Tag Archives: service

Microsoft adds live broadcasting software to Teams

Microsoft has added live broadcasting software to Microsoft Stream and integrated the service with Yammer and Microsoft Teams. The move should help Microsoft compete against main rival Cisco, which has made the video platform Webex the centerpiece of its collaboration portfolio.

The vendor will soon give Microsoft Teams users the ability to host one-to-many live events from within the team collaboration app. The feature, released in preview this week, will eventually replace Skype Meeting Broadcast, although Microsoft did not provide a timeline for that transition.

Enterprises can use the live broadcasting software added to Microsoft Stream this week in a variety of ways. For example, companies could use the software to conduct in-house town halls or product launches.

Microsoft Stream works with webcams and lets presenters share files and their screens while attendees comment in real time. Microsoft has also partnered with video encoding vendors, including Telestream and Haivision, so that businesses can integrate Stream with third-party cameras.

Microsoft plans to give more customers access to advanced AI features in Stream later this quarter, including automated, searchable, speech-to-text transcripts. Stream also uses facial recognition to identify speakers, creating an interactive list of speakers that viewers can use to navigate the recording.

Microsoft live broadcasting software improves Office 365

The enterprise market for live broadcasting software is crowded with vendors, from consumer options like YouTube and Venmo to pure-play webcasting services like On24 and TalkPoint. Most web conferencing platforms, such as Cisco Webex and Zoom, can also host webinars.

Microsoft is trying to stand out by offering an integrated portfolio that connects the live events of Microsoft Stream with collaboration apps like Microsoft Teams. Combining the software makes sense because businesses already use Teams for messaging and online meetings, according to Adam Preset, an analyst at Gartner.

“Technology vendors that can keep their customers inside an ecosystem can add more value if everything works together nicely,” Preset said. “That can also displace competitors who would have a tougher time breaking in even if their solutions are more mature or stronger in other areas.”

Stream’s integration with Microsoft Teams means that messages and content related to both daily work and company-wide meetings will exist in the same place, making it easier to start and continue conversations stemming from those live events, Preset said.

Cisco has also sought to provide a one-stop-shop for collaboration by merging its team collaboration app, Cisco Webex Teams (formerly Cisco Spark), with its industry-leading web conferencing platform, Cisco Webex.

Skype for Business customers that use that platform’s live broadcasting feature will soon be forced to transition to Microsoft Stream. However, Microsoft’s recently demonstrated willingness to open the Teams platform to developers could lead to other live broadcasting services being integrated with the product.

“The pool of people running large events in Skype Meeting Broadcast isn’t as large as those using Skype for Business Online for daily messaging and meetings,” Preset said. “That smaller set of event organizers will be looking at a large set of alternatives for delivering broadcasts.”

SolarWinds: MSP Pulse can shed light on business transformation

SolarWinds MSP has launched a benchmarking tool that it said is designed to help managed service providers better understand the health of their businesses. The new offering from SolarWinds, MSP Pulse aims to improve channel partners’ business strategies while also providing insight into how they stack up against their competitors.

The move comes as MSPs look for better ways to measure their progress as they grapple with business transformation at their companies. As channel companies transition from hardware reselling to an as-a-service subscription model, many are finding that shifting gears has placed new responsibilities on their business. As a result MSPs are looking for more analysis and insights as they move to the managed services model.

To help them understand how their competitors are handling new market trends, SolarWinds MSP in collaboration with research firm The 2112 Group developed MSP Pulse, a free online survey that asks participants specific questions about their business. 

SolarWinds: MSP Pulse attracts nearly 500 survey takers

So far nearly 500 companies located in North America and Europe have taken the survey, answering a range of questions on such topics as 2017 revenue, 2018 projected revenue, location, types of managed services offered, and the number of dedicated salespeople on staff.

According to executives at SolarWinds MSP, answers to these questions are stored in a database and used to generate comparative analysis in a variety of areas, including sales, profitability and customer engagement.

Comparisons are also made between companies that are the same size, offer the same managed service offerings and operate in the same region.

“Many companies are in the dark on their own,” said Mike Cullen, vice president of customer experience and business strategy at SolarWinds MSP. “This tool gives them good information to balance themselves off of what other companies are doing in the market.”

Chart showing steps for achieving predictable revenue streams
The quest for predicable, as-a-service revenue is just one dimension of the MSP transition the SolarWinds MSP Pulse tool aims to address.

How it works

Many companies are in the dark on their own.
Mike Cullenvice president of customer experience and business strategy, SolarWinds MSP

At the end of the SolarWinds MSP Pulse survey, participants receive a customized report about how their companies’ performance compares with companies of similar size and type. The benchmarking process provides information on whether an MSP is on par, below average or above average with regard to its competitors across a number of categories, including monthly account attrition rate — also known as churn rate — and managed service revenue targets.

Channel partners may use their results to plan their managed services model transformation and are encouraged to take the survey on a quarterly basis to update their data and track their progress.

Cullen said many MSPs are wondering what their benchmark should look like. He said these companies need information on how many new customers should they acquire per month and how much of their companies’ business should be managed services as opposed to hardware.

He added executives at MSPs also want to know if MSPs in their region of the same size and the same revenue structure have the same number of employees.

Rackspace colocation program hosts users’ legacy servers

Rackspace’s latest service welcomes users’ legacy gear into Rackspace data centers and once in place, gives the vendor a golden opportunity to sell these customers additional services.

The Rackspace Colocation program primarily targets midsize and larger IT shops that want to launch their first cloud initiative, or sidestep the rising costs to operate their own internal data centers. Many of these IT shops have just begun to grapple with the realities of their first digital transformation projects. They must choose where to position key applications from private clouds to microservices that run on Azure and Google Cloud.

Some Rackspace users run applications on customized hardware and operating systems that are not supported by public clouds, while others have heavily invested in hardware and want to hold onto those systems for another five years to get the full value out of those systems, said Henry Tran, general manager of Rackspace’s managed hosting and colocation business.

Customers that move existing servers into Rackspace’s data centers gain better system performance from closer proximity to Rackspace’s infrastructure. This gives Rackspace a chance to upsell those customers add-on interconnectivity and other higher-margin services.

“[The Rackspace Colocation services program] is a way to get you in the door by handling all the mundane stuff, but longer term they are trying to get you to migrate to their cloud,” said Cassandra Mooshian, senior analyst at Technology Business Research Inc. in Hampton, N.H.

Green light for greenfield colocation services

There are still many enterprise workloads that run in corporate data centers, so there are a lot of greenfield opportunities to pursue in colocation services. Roughly 60% of enterprises don’t use colos today, and the colocation market should grow around 8% annually through 2021, said Dan Thompson, a senior analyst at 451 Research. “There is still a lot of headroom for companies to migrate to colocation and/or cloud,” he said.

This speaks loudly to the multi-cloud and hybrid cloud world we are living in.
Dan Thompsonanalyst, 451 Research

Other colocation service providers have expanded with various higher-margin cloud and other managed services, but Rackspace has chosen a different path.

“They’ve had hosting and cloud services for a while but are now moving in the direction of colocation,” 451 Research’s Thompson said. “This speaks loudly to the multi-cloud and hybrid cloud world we are living in.”

Rackspace’s acquisition of Datapipe in late 2017 initiated its march into colocation, with the ability to offer capabilities and services to Datapipe customers through Microsoft’s Azure Stack, VMware’s Cloud on AWS and managed services on Google’s Cloud platform. In return, Rackspace gained access to Datapipe’s colocation services and data centers to gain a market presence in the U.S. West Coast, Brazil, China and Russia.

Rackspace itself was acquired in late 2016 by private equity firm Apollo Global Management LLC, which gave the company some financial backing and freedom to expand its business.

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DattoCon 2018: Focus on MSPs poised for SMB growth

AUSTIN, Texas — Managed service providers stand on the cusp of explosive growth in the small and medium-sized business market, but they must focus their sales and look for points of differentiation to cash in.

That’s one takeaway from this week’s DattoCon, Datto Inc.’s annual partner conference. The three-day event attracted about 1,650 service providers, a record for the Norwalk, Conn., data protection, networking and managed service provider (MSP) business management vendor. The event concluded June 20.

“The SMB spend rate is climbing really fast,” said Austin McChord, CEO and founder of Datto. “The opportunity is absolutely massive.”

Austin McChord, founder and CEO, DattoAustin McChord

Citing research from MarketsandMarkets, McChord said SMB IT spend will grow from about $40 billion in 2017 to nearly $72 billion in 2022. He estimated half of SMB transactions currently involve MSPs — so while the SMB market is already large, there is still room for the MSP industry to capture more business.

“Small businesses will be scrambling to rethink their IT infrastructure [and will] need to turn to managed service providers,” McChord said during his DattoCon keynote address.

Valuations climb

While demand expands, MSP market valuations are also growing.

Paul Dippell, CEO of Service Leadership, a company that benchmarks the financial performance and operational maturity of solution providers, said the arrival of private equity investment firms is one force driving valuations. IT services companies, such as Reliam, are partnering with private equity firms to do deals.

“Private equity groups have found the MSP industry,” Dippell said during a DattoCon presentation.

The equity investor’s typical target — MSPs with $5 million or more in annual profit — are rare, which makes those companies more valuable. Meanwhile, MSP owners looking to sell to such buyers may need to acquire another MSP to boost the bottom line and be deemed desirable, Dippell noted. An MSP with $3 million in profit, for example, may look to acquire an MSP with $2 million in profit. But even MSPs at the $2 million profit mark are unusual.

Deals have been rampant in the MSP and cloud consulting sectors of late, including Green House Data’s merger with Infront Consulting Group in May.

Chart showing recent mergers and acquisitions in the IT services industry
New buyers in the MSP market, such as private equity groups, are driving up service provider valuations.

MSP industry execs: Focus is key

High growth and ample valuations, of course, are not guaranteed. Industry executives suggested several factors that could improve a service provider’s ability to make the most of these trends. Among those factors is focus: Pick a target market and stick to it. That target can then become a point of differentiation.

“They have got to differentiate themselves — just figure out what they are best at and sell that,” McChord said.

That approach could mean only selling services to dental practices or biomedical research companies, he said. The idea is to understand an industry and its lingo, cultivate vendor partners to serve that space, and develop a differentiated business model. Indiscriminate and opportunistic selling, on the other hand, may backfire, McChord suggested.

Work in a fishbowl, not an ocean.
David Pencefounder and CEO, Acumen IT

“Just taking any revenue that shows up almost always puts you in a bad spot,” he said.

David Pence, founder and CEO at service provider Acumen IT, based in Greenville, S.C., echoed McChord’s sentiments.

“Work in a fishbowl, not an ocean,” he told attendees during a DattoCon presentation on MSP selling strategies.

He suggested MSPs create a dream 100 list of customers to pursue rather than buy a mailing list and trigger an email blast to 100,000 companies. And when service providers call on their dream list, they should focus on delivering a superior customer experience rather than providing technology.

“It’s not technology and blinking lights,” Pence said. “When you are talking to customers, be consultative. Don’t be a tech engineer.”

Key attributes

Dippell cited focused selling as one of five key attributes of the top performing service providers. Companies that have a well-defined target customer profile tend to outperform their peers who don’t.

The other attributes, he said, are whether the service provider charges for technology assessments, drives technology standards across customers, conducts quarterly business reviews and cross-sells the breadth of its service portfolio to all customers.

A yes on those counts can help service providers join the ranks of best-in-class companies.

DRaaS solution: US Signal makes rounds in healthcare market

A managed service provider’s disaster-recovery-as-a-service offering is carving a niche among healthcare market customers, including Baystate Health System, a five-hospital medical enterprise in western Massachusetts.

The DRaaS solution from US Signal, an MSP based in Grand Rapids, Mich., is built on Zerto’s disaster recovery software, US Signal’s data center capability and the company’s managed services. The offering is designed to work in VMware vCenter Server and Microsoft System Center environments. One target market is healthcare.

“We have several healthcare facilities … all across the Midwest using this solution,” said Jerry Clark, director of cloud sales development at US Signal. The DRaaS solution meets HIPAA standards, according to the company.

Clark said many hospitals — and organizations in other industries, for that matter — are searching for ways to avoid the investment in duplicate hardware traditional DR approaches require. With DRaaS, hardware becomes the service provider’s issue. Instead of paying for hardware upfront, the customer pays a monthly management fee to the DRaaS provider. The approach has expanded the channel opportunity in DR.

“Enterprises … run into the same situation: ‘Do we spend all this Capex on disaster recovery hardware that may or may not ever get used?'” Clark noted. “A DRaaS solution makes it much more economical.”

Chart showing anticipated budget growth across various IT sectors
One-third of the respondents to TechTarget’s IT Priorities survey identified disaster recovery as an area for budget growth.

Baystate Health adopts DRaaS solution

US Signal found an East Coast customer, Baystate Health, based in Springfield, Mass., though VertitechIT, a US Signal consulting partner located in nearby Holyoke, Mass.

Jerry Clark, director of cloud sales development at US SignalJerry Clark

VertitechIT helped Baystate Health launch a software-defined data center initiative. The implementation uses the entire VMware stack across three active data centers. The three-node arrangement provides local data replication, but David Miller, senior IT director and CTO at Baystate Health, said an outage in 2016 knocked out all three sites — contrary to design assumptions — for 10 hours.

Miller said his organization had been looking into some form of remote replication and high availability but had yet to land a good solution. The downtime event, however, increased the urgency of finding one.

“We realized we had to do something now rather than later,” Miller said.

David Miller, CTO at Baystate Health SystemDavid Miller

VertitechIT introduced US Signal to Baystate Health. The companies met in VertitechIT’s corporate office and US Signal proposed its DRaaS solution. In its DRaaS solution, US Signal deploys Zerto’s IT Resilience Platform, specifically Zerto Virtual Manager and Virtual Replication Appliance. The software installed in the customer source environment replicates data writes for each protected virtual machine to the DR target site, in this case US Signal’s Grand Rapids data center. An MPLS link connects Baystate Health to the Michigan facility.

The remote replication service provides the benefit of geodiversity, according to the companies. Baystate Health’s data centers are all in the Springfield area.

[embedded content]

CIO of Christian Brothers Services discusses the
company’s infrastructure partnership with US Signal.

US Signal’s DRaaS solution also includes a playbook, which documents the steps Baystate Health IT personnel should take to failover to the disaster recovery site in the event of an outage. In addition, US Signal’s DRaaS package provides two annual DR tests. The DRaaS provider also tests failover before the DR plan goes into effect and documents that test in the playbook, Clark noted.

Miller said the DR service, which went live about a year ago, provides a recovery point objective (RPO) of “less than a couple of minutes” for Baystate Health’s PeopleSoft system, one of the healthcare provider’s tier-one applications. The recovery time objective (RTO) is less than two hours. RPO and RTO characteristics differ according to the application and its criticality.

Initially, the DRaaS solution covered a handful of apps, but the list of protected systems has expanded over the past 12 months, Miller said.

A DRaaS ‘showcase’

Myles Angell, executive project officer at VertitechIT, said the Baystate Health deployment has become “a showcase” when meeting with potential clients that have similar DR challenges.

Myles Angell, executive project officer at VertitechITMyles Angell

“We’re talking to other hospitals about it,” he said.

Other organizations interested in DRaaS should pay close attention to their application portfolios, however. Angell said businesses need to have a thorough understanding of applications before embarking on a DR strategy.

“To successfully build a disaster recovery option — and have confidence in the execution — relies on complete documentation of the application’s running state, dependencies and any necessary changes that would need to be executed at the time of a DR cut over,” he explained. “These pieces of information are vital to knowing how to adhere to the RTO/RPO objectives that have been defined.”

Angell said businesses may have a good understanding of their tier-one applications but may have less of a handle with regard to their tier-three or tier-four systems. The recovery of an application that isn’t well-documented or completely understood becomes a riskier endeavor when a disaster strikes.

“The DR option may miss the objectives and targets that the business is expecting and, therefore, the company may actually be worse off due to lost time trying to scramble for the little things that were not documented,” Angell said.

Ceph-based cloud block storage service debuts from Atlantic.Net

Atlantic.Net launched a cloud block storage service that uses standard HDDs to keep prices down and an NVMe-based flash cache to boost performance over major disk-based alternatives.

Alantic.Net claims its Secure Block Storage (SBS) performs sequential reads and writes faster than HDD-based block storage from AWS and Microsoft Azure. The hosting provider positions SBS as a choice between HDD and SSD Elastic Block Storage (EBS) options from AWS.

The Atlantic.Net SBS service uses open source, Ceph-based block storage, with a fast nonvolatile memory express SSD cache and inexpensive 7,200 RPM HDDs on the back end. The Ceph system makes three copies of the data, but the customer pays for only one of them, said Marty Puranik, president and CEO of Atlantic.Net.

Atlantic.Net offers 50 GB free for one year from the date the customer signs up for the service and charges 7.9 cents for each additional gigabyte per month. The 50 GB promotional offer is available to current customers through June 15, 2019.

Cloud block storage pricing

On-demand pricing for block storage in the U.S. was 5.5 cents per gigabyte, per month, in the second quarter, according to 451 Research’s Cloud Price Index. The index is based on the cheapest available option for a provider to fulfill a “small basket” specification of two web and two application servers, with 150 GB and 300 GB of attached storage, internet and inter-data center bandwidth for data ingress and egress, and round-the-clock support. The cloud providers generally use HDDs or SSDs for the block storage.

Atlantic.Net’s pricing is competitive against SSD-backed cloud block storage, but less so against HDD-backed block services, according to Deepak Mohan, a research director in IDC’s storage and infrastructure group. Much would depend on the IOPS level the provider can guarantee, he said.

Atlantic.Net offers a service-level agreement for uptime, Puranik said, but not for IOPS — unless the customer contracts for at least a year. The company negotiates IOPS into contracts with those customers and offers discounts based on the block storage quantity and term commitment, he said.

Atlantic.Net’s SBS price and performance level falls between the EBS hard-disk and SSD options, Puranik said. AWS charges 4.5 cents per gigabyte, per month, for its throughput-optimized HDD volumes; it charges 10 cents per gigabyte, per month, for its general-purpose SSD volumes and even more for provisioned IOPS SSD volumes.

“Our service gives better performance than their regular hard drives, and there’s no additional IOPS charge or overages or anything like that. It’s a straight 7.9 cents [per gigabyte] per month,” Puranik said.

Atlantic.Net hosting sites

Founded in 1994, Atlantic.Net started out as a residential internet provider before moving to business-to-business connectivity and web hosting. The company operates out of its own data center in Orlando, Fla., and colocation facilities in New York, Dallas, San Francisco, Toronto and London. Additional options in Ashburn, Va., and Singapore are coming soon, Puranik said.

The SBS service is available only at Atlantic.Net’s Orlando data center, but the company plans to extend it to colocation facilities and offer multisite replication, snapshots and backup, Puranik said.

Atlantic.Net has long offered traditional SAN and NAS storage to customers running applications at its Orlando data center. But, Puranik said, the company wanted a cloud block storage service with a higher level of reliability than the limited-capacity, RAID 10-based local SSD storage Atlantic.Net offered in individual compute servers. The SSDs were overkill in some cases, and customers wanted to scale their storage and move volumes between servers, he said.

Atlantic.Net’s local SSD storage option maxed out at about 2 TB, Puranik said, whereas the SBS service enables as much as 16 TB per volume and eight volumes per server.

Atlantic.Net runs the latest Ceph release with the new BlueStore storage back end that improves performance, supports built-in data compression and provides full checksums to verify data integrity.

Atlantic.Net wrote its own control panel to simplify customers’ deployment of open source Ceph, Puranik said. Users see a slider, choose the size of the block storage volume, create it, name it, mount it and point it at the desired server, he said.

“You wouldn’t know Ceph is running on the back end,” Puranik said.

More storage services planned

SBS is Atlantic.Net’s first dedicated public-cloud-based storage service. Puranik said the company would add an object storage service later this year — also based on Ceph — to target unstructured data. Ceph software supports block-, file- and object-based storage, and it scales out through the addition of commodity server nodes.

Puranik said he expects most customers will use the new SBS service to provide cloud block storage for applications that also run on Atlantic.Net’s cloud compute infrastructure.

“Workloads on the block side are more transactional and compute-driven, and if the compute is close to the block storage service, that would make more sense. So, directionally, Atlantic.Net is probably on the right path. But [it] will face a lot of serious competition from someone like an Amazon,” said Amita Potnis, a research manager with IDC’s storage systems program.

Potnis said Atlantic.Net’s London colocation facility could work to its advantage, because there’s considerable room for growth for a niche provider outside of North America, where Amazon dominates.

Green House Data merger boosts Microsoft consulting skills

Green House Data, a managed service provider based in Cheyenne, Wyo., has added Microsoft consulting capabilities, automation skills and greater geographic reach in its merger with Infront Consulting Group Ltd.

The deal, announced May 31, combines Green House Data’s cloud hosting, managed IaaS and hybrid IT services with Infront Consulting Group’s consulting services for Microsoft infrastructure and Azure cloud. Infront Consulting Group, based in Toronto, is a Gold Managed Microsoft Partner. The Microsoft managed partner designation means that the partner is field-managed by Microsoft and reflects a deeper level of engagement with the company.

The Green House Data merger comes amid a flurry of mergers and acquisitions in the IT services and cloud consulting space. Reliam and Converge Technology Partners, for example, have been snapping up managed public cloud providers and regional IT infrastructure companies, respectively. Fusion Agiletech Partners Inc. earlier this year kicked off a strategy of acquiring Microsoft-oriented partners, acquiring digital consulting firm Quisitive.

Shawn Mills, CEO at Green House Data, said the Infront Consulting Group merger stems from the company’s decision last year to target Microsoft Azure as a hyperscale provider in light of the cloud platform’s rapid growth. The company started looking for a Microsoft partner to join forces with and was attracted to Infront Consulting Group and its Fortune 250 customer base, Mills noted. He said Green House Data generally plays in the midmarket.

“It makes a tremendous amount of sense for us to combine,” Mills said.

Shawn Mills, CEO at Green House DataShawn Mills

Infront Consulting Group offers consulting services in areas such as Office 365 advanced threat prevention, Microsoft System Center Operations Manager and Configuration Manager deployment, and blockchain. The company also provides Azure migration services and offers a cloud governance and automation tool called the Azure Automation Framework.

“We are not looking for a rollout strategy,” Mills said regarding his company’s acquisition approach. “We are looking for capabilities.”

Green House Data merger seeks MS skills

Infront Consulting Group’s Microsoft consulting and Azure experience were the main capabilities behind Green House Data’s interest. But as a secondary benefit, the Toronto company offers the ability to deploy Green House Data’s suite of services in the Canadian market, Mills added.

It makes a tremendous amount of sense for us to combine.
Shawn MillsCEO, Green House Data

Green House Data and Infront Consulting Group will operate under their respective brands going forward.

“Both entities have a pretty strong brand presence in their own individual respective capabilities,” Mills explained. “We want to continue to capitalize on that.”

As for back-office infrastructure, the combined companies have near-term plans to merge sales, marketing, accounting and other operations. The go-to-market strategy calls for Green House Data to deliver managed services to Infront Consulting Group customers that require them, while Infront Consulting Group will deliver consulting services to Green House Data customers.

Automation a plus

The consulting firm will also lend its automation and DevOps capabilities to the merger. Mills said Green House Data will use that expertise internally to build out its automated tools for delivering services. In addition, Infront Consulting Group’s governance tools can help the organization more efficiently use software licensing to minimize costs, he added.

While the Green House Data merger expands the range of services the company can offer, the company will continue to partner with managed service providers (MSPs) in the small business market — companies with 500 employees or fewer. Green House Data launched a channel program in 2016 to partner with MSPs and VARs.

Mills said its channel partners will continue to cover the small business market, while Green House Data focuses on the midmarket and Infront Consulting Group pursues large enterprises.

Polycom cloud service simplifies device management

Polycom has released a cloud service for provisioning, managing and monitoring its desk and conference room phones. The hardware vendor’s latest attempt to penetrate the cloud market comes a few months before its proposed acquisition by headset-maker Plantronics is set to close.

Polycom Device Management Services for Enterprises (PDMS-E) is a web-based application for controlling Polycom phones from a single user interface. It will let IT administrators manage the settings of individual phones — or every phone all at once. It also will provide analytics on call quality and connectivity issues. The product is now available in North America.

Next quarter, Polycom plans to expand the capabilities of PDMS-E to include Polycom video endpoints and, eventually, the video endpoints of Cisco, Avaya and Lifesize. The vendor will fold Polycom RealConnect — its platform for managing interoperability between its devices and Microsoft Skype for Business — into its new cloud offering.

Also in the third quarter, Polycom plans to release a version of PDMS for service providers, aiming to help those partners improve uptime and enhance their customer portals. The service provider offering will make use of technology and partnerships Polycom inherited from Obihai Technology, which it acquired in January.

“Polycom makes great phones,” said Ira Weinstein, managing partner of Recon Research Inc., based in Coral Springs, Fla. “But the important thing here is for Polycom to have greater value and a stronger footprint in the enterprise, they need to add more value.”

The Polycom cloud service will provide provisioning, management and analytics tools that many businesses aren’t getting from their service providers, Weinstein said. And Polycom can provide more insight than anyone into its own devices.

But Polycom will need to battle against its own public image. “I don’t think the typical person in our industry sees Polycom as a cloud service provider,” Weinstein said.

In announcing PDMS, company executives said they would not comment on the company’s impending acquisition by Plantronics — a $2 billion deal that is set to close in the third quarter of 2018. Polycom has continued to operate as an independent company as the acquisition closes, said Amy Barzdukas, the vendor’s chief marketing officer.

Polycom cloud service extends hardware-based strategy

Polycom decided years ago to make its phones and cameras compatible with the software of a wide range of service providers, rather than build its own calling or web conferencing service.

In a conference call with reporters and analysts this week, CEO Mary McDowell said the company’s longtime strategy had proven to be successful, saying revenue had grown last year for the first time in six years. The formerly public company struggled financially in the years preceding its 2016 acquisition by private equity firm Siris Capital Group LLC.

With the release of PDMS, Polycom is looking to gain a foothold in the cloud market without directly competing with the software vendors that power its hardware, such as Microsoft and Zoom, said Rob Arnold, analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

“It’s pretty much a follow-through on what they said they were going to do last year: focus on device and not infrastructure,” Arnold said. “This way, they are not competing with their partners, and they are staying focused on the hardware and the devices, as they had mentioned.”

As phones become more advanced, with built-in video conferencing capabilities and touchscreen apps, businesses need better monitoring and management tools for those endpoints, Arnold said.

Polycom plans to expand its cloud offerings to include meeting room features, such as automatic attendance rosters, facial recognition and natural language controls.

Microsoft advances Microsoft Software & Systems Academy expansion goals with Quantico ribbon-cutting ceremony – Microsoft on the Issues

Microsoft set a vision to empower transitioning military service members and the veteran community with the opportunity to receive relevant training that could lead to meaningful careers. On Monday, the company held its ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA) on Marine Corps Base Quantico. With the program’s growing availability, service members from coast to coast will be able to participate in technical training and career development. MSSA Quantico will focus specifically on meeting the growing demand for cybersecurity professionals.

The ceremony, which was held at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, started with welcoming remarks from Col. Joseph M. Murray, Commander, Marine Corps Installations National Capital Region – Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. Other speakers included U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman; Dr. Barry Butler, president of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU); Marc Langlois, senior director, Department of Navy at Microsoft; and Brig. Gen. Kurt W. Stein, director of Marine and Family programs, Headquarters Marine Corps.

Barry Butler, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University president, delivers remarks at Quantico
Dr. Barry Butler, president of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, delivers remarks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA) at Quantico on Jan. 8, 2018.

“Your courage. Your dedication to others. Your ability to work together as a tight knit team. Your adaptability and accountability – these are qualities you have developed in the most challenging of environments,” said Marc Langlois, senior director, Department of Navy at Microsoft, speaking to the first cohort of students for MSSA Quantico.

“MSSA Quantico Cohort A, we don’t just think you are ready to learn. We know you are ready.”

Rep. Wittman also spoke to the group about the importance of programs like MSSA to train our transitioning service members and veterans.

“What a great combination of innovation and creation from the private side to the public side, who are putting that together for the betterment of our nation… [MSSA] is the first step of many steps of developing this skill set that exists here in the Marine Corps.”

The Quantico campus is the first of four scheduled MSSA launches in early 2018 on the Eastern Seaboard, and will complete Microsoft’s 2015 goal of opening nine regions servicing 14 bases. In the months ahead, Microsoft will open MSSA programs at Camp Lejeune, Naval Station Norfolk, and the Jacksonville Community Campus (near Naval Air Station Jacksonville and Naval Station Mayport).

Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Ronald Green speaks with Rep. Rob Wittman
Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Ronald Green, left, speaks with Rep. Rob Wittman following the ribbon-cutting ceremony for MSSA at Quantico on Jan. 8, 2018.

Since launching MSSA in November 2013 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in the state of Washington, Microsoft has worked with education partners ERAU and St. Martin’s University to create a successful and proven model for reskilling our nation’s heroes and preparing them for meaningful careers in technology. This cornerstone of the DoD Skillbridge program helps the industry overall, helps veterans and helps our country build a stronger workforce to compete on the world stage. In the past four years, the company has grown its hiring partner network to more than 240 companies, including Dell, Expedia, Accenture, Capgemeni and the Department of Defense, with an average starting salary of $70,000.

To learn more about MSSA at Quantico, visit military.microsoft.com/mssa.

Marine Corps Base Quantico ceremonial platoon presents the colors
The Marine Corps Base Quantico ceremonial platoon presents the colors during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for MSSA at Quantico on Jan. 8, 2018.

Tags: Education and Jobs, military, MSSA, veterans