to adopting UCaaS, but interest continues to grow,” Lazar said.

VMworld pushes vSAN HCI to cloud, edge

VMware executives predict the vSAN hyper-converged software platform will grow rapidly into a key building block for the vendor’s strategy to conquer the cloud and other areas outside the data center.

VMware spent a lot of time discussing the roadmap for its vSAN hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) software roadmap at VMworld 2018 last month. The vSAN news included short-term specifics with the launch of a private beta program for the next version, along with more general overarching plans for the future.

VMware executives made it clear that vSAN HCI will play a big role in its long-term cloud strategy. They painted HCI as a technology spanning from the data center to the cloud to the edge, as it brings storage, compute and other resources together into a single platform.

The vSAN HCI software is built into VMware’s vSphere hypervisor, and is sold as part of integrated appliances such as Dell EMC VxRail and as Ready Node bundles with servers. VMware claims more than 14,000 vSAN customers, and IDC lists it as the revenue leader among HCI software.

VMware opened its private beta program for vSAN 6.7.1 during VMworld, adding file and native cloud storage and data protection features.

VSAN HCI: From DC to cloud to edge

During his opening day keynote at VMworld, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger called vSAN “the engine that’s just been moving rapidly to take over the entire integration of compute and storage to expand to other areas.”

Where is HCI moving to? Just about everywhere, according to VMware executives. That includes Project Dimension, a planned hardware as a service designed to bring VMware SDDC infrastructure on premises.

“The definition of HCI has been expanding,” said Yanbing Li, VMware senior vice president and general manager of storage and availability. “We started with a simple mission of converging compute and storage by putting both on a software-defined platform running on standard servers. This is where a lot of our customer adoption has happened. But the definition of HCI is expanding up through the stack, across to the cloud and it’s supporting a wide variety of applications.”

VSAN beta: Snapshots, native cloud storage

The vSAN 6.7.1 beta includes policy-based native snapshots for data protection, NFS file services and support for persistent storage for containers. VMware also added the ability for vSAN to manage Amazon Elastic Block Storage (EBS) in AWS, a capacity reclamation feature and a Quickstart guided cluster creation wizard.

If it pans out as we hope, it will be data center as a service.
Chris GreggCIO, Mercy Ships

Lee Caswell, VMware vice president of products for storage and availability, said vSAN can now take point-in-time snapshots across a cluster. The snapshot capability is managed through VMware’s vCenter. There is no native vSAN replication yet, however. Replication still requires vSphere Replication.

Caswell said the file services include a clustered namespace, allowing users to move files to VMware Cloud on AWS and back without requiring separate mount points for each node.

The ability to manage elastic capacity in AWS allows customers to scale storage and compute independently,

“This is our first foray into storage-only scaling,” Caswell said.

The automatic capacity redemption will reclaim unused capacity on expensive solid-state drive storage.

Caswell said there was no timetable for when the features will make it into a general availability version of vSAN.

Mercy Ships was among the customers at VMworld expanding their vSAN HCI adoption. Mercy Ships uses Dell EMC VxRail appliances running vSAN in its Texas data center and is adding VxRail on two hospital ships that bring volunteer medical teams to underdeveloped areas. They include the current Africa Mercy floating hospital and a second ship under construction.

“The data center for us needs to be simple, straightforward, scalable and supportable,” Mercy Ships CIO Chris Gregg said. “That’s the dream we’re seeing through hyper-converged infrastructure. If it pans out as we hope, it will be data center as a service. Then, as an IT department we can focus on things that are really important to the organization. For us, that means serving more patients.”

LogMeIn enhances GoToWebinar with analytics, on-demand viewer

LogMeIn has released a revamped version of the GoToWebinar cloud webcasting platform that gives users an interactive analytics dashboard, a new video-editing tool and the ability to publish recorded webinars to a website for on-demand viewing.

The analytics console lets users generate bar and line graphs by filtering aggregate viewership and engagement data. Previously, users had to download separate analytics spreadsheets for each webinar and could only analyze multiple events at once by manually combining those records.

The interactive interface should help marketers and trainers — the two most common types of live webcasters — track trends in attendance or watch-through rates over time. The vendor will also help users identify which times of day and days of the week draw the largest audiences.

Businesses are increasingly seeking access to more comprehensive analytics before, during and after web conferences and live broadcasts, according to Roopam Jain, analyst at Frost & Sullivan. “GoToWebinar’s new analytics dashboard brings the service more at par with where the market is today,” she said.

LogMeIn also broadened access to its on-demand video repository, GoToStage, where all GoToWebinar users can now publish recordings of their webinars. The platform, released in beta last year, sorts videos by topic, so viewers can use the site to discover videos of interest.

With the release of GoToStage, LogMeIn is addressing a gap in the webinar market, as more businesses look to use on-demand videos to increase viewership and continuously generate customer leads, Jain said. 

“There are not many webinar vendors today who offer a single integrated platform that combines on-demand webinars with a persistent content delivery platform built for social marketing,” Jain said. “GoToStage addresses that opportunity.”

LogMeIn builds out profile to remain competitive

The overhaul of cloud webcasting platforms comes a couple months after the vendor refreshed its flagship web conferencing platform, GoToMeeting, adding instant messaging and automatic transcription.

LogMeIn was named one of four leaders in the 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Meeting Solutions that was released this week, slightly trailing Cisco, Microsoft and Zoom. In addition to GoToWebinar, the vendor’s other products include GoToTraining, Grasshopper, OpenVoice and the Jive cloud unified communications platform.

LogMeIn is facing increasing competition from Microsoft, which in July added live broadcasting capabilities to its on-demand video responsivity, Microsoft Stream, and integrated that product with its team collaboration app, Microsoft Teams.

Cisco, meanwhile, recently combined its online meetings and team collaboration platforms — now branded as Cisco Webex and Cisco Webex Teams — and expanded the cloud infrastructure of those products to lay the groundwork for advanced video use cases, such as augmented and virtual reality.

LogMeIn has sought to differentiate its platforms by designing easy-to-use interfaces and selling the products at a relatively low price.

“GoToWebinar has seen the most success with [small and midsize businesses] that often opt for best-of-breed solutions,” Jain said. “With the redesigned user interface and a new disruptive pricing, it will continue to appeal to businesses that look for simplicity, ease of use and lower pricing.”

Box-IBM AI connection core component of Box partner strategy

SAN FRANCISCO — The Box-IBM partnership has spawned the first custom AI applications for the Box Skills Kit platform, codeveloped by IBM and the content management software vendor.

Box has been refining its Salesforce-style developer ecosystem by pursuing two tiers of partners: strategic partners with big market reach, like IBM, and application integrations with leading app vendors, like Salesforce, Facebook and Slack.

As for the strategic partnerships, which also include companies like Google and AT&T, “we work with like-minded companies that have the ability to bring us into their customer conversations,” Niall Wall, senior vice president for business development and partners at Box, said in interview at the BoxWorks 2018 user conference.

Box, IBM go to market together

In the Box-IBM partnership, the companies have formal go-to-market contracts in which IBM resells Box into its customer base, and the companies share about 400 customers.

Wall said a key differentiator for Box in these partnerships is that Box brings a distinct emphasis on cybersecurity and partners and customers can feel that their content is safe inside Box.

“We take all that complexity out,” Wall said. “We say to our customers, ‘We will guarantee that your data will remain secure as you are enhancing it with these third-party AI services.'”

In the latest development in the Box-IBM relationship, on Dec. 18, 2018, Box plans to commercially release three custom AI and machine learning-based Box Skills based on Watson technology and developed in conjunction with IBM.

Box Skills Kit and basic Box Skills also work with AI services from AWS, Google and Microsoft, though those vendors have not yet released custom applications.

Users field-tested AI skills

IBM Watson tested the Box content applications over the last year with Canadian bank ATB Financial and H&R Block Canada.

The AI skills are used to categorize, organize and search Box content using AI algorithms embedded in the Box Skills framework.

H&R Block is using the custom document insights skill, which uses natural language processing to parse text and process basic tax forms.

The tax preparation form uploads large tax documents. Then, Watson learns the language of the forms, identifies key metadata and information, and pulls it out.

“The tax specialist can now say, ‘Here’s all the information and what I need to do,’ versus a human being going in there and entering all this information,” said Rashida Hodge, vice president for embed and strategic relationships at IBM Watson.

Meanwhile, the Canadian bank is using the same document insights skill to analyze and extract information from home loan applications to make it easier for loan officers to handle instead of manually going through application forms.

The content layer in both of these Box-IBM use cases is the Box platform.

IBM talks Box

So, now, we have a foundation where data is living in Box, and we’re taking the complexity and obscurity of AI.
Rashida HodgeIBM Watson

“What I think is fantastic about Box is that, to start any AI project, what do you need? Data. So, now, we have a foundation where data is living in Box, and we’re taking the complexity and obscurity of AI,” Hodge said. “So, customers are saying, ‘We can get these kinds of insights and intelligence from our data in Box, and all we have to do is turn a switch on.'”

Another IBM-Box skill is the custom image insights skill, which uses optical character recognition to capture images and then tag and classify their metadata. A third skill automates document transcription translation into dozens of languages.

“Now, it’s more searchable and more consumable,” Hodge said. “When you talk about AI for the enterprise, the reason Box picked us for their launch partner for customization is it’s not about general tagging or general information about a document.”

“It’s about the specifics of a particular domain, and we can drive that metadata,” she said.

AI business outlook promising

Hodge said IBM was seeing robust sales lead activity at the conference, where David Kenny, IBM Watson senior vice president, joined Box CEO Aaron Levie on stage before thousands of Box users and where the IBM booth was getting heavy walk-up traffic.

Software engineers and salespeople at the booth on the busy partner exhibit floor handled a steady flow of inquisitive prospective buyers and other conference attendees.

One of these curious potential customers was Aali Hashmi, senior software architect at Box customer Fannie Mae, the government-backed mortgage lender.

Hashmi watched a demo and then engaged in a long, technical conversation with the IBM engineer, who then photographed with his smartphone Hashmi’s conference tag information to follow up after the conference.

In an interview, Hashmi said he can envision using the Box-IBM AI tools to digitize and auto classify content, like home mortgage forms and also HR documents.

“It looks promising,” he said.