Tag Archives: Public

Microsoft faces hurdles in selling Teams to first-line workers

Microsoft has launched a public relations campaign to convince businesses that its Teams collaboration app is suitable for use by so-called first-line workers. At stake is a significant expansion of Teams into the lives of workers ranging from retail associates to housekeepers to factory hands.

Success will depend on how well the tech giant develops more industry-specific features and recruits additional hardware partners. Both are needed to drive  Microsoft Teams into first-line segments of the workforce, industry analysts said.

“We should not be impressed by a press release,” said Michael Finneran, principal at dBrn Associates Inc. “And at this point what they have is a press release.”

The capabilities Microsoft is adding to Teams are nothing new, Finneran said. The same kinds of features are already available to first-line workers today from established technology vendors like Motorola Solutions and Spectralink, as well as from numerous startups with apps for specific industries.

What’s more, Microsoft has so far discussed first-line workers in broad terms. But nurses, field technicians, and workers on the floor of a manufacturing plant have very different technology needs. The company won’t be taken seriously by many potential customers until it demonstrates an understanding of their industry.

Microsoft will also need hardware partners. Retail sales associates and warehouse workers typically use shared mobile devices with unique features and strict access controls. But many of Microsoft’s features for first-line workers seem to require businesses to let employees use personal smartphones at work.

Microsoft has only just begun to build that hardware ecosystem. Samsung announced this month it would launch a smartphone for first-line workers that will come pre-integrated with a new walkie-talkie feature in Teams. The device, the Galaxy XCover Pro, will launch sometime in the first half of 2020.

Similarly, Microsoft is still in the early stages of rolling out many of the features for first-line workers that its marketing department has hyped in blogs and press releases. 

Some of the newest features won’t launch for months or longer — and when they do hit the market, they’ll only be available in preview. Technology released in preview mode is in the early stages of development. Large organizations often have policies against using software before it passes beta testing.

For example, a walkie-talkie feature in Teams that drew headlines earlier this month won’t be available until mid-2020. Even then, it will only ship to select users in a private preview. Several other device-related Teams features will launch in a public showing. Those capabilities include SMS sign-in, shared device sign-out and a portal for managing devices.

Nevertheless, Microsoft could succeed in getting first-line workers to use Teams in the long run, analysts said. The company has billions of dollars to spend and already has a foot in the door with most enterprises in the world.

“Microsoft can get there if they want to, but they ain’t getting there without really putting their nose to the grindstone,” Finneran said.

Microsoft said in a statement that it has already made progress in getting companies with first-line workers to use Teams. The businesses include plumbing supply firm Ferguson and retailers Ikea and Mattress Firm.

“These are just a few of the companies on the leading edge of involving the first-line workforce in digital transformation,” Microsoft said. It did not provide details on how those companies’ employees were using Teams.

Microsoft’s broad software portfolio will give the company a leg up. Beyond Teams, Microsoft can offer customers a productivity suite, a customer relationship management app and platforms for e-commerce and internet of things (IoT) projects.

“Microsoft is just able to bring more of the pieces to the solution than a lot of its competitors,” said Rob Arnold, analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

And Microsoft has a clear financial incentive to follow through on its rhetoric.

So-called knowledge workers — the kind of desk-based employees who use software like Microsoft Office — represent only 15% to 25% of the U.S. workforce. Worldwide, the percentage falls to 10% to 15%, according to calculations by PKE Consulting LLC.

The rest of the workforce comprises service workers, like bank tellers, nurses, UPS drivers, waiters and maids.

Those kinds of workers haven’t used collaboration apps like Teams in the past. But Microsoft could significantly increase its market footprint if it convinces them to use Teams in the future, said Raúl Castañón-Martinez, analyst at 451 Research.

“I think they are definitely very serious about going after that segment,” he said.

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AWS leak exposes passwords, private keys on GitHub

An Amazon Web Services engineer uploaded sensitive data to a public GitHub repository that included customer credentials and private encryption keys.

Cybersecurity vendor UpGuard earlier this month found the exposed GitHub repository within 30 minutes of its creation. UpGuard analysts discovered the AWS leak, which was slightly less than 1 GB and contained log files and resource templates that included hostnames for “likely” AWS customers.

“Of greater concern, however, were the many credentials found in the repository,” UpGuard said in its report Thursday. “Several documents contained access keys for various cloud services. There were multiple AWS key pairs, including one named ‘rootkey.csv,’ suggesting it provided root access to the user’s AWS account.”

The AWS leak also contained a file for an unnamed insurance company that included keys for email and messaging providers, as well as other files containing authentication tokens and API keys for third-party providers. UpGuard’s report did not specify how many AWS customers were affected by the leak.

UpGuard said GitHub’s token scanning feature, which is opt-in, could have detected and automatically revoked some of the exposed credentials in the repository, but it’s unclear how quickly detection would have occurred. The vendor also said the token scanning tool would not have been able to revoke exposed passwords or private keys.

The documents in the AWS leak also bore the hallmarks of an AWS engineer, and some of the documents included the owner’s name. UpGuard said it found a LinkedIn profile for an AWS engineer that matched the owner’s exact full name, and the role matched the types of data found in the repository; as a result, the vendor said it was confident the owner was an AWS engineer.

While it’s unclear why the engineer uploaded such sensitive material to a public GitHub repository, UpGuard said there was “no evidence that the user acted maliciously or that any personal data for end users was affected, in part because it was detected by UpGuard and remediated by AWS so quickly.”

UpGuard said at approximately 11 a.m. on Jan. 13, its data leaks detection engine identified potentially sensitive information had been uploaded to the GitHub repository half an hour earlier. UpGuard analysts reviewed the documents and determined the sensitive nature of the data as well as the identity of the likely owner. An analyst contacted AWS’ security team at 1:18 p.m. about the leak, and by 4 p.m. public access to the repository had been removed. SearchSecurity contacted AWS for comment, but at press time the company had not responded.

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Public cloud vendors launch faulty services as race heats up

The public cloud services arena has turned a corner, introducing new challenges for customers, according to the latest edition of “Technology Radar,” a biannual report by global software consultancy ThoughtWorks. Competition has heated up, so top public cloud vendors are creating new cloud services at a fast clip. But in their rush to market, those vendors can roll out flawed services, which opens the door for resellers to help clients evaluate cloud options.

Public cloud has become a widely deployed technology, overcoming much of the resistance it had seen in the past. “Fears about items like security and sovereignty have been calmed,” noted Scott Shaw, director of technology for Asia Pacific region at ThoughtWorks. “Regulators have become more comfortable with the technology, so cloud interest has been turning into adoption.”

The cloud market shifts

With the sales of public cloud services rising, competition has intensified. Initially, Amazon Web Services dominated the market, but recently Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform have been gaining traction among enterprise customers.

Corporations adopting public cloud have not had as much success as they had hoped for.
Scott ShawDirector of technology for Asia Pacific region, ThoughtWorks

One ripple effect is that the major public cloud providers have been trying to rapidly roll out differentiating new services. However, in their haste to keep pace, they can deliver services with rough edges and incomplete feature sets, according to ThoughtWorks.

Customers can get caught in this quicksand. “Corporations adopting public cloud have not had as much success as they had hoped for,” Shaw said.

Businesses try to deploy public cloud services based on the promised functionality but frequently hit roadblocks during implementations. “The emphasis on speed and product proliferation, through either acquisition or hastily created services, often results not merely in bugs but also in poor documentation, difficult automation and incomplete integration with vendors’ own parts,” the report noted.

Top public cloud vendors chart
The global public cloud market share in 2019.

Testing is required

ThoughtWorks recommended that organizations not assume all public cloud vendors’ services are of equal quality. They need to test out key capabilities and be open to alternatives, such as open source options and multi-cloud strategies.

Resellers can act as advisors to help customers make the right decisions as they consider new public cloud services, pointing out the strengths and flaws in individual cloud options, Shaw said.

To serve as advisors, however, resellers need in-depth, hands-on experience with the cloud services. “Channel partners cannot simply rely on a feature checklist,” Shaw explained. “To be successful, they need to have worked with the service and understand how it operates in practice and not just in theory.”

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AWS security faces challenges after a decade of dominance

Amazon Web Services has a stranglehold on the public cloud market, but the company’s dominance in cloud security is facing new challenges.

The world’s largest cloud provider earned a reputation over the last 10 years as an influential leader in IaaS security, thanks to introducing products such as AWS Identity & Access Management and Key Management Service in the earlier part of the decade to more recent developments in event-driven security. AWS security features helped the cloud service provider establish its powerful market position; according to Gartner, AWS in 2018 earned an estimated $15.5 billion in revenue for nearly 48% of the worldwide public IaaS market.

But at the re:Invent 2019 conference last month, many of the new security tools and features announced were designed to fix existing issues, such as misconfigurations and data exposures, rather than push AWS security to new heights. “There wasn’t much at re:Invent that I’d call security,” said Colin Percival, founder of open source backup service Tarsnap and an AWS Community Hero, via email. “Most of what people are talking about as security improvements address what I’d call misconfiguration risk.”

Meanwhile, Microsoft has not only increased its cloud market share but also invested heavily in new Azure security features that some believe rival AWS’ offerings. Rich Mogull, president and analyst at Securosis, said there are two sides to AWS security — the inherent security of the platform’s architecture, and the additional tools and products AWS provides to customers.

“In terms of the inherent security of the platform, I still think Amazon is very far ahead,” he said, citing AWS’ strengths such as availability zones, segregation, and granular identity and access management. “Microsoft has done a lot with Azure, but Amazon still has a multi-year lead. But when it comes to security products, it’s more of a mixed bag.”

Most of what people are talking about as [AWS] security improvements address what I’d call misconfiguration risk.
Colin PercivalFounder, Tarsnap

Microsoft has been able to close the gap in recent years with the introduction of its own set of products and tools that compete with AWS security offerings, he said. “Azure Security Center and AWS Security Hub are pretty comparable, and both have strengths and weaknesses,” Mogull said. “Azure Sentinel is quite interesting and seems more complete than AWS Detective.”

New tools, old problems

Arguably the biggest AWS security development at re:Invent was a new tool designed to fix a persistent problem for the cloud provider: accidental S3 bucket exposures. The IAM Access Analyzer, which is part of AWS’ Identity and Access Management (IAM) console, alerts users when an S3 bucket is possibly misconfigured to allow public access via the internet and lets them block such access with one click.

AWS had previously made smaller moves, including changes to S3 security settings and interfaces, to curb the spate of high-profile and embarrassing S3 exposures in recent years. IAM Access Analyzer is arguably the strongest move yet to resolve the ongoing problem.

“They created the S3 exposure issue, but they also fixed it,” said Jerry Gamblin, principal security engineer at vulnerability management vendor Kenna Security, which is an AWS customer. “I think they’ve really stepped up in that regard.”

Still, some AWS experts feel the tool doesn’t fully resolve the problem. “Tools like IAM Access Analyzer will definitely help some people,” Percival said, “but there’s a big difference between warning people that they screwed up and allowing people to make systems more secure than they could previously.”

Scott Piper, an AWS security consultant and founder of Summit Route in Salt Lake City, said “It’s yet another tool in the toolbelt and it’s free, but it’s not enabled by default.”

There are other issues with IAM Access Analyzer. “With this additional information, you have to get that to the customer in some way,” Piper said. “And doing that can be awkward and difficult with this service and others in AWS like GuardDuty, because it doesn’t make cross-region communication very easy.”

For example, EC2 regions are isolated to ensure the highest possible fault tolerance and stability for customers. But Piper said the isolation presents challenges for customers using multiple regions because it’s difficult to aggregate GuardDuty alerts to a single source, which requires security teams to analyze “multiple panes of glass instead of one.”

Metadata headaches

AWS recently addressed another security issue that became a high-profile concern for enterprises following the Capital One breach last summer. The attacker in that exploited an SSRF vulnerability to access the AWS metadata service for company’s EC2 instances, which allowed them to obtain credentials contained in the service.

The Capital One breach led to criticism from security experts as well as lawmakers such as Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who questioned why AWS hadn’t addressed SSRF vulnerabilities for its metadata service. The lack of security around the metadata service has concerned some AWS experts for years; in 2016, Percival penned a blog post titled “EC2’s most dangerous feature.”

“I think the biggest problem Amazon has had in recent years — judging by the customers affected — is the lack of security around their instance metadata service,” Percival told SearchSecurity.

In November, AWS made several updates to the metadata service to prevent unauthorized access, including the option to turn off access to the service altogether. Mogull said the metadata service update was crucial because it improved security around AWS account credentials.

But like other AWS security features, the metadata service changes are not enabled by default. Percival said enabling the update by default would’ve caused issues for enterprise applications and services that rely on the existing version of the service. “Amazon was absolutely right in making their changes opt-in since if they had done otherwise, they would have broken all of the existing code that uses the service,” he said. “I imagine that once more or less everyone’s code has been updated, they’ll switch this from opt-in to opt-out — but it will take years before we get to that point.”

Percival also said the update is “incomplete” because it addresses common misconfigurations but not software bugs. (Percival is working on an open source tool that he says will provide “a far more comprehensive fix to this problem,” which he hopes to release later this month.)

Still, Piper said the metadata service update is an important step for AWS security because it showed the cloud provider was willing to acknowledge there was a problem with the existing service. That willingness and responsiveness hasn’t always been there in the past, he said.

“AWS has historically had the philosophy of providing tools to customers, and it’s kind of up to customers to use them and if they shoot themselves in the foot, then it’s the customers’ fault,” Piper said. “I think AWS is starting to improve and change that philosophy to help customers more.”

AWS security’s road ahead

While the metadata service update and IAM Access Analyzer addressed lingering security issues, experts highlighted other new developments that could strengthen AWS’ position in cloud security.

AWS Nitro Enclaves, for example, is a new EC2 capability introduced at re:Invent 2019 that allows customers to create isolated instances for sensitive data. The Nitro Enclaves, which will be available in preview this year, are virtual machines attached to EC2 instances but have CPU and memory isolation from the instances and can be accessed only through secure local connections.

“Nitro Enclaves will have a big impact for customers because of its isolation and compartmentalization capabilities” which will give enterprises’ sensitive data an additional layer of protection against potential breaches, Mogull said.

Percival agreed that Nitro Enclaves could possibly “raise the ceiling,” for AWS Security, though he cautioned against using them. “Enclaves are famously difficult for people to use correctly, so it’s hard to predict whether they will make a big difference or end up being another of the many ‘Amazon also has this feature, which nobody ever uses’ footnotes.”

Experts also said AWS’ move to strengthen its ARM-based processor business could have major security implications. The cloud provider announced at re:Invent 2019 that it will be launching EC2 instances that run on its new, customized ARM chips, dubbed Graviton2.

Gamblin said the Graviton2 processors are a security play in part because of recent microprocessor vulnerabilities and side channel attacks like Meltdown and Spectre. While some ARM chips were affected by both Meltdown and Spectre, subsequent side channel attacks and Spectre variants have largely affected x86 processors.

“Amazon doesn’t want to rely on other chips that may be vulnerable to side channel attacks and may have to be taken offline and rebooted or suffer performance issues because of mitigations,” Gamblin said.

Percival said he was excited by the possibility of the cloud provider participating in ARM’s work on the “Digital Security by Design” initiative, a private-sector partnership with the UK that is focused in part on fundamentally restructuring — and improving — processor security. The results of that project will be years down the road, Percival said, but it would show a commitment from AWS to once again raising the bar for security.

“If it works out — and it’s a decade-long project, which is inherently experimental in nature — it could be the biggest step forward for computer security in a generation.”

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Actifio 10c adds container support and DR orchestration

Actifio customers who are heavily invested in public cloud got a hefty update this week with version 10c.

Actifio 10c added features aimed at universal portability between on-premises and cloud environments. It now supports seven major cloud providers: Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Alibaba Cloud, IBM Cloud, Oracle Cloud, VMware Cloud, AWS and Microsoft Azure. Customers can write backups to multiple targets, either to their data center or one or more public clouds, and can fail over to another cloud entirely if they want. The goal is to give customers full flexibility and interoperability regardless of where the data resides.

Another major feature added in 10c focused on containers. Actifio’s backup cloning feature for spinning up copies of data in test environments now supports Kubernetes, allowing customers to quickly clone data directly into containers. Brian Reagan, chief marketing officer at Actifio, said he has noticed increased adoption and demand for container support among test/dev customers. He also sees the use of containers as something that will feed greater demand for universal portability.

Reagan claims 10c can deliver SSD-like storage speed from object store using clever caching. A layer of intelligence during the read/write process between on-premises SSD and S3-compatible object storage creates a cache of recoverable data in its original format, avoiding the need to rehydrate. S3 and other forms of object store tend to be cheaper than other storage options, but the cost comes in the form of lower recall speed.

Reagan said Actifio 10c added more than 20 features or functionality upgrades. Other noteworthy features include one-click disaster recovery (DR) orchestration and wizards to simplify backing up databases including SAP HANA, ASE and MaxDB as well as Oracle, MySQL and Db2. Actifio 10c also added an agentless VM snapshot management feature for AWS and Azure.

Actifio 10c is in early access and is expected to become generally available in early 2020.

Targeting test/dev

Actifio competes with established backup vendors such as Veritas, Dell EMC, Veeam and Commvault along with relative newcomers such as Cohesity, Rubrik and Druva. Although Actifio’s replication technology is ideal for backup and initially targeted the backup market, the company has made a concerted effort in the last few years to pivot toward the test/dev market. Reagan said a majority of new Actifio customers now start with test/dev purposes in mind rather than backup.

He said enterprises today gain market advantage by developing faster than their competitors. Many of these customers are looking to improve on that front rather than invest in backup. Actifio is pushing the development use case to capture these customers, but can use its technology to provide for the backup use case as well.

screenshot of Actifio 10c
Actifio 10c’s DR orchestration lets users set the order of automated recovery.

Storage and data protection industry analysts say backup as we know it is on the way out, and that backup vendors should be looking to support secondary data use cases that go beyond simple backup and recovery. Reusing copies of data to serve business ends such as test/dev and analytics is one such area of potential expansion.

However, George Crump, president of storage analyst firm Storage Switzerland and an IT consultant himself, said most people still struggle with basic backup and recovery. A combination of data growth, shrinking IT staff and expertise and stricter service-level agreements (SLAs) makes it harder for organizations to reliably create recoverable backups and restore from them when something goes wrong. Backup itself is not always a specialty anymore, and instead has often become the responsibility of a staff member or team with other IT duties.

“Generally, nowadays, you don’t have a backup specialist on staff,” Crump said.

Crump also added that from his experience with his own clients, most of them use Actifio for backup and DR rather than any of its test/dev-focused use cases.

Crump said vendors can combat this is by simplifying backup as much as possible. He sees 10c’s DR orchestration and backup setup wizards as serving that need, and it’s as important a feature as container support and object store performance enhancement. He pointed out that Veeam, Commvault, Cohesity and other vendors have made moves toward automated DR. Despite these new tools, Crump recommends that organizations still struggling with backup reevaluate their staffing around how they handle their IT infrastructure.           

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Geek gifts 2019: Think Opex, not Capex with subscriptions

Geek gifts are undergoing a paradigm shift not unlike the enterprise IT migration to public cloud. Resource ownership and gift supply chain management are so passé — let any number of subscription services entertain and delight your geek for you!

Just as Amazon has eliminated the toil that used to be involved in holiday shopping, from schlepping to the mall to battling for a parking space to waiting in line at a register, subscription services can step in and take over even selecting and shipping gifts online. Name an item, interest or type of entertainment — there’s almost always a subscription service out there to bring it forth to your geek, on a regular basis, often for a full year. Bacon, for example. Craft beer. E-Books. Video games.

“An HBO Now subscription so you can watch The Watchmen on your flights to and from conferences, or Apple Music so you can drown out the screaming babies on the plane,” suggested one of our road warrior geek friends.

Our geek consultants this year rave about LootCrate for the geekily inclined. There are gift box subscriptions for every conceivable fandom, from Harry Potter to Marvel Comics to Hello Kitty.

“It’s all kinds of geeky goodness,” summed up one of our geek advisors.

Subscription services are also available for truly hardcore geeks who never stop talking shop long enough to watch movies or read comic books, such as a membership to document collaboration service Coda.io, or Zapier for home automation management.

The latest in gadgets, both practical and fun

As always, the cardinal rule of buying gifts for geeks is: know thy geek. Some geeks can’t get enough Funko Pops. Other geeks’ dearest wish is to get rid of the clutter they already have. Some geeks will be thrilled with beer delivered monthly to their doorstep — others would have much more fun making their own. For the DIY geeks, or traditionalists who want to wrap something themselves, gadgets and doodads still abound.

“I’m usually a ‘late early adopter’ of new tech toys, so I might not [want] anything crazy,” said one such geek we know. “[But] one of my favorite not-so-new things is the PicoBrew home brewing appliance.”

PicoBrew is pricey (the Pico C for craft beer homebrew enthusiasts is priced at $399.00), and not everyone likes beer. There’s also a $125 cocktail bitters kit one of our geeks had their eye on.

“It lets you be a bit of a mad scientist and drink the results,” he said.

For teetotaling or practically minded geeks, our geek advisors pointed out useful gadgets such as the iFixit Pro Tech Toolkit, reMarkable digital notepad or Rocketbook.

“It’s like a Kindle, but a writing tablet, perfect for those who like the feel of writing stuff but don’t want an extremely bright or distracting tablet,” said one geek expert of the reMarkable pad. “[Rocketbook] is like a notebook, but you can use it like a whiteboard, as the pages wipe clean with a damp cloth. You can also pair it with an app and upload your notes to the cloud.”

Geeks with a quirky sense of humor may delight in somewhat pointless gadgets, such as the Qwerkywriter or a Makey Makey kit that can turn anything into a keyboard, from bananas to water buckets.

“I don’t know if this is actually a good product,” said one of our geek advisors of Qwerkywriter. “But the idea of a mechanical keyboard for an iPad makes me laugh.”

Budget-friendly humorous geek gift suggestions include the time-honored coffee mug and some truly bizarre drink coasters.  

Perennial favorites: Star Wars mania strikes back

Star Wars already led our geek gift recommendations in 2015, but could have again this year, with the launch of Disney+ and The Mandalorian series (Baby Yoda!), along with the hotly anticipated Dec. 20 release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Even after all these years, it’s hard to go wrong with Star Wars swag for many geeks. Not every geek is part of this fandom, but one of our geek advisors reported there is a strong correlation between enterprise IT geeks and Star Wars fans: Amazon suggested to him that those who bought Gene Kim’s The Unicorn Project book also ordered Rebel Alliance stickers, he said.

Perennial favorites in the non-Star Wars category include all the other major fandoms with movies coming out, such as Wonder Woman and Ghostbustersdinner and a movie, anyone? Geeks also still covet Sonos smart speaker devices, drones and Raspberry Pis, including the latest Raspberry Pi 4.

“New hardware, including a gigabit NIC, finally!” one of our geek experts said of the Pi 4. “Being able to cluster these and run k3s is also super cool.”

Much as geeks love home automation with toolkits such as Arduino and Hue Play, consider the potential privacy implications of devices such as Ring before you gift them, our geek friends warn.

“I would avoid anything that is going to record you and later be used by law enforcement or in other ways you didn’t intend, such as Ring, Alexa or Google Home,” said one. (If only we’d had this insight back in 2016!)

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Microsoft Teams for Linux launches in public preview

Microsoft has released in public preview a Microsoft Teams desktop client for Linux.

The move is aimed at boosting Teams adoption among software developers, who often prefer working in Linux. The lack of support for the open source operating system has made it harder for Microsoft to compete with Slack, which has supported Linux for years. 

“A lot of the companies that we’ve researched who are running both Slack and Teams are doing so because their application developers use Slack,” said Irwin Lazar, analyst at Nemertes Research. The new Microsoft Teams for Linux client could convince more organizations to go all-in on Teams. 

The Linux client supports Teams’ core capabilities, including calling and video meetings. But it comes with certain limitations. For example, it doesn’t offer users as many in-meeting controls as the Windows and Mac clients for Teams do.

Nevertheless, releasing Microsoft Teams for Linux represents a significant milestone for the company. Microsoft said Teams was “the first Microsoft 365 app that is coming to Linux desktops.” The company declined to say whether it would launch additional apps on Linux.

Microsoft has long been criticized for not playing nice with competing operating systems. The U.S. government sued the company in the late 1990s over its bundling of Internet Explorer and Windows, ending in a settlement. More recently, Microsoft has moved toward becoming more of an open ecosystem.

Users have been pushing Microsoft to release Teams on Linux since the app’s launch. A 2016 post requesting the Linux client has received more than 10,000 likes and 1,800 comments on the vendor’s user feedback website. Microsoft had put the issue on the back burner before reviving it earlier this year.

Many users commented on the website to say that they would stick with Slack until Microsoft launched a Linux client. Those kinds of declarations likely helped convince Microsoft that supporting Linux would be worthwhile. The company has made competing with Slack a priority.

Microsoft seemingly waited to reveal user numbers for Teams until it had more users than Slack. The company even went so far as to produce a bar graph comparing the growth of Teams and Slack in its announcement. Teams now has 20 million daily active users to Slack’s 13 million.

Slack has responded by repeatedly highlighting that 70% of its 50 largest customers subscribe to Office 365, which includes Teams. Slack has also argued that users are more engaged with its app, although a lack of apples-to-apples statistics makes it impossible to compare the two. 

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AWS Outposts brings hybrid cloud support — but only for Amazon

LAS VEGAS — AWS controls nearly half of the public IaaS market today, and based on the company’s rules against use of the term ‘multi-cloud,’ would be happy to have it all, even as rivals Microsoft and Google make incremental gains and more customers adopt multi-cloud strategies.

That’s the key takeaway from the start of this year’s massive re:Invent conference here this week, which was marked by the release of AWS Outposts for hybrid clouds and a lengthy keynote from AWS CEO Andy Jassy that began with a tongue-in-cheek invite to AWS’ big tent in the cloud.

“You have to decide what you’re going to bring,” Jassy said of customers who want to move workloads into the public cloud. “It’s a little bit like moving from a home,” he added, as a projected slide comically depicted moving boxes affixed with logos for rival vendors such as Oracle and IBM sitting on a driveway.

“It turns out when companies are making this big transformation, what we see is that all bets are off,” Jassy said. “They reconsider everything.”

For several years now, AWS has used re:Invent as a showcase for large customers in highly regulated industries that have made substantial, if not complete, migrations to its platform. One such company is Goldman Sachs, which has worked with AWS on several projects, including Marcus, a digital banking service for consumers. A transaction banking service that helps companies manage their cash in a cloud-native stack on AWS is coming next year, said Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, who appeared during Jassy’s talk. Goldman is also moving its Marquee market intelligence platform into production on AWS.

Along with showcasing enthusiastic customers like Goldman Sachs, Jassy took a series of shots at the competition, some veiled and others overt.

“Every industry has lots of companies with mainframes, but everyone wants to move off of them,” he claimed. The same goes for databases, he added. Customers are trying to move away from Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server due to factors such as expense and lock-in, he said. Jassy didn’t mention that similar accusations have been lodged at AWS’ native database services.

Jassy repeatedly took aim at Microsoft, which has the second most popular cloud platform after AWS, albeit with a significant lag. “People don’t want to pay the tax anymore for Windows,” he said.

But it isn’t as if AWS would actually shun Microsoft technology, since it has long been a host for many Windows Server workloads. In fact, it wants as much as it can get. This week, AWS introduced a new bring-your-own-license program for Windows Server and SQL Server designed to make it easier for customers to run those licenses on AWS, versus Azure.

AWS pushes hybrid cloud, but rejects multi-cloud

One of the more prominent, although long-expected, updates this week is the general availability of AWS Outposts. These specialized server racks provided by AWS reside in customers’ own data centers, in order to comply with regulations or meet low-latency needs. They are loaded with a range of AWS software, are fully managed by AWS and maintain continuous connections to local AWS regions.

The company is taking the AWS Outposts idea a bit further with the release of new AWS Local Zones. These will consist of Outpost machines placed in facilities very close to large cities, giving customers who don’t want or have their own data centers, but still have low-latency requirements, another option. Local Zones, the first of which is in the Los Angeles area, provide this capability and tie back to AWS’ larger regional zones, the company said.

Outposts, AWS Local Zones and the previously launched VMware Cloud on AWS constitute a hybrid cloud computing portfolio for AWS — but you won’t hear Jassy or other executives say the phrase multi-cloud, at least not in public.

In fact, partners who want to co-brand with AWS are forbidden from using that phrase and similar verbiage in marketing materials, according to an AWS co-branding document provided to SearchAWS.com.

“AWS does not allow or approve use of the terms ‘multi-cloud,’ ‘cross cloud,’ ‘any cloud, ‘every cloud,’ or any other language that implies designing or supporting more than one cloud provider,” the co-branding guidelines, released in August, state. “In this same vein, AWS will also not approve references to multiple cloud providers (by name, logo, or generically).”

An AWS spokesperson didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

The statement may not be surprising in context of AWS’s market lead, but does stand in contrast to recent approaches by Google, with the Anthos multi-cloud container management platform, and Microsoft’s Azure Arc, which uses native Azure tools, but has multi-cloud management aspects.

AWS customers may certainly want multi-cloud capabilities, but can protect themselves by using portable products and technologies, such as Kubernetes at the lowest level with a tradeoff being the manual labor involved, said Holger Mueller, an analyst with Constellation Research in Cupertino, Calif.

“To be fair, Azure and Google are only at the beginning of [multi-cloud],” he said.

Meanwhile, many AWS customers have apparently grown quite comfortable moving their IT estates onto the platform. One example is Cox Automotive, known for its digital properties such as Autotrader.com and Kelley Blue Book.

In total, Cox has more than 200 software applications, many of which it accrued through a series of acquisitions, and the company expects to move it all onto AWS, said Chris Dillon, VP of architecture, during a re:Invent presentation.

Cox is using AWS Well-Architected Framework, a best practices tool for deployments on AWS, to manage the transition.

“When you start something new and do it quickly you always run the risk of not doing it well,” said Gene Mahon, director of engineering operations. “We made a decision early on that everything would go through a Well-Architected review.”

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Microsoft and Salesforce expand strategic partnership to accelerate customer success

Salesforce names Microsoft Azure as its public cloud provider for Salesforce Marketing Cloud to help customers scale and grow; new integration between Salesforce Sales and Service Clouds with Microsoft Teams will boost productivity

REDMOND, Wash., and SAN FRANCISCO — Nov. 14, 2019 — Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) on Thursday announced plans to expand their strategic partnership to help customers meet the evolving needs of their businesses and boost team productivity. Salesforce has named Microsoft Azure as its public cloud provider for Salesforce Marketing Cloud. Salesforce will also build a new integration that connects Salesforce’s Sales Cloud and Service Cloud with Microsoft Teams.

Salesforce and Microsoft logos
“At Salesforce, we’re relentlessly focused on driving trust and success for our customers,” said Marc Benioff and Keith Block, co-CEOs, Salesforce. “We’re excited to expand our partnership with Microsoft and bring together the leading CRM with Azure and Teams to deliver incredible customer experiences.”

“In a world where every company is becoming a digital company, we want to enable every customer and partner to build experiences on our leading platforms,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. “By bringing together the power of Azure and Microsoft Teams with Salesforce, our aim is to help businesses harness the power of the Microsoft Cloud to better serve customers.”

Comments on the news

“Marriott has more than 7,200 properties spanning 134 countries and territories, so driving efficiency and collaboration is critical,” said Brian King, global officer, Digital, Distribution, Revenue Strategy, and Global Sales, Marriott International. “The combination of Salesforce and Microsoft enables our teams to work better together to enhance the guest experience at every touchpoint.”

“With 400 brands and teams in 190 countries, we are always looking for ways to scale more efficiently and strengthen collaboration,” said Jane Moran, chief technology advisor, Unilever. “The powerful combination of Salesforce and Microsoft enables us to be more productive and connect with each other and our customers like never before.”

Salesforce names Microsoft Azure as its public cloud provider for marketing cloud

With Salesforce Marketing Cloud, marketers are empowered to know their customers, personalize marketing with Einstein, engage with them across any channel, and analyze the impact to improve campaign performance. Bringing its Marketing Cloud workload to Azure, Salesforce joins the over 95% of Fortune 500 companies benefitting from an Azure infrastructure offering the most global regions of any cloud provider.

Through this partnership, Salesforce will move its Marketing Cloud to Azure — unlocking new growth opportunities for customers. By moving to Azure, Salesforce will be able to optimize Marketing Cloud’s performance as customer demand scales. This will reduce customer onboarding times and enable customers to expand globally more quickly with Azure’s global footprint and help address local data security, privacy and compliance requirements.

​Salesforce and Microsoft Teams integration will boost productivity

​As teamwork becomes a driving force in the workplace, people want to bring workflows and frequently used apps into their collaboration workspace environments. Sales and customer service are highly collaborative, team-centric functions, and many companies actively use both Salesforce CRM and Microsoft Teams. As part of this agreement, Salesforce will build a new integration that give sales and service users the ability to search, view, and share Salesforce records directly within Teams. The new Teams integration for Salesforce Sales and Service Clouds will be made available in late 2020.

Building on a commitment to customer success

These new integrations will build on existing solutions that enable mutual customers to be more productive, including the hundreds of thousands of monthly active users using Salesforce’s Microsoft Outlook integration to create, communicate and collaborate.

​About Salesforce​

Salesforce is the global leader in Customer Relationship Management (CRM), bringing companies closer to their customers in the digital age. Founded in 1999, Salesforce enables companies of every size and industry to take advantage of powerful technologies—cloud, mobile, social, internet of things, artificial intelligence, voice and blockchain—to create a 360° view of their customers. For more information about Salesforce (NYSE: CRM), visit: www.salesforce.com.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, (425) 638-7777, [email protected]

Stephanie Barnes, Salesforce PR, (415) 722-0883, [email protected]

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.

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Michael Dell on Dell cloud strategy: On-premises cloud rules

AUSTIN, TEXAS — Michael Dell says public cloud providers are just a small part of what constitutes cloud in today’s IT world. He wants people to also think of on-premises infrastructure as cloud.

“The cloud is also the on-premises cloud. In fact, on-premises is the biggest part of the cloud,” the Dell Technologies CEO said at the Dell Technologies Summit this week. “A lot of companies are figuring out that the cloud is not a place. It’s an operating model. Clouds can exist anyplace. We have a 5G cloud, an edge cloud, there are public clouds, there are SaaS clouds. And the biggest of them all is the on-premises cloud. The key, is how do you connect them all together?”

Dell Technologies is among the leaders in most of the on-premises infrastructure markets, including storage, servers, virtualization and networking — all of the pieces of on-premises IT. The vendor spent $67 billion for storage leader EMC and virtualization leader VMware in 2016 to give it the complete on-premises stack. Now it is working to make the Dell IT stack into a Dell cloud stack.

Dell cloud moves: Automation, subscription pricing

This week, Dell took steps to bring cloud automation and pricing models on premises. It launched Dell EMC PowerOne and Dell On Demand. PowerOne is converged infrastructure with an autonomous engine to automate provisioning and updating hardware, and On Demand prices IT as a service.

When asked how he defines on-premises cloud, Dell said, “The idea of an on-premises cloud is bringing together all of the infrastructure and automating the whole process. If you think about what a public cloud is, it is virtualized everything and software-defined everything. Great idea, but that can be done on-premises, as we’ve done with converged, hyper-converged and bringing all of our solutions together into an autonomous offering.

“It won’t just be the public clouds or private clouds; it will be both. And increasingly the edge.”

We have a 5G cloud, an edge cloud, there are public clouds, there are SaaS clouds. And the biggest of them all is the on-premises cloud.
Michael DellCEO, Dell Technologies

PowerOne and Dell On Demand are early steps for the Dell cloud strategy. PowerOne combines Dell EMC PowerMax enterprise storage, PowerEdge MX servers, PowerProtect backup, PowerSwitch networking and VMware virtualization. The new piece is PowerOne Controller, an autonomous management engine designed to automate provisioning and management. Dell’s roadmap calls for an expansion of PowerOne in the first half of 2020, adding Dell’s coming midrange array platform and Isilon unstructured data storage.

Dell is also working to expand the autonomous engine for products sold outside of PowerOne — starting with VxRail hyper-converged appliances. Tom Burns, Dell general manager for networking and solutions, said the vendor is attempting to make the PowerOne Controller work with VxRail management.

Enterprise Strategy Group senior analyst Scott Sinclair said he considered the autonomous management the most valuable part of PowerOne.

“I’d like to see them add that for everything, but converged and hyper-converged is a good place to start,” Sinclair said.

“These are steps in the right direction,” he added, of PowerOne and On Demand. “Now it’s up to Dell to see how far down the path they will go.”

Dell CEO and chairman Michael Dell
Dell CEO and chairman Michael Dell

The Dell cloud pricing follows rivals down the on-demand path as the public clouds — mainly Amazon and Microsoft — continue to grab billions of dollars of IT spending annually.

Gartner this week forecasted public cloud revenue to increase 17% over the next year, with the highest growth rate projected for infrastructure as a service (IaaS). Gartner predicted IaaS revenue will growth 24%, from $40.3 billion to $50 billion.

Success of the public cloud has on-premises infrastructure vendors changing their pricing models and procurement strategies.

Hewlett Packard launched its GreenLake services program in 2018, and claims all of its IT technology will be available as a service by 2022. Storage vendor NetApp unveiled its Keystone as-a-service pricing last month, and makes its storage software available through public clouds. Dell On Demand is an expansion of its Dell EMC storage as a service (SaaS) initiative, and Dell executives said this week they will continue to make more products available with utility pricing.

“Every vendor is going to have to do it,” Evaluator Group senior strategist and analyst Randy Kerns said of as-a-service pricing. “If you don’t do it, you’re in trouble. It’s the best way to get an off-cycle sale. When IT needs to buy something, they usually have to wait until the next buying cycle to get it in the budget. [With on-demand pricing] you can buy resources now.”

Do converged and hyper-converged equal on-premises cloud?

Michael Dell said the ability to bring the entire infrastructure stack together was the main impetus of the EMC acquisition that closed three years ago. PowerOne converged infrastructure and VxRail hyper-converged systems are examples of how his original strategy has come to fruition, he explained.

“Just storage and just networking and just compute, and just software and just hardware was not the answer; we had to bring them all together,” he said. “One thing we never hear from customers is, ‘Would you please operate like 20 different companies?’ All the efforts we’ve been involved in, from the converged infrastructure, hyper-convergence, VxRail and now PowerOne, we’ve been working on creating the on-premises clouds.”

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