Tag Archives: product

SwiftStack object storage integrates file protocol support

SwiftStack Inc.’s new 6.0 product release adds Universal Access capabilities to enable customers to read and write files to object storage in private or public clouds without a gateway.

The San Francisco-based software vendor originally gained a following through its commercially supported version of open source OpenStack Swift object storage. But SwiftStack object storage has steadily added capabilities and, with the version 6 release, the startup now refers to its product as “multi-cloud data management” that provides a “cloud-native” single namespace for unstructured data.

SwiftStack object storage always supported the OpenStack Swift and Amazon S3 APIs. With its 2.0 product release, SwiftStack added a gateway to enable users to put file data into an object storage system via API and take it out via file, or vice versa, noted Mario Blandini, the company’s vice president of marketing.

“The reality is, no one used our file system gateway because what they really wanted is it to be as fast as their NAS and as cool as their NAS but then cheap as in object storage,” Blandini said. “Architecturally, a gateway could not delight our customers.”

Diagram of SwiftStack storage
SwiftStack storage with file access

Integrated support for SMB/NFS file protocols

SwiftStack’s Universal Access now enables users or applications to access unstructured data from any private or public cloud location through the SMB and NFS file protocols and Amazon S3 and Swift object interfaces. The system can read and write data to a cloud-based single namespace in both formats. For instance, it can ingest data via file and read via object, or vice versa.

“Any workflow comprised of any number of parts works, as long as the file interfaces are SMB or NFS, and the object interfaces are Swift or S3,” Blandini said.

Try not to label us as an object storage company … because at the end of the day, no one cares about object storage.
Mario Blandinivice president of marketing, SwiftStack

Combining Universal Access with SwiftStack’s previously released Cloud Sync capabilities enables IT managers to control the placement of data in private or public clouds based on policies tailored to specific application workloads and facilitate multiprotocol access to the information. Blandini said the true benefit is being able to “put the right stuff in the right place at the right time without having your users do it — having your IT governance control where the data is placed.”

He said the new capabilities would enable SwiftStack, for the first time, to “ask people to please stop thinking of us as an open source company,” and “while you’re at it, if you could try not to label us as an object storage company, that’d be even better, because at the end of the day, no one cares about object storage.”

“When people write to a public cloud, they don’t care that it’s object storage,” Blandini said. “One of the things that’s made object storage elusive for most users is the fact that it’s been made up to be way more complicated than it needs to be. With cloud-first initiatives coming from CIOs and the mandate to provide DR and site recovery for a lot of businesses who can’t afford a second data center, we’re seeing a lot more momentum going to these things because it’s practical to do now.”

George Crump, founder and president of Storage Switzerland LLC, said SwiftStack’s Universal Access provides “some feature uniqueness that nobody else at least at this point has delivered.” But he said it’s probably not the one feature by itself that could push SwiftStack over the edge to significant market share.

“They have really good technology. Now it comes down to can they market,” Crump said. “I’d say the jury is out at this point.”

Howard Marks, founder and chief scientist at DeepStorage LLC, said SwiftStack’s pioneering work to have a single system that facilitates access to the same data via file and object APIs means developers won’t have to rewrite file-based applications for object storage paradigms and can write new applications to the S3 object API without having to worry about support for file APIs.

“It certainly opens  up a new market” for SwiftStack, Marks said. “Their market before had been people building object storage for cloud-type applications. They open it up to the people who have applications using files now that want to make the transition to object and use that as their transition to a cloud strategy.”

Stiff competition for SwiftStack object storage

Marks noted that SwiftStack object storage faces stiff competition in a busy market populated with well-established vendors, startups and open source options such as Ceph. He said the company is taking the right approach in de-emphasizing its OpenStack Swift roots.

“The general-purpose object market is way bigger than OpenStack, and they don’t want to be ghettoized,” Marks said. “OpenStack is starting to get the smell of failure on it. People are starting to look down on OpenStack.”

Torsten Volk, a senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, said SwiftStack version 6 could serve as a complement to traditional NAS. “For latency-sensitive use cases, traditional NAS can stay in place. However, you could use SwiftStack to get more mileage out of existing filers by moving off the less demanding data,” Volk wrote in an email.

Volk said SwiftStack’s software could also be helpful for container users. “Containers notoriously are fighting with data mapping. SwiftStack gives them API access so that you don’t have to worry about Kubernetes storage drives or plug-ins,” he wrote.

Aerohive cloud to combine Wi-Fi and SD-WAN

Aerohive Networks, a cloud-controlled wireless LAN provider, plans to launch in January an SD-WAN product aimed at retail chains, healthcare providers and other organizations with a large number of small- to midsize branch offices.

Aerohive, which announced its intentions this week, said it would combine the SD-WAN offering with its existing WLAN products. In a single Aerohive cloud-managed product, the union would deliver a Wi-Fi network, a Layer 3 VPN gateway and a router called the XR200P.

Aerohive needs the above combination to stay even with its largest competitor, Cisco. The latter’s Meraki brand, which competes head-to-head with Aerohive, is already used as a “low-end” SD-WAN, said John Burke, an analyst at Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill. Service providers, such as Comcast, also offer SD-WAN with Wi-Fi.

“Adding SD-WAN functionality to the portfolio is a very good idea,” Burke said of Aerohive.

Aerohive’s SD-WAN features are similar to what’s already available from other vendors. Companies, for example, can choose the path traffic takes according to the originating application. Options include steering packets to the corporate VPN, to a whitelisted software as a service or to a cloud security gateway for further examination.

Aerohive cloud features

Other Aerohive cloud-provided features include the following:

  • link-state monitoring and automated remediation when a connection fails;
  • the ability to set security based on user group and the client OS, MAC address and location;
  • automated provisioning of SD-WAN routers installed at locations; and
  • network troubleshooting tools and reporting on links and connected network devices, VPN tunnel latency, throughput and uptime metrics.

Aerohive’s highest selling point is a single management console for SD-WAN and Wi-Fi, said Craig Mathias, an analyst for wireless advisory firm Farpoint Group, based in Ashland, Mass.

“The potential for cost savings is enhanced via improved visibility, reliability and operations-staff productivity,” he said.

Nevertheless, Aerohive will enter a market with more than three dozen competitors. Consolidation is underway, as large vendors add SD-WAN to their portfolios to tap into a fast-growing market. This year’s examples include Cisco acquiring Viptela and VMware announcing plans to swallow VeloCloud.

Over the next four years, SD-WAN infrastructure and services revenues will grow 69.6% annually, reaching $8.05 billion in 2021, according to IDC.

Wanted – Laptop capable of playing new games reasonably

Something better than this HP spec :

Product Name
15-e022sa
Product Number
E9J87EA
Microprocessor
Intel Core i3-3110M with Intel HD Graphics 4000 (2.4 GHz, 3 MB cache, 2 cores)
Chipset
Intel HM76 Express
Memory
8 GB DDR3L
Video Graphics
Intel HD Graphics 4000 (up to 1.65 GB)
Hard Drive
1 TB 5400 rpm SATA
Multimedia Drive
SuperMulti DVD±R/RW with double layer support
Display
39.6 cm (15.6″) HD BrightView LED-backlit (1366 x 768)

Determine if an Exchange Online migration makes sense

it just concerns moving email to the cloud. But there is a whole product suite to consider as part of this process.

The decision to shift from an on-premises email platform is not easy. Before the organization commits to this move, look at the transition from both a strategic and a technical perspective. There are a series of questions that should be answered before making the decision to switch to Exchange Online.

Is Exchange Online right for this organization?

Remember that Exchange Online is part of the Office 365 suite and is more than just email. The platform’s services address many business needs, such as file shares, document sharing, collaboration tools and simple word processing. And with certain licenses, if you buy Exchange Online, you own many of these other tools as well.

With that in mind, review the business issues below to see if an Exchange Online migration makes sense for the company:

  • The employees work in silos and require a tool to tear down these walls.
  • While emails don’t include client information, the system should automatically check that sensitive information is not sent.
  • Security is a priority. A lot of effort is made to keep that technology up to date.
  • Some employees get 250 email messages a day and must work collaboratively with other teams.
  • Company data sits in many different places, including email. Data management must be simplified.

While email is definitely part of the challenge, it’s not the only tool that runs teams and organizations. These hurdles should not hold up an Exchange Online migration. If email is a priority, consider making this phase one of the project, and then, deploy the additional tools your organization needs in different phases of the project at a later date.

Work out a path to a solid migration

Once the business works out the strategic approach, dive into the technical considerations for a smooth Exchange Online migration. First, find answers to the following questions because they will influence the user experience (UX), design and amount of time to deploy.

Should the UX be seamless, or will users log in with different credentials for Office 365 email?

Answer: I find larger organizations do not want users to log in separately, whereas smaller ones are more flexible in this area. That said, most businesses want a seamless UX. A business that wants to give users more streamlined access to resources should discuss how to implement Azure Active Directory Connect to set up password sync and single sign-on. Federation is not required, but organizations that already have it implemented find it is a good option for them. If federation is not in your environment, then look at other options.

Does the business need a failback plan?

Answer: Organizations often see a migration to the cloud as one way, but a failback plan should be included in the planning process. Ask yourself this: Would your organization migrate its on-premises Exchange deployment to a new server without a failback plan? For most companies, the answer is typically no. The only exception tends to be the very small business that just wants to be in the cloud and not maintain costly on-site infrastructure. With a failback option, the migration will be done in hybrid mode with the Hybrid Configuration Wizard. The ability to fail back mailboxes or migrated components if an unexpected issue arises provides a measure of stability for the business.

Does the business need to back up email data in Exchange Online?

Answer: This question seems straightforward, but the answer is complicated. If the business is OK without the ability to restore a mailbox, then this might work. The Deleted Item Recovery feature keeps messages for 30 days, and the retention hold options can be used to retain messages beyond 30 days. Does the organization need a way to restore a mailbox when it’s gone or recover individual items beyond 30 days? With answers to those questions, the company can then work to produce the correct technical implementation that best supports its email requirements.

Consider what the business uses in its on-premises deployment and whether that should apply in the cloud. Each organization is different from a technical perspective, so there is more to think about. These questions will help prepare the groundwork when the time comes to make a decision about an Exchange Online migration.

Altaro VM Backup Voted Best Backup Product of the Year 2017

We are delighted to announce that Altaro has been voted Backup and Recovery/Archive Product of the Year 2017 at the prestigious annual IT industry SVC Awards 2017 beating other many other well-known backup software developers. We are especially happy about this award because it’s voted by end-users and the IT community. Thank you to everyone who voted for us!

About the SVC Awards

The SVC Awards reward the products, projects, and services as well as honor companies and teams operating in the cloud, storage and digitalization sectors. The SVC Awards recognize the achievements of end-users, channel partners and vendors alike and in the case of the end-user categories, there will also be an award made to the supplier supporting the winning organization. (from svcawards.com)

Altaro VM Backup in 2017

2017 has been a very productive year for Altaro. Although the product was already very well received by system administrators around the world in 2016, we brought in a number of key features in 2017 that have brought the product to new heights. We started the year by launching Version 7 of Altaro VM Backup and adding Augmented Inline Deduplication technology to the software package. In May we brought the highly praised Cloud Management Console (CMC) to end users, in June we added the Backup Health Monitor, and in July we rolled-out the ability for our customers to offsite backup to Azure.

In 2017, we reached several customer milestones as our user base surpassed 40,000 customers and year-on-year growth hit 40%. More than 400,000 Hyper-V and VMware virtual machines are now being protected using Altaro VM Backup. More than 10,000 Altaro customers are now connected to the Multi-Tenant Cloud Management Console, and after launching the Altaro MSP program less than 12 months ago in late 2016, the service has already signed up more than 500 MSPs to its monthly subscription program.

Phew! It’s been a very busy year for Altaro and the recognition as Best Backup and Recovery/Archive Product of the Year 2017 at the SVC awards is the icing on the cake. Thank you to all our partners, distributors and end-users for continuing to embrace Altaro VM Backup and providing the feedback we need to continue growing and developing the software to meet your needs. However, the work doesn’t stop here; we have even more exciting new features in development for Altaro VM Backup that we’ll be releasing next year. Bring on 2018!

Salesforce-Google integration bolsters CRM, analytics functionality

SAN FRANCISCO — Salesforce and Google cozied up a little more closely on several new product integrations: One offers a cloud alternative to Amazon Web Services, and another pushes Salesforce deeper into G Suite, Google’s subscription business applications cloud, which may send shock waves through the thriving ecosystem of partners that already provide small-business CRM to those apps.

The Salesforce-Google integration includes the naming of Google Cloud as Salesforce’s latest preferred public cloud for international customers, joining AWS, with which Salesforce partnered earlier this year.

The Salesforce-Google integration, announced earlier this month at Salesforce’s Dreamforce user conference, also includes Salesforce Lightning for Gmail and Google Sheets, as well as Quip Live Apps for Google Drive and Google Calendar. Salesforce’s Sales and Marketing Clouds will both have Google Analytics 360 embedded.

As part of the partnership, Google will also be offering existing Salesforce customers a one-year free trial of G Suite.

Salesforce is no stranger to partnering with other enterprise tech companies — even if some products compete — to offer its customers an enhanced experience, and that appears to be the reason behind the Salesforce-Google integration.

“In the past, [Salesforce] has announced some pretty big partnerships that turned out to maybe be not so big, but this is from a different angle,” said Michael Fauscette, chief research officer for G2 Crowd, based in Chicago. “They have a go-to-market strategy together.”

Integration to help SMBs

In the past, [Salesforce] has announced some pretty big partnerships that turned out to maybe be not so big, but this is from a different angle.
Michael Fauscettechief research officer, G2 Crowd

Small- and medium-sized businesses will benefit from the Salesforce-Google integration, because many of them already use Gmail and G Suite, according to analysts, and the Salesforce tie-in could make the San Francisco-based company attractive as a CRM option.

“I have a client, and the No. 1 challenge is adoption: They have these great tools and insights, but if people aren’t in there and feeding the engine and taking action, it doesn’t matter,” said Lisa Hager, global head of Salesforce practices for Mumbai-based Tata Consulting Services. “But if I go in to get my mail and the Salesforce platform prepopulates my email and spreadsheets, I’m more likely to go into that tool.”

Voices.com, which works with brands to find voice actors for campaigns and is based in London, Ont., has been a Salesforce customer for 12 years, and its CEO, David Ciccarelli, was enthusiastic about some of the Salesforce-Google integrations.

“Salesforce is a great system of record, but where it can improve upon is mass editing,” he said. “So, being able to one-click export from Salesforce into something manipulative like Google Sheets, make changes and one-click import back — that’s where you’ll see huge time savings.”

Marketing is where the data is

Salesforce has made a concerted effort to increase market share for its Marketing Cloud to match that of Sales Cloud and Service Cloud, and it looks to do that through data.

Just weeks after releasing B2B Lead Analytics for Facebook, Salesforce is embedding Google Analytics 360 into Marketing Cloud, giving marketers insights at the two leading data points on the internet.

“If you’re not in a separate data silo and you can ingest the Google Analytics 360 data on website visitors and keyword ad buys, with that integrated, you don’t have to take that data out and manually process it,” said Cindy Zhou, principal analyst for Constellation Research. “And there’s always data lost when you have to move it from one place to another. So, having it embedded natively will help you get deeper insights, and you can still apply Einstein on top to do audience segmentation and analysis.”

Ciccarelli of Voices.com said, as a smaller business, a license for Google Analytics 360 was always too much to budget for, but with it integrated into Salesforce at no additional cost, smaller companies will be able to receive enterprise-level insights.

Salesforce adds another storage cloud

The news of Salesforce adding another preferred public cloud for international expansion comes just months after Salesforce formed a similar partnership with AWS. The addition of Google Cloud is to address customer needs, according to Ryan Aytay, executive vice president for business development and strategic accounts for Salesforce.

“AWS continues to be an important part of our infrastructure, so nothing’s changing there,” Aytay said. “We’re just adding another preferred cloud and moving forward to address customer needs.”

Google and AWS are two of the three leaders in the cloud space, with the other being Microsoft’s Azure. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has been outspoken about his abhorrence toward former partner Microsoft, so it’s unlikely Salesforce will be partnering with the Seattle-based company anytime soon.

The move toward Google could have been a response to customers’ demands, according to Hager, as AWS is costly when it comes to cloud storage.

“Just being able to have that option of Google storage instead of AWS is important; I had three clients this morning complaining about the cost of AWS,” Hager said. “If you’re storing a lot of documents on Salesforce, it can get expensive. So, integrating with Google is a nice option.”

There’s some potential overlap with the integrated products, especially between Salesforce’s Quip and Google’s G Suite, but Salesforce executives aren’t worried about the overlap, with Aytay saying internally at Salesforce the company has used both products.

Zhou can see the products coexisting, but there’s also some “friendly competition” between G Suite and Quip, with the Salesforce product being a good alternative for companies creating contracts or requests for proposal.

Several of the Salesforce-Google integrations are already in market, including Lightning for Gmail and integrations with Calendar and Google Drive, with deeper integrations rolling out in 2018, according to the press release. Quip Live Apps integration with Google Drive is expected to be generally available in the first half of 2018 for $25 per user, per month with any Quip Enterprise License. And the integrations between Salesforce and Google Analytics 360 are expected in the first half of 2018 at no additional cost to licensed customers.

Versa SD-WAN gets features focused on voice, video calling

Versa Networks has added to its SD-WAN product capabilities the vendor claims will help organizations maintain the quality of video and voice calling in the branch office.

The company introduced this week Versa SD-WAN technology that formulates a mean opinion score (MOS) for communication traffic and lets network engineers set policies that trigger specific actions if the score falls below a baseline. MOS is a number from one to five that indicates the voice or video quality at the destination end of the circuit. Satisfactory voice calls, for example, are typically in the 3.5 to 4.2 range.

Versa has developed algorithms that determine the MOS of each call based on metrics extrapolated from Real-Time Transport Protocol (RTP) and Real-Time Transport Control Protocol (RTCP) traffic flows. RTP combines its data transport with the RTCP. The latter lets monitoring applications detect packet loss and compensate for delays that lead to jitter.

Other factors used to reach a mean opinion score are the codecs used in a company’s voice over IP and video conferencing application. In general, codecs compress digital data to move it faster over the network and then decompress it at the destination point. In doing its work, however, a codec causes some degradation in quality.

Network engineers can set policies that tell the Versa SD-WAN to take specific actions when the MOS is too low. Those steps could include changing the transport of the data flow, moving other traffic off the route to increase available bandwidth and cloning the communication traffic so it can be sent across multiple circuits.

Analysts split on value of MOS in Versa SD-WAN

Other SD-WAN vendors, such as VeloCloud, which was recently acquired by VMware, also provide mechanisms for monitoring and taking corrective actions to help maintain voice and video quality. In general, most products take into account common network problems, such as the loss of packets or delay in their delivery.

“The added support [within Versa ] for real-time voice and video will help ensure good-quality communications are maintained,” said Mike Fratto, an analyst at Current Analysis, which is owned by London-based GlobalData.

Not all analysts, however, agreed that MOS scoring would improve voice and video calling.

“My guess is that this won’t improve calling all that much, because SD-WAN solutions are already looking at things like jitter, latency, etc., for voice traffic,” said Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill. “They also can’t deal with factors inside the LAN, such as poor Wi-Fi performance that can adversely impact call quality.”

At its core, SD-WAN lets engineers steer traffic across multiple links, such as MPLS, Long Term Evolution and broadband. The connections they choose depends on the needs of the applications generating the traffic. Companies can select MPLS for data that needs a high-level of reliability, while using cheaper broadband for less sensitive data flows.

Vendors have added WAN optimization, firewalls, routing and quality-of-service features for communications as differentiators and to demand higher prices for their SD-WAN platforms.

Visio Online and Visio’s new cloud innovations help you unlock creativity

This year at the Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando, Microsoft presented several new product capabilities that extend the Microsoft 365 solution set—including a greater emphasis on cloud-first technologies. Visio Online is one of Microsoft’s newest solutions that further unlocks employee creativity in the modern workplace. Visio Online is available today to commercial customers for $5 per user per month with an annual commitment.

Extending Visio to new audiences

Information workers today want a simple yet powerful way to work visually. As a web-based, lightweight diagramming tool, Visio Online is the perfect solution: with it you can create, edit, and share diagrams online, helping you visualize information in new ways from anywhere. Plus, diagrams are available for anyone in your organization to view—even those without a Visio Online license—so you can get feedback on critical diagrams from all important stakeholders.

Visio Online comes with a host of templates for a variety of audiences, including starter diagrams for basic flowcharts, process diagrams, timelines, business matrixes, SDL diagrams, and many more. Visualizing information is easy—just drag and drop shapes onto the canvas, change a shape’s color or the overall diagram theme, and quickly link one shape to another with connectors. Plus, you can securely share web-based diagrams through OneDrive for Business. (Visio Online Plan 1 and Plan 2 include 2 GB of OneDrive storage. See below for more details about these plans.)

Image of Visio Online displayed on a tablet.

Visio Online comes with diagramming templates to help you get started fast.

“All in all, Visio Online is fantastic, especially for me. Normally, I just make quick drawings to use in documentation, etc., and I think that will be a lot easier with this product.” —Graves Kilsgaard, systems developer at KMC Foods

Cloud-first innovations

Since the beginning of last year, Visio has been committed to releasing innovative, cloud-first capabilities that unlock creativity for professional diagram creators. This continuous, accelerated innovation has resulted in a host of major releases that, in addition to Visio Online, extend Visio’s diagramming tool set.

Here’s a look at each of the capabilities that are only available in the cloud:

  • Power BI is Microsoft’s cloud-based data visualization tool that helps companies gain actionable insights from complex datasets. Today, Power BI includes a new visual—Visio diagrams—which can be linked to live data and embedded within a Power BI dashboard. The Visio and Power BI integration is currently in public preview and planned for release next year. Learn more about this new Power BI feature.
  • Data Visualizer converts process map data in Excel into data-driven diagrams in Visio. Using highly visual diagrams instead of table-based numbers, you can surface new process insights that lead to creative solutions for complex problems.
  • Visio Viewer for iOS allows you to view and interact with Visio diagrams on both iPad and iPhone. You can easily share diagrams through OneDrive or SharePoint and then access them on your favorite iOS device.
  • PowerPoint Slide Snippets enables you select specific diagram parts, give them a title, and export them as slides in PowerPoint. In this way you can create an entire PowerPoint presentation to break down complex diagrams into individual pieces for easier comprehension.

New innovations, new subscription models

Visio Online is available in Visio Online Plan 1. It is also included in our most comprehensive Visio cloud offering, Visio Online Plan 2 (previously Visio Pro for Office 365). Viewing diagrams is free for most Office 365 customers. The innovations described above are only available in Visio Online Plan 2. You can compare Visio versions to learn more about each Visio offer.

Please visit the Visio website for more details on each plan, as well as options for trying the Visio Online experience and our cloud-first innovations for free. We also invite you to submit ideas for more cloud innovations on our UserVoice site. For questions about our latest releases, please email us at tellvisio@microsoft.com. To stay informed of the latest Visio releases, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, as well as check in with the latest Visio news.

—The Visio team

Frequently asked questions

Q. Do I need to install anything to start using Visio Online?

A. No. Visio Online is a web-based application. Customers can also sign in directly at microsoft.com/visio.

Q. Do I need a Visio Online subscription to view Visio Online diagrams?

A. No. Anyone with an Office 365 subscription can view diagrams created and shared through Visio Online. This way the entire organization can be involved in the diagramming process.

Q. Where can I read more about starting Visio Online?

A. Please read this support article to learn more.

Q. Are there more differences between Visio Online Plans 1 and 2 than mentioned here?

A. Yes. Please visit the Visio website for more details on each plan.

Q. Does Visio Online Plan 2 include more than 2 GB of OneDrive storage?

A. Both Visio Online Plans 1 and 2 come with 2 GB of OneDrive for Business storage. Customers can buy additional OneDrive storage if needed.

Q. How do the new capabilities and plans affect Visio Services and Visio Pro for Office 365.

A. Visio Online is replacing Visio Services for SharePoint Online customers, and Visio Online Plan 2 is the new name for Visio Pro for Office 365.

SoftNAS Cloud architecture gets facelift, new features

SoftNAS redesigned its Cloud Data Platform, splitting it into three product editions that offer native cloud support for applications, faster data migration across multiclouds and more feature-rich data services for hybrid cloud storage deployments.

SoftNAS split its Cloud Data Platform into Cloud Enterprise and Cloud Essential editions, and it added a new Cloud Platinum version. SoftNAS Cloud Enterprise employs the vendor’s high-performance network attached storage (NAS). Cloud Essential is optimized for archiving, backup and big data.

SoftNAS Cloud Platinum, which is still in beta, is a replication product for cloud data management.

The new architecture is designed to deliver data services across multicloud and hybrid cloud configurations. 

“This is about delivering a richer set of data services to enable the hybrid cloud,” said Jeff Kato, senior storage analyst at Taneja Group. “Software-defined storage vendors are going natively into the cloud and they are providing more data services.”

SoftNAS Cloud Platinum includes wide area network (WAN) optimization for Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure clouds. It has the company’s patent-pending UltraFast technology for faster bulk data movement in cloud, which is comparable to the IBM Aspera faspex for high-speed, global person-to-person file delivery of unlimited-sized digital packages.

“We both do this a bit differently, but it accomplishes the same results,” SoftNAS CEO Rick Braddy said. “We built UltraFast into the data platform so we can move massive amounts of data around the world. I like to say that it flattens the internet.

“This is a cloud data platform for any hybrid cloud data needs,” Braddy added. “Once the data is migrated, it keeps it live and it keeps updating it to keep it fresh.”

SoftNAS Cloud Enterprise is a rebranding of the company’s flagship NAS product for primary storage, which competes with NetApp filers. The software targets SaaS-enabled applications, business application migration, web server content and dev-test environments.

The SoftNAS Cloud Essential for secondary storage supports basic file services, file server consolidation, cloud backup, disaster recovery and tape-to-cloud archiving. The company’s ZFS-based NAS is layered over object storage and supports Amazon S3 and Microsoft Azure Blob Storage.

Braddy said the SoftNAS Cloud Platinum supports Apache NiFi for data flow automation between systems that provides a web-based interface to manage the data flows in real time. The key technology within Platinum is the UltraFast technology that gives customers the ability to “lift and shift” applications from an on-premises location to the cloud. It does live migration of workloads.

The Platinum software handles one-to-many and many-to-one replication, multisite disaster recovery, and bulk data transfers. The product is delivered through a subscription-based software service.

SoftNAS has another patent-pending technology that speeds up workload performance. The ObjFast technology is integrated into the company’s NAS and gives customers block-storage performance at the price of object storage. The company also has a SoftNAS Cloud File Gateway virtual appliance that serves as a unified file system for VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisors for on-premises and hybrid cloud storage.

 “The company is providing a stack to ramp up cloud compatibility,” Kato said.

The road to Mixer – Microsoft Life

Matt Salsamendi and James Boehm released their alpha product under the website name “chilly dot cool.”

If that sounds somewhat adolescent, it’s because Matt and James were, in fact, adolescents when they launched their first startup, a company so successful that Matt dropped out of high school to help build it.

The stunning success they achieved at just 13 and 15 years old still seems like a fairy tale. What began as James’s community gaming server grew into the duo’s multimillion-dollar company well before either had even graduated high school. They pivoted their hosting service to live game streaming, named it Beam for its faster-than-light latency, and went on to win TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2016, an annual technology startup contest. In August of 2016, Microsoft acquired Beam, now known as Mixer.

Today, Matt and James are 19 and 21 years old, respectively, and have joined up with Xbox on a shared vision: to build a vibrant and interactive gaming community.

Choose your players

Matt’s and James’s origin story begins online, in the virtual world of Minecraft.

In 2011, Matt was 13 years old and lived in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He’d started hosting servers for gamers and friends on Minecraft as a hobby.

“I had a bunch of desktop computers that I would build from whatever parts I could get my hands on,” said Matt. People would send Matt $10.00 via PayPal and, in a flash, they’d have their own gaming server, which allowed them to modify a game and give permissions to only certain players, among other things. Essentially, people could host their own version of a game.

At one point, Matt had to get a loan from his dad to buy the software he needed to connect servers. “I went outside and asked him, ‘Hey, can I borrow $7.00? I’m doing this cool thing,’” Matt said.

His dad gave him the money, and word of Matt’s hosting service spread through the Minecraft and gamer community. James, then 15 and living in Atlanta, Georgia, saw an advertisement for Matt’s hosting service and reached out to him.

They became online friends, and soon they both realized that they were on to something with Matt’s servers. James suggested that he come on board to help make Matt’s business more official and grow, using his also-home-grown skills in business development and marketing. The demand for service kept mushrooming and eventually outgrew Matt’s setup, which consisted of a bunch of PCs stacked under his desk at his parents’ house.

Not only was there not enough space for the PCs, but their setup couldn’t keep up with the demand for networking capacity, power, and internet speed. So they migrated Matt’s home lab to a bona fide datacenter and named the company MCProHosting.

From 2011 to 2014, that first $7.00 investment grew into a company worth nearly $5 million.

Matt Salsamendi and James Boehm

Matt Salsamendi and James Boehm demo Beam—now known as Mixer—at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2016, a competition for startups in the technology industry. Photo from IndieObscura.

2014 was also Matt’s freshman year of high school. He was working full time building a company and trying to keep up with his studies and social life. If the servers went down, James would have to call Matt’s mom, who would then check Matt out of school so he could come home to fix the servers.

But outages wait for no mother. “One time in the locker room after PE, I jumped into a locker to hide there because we couldn’t have phones at school,” Matt said, laughing. “I took out my phone and restarted the server to get it back online.”

This scrappy, do-what-it-takes moxie is what transformed the two young hobbyists into burgeoning entrepreneurs. As agile as they were, their balancing act and their company wouldn’t last if they couldn’t find a way to scale. Matt and his parents made the difficult decision to pull Matt out of school altogether when he was in his freshman year of high school.

“I could already support myself, and I needed to focus on where this thing could really go,” Matt recalled. “It was hard to argue with a million-dollar company that was still growing.”

Matt dropped out of school, and not long after, the duo decided to pivot away from the server hosting business and focus on game streaming—a pastime that was massively growing in popularity.

They launched a small alpha version of a website where people could stream games, get low-latency broadcasts, interact with their chat communities in real time, and discover other streamers. The goal was to let fans play along with their favorite streamer and to connect broadcasters to their communities in ways that were never possible before, Matt explained in a blog post.

It started small, but very soon they were up to 10,000 users. Then 20,000. “When we reached 20,000 people using it every month, we knew there was something there,” said Matt. In January of 2016, they launched Beam.

Microsoft Ventures caught wind of the service, intrigued by the opportunity in this growing space, and in August of 2016, Microsoft acquired Beam. Matt and James moved across the country, bought a house in Redmond, and started their lives as roommates and Microsoft employees.

Leveling up with live streaming

Let’s take a quick break here to discuss video game live streaming, for those of us who aren’t familiar with the billion-dollar industry. Matt uses this analogy: just like fans sit and watch their favorite sports game, video gaming fans like to watch their favorite video game “athlete.” YouTube and Twitch pretty much dominated this market in 2014, but Matt and James were irked by how both platforms seemed to separate rather than connect the streamer and the fans.

Gamers to the core themselves, the two really came alive when they connected to the community of the games they love to play. (James has been playing Halo on Xbox since he was 8 years old. And Matt wouldn’t even guess how many hours he’s spent playing Age of Empires, his all-time favorite game.)

So they knew the market was hot for a platform that felt like you were sitting right next to your friends while they play, giving them advice and ideas in real time that could actually affect the outcome. On YouTube, fans could leave comments but not chat in real time. Twitch had a chat feature, but its painfully high latency made the experience a literal drag.

Latency is more than an annoyance. Think of the live sports analogy again: imagine that you won the chance to choose the plays for your favorite player, but instead of having a direct line of communication to make snap decisions quickly, you were stuck in a locker room, shouting advice at a TV screen. Obviously, the athlete would never hear you, your advice would be outdated, based on a play that’s already finished, and your influence on and connection to the whole experience would be lost.

“We wanted to solve the real-time feedback incorporation problem, if only for ourselves while we were watching gaming broadcasts,” said Matt. “But we knew it went beyond what we wanted, that there was a huge need for it.”

James Boehm

James Boehm, cofounder of Mixer, said that the decision to sell Beam to Microsoft was not taken lightly. What won Matt and him over to Xbox was that “everything we’d been wanting to do aligned well with what Xbox had been wanting to do, to make gaming more social and fun,” said James.

“When we started growing Beam, we knew that the only way to succeed from a product standpoint would be to build the things that people want to see,” said Matt.

Keeping close to gaming culture and building things they’d want as gamers themselves was their golden rule back when they considered Beam’s future options, including the possibility of signing with Microsoft.

James said that from early on in their partnership, they’ve had a shared philosophy of helping grow others and solving real problems for what they want and need. And ultimately, that’s what won the Beam team over to partner with Xbox Live.

“Everything we’d been wanting to do aligned well with what Xbox had been wanting to do, to make gaming more social and fun. Xbox had the resources to continue to scale what we’d already been doing,” said James. “We truly wanted to make the choice that would be best for our Beam community and ultimately decided on Xbox because their vision was still super focused on communities.”

The culture at Microsoft and the Xbox team took Matt by surprise. Matt was a dogged PC gamer, never really into console gaming. He admits now that he was naïve about how much Xbox was doing in the gamer community space and how the Insider Program incorporating user feedback was so unique.

James, on the other hand, has been an Xbox fan since he was a kid and feels happy to see his obsession come full circle. “I grew up on this platform, and now I get to build something for future generations,” he marveled.

Matt Salsamendi

“Our North Star is always going to be those interactive broadcasters and continuing to build features for them and socialize what we’re doing,” said Matt Salsamendi during the Casual Connect game conference in Seattle. Image from GeekWire.

And as James and Matt got to know the enthusiastic and passionate people behind Xbox and across Microsoft, their own excitement grew even more and keeps them deeply motivated every day.

In late summer, Microsoft announced that Beam was rebranding to Mixer and that the service will become available globally. Renaming the company was an emotional decision for Matt and James because it was their baby. But because of Microsoft’s reach, Mixer can now engage a global audience and bring in that vision to build communities everywhere, on any platform, on any device.

Based on the trajectory so far, it might be safe to predict that Matt and James are going places. Whatever that looks like in 5, 10, or 15 years, the young visionaries are confident that one thing will still be true: they’ll still be obsessing about growing a vibrant and connected gaming community.

The day the deal with Microsoft was complete, the first thing Matt did was buy a McDonald’s apple pie. Even with a few years of corporate America under his belt, he’s still a kid at heart.