Tag Archives: software

Data-driven operating model propels Adobe’s digital business success

Adobe stands as a textbook case of a software company that faced the threat of digital disruption head-on and emerged a winner. The company’s move from selling Photoshop software disks in a box to selling subscription-based digital media services online is based in no small part on its building a data-driven operating model.

Leading the data effort is Mark Picone, vice president for information and data services at Adobe. He works to ensure that data is curated, accurate and useful to the front-line teams that “turn the knobs on the business.”

In a video from the recent MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, Picone highlights the approaches Adobe teams took to build a data architecture that broke down data silos and consequently improved Adobe’s business analytics efforts.

“We treat the data as a product,” Picone explains. “Having a product approach to what we’re building allows us to build once and serve many and create a set of capabilities that is very impactful.”

Editor’s note: This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

What role do data services play in digital transformation at Adobe? What is the model?

Mark Picone: Our job really is to be an enabler for the company and enable the company to be data driven. There are a lot of things that make that very difficult. You can say data is developed, and it’s created all over the place. But how can you create a [data-driven operating] model such that the data is stitched together, it’s curated, it’s governed, it’s the right data, it’s correct? [Only] then can you create mechanisms to be able to better communicate with customers, or engage the customers or just better understand your business.

[The] single view of the customer … is based on very strong governance techniques and a unified data architecture.
Mark PiconeAdobe

We’ve done that with this data-driven operating model. The data-driven operating model has really allowed us to look across all of the silos that we had four or five years ago that really was as a result of going to the cloud and going into subscriptions and rationalize that together to create a single view of the customer.

That single view of the customer, though, is based on very strong governance techniques and also a unified data architecture. Combined with that, we are able to take what I call an ‘outside-in approach’ of creating customer journeys.

The customer journey — which, for our consumer-based business, [involves products like] Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator — [the customer steps are] discover, try, buy, use and renew. Across every one of those steps, we actually assigned owners and organizations to own those different KPIs [key performance indicators] within that journey step — and, then, to create calls to action.

That outside-in approach allowed us to create data sets and analytical experiences that we now use to run the entirety of our digital media business. And it’s been transformational from a number of different points.

When we close the business every week, there’s a group of over 100 people that get together and look at the single source of truth … journey step by journey step, and they understand what’s happening in that market. Did our annual recurring revenue go up or down? What was traffic? What were the ads? What were the promotions? And they basically use that to turn the knobs on the business. … They do that on a week-in, week-out basis. …

How can data play a role in achieving operational efficiencies?

Picone: The operational efficiencies come [from] reporting the same metrics up to management in the same way. There’s no question about what that metric is. …

But, really, the true value is in how we run that business. The way we do ad spend has radically changed, the way we do targeting and testing has radically changed because we now have a purview of every product across every geography, across every route to market.

And, when you make those decisions now, you actually see how the annual recurring revenue took place for [individual] customers over time. It is the same thing when we do A/B targeting. …

We’ve taken this whole [data-driven] digital operating model and created a playbook. And this didn’t happen when we created, it happened after we actually did it, and we said, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of reusability here.’ — not just from a systems and a capabilities perspective, like platforms, governance and data architecture, but really from the methodology. The methodology really allows us to have this inside-out approach of understanding all of your data assets, categorizing them, creating a database that has the lowest level of granularity, gets curated and is ready for analytics. …

Then, you combine that with that top-down approach, which is customer journey steps, assigned organizations and processes, and that yields actionable results. And we’re actually taking that [digital business] model and rolling it out to other parts of our business, even internal organizations and finance — as an example, procurement to pay. …

We treat the data as a product. We are an internal team. Our customers are all largely internal — although the data we create personalizes real-time experiences within the products. …

And we’ve introduced a step over the past year that we call ‘code development.’ And that’s where we really open source the data. So, now, the data is available for others to bring their engineers or third parties, whatever the case may be, to come into our environment and actually build data assets and expand the nucleus of what we call our ‘unified data architecture.’

So, having a product approach to what we’re building allows us to build once and serve many and create a set of capabilities that is very impactful. We are spending less and less time creating data sets and visualizations and more time creating capabilities that will actually enable the entirety of the organization.

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IBM Spectrum storage refresh targets object, AI metadata

IBM Spectrum storage software expanded its scope to cover AI and large-scale analytics, including updates for compliance and deeper integration in Amazon Web Services.

IBM Spectrum is the vendor’s brand for storage software. The products released this week extend the reach of IBM Spectrum Discover metadata management to include other vendors’ storage. A refreshed IBM Cloud Object Storage supports denser capacity per rack and individual nodes.

In addition, IBM upgraded its Spectrum Protect Plus data protection to enable direct backup of local databases to Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3). IBM also previewed a new VersaStack converged infrastructure that uses its FlashSystem 9100 NVMe rack-scale storage with Cisco servers.

Spectrum Discover metadata management is a recent addition to the IBM Spectrum storage software portfolio. Spectrum Discover layers on top of storage to ingest and index billions of files and objects stored locally and in the cloud. IBM said Discover can help to classify exabytes of unstructured data.

Originally designed only for IBM storage, Spectrum Discover now supports Dell EMC Isilon NAS and NetApp filers, as well as Ceph and any Amazon S3-compatible storage. 

IBM Spectrum storage added Discover to enable more efficient mining of metadata, said Eric Herzog, chief marketing officer and vice president of worldwide storage channels at IBM Storage. He said the significant feature enhancement is analytics across different storage systems.

With the new release, IBM beefed up Discover’s capabilities for hooking metadata directly into AI and big data projects. Science teams can use Discover to search large metadata catalogs and connect third-party data analytics tools via built-in APIs.

Henry Baltazar, an analyst for storage at 451 Research, called IBM’s updates “evolutionary, but not revolutionary.” He said IBM Spectrum Discover adds important features for regulatory compliance and optimizing storage efficiency.

“What makes Spectrum Discover valuable is being able to see as much data as possible. The big addition with this launch is support for third-party search on other storage arrays. They didn’t have that before. The more data people can get their hands on, the more powerful the infrastructure is going to be,” Baltazar said.

Customers can use Discover to tag data with keywords and automate detection of personally identifiable information and other sensitive data.

“You can search the content, not just the metadata. We automated detection of certain sensitive data for GDPR and [privacy] regulations coming out of California and Brazil. You can still create custom metadata, but we included some defaults for apps that need to stay in compliance,” Herzog said.

IBM Spectrum storage for database backup and object capacity

Amazon customers can protect Db2, Oracle, MongoDB and Microsoft SQL Server databases hosted on AWS, using S3 Intelligent Tiering to move data to IBM Spectrum Protect Plus. IBM also added more data retention options to tape and virtual tape libraries, Amazon S3 Glacier and Microsoft Azure Archive Storage.

IBM Cloud Object Storage arrays are based on technology IBM acquired from Cleversafe in 2015. Customers can purchase IBM object storage software as a cloud service, an on-premises deployment or embedded on IBM hardware. 

The latest Cloud Object Storage arrays use second-generation IBM hardware and bigger drives. The hardware scales to 10 PB in a single 42U rack and 1.3 PB per node, which IBM said equates to 26% more overall capacity. Use cases include AI, big data and secondary workloads.

IBM enables customers to mix and match old and new Cloud Object Storage systems, Baltazar said. “IBM is saying you don’t need to drop all your stuff on the new hardware. I think people will take advantage of this right away, since they can mix and match without a forklift upgrade,” he said.

IBM VersaStack uses Cisco Unified Computing System servers with IBM storage. The new version attaches to IBM FlashSystem 9100 arrays outfitted with NVMe SSDs and is due out in late 2019. IBM said it will continue to sell VersaStack models that use IBM A900, V9000 and Storwize storage.

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DataCore adds new HCI, analytics, subscription price options

Storage virtualization pioneer DataCore Software revamped its strategy with a new hyper-converged infrastructure appliance, cloud-based predictive analytics service and subscription-based licensing option.

DataCore launched the new offerings this week as part of an expansive DataCore One software-defined storage (SDS) vision that spans primary, secondary, backup and archival storage across data center, cloud and edge sites.

For the last two decades, customers have largely relied on authorized partners and OEMs, such as Lenovo and Western Digital, to buy the hardware to run their DataCore storage software. But next Monday, they’ll find new 1U and 2U DataCore-branded HCI-Flex appliance options that bundle DataCore software and VMware vSphere or Microsoft Hyper-V virtualization technology on Dell EMC hardware. Pricing starts at $21,494 for a 1U box, with 3 TB of usable SSD capacity.

The HCI-Flex appliance reflects “the new thinking of the new DataCore,” said Gerardo Dada, who joined the company last year as chief marketing officer.

DataCore software can pool and manage internal storage, as well as external storage systems from other manufacturers. Standard features include parallel I/O to accelerate performance, automated data tiering, synchronous and asynchronous replication, and thin provisioning.

New DataCore SDS brand

In April 2018, DataCore unified and rebranded its flagship SANsymphony software-defined storage and Hyperconverged Virtual SAN software as DataCore SDS. Although the company’s website continues to feature the original product names, DataCore will gradually transition to the new name, said Augie Gonzalez, director of product marketing at DataCore, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

With the product rebranding, DataCore also switched to simpler per-terabyte pricing instead of charging customers based on a-la-carte features, nodes with capacity limits and separate expansion capacity. With this week’s strategic relaunch, DataCore is adding the option of subscription-based pricing.

Just as DataCore faced competitive pressure to add predictive analytics, the company also needed to provide a subscription option, because many other vendors offer it, said Randy Kerns, a senior strategist at Evaluator Group, based in Boulder, Colo. Kerns said consumption-based pricing has become a requirement for storage vendors competing against the public cloud.

“And it’s good for customers. It certainly is a rescue, if you will, for an IT operation where capital is difficult to come by,” Kerns said, noting that capital expense approvals are becoming a bigger issue at many organizations. He added that human nature also comes into play. “If it’s easier for them to get the approvals with an operational expense than having to go through a large justification process, they’ll go with the path of least resistance,” he said.

DataCore SDS
DataCore software-defined storage dashboard

DataCore Insight Services

DataCore SDS subscribers will gain access to the new Microsoft Azure-hosted DataCore Insight Services. DIS uses telemetry-based data the vendor has collected from thousands of SANsymphony installations to detect problems, determine best-practice recommendations and plan capacity. The vendor claimed it has more than 10,000 customers.

Like many storage vendors, DataCore will use machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyze the data and help customers to proactively correct issues before they happen. Subscribers will be able to access the information through a cloud-based user interface that is paired with a local web-based DataCore SDS management console to provide resolution steps, according to Steven Hunt, a director of product management at the company.

DataCore HCI-Flex appliance
New DataCore HCI-Flex appliance model on Dell hardware

DataCore customers with perpetual licenses will not have access to DIS. But, for a limited time, the vendor plans to offer a program for them to activate new subscription licenses. Gonzalez said DataCore would apply the annual maintenance and support fees on their perpetual licenses to the corresponding DataCore SDS subscription, so there would be no additional cost. He said the program will run at least through the end of 2019.

Shifting to subscription-based pricing to gain access to DIS could cost a customer more money than perpetual licenses in the long run.

“But this is a service that is cloud-hosted, so it’s difficult from a business perspective to offer it to someone who has a perpetual license,” Dada said.

Johnathan Kendrick, director of business development at DataCore channel partner Universal Systems, said his customers who were briefed on DIS have asked what they need to do to access the services. He said he expects even current customers will want to move to a subscription model to get DIS.

“If you’re an enterprise organization and your data is important, going down for any amount of time will cost your company a lot of money. To be able to see [potential issues] before they happen and have a chance to fix that is a big deal,” he said.

Customers have the option of three DataCore SDS editions: enterprise (EN) for the highest performance and richest feature set, standard (ST) for midrange deployments, and large-scale (LS) for secondary “cheap and deep” storage, Gonzalez said.

Price comparison

Pricing is $416 per terabyte for a one-year subscription of the ST option, with support and software updates. The cost for a perpetual ST license is $833 per terabyte, inclusive of one year of support and software updates. The subsequent annual support and maintenance fees are 20%, or $166 per year, Gonzalez said. He added that loyalty discounts are available.

The new PSP 9 DataCore SDS update that will become generally available in mid-July includes new features, such as AES 256-bit data-at-rest encryption that can be used across pools of storage arrays, support for VMware’s Virtual Volumes 2.0 technology and UI improvements.

DataCore plans another 2019 product update that will include enhanced file access and object storage options, Gonzalez said.

This week’s DataCore One strategic launch comes 15 months after Dave Zabrowski replaced founder George Teixeira as CEO. Teixeira remains with DataCore as chairman.

“They’re serious about pushing toward the future, with the new CEO, new brand, new pricing model and this push to fulfill more of the software-defined stack down the road, adding more long-term archive type storage,” Jeff Kato, a senior analyst at Taneja Group in West Dennis, Mass., said of DataCore. “They could have just hunkered down and stayed where they were at and rested on their installed base. But the fact that they’ve modernized and gone for the future vision means that they want to take a shot at it.

“This was necessary for them,” Kato said. “All the major vendors now have their own software-defined storage stacks, and they have a lot of competition.”

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Adobe acquisition of Marketo could shake up industry

The potential Adobe acquisition of Marketo could unsettle the customer experience software market and give Adobe, which is mainly known for its B2C products, a substantial network of B2B customers from Marketo.

Adobe is in negotiations to acquire marketing automation company Marketo, according to reports.

“It’s a trend that B2B customers are trying to become more consumer-based organizations,” said Sheryl Kingstone, research director for 451 Research. “Marketo is maybe throwing in the towel in being a lead marketing vendor on its own.”

But, reportedly, talks between Adobe and Marketo’s holding company may not lead to a deal.

Ray Wang, founder of Constellation Research, said leaks could be coming from Vista Equity Partners Management, which bought Marketo in 2016 and took the company private, in the hopes of adding another bidder to the race to acquire Marketo.

“If people think Adobe would buy Marketo, maybe it would get SAP to think about it,” Wang said. “The question is, who needs marketing automation or email marketing? And when you think about the better fit at this moment, it’s SAP.”

When reached for comment, Adobe declined, adding that it does not comment on acquisition rumors or speculation.

Adobe expanding to B2B

Marketo said it had roughly 4,600 customers when it was acquired by Vista Equity. It’s unclear whether Adobe and Marketo have much overlap between customer bases, but there could be product overlap between the software vendors.

Marketo is maybe throwing in the towel in being a lead marketing vendor on its own.
Sheryl Kingstoneresearch director, 451 Research

Adobe has its Marketing Cloud system, and both vendors offer basic martech features, like lead scoring, lead segmentation, web tracking, SMS marketing, personalized web content and predictive analytics. But an Adobe acquisition of Marketo would allow Adobe to expand into a wider B2B market, while allowing Marketo to offer its users the ability to market more like a B2C vendor using Adobe’s expertise.

“It’s a huge benefit for Marketo when you look at Adobe,” Kingstone said.

“Marketo has struggled in a B2B sense when its customers try to implement an ABM [account-based marketing] strategy,” she said.

Despite any potential overlap with its own products’ marketing capabilities, Adobe could find the chance to break into a pool of nearly 5,000 B2B customers compelling.

“There’s a lot of value in Marketo, and Adobe has been gun shy about entering B2B,” Wang said.

Adobe’s alliance

If the Adobe acquisition reports turn out to be accurate, it would amplify what has already been a busy year for the vendor. In May, Adobe acquired commerce platform Magento for a reported $1.7 billion.

A Reuters report about the Adobe acquisition of Marketo said likely prices will well exceed the $1.8 billion that Vista paid for Marketo when it took Marketo private.

Over the past few years, industry-leading companies in the CRM and customer experience spaces have sought to build alliances with other vendors.

Adobe and Microsoft have built a substantial partnership and have even gone to market together with products, while Salesforce and Google unveiled their partnership and product integrations last year at Salesforce’s annual Dreamforce conference.

Marketo has been one of the few major martech vendors without an alliance. Combining its technologies with Adobe’s creative suite and potentially Microsoft’s B2B breadth could make a significant imprint on the industry.

“If this is real, then it means Adobe has gotten serious about B2B,” Wang said.

Editor’s note: TechTarget offers ABM and project intelligence data and tools services.

Ytica acquisition adds analytics to Twilio Flex cloud contact center

Twilio has acquired the startup Ytica and plans to embed its workforce optimization and analytics software into Twilio Flex, a cloud contact center platform set to launch later this year. Twilio will also sell Ytica’s products to competing contact center software vendors.

Twilio declined to disclose how much it paid for Ytica, but said the deal wouldn’t significantly affect its earnings in 2018. Twilio plans to open its 17th branch office in Prague, where Ytica is based.  

The acquisition comes as AI analytics has emerged as a differentiator in the expanding cloud contact center market and as Twilio — a leading provider of cloud-based communications tools for developers — prepares for the general release of its first prebuilt contact center platform, Twilio Flex.

Founded in 2017, Ytica sells a range of real-time analytics, reporting and performance management tools that contact center vendors can add to their platforms. In addition to Twilio, Ytica has partnerships with Talkdesk and Amazon Connect that are expected to continue.

Twilio is targeting Twilio Flex at large enterprises looking for the flexibility to customize their cloud contact centers. The platform launched in beta in March and is expected to be commercially released later this year.

The vendor’s communications platform as a service already supports hundreds of thousands of contact center agents globally. Twilio Flex places those same developer tools into the shell of a contact center dashboard preconfigured to support voice, text, video and social media channels.

The native integration of Ytica’s software should boost Twilio Flex’s appeal as businesses look for ways to save money and increase sales by automating the monitoring and management of contact center agents. 

Ytica’s portfolio includes speech analytics, call recording search, and real-time monitoring of calls and agent desktops. Businesses could use the technology to identify customer trends and to give feedback to agents.

Contact center vendors tout analytics in cloud

The marketing departments of leading contact center vendors have placed AI at the center of sales pitches this year, even though analysts say much of the technology is still in the early stages of usefulness.

This summer, Google unveiled an AI platform for building virtual agents and automating contact center analytics. Twilio was one of nearly a dozen vendors to partner with Google at launch, along with Cisco, Genesys, Mitel, Five9, RingCentral, Vonage, Appian and Upwire.

Within the past few months Avaya and Nice inContact have also updated their workforce optimization suites for contact centers with features including speech analytics and real-time trend reporting.

Enterprise technology buyers say analytics will be the most important technology for transforming customer experiences in the coming years, according to a recent survey of 700 IT and business leaders by Nemertes Research Group Inc., based in Mokena, Ill.

VMworld pushes vSAN HCI to cloud, edge

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

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

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

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

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

VSAN HCI: From DC to cloud to edge

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

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

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

VSAN beta: Snapshots, native cloud storage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HubSpot enterprise edition unveiled

BOSTON — Since its inception, HubSpot has been known as a software company for SMBs, providing low-cost or free versions of marketing automation and CRM software, eventually adding sales and service tools.

Now the inbound marketing automation software vendor is targeting the enterprise market, with new products that the company said are commercially available now.

At its annual user conference, Inbound 2018, HubSpot unveiled a lineup of HubSpot enterprise tools aimed at helping companies that have outgrown the vendor’s initial products stay with HubSpot.

HubSpot had to expand reach

HubSpot “was losing customers, so it needed to expand,” said Predrag Jakovljevic, principal analyst at Technology Evaluation Centers.

Jakovljevic said with the HubSpot enterprise products, the company can target larger companies that need more scalability. He said HubSpot enterprise products can scale up to companies with up to about 2,000 employees.

The launch was not without its glitches. Early Sept. 6, the morning after HubSpot introduced the enterprise platform, an outage occurred. Tweeters quickly exposed it via the #HubSpotDown hashtag. HubSpot got it back online, blaming “configuration code” issues in a company blog.

HubSpot also released a video creation tool and a CMS product.

HubSpot CEO and co-founder Brian Halligan
HubSpot co-founder and CEO Brian Halligan keynotes at Inbound, HubSpot’s annual user conference

The branding could be seen as slightly confusing, as the term “enterprise” is commonly used to refer to the largest of organizations — ones with multiple departments scattered across locations, said Laurie McCabe, an analyst and partner at SMB Group. HubSpot, however, is using enterprise in terms of scaling up an organization’s processes.

“In the tech industry, we’ve taken the word ‘enterprise’ to mean large businesses,” McCabe said. “HubSpot is just continuing to grow with its customers.”

Moving to enterprise

Among the new HubSpot enterprise offerings are Sales Hub Enterprise and Service Hub Enterprise.

Sales Hub Enterprise offers the capability to build out best practices and resources for a sales team — useful for enterprises trying to get large sales teams working in the same direction. Service Hub Enterprise includes features to help teams track against service-level agreements and other service metrics.

The existing Marketing Hub Enterprise received upgrades around analytics and custom bot capabilities. HubSpot now offers three levels of sales, marketing and service products: starter, professional and enterprise.

[HubSpot] was losing customers, so it needed to expand.
Predrag Jakovljevicprincipal analyst, Technology Evaluation Centers

Users at Inbound 2018 expressed enthusiasm about some of the new features, but also wondered whether HubSpot enterprise products were right for their organization.

“We’re trying to embrace tech and bring an old-fashioned niche market into the modern world,” said Chad Wiertzema, creative marketing manager at ITM TwentyFirst, an independent life insurance firm. “We’ve used [HubSpot Marketing Hub] for about a year now at the professional level, and we’re wondering if it makes sense for us to use the enterprise product.”

Wiertzema said he spoke to a HubSpot rep about the enterprise product and whether ITM TwentyFirst would benefit from it, as the company has grown over the past five years.

“We’re getting close to it,” he said, referring to his company’s growth and whether it is ready for larger scale platform from HubSpot.

HubSpot adds video creation

HubSpot said it hopes that its new suite of products will enable its customers to better sell customer experiences, rather than products or services.

“The product used to win,” said Brian Halligan, co-founder and CEO of HubSpot, in a keynote. “Now the customer experience is what wins.”

HubSpot’s CTO and other co-founder, Dharmesh Shah, echoed that sentiment from the conference stage.

“Improving your experience by 10 times is much easier than improving your product by 10 times,” Shah said.

HubSpot also released a video feature available across its suite of products. HubSpot Video — powered by partner Vidyard — will include video hosting, in-video forms and a video creation tool.

HubSpot Video enables marketers to host and manage video files for campaigns, according to the company. Sales reps can create and share personalized videos from the CRM and service teams can help customers more completely with personalized service videos.

“Videos are what customers want,” McCabe said. “And they are sometimes easier to produce than blog posts.”

Video for creating content

Other users spoke positively about the potential for HubSpot Video, with creating content becoming a bigger priority for many companies.

Meanwhile, other features across all three HubSpot enterprise products include Slack integrations, machine learning for predictive lead scoring and Conversations — HubSpot’s communication unifier, previewed a year ago and commercially released in August 2018.

HubSpot also released a stand-alone CMS tool to help with website creation, as well as a Service Hub Starter product, which helps organizations do entry-level service requests like ticketing, help desk services and connecting with customers through live chat.

Pricing for HubSpot products varies depending on whether an organization licenses the starter, professional or enterprise level.

SmartBear-Zephyr deal spotlights software quality tools shake-up

Consolidation continues to reshape the software quality tools landscape as vendors seek to wean app dev teams off legacy tools for digital transformation initiatives.

The latest shake-up is SmartBear’s acquisition this week of Zephyr, a San Jose, Calif., maker of real-time test management tools, primarily for Atlassian’s Jira issue tracking tool, and for continuous testing and DevOps. This follows the Somerville, Mass., company’s deal in May to acquire Hiptest, in Besancon, France, to enhance continuous testing for Agile and DevOps teams.

Highlight on support for Atlassian’s Jira

Atlassian, Slack and GitHub provide three of the top ecosystems that developers use for ancillary development tools, said Ryan Lloyd, SmartBear’s vice president of products. Atlassian Marketplace’s overall revenue this past year is $200M, according to Atlassian financial reports. Zephyr for Jira is the top-grossing app on the Atlassian Marketplace, with more than $5 million in revenue since 2012.

Ryan Lloyd, SmartBearRyan Lloyd

Zephyr strengthens SmartBear’s portfolio with native test management inside Jira, and the Zephyr Enterprise product represents a modern replacement for Quality Center, HPE’s former software now owned by Micro Focus, Lloyd said.

Meanwhile, Hiptest supports behavior-driven development, and overlaps a bit with Zephyr, said Thomas Murphy, a Gartner analyst in Spokane, Wash.

SmartBear’s portfolio of software quality tools also includes SoapUI, TestComplete, SwaggerHub, CrossBrowserTesting, Collaborator and AlertSite.

Girding for the competition

SmartBear’s moves echo those of other vendors in the software quality tools space as they fill out their portfolios to attract customers from legacy test suites, such as Micro Focus’ Quality Center and Mercury Interactive, to their platforms, Murphy said. They also want to tap into Jira’s wide adoption and teams that seek to shift to more agile practices in testing.

Other examples in the past year are Austrian firm Tricentis’ acquisition of QASymphony, and Idera, in Houston, which acquired the TestRail and Ranorex Studio test management and automation tools from German firm Gurock Software and Austria’s Ranorex GmbH, respectively.

[Software test vendors] have different tool stacks for different types of users … [but] the more you can drive consistent look and feel that is best, especially as you push from teams up to the enterprise.
Thomas Murphyanalyst, Gartner

However, vendors that assemble tools from acquisitions often end up with overlaps in features and functions, as well as very different user experience environments, Murphy said.

“They have a little feeling that they have different tool stacks for different types of users,” he said. “But I believe the more you can drive consistent look and feel that is best, especially as you push from teams up to the enterprise.”

Test management is a key part of a company’s ability to develop, test and deploy quality software at scale. Modern software quality tools must help organizations transition into a digital transformation, yet continue to adapt to the requirements of cloud scale companies.

“Organizations must get better at automation, they must have tools that support them with figuring out testable requirements on through to code quality testing, unit testing, exploratory testing, functional, automation and performance testing,” Murphy said. “This story has to be built around a continuous quality approach.”

VMware takes NSX security to AWS workloads

VMware has introduced features that improve the use of its NSX network virtualization and security software in private and public clouds.

At VMworld 2018 in Las Vegas, VMware unveiled an NSX instance for AWS Direct Connect and technology to apply NSX security policies on Amazon Web Services workloads. Also, VMware said Arista Networks’ virtual and physical switches would enforce NSX policies — the result of a collaboration between the two vendors.

VMware is applying NSX security policies, including microsegmentation, on AWS workloads by adding support of NSX-T to VMware Cloud on AWS. NSX-T provides networking and security management for containers and non-VMware virtualized environments. VMware Cloud on AWS is a hybrid cloud service that runs the VMware software-defined data center stack on AWS.

The latest AWS feature is in NSX-T Data Center 2.3, which VMware introduced at VMworld. Other features added to the newest version of NSX-T include support for containers and Linux-based workloads running on bare-metal servers. NSX-T uses Open vSwitch to turn a Linux host into an NSX-T transport node and to provide stateful security services.

VMware plans to release NSX-T 2.3 by November.

NSX on AWS Direct Connect

To help companies connect to AWS, VMware introduced integration between NSX and AWS Direct Connect. The combination will provide NSX-powered connectivity between workloads running on VMware Cloud on AWS and those running on a VMware-based private cloud in the data center.

AWS Direct Connect lets companies bypass the public internet and establish a dedicated network connection between a data center and an AWS location. Direct Connect is particularly useful for companies with rules against transferring sensitive data across the public internet.

Finally, VMware introduced interoperability between Arista’s CloudVision and NSX. As a result, companies can have NSX security policies enforced on Arista switches running either virtually in a public cloud or the data center.

Arista CloudVision manages switching fabrics within multiple cloud environments. Last year, the company released a virtualized version of its EOS network operating system for AWS, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure and Oracle Cloud.

VMware is using its NSX portfolio to connect and secure infrastructure and applications running in the data center, branch office and public cloud. For the branch office, VMware has integrated NSX with the company’s VeloCloud software-defined WAN to provide microsegmentation for applications at the WAN’s edge.

VMware competes in multi-cloud networking with Cisco and Juniper Networks.

Box Activity Stream embeds Salesforce, Slack in Box viewer

SAN FRANCISCO — With Box Activity Stream, the content management software vendor is bidding to make its cloud platform a collaboration hub for all Box users’ daily communications by integrating with popular third-party apps like Slack, Salesforce and DocuSign.

Unveiled at the BoxWorks 2018 conference here, Box Activity Stream enables users to use apps in the file preview pane of the Box user interface, where users tag each other about file sharing and exchange messages.

As well as giving users the ability to share and post links on non-Box apps, the new feature also recommends apps for people to use in conjunction with a file they are working on in Box. The app recommendations are customized according to how often a user chooses them, their popularity in the company, and the file type with which they are most frequently associated.

Announcement-beta cycle

Box Activity Stream is expected to see beta release next year, following a pattern of Box product releases being announced the year before they are available in beta.

Analysts familiar with Box Activity Stream said the technology is a useful addition to the Box platform, but that it also puts Box in the position of competing with a host of software platforms to be the go-to hub for enterprise users, and could also lead to notification overload.

“It helps Box go from cloud file storage to being an interactive user experience that involves content. It makes it a more collaborative workspace,” said Alan Lepofsky, an analyst at Constellation Research.

Vendors vying to be digital hub

“In theory, it’s a great concept,” Lepofsky added. “But everyone wants to be the digital hub. Everyone wants to fight for everybody’s attention and eyeballs and to do that they want to bring in all the other products.”

Everyone wants to be the digital hub.
Alan Lepofskyanalyst, Constellation Research

Meanwhile, the company views Box Activity Stream as a key part of its digital workplace strategy to redefine content management, workflow and services as digital first, said Faizan Buzdar, senior director of product management at Box.

While modern SaaS enterprise applications have accelerated time-to-market and time-to-adoption rates, they have also created a sort of scattering of content, Buzdar said.

“It’s an awesome trend, but at the same time it creates a challenge. How do I know what’s happening, how do I know where all that content lives?” he said.

Box Activity Stream enables users to, say, create a document in response to an email, send it to a collaborator for editing, send it to someone else over Slack and then attach it to an account in Salesforce or NetSuite.

With that process, Buzdar said, “our goal is to avoid content fragmentation and segmentation and let enterprises apply the same security and compliance layers across all their content from the perspective of the touch points that their end users have.”

Buzdar said Box has seen demand for this kind of capability among users in CRM, sales and ERP.

Screenshot of new Box Activity Stream feature
Box Activity Stream showing integrations with Slack, Salesforce and DocuSign

Google integrations

In addition to Box Activity Stream, Box on the first day of the conference said its previously announced Box for G Suite and Gmail integrations are now available for public beta use.

Box enterprise users have been calling for Google integrations more and more, Buzdar said.

“We love Google. We work closely with Google,” Buzdar said. “Customers are coming in who are basically deciding to standardize on Google. If you’re a big company, say with 100,000 employees, somewhere in the organization you have Google.”

The company also said Box Feed, which was announced at BoxWorks 2017, will also now go into public beta. The machine learning feature provides personalized updates, activities and recommended Box content.

A primitive precursor to Box Activity Stream was rolled out in 2011 when Box added a collaboration feature to its then mostly cloud document storage-focused platform, which it termed “activity streams.”

Mobile and desktop screenshots of Box Feed system
Box Feed displaying content trends, activity

Possible confusion, more engagement

As for Box Feed, Karen Hobert, a Gartner analyst, said with Box Activity Stream, Box runs the risk of confusion between the two.

“One would think a user might want them combined as long as they could control the experience. But maybe the different UI experiences — Activity Stream in viewers, Feed in Box UI — will mitigate any confusion,” Hobert said.

But Hobert said she sees value in Box Activity Stream in terms of smoothing what can be a sometimes disjointed experience toggling between apps and Box.

“Basically, I see it as a way to keep employees engaged in Box throughout the day. Certainly users will like not having to bounce around from app to app,” she said. “Activity Stream clearly makes a more seamless experience with Box and content in other apps. In the end, Box wants to — and needs to — be a destination that users won’t live without.”

Hobert also questioned Box’s record on delivering on new systems and features, noting that there were “significant delays” in two earlier products, Box Relay and Box Sync, and that Box Feed and Box Skills, the company’s high-profile AI play that was announced nearly a year ago, are still in beta.

Lepofsky said he expected significant news at the conference about the much-touted Box Skills system.

“Otherwise, they’re going to look bad,” he said.