Tag Archives: vendors

Intelligent information management the next wave for ECM

The introductions of AI, automation and an abundance of vendors have caused a seismic shift in content management — so much so that, in 2017, Gartner rebranded the space as content services, a term that covers content services applications, platforms and components.

Content management company M-Files hopes its evolution toward intelligent information management is where the content services industry is heading. The thought being that, as information finds itself in more silos, there’s more importance on what the content is, rather than where it resides.

“What M-Files is doing is interesting, as it’s consistent with what I see in the industry now,” said John Mancini, chief evangelist at AIIM, a nonprofit research and education firm in Silver Spring, Md., focusing on information management. “Everyone is trying to figure out how to leverage its existing content and how to push as much as possible in the direction of the user so that content management becomes more user-defined, rather than a top-down approach.”

Focus on content type, not new thinking

The concept of focusing on what content is, rather than where it resides, isn’t unique to 2018. Intelligent information management is gaining in importance, however, as information is scattered across clouds, on-premises systems and mobile devices.

We spent 15 years trying to convince people to care about what repository something is in, but they still don’t.
John Mancinichief evangelist, AIIM

“We spent 15 years trying to convince people to care about what repository something is in, but they still don’t,” Mancini said. “But they do care if it’s a contract or a proposal or an internal document.”

It’s with that in mind that M-Files released M-Files 2018, which connects to market leaders in content storage — ranging from other content management services, like OpenText and Laserfiche, to more classical repositories, like on-premises network folders or SharePoint, and expanding out to systems of record, like Salesforce and Dynamics 365.

“There’s this trend of consumerization — the idea that the way you’ll be most productive is by allowing users to work the way they want to work,” said Greg Milliken, vice president of marketing at M-Files, based in Plano, Texas. “There’s the OpenText or Laserfiche type, where the structure is defined, and this is how we’re going to work. But everyone works a little bit differently.”

Finding content wherever it’s stored

What M-Files is touting is, with its intelligent information management platform, users will be able to natively search for content based on its metadata and locate and view any content no matter where it may be stored.

“It speaks to the trend we’re going toward, which is away from static silos and one-size-fits-all approach to something where content can be anywhere and it comes to you like a service,” Milliken said. “You can look into these repositories with a common lens.”

Being repository-agnostic requires some form of AI, and M-Files hopes its partnership with ABBYY will prove fruitful in building out its intelligent information management software.

“The way I think about it sometimes is upside-down content management,” Mancini said, referring to the repository-agnostic approach — and not a reference to Stranger Things. “Content management used to be a very top-down, orchestrated process. That colored how we all thought about the tools that individual knowledge workers used. And in that process, we tended to overcomplicate that from an end-user perspective.”

A list of the various vendors to which M-Files 2018 is connected includes other content management players, on-premises share folders and CRM systems. The connectors vary in price, according to M-Files.
A list of the various vendors to which M-Files 2018 is connected includes other content management players, on-premises share folders and CRM systems. The connectors vary in price, according to M-Files.

Partnership adds AI to content management

Last year’s partnership between M-Files and ABBYY brought AI functionality to the vendor, which M-Files hopes benefits its users by automatically classifying and tagging documents and other content with the correct metadata, saving users time and minimizing human error.

“Where you put something comes down to the company or even the individual,” Milliken said. “Someone might put a document in a customer folder; someone else might put it in a specific project folder — now, it’s derived automatically. The idea of applying AI to a meta-driven approach is what we’ve been striving for.”

Mancini sees a metadata-driven, repository-agnostic approach as a potential transition for the content management market.

“What’s happened in the last couple of years and in surveys we’ve done, people and companies with long-term ECM [enterprise content management], the primary challenge they come back to us with is usability,” Mancini said. “The metadata-centric approach of M-Files is an attempt to do this through the prism of a knowledge worker and to see if that redefines content management.”

M-Files 2018, currently available for download, is a platform upgrade for existing customers. The AI metadata layer is an additional cost for new and existing customers, starting at $10,000 per year and varies depending on the size and scope of the company. The connectors to various repositories are also an additional cost, depending on the connector.

Video conference tools spread among buyers and sellers

Video conference tools are becoming more versatile. As a result, video conferencing vendors are expected to support more features and high definition across multiple endpoints, including mobile devices, desktops and conference rooms. Buyers, too, need to assess more options, as use cases have expanded.

New video conferencing use cases are making visual collaboration a strategic imperative for enterprises, according to a recent report from Aragon Research Inc., an advisory firm based in Morgan Hill, Calif. Aragon views video conference use cases as part of the larger unified communications and collaboration landscape.

More and more, enterprises are trying to align collaboration investments with business outcomes, the report found. As a result, Aragon said it expects to see further growth in video conference tools. For enterprises, video conference use cases — along with quality and reliability — will be key buying criteria. As is the case with most technology purchases, video conference use cases will dictate vendor selection.

“Our advice to enterprise buyers is to first consider what your core requirements are with regard to web and video conferencing,” the report reads. “We encourage buyers to consider which capabilities and products best fit the required use cases that pertain to your enterprise.”

For example, if an enterprise has internal and external-facing use cases for a large number of people, then webcasting tools may be the best fit. In the near future, Aragon added, expect new video conference use cases to arise in 2018 as endpoints become fully mobile, with cars and drones playing a larger role.

Video conference tools across modalities

For video conference vendors, mobility is the new competitive frontier, Aragon said, as vendors look to enable video meetings from anywhere on any device. But buyers beware, as video experiences on mobile devices and the ease of accessing meetings can vary.

The Aragon report advised buyers to carefully evaluate providers for ease of connectivity. For instance, the mobile application should automatically connect to the meeting via voice over IP or dial-in. Additionally, the mobile app should not require a passcode and provide one-click connectivity.

“Ease of use is not optional, no matter the device or the environment,” the report stated. “Albeit there are still providers today who are not optimized for mobile.”

In addition to mobile, video conference vendors are expected to support desktop and room-based meetings to allow seamless switching among devices.

Conference rooms get video upgrades

Because of cloud technology and lower hardware prices, Aragon predicted fivefold growth in video-enabled conference rooms from 2017 to 2022. In five years, 65% of conference rooms will be video-enabled, Aragon said.

Enterprises need to digitize conference rooms, open workspaces and smaller huddle areas, Aragon advised, as employees face new work demands, including increased collaboration across groups, distances and affiliations.

Collaboration providers that fail to support business process and application integration will miss this wave and be left behind.

Aragon also cited the importance of “intelligent” video rooms, where meetings can be automated and employ artificial intelligence to gain a deeper understanding of meeting activity and the devices and users involved. Many providers have also looked to enhance meetings by using HD video with auto-zoom and HD audio with auto-muting of background noise.

As video conference tools evolve, businesses are demanding high-quality, high-resolution meetings. To date, Avaya, Cisco, Google and Vidyo offer 4K video support, Aragon said. The research firm said it expects to see more support for 4K video in 2018 and beyond.

In addition to HD quality, video conference vendors are now expected to integrate with other business applications. Collaboration providers that fail to support business process and application integration will miss this wave and be left behind, Aragon said.

Chart vendor roadmaps

Overall, as video conference tools evolve — thanks to cloud technology — vendors and buyers are also expected to evolve to stay competitive and enhance collaboration workflows. The cloud is one of the key reasons for the widespread video conference tools today.  

The wide-ranging Aragon report, written by Aragon CEO and lead analyst Jim Lundy, highlights the convergence of web and video conferencing services and examines 22 providers in the market. The report, released this month, stated real-time video conference tools bring together geographically dispersed teams visually, which can improve collaboration.

“Enterprises need to realize visual collaboration can help speed up internal employee and external customer journeys to get to faster business outcomes,” Lundy said in a statement. “The enterprises who are leveraging visual collaboration have a competitive advantage because they’re supporting how their people and customers need and want to work.”

The report advised enterprises to ask for detailed roadmaps from providers to ensure they mesh with enterprise technology and business direction.

Recapping 2017’s biggest trends in networking technology

Editor’s note: Cisco accelerated its shift to software, vendors launched new tools for managing data centers, and analytics, fueled by machine learning, stole the spotlight. Here, a recap of some of the most significant 2017 trends in networking technology.

Data center infrastructure trends in networking

In February, Cisco joined Microsoft to offer Azure Stack services in its UCS server. Throughout the early months of the year, Cisco revenues continued to fall, dropping for a fifth consecutive quarter because of declining sales of routers and switches.

Cisco attracted a lot of attention for its Digital Network Architecture (DNA) software initiative, which included a new line of Catalyst campus switches engineered to pave the way for a more intuitive way to program the network. DNA eliminates the need to program devices manually through the command-line interface; instead engineers use a policy-based approach to determine network behavior. Later that summer, Cisco said it would acquire SD-WAN vendor Viptela for $610 million in a bid to consolidate its WAN offerings.

In the fall, Cisco launched Intersight, a software-as-a-service initiative slated to become a management option for the vendor’s Unified Computing System and HyperFlex, a hyper-converged infrastructure platform. It also bolstered its Application Centric Infrastructure SDN software by enabling it to run across multiple data centers.

Other data center news included Juniper’s work on a switch fabric intended for multiple data centers, with a single set of management tools and higher spending on public cloud services. Juniper also made a series of announcements in December that included the release of bot software aimed at automating certain network functions.

Additionally, Dell EMC made its NOS standard on new open networking switches and Arista expanded its spine-leaf architecture for hyperscale data centers. Dell followed up its NOS announcement by releasing a line of high-speed switches for data centers and carriers in the fall.

Vendor consolidation gained traction, with Extreme Networks purchasing the data center business of Brocade, as well as the networking assets of Avaya.

Wireless LAN technology trends

The past 12 months were relatively quiet in WLAN trends in networking, as enterprises worked to deploy systems based on the 802.11ac Wave 2 specification.

One important technological development took place, however, as vendors began to release switches and other components capable of supporting the 2.5 and 5 GbE standard, which was ratified by the IEEE in late 2016. Toward that end, Dell EMC, among others, released multigigabit campus switches for both wired and WLAN deployments.

In February, Arris International said it would purchase WLAN vendor Ruckus Wireless Inc. for $800 million. Arris said Ruckus would continue to operate as an independent unit as it targets its technology to service providers and the hospitality market.

That acquisition was followed by a similar move by Riverbed Technology, which bought wireless LAN vendor Xirrus to complement its SD-WAN portfolio.

In June, Aruba released a core switch, aimed at large campus networks and internet of things applications. The 8400X switch also supports Aruba’s WLAN portfolio of products and software.

Extreme Networks announced plans in July to embed its recently acquired Avaya fabric technology in switches and management software to centralize control of large campus wired and wireless networks. And Aerohive, one of the last remaining independent Wi-Fi vendors, said it would add SD-WAN features to its cloud-based wireless controller in a bid to offer a more comprehensive service package to its customers. It also released a low-cost version of its Connect management platform for smaller deployments.

Network performance management and monitoring

In February, Cisco added policy-enforcement capabilities to its Tetration Analytics engine. The upgrade included a cheaper version for midsize companies. Following on the Tetration update, the vendor also launched cloud management for hyper-converged infrastructure in early March, providing enterprises with more choices in how they oversee the vendor’s  HyperFlex product.

VeloCloud beefed up its SD-WAN software with policy options to make it more responsive to network performance problems. The new capabilities let enterprises dedicate segments of the network to specific traffic. In the event of glitches, the software reroutes traffic to alternative routes.

Intent-based networking (IBN) — policy-based software that tells the network what you want instead of telling it what to do — was one of the biggest trends in networking technology. Cisco said IBN would reshape much of its network management efforts, while startup Apstra Inc. upgraded its software that lets companies configure and troubleshoot network devices from multiple vendors.

The addition of analytics — fueled by machine learning — within network management and monitoring applications also gained steam. ExtraHop Networks added machine learning as a service to its Discover packet capture appliances.

In November, Nyansa upgraded its Voyance remediation engine to flag potential sources of network trouble, improve analytics and recommend fixes.

Return of Bleichenbacher: ROBOT attack means trouble for TLS

A team of security researchers discovered eight leading vendors and open source projects whose implementations of the Transport Layer Security protocol are vulnerable to the Bleichenbacher oracle attack, a well-known flaw that was first described in 1998.

The Bleichenbacher attack has been referenced in all IETF specifications for the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol since version 1.0 in 1999, and implementers of TLS versions through 1.2 were warned to take steps to avoid the Bleichenbacher attack. However, the researchers noted that, based on the ease with which they were able to exploit the vulnerability, it appears that many implementers ignored the warnings.

The attack is named after its discoverer, Daniel Bleichenbacher, a Swiss cryptographer who was working for Bell Laboratories in 1998 when his research on the vulnerability was first published. The TLS protocol, which was meant to replace the Secure Sockets Layer, is widely used for encryption and the authentication of web servers.

The research team  included Hanno Bock, information security researcher; Juraj Somorovsky, research associate at the Horst Görtz Institute for IT Security at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany; and Craig Young, , computer security researcher with Tripwire’s Vulnerability and Exposures Research Team (VERT). “Perhaps the most surprising fact about our research is that it was very straightforward,” the researchers wrote. “We took a very old and widely known attack and were able to perform it with very minor modifications on current implementations. One might assume that vendors test their TLS stacks for known vulnerabilities. However, as our research shows in the case of Bleichenbacher attacks, several vendors have not done this.”

The researchers said many web hosts are still vulnerable to the ROBOT attack and that nearly a third of the top 100 sites in the Alexa Top 1 Million list are vulnerable. The team identified vulnerable products from F5, Citrix, Radware, Cisco, Erlang, and others, and “demonstrated practical exploitation by signing a message with the private key of facebook.com’s HTTPS certificate.”

The researchers described their work as the “Return Of Bleichenbacher’s Oracle Threat” (ROBOT) and published it in a paper of the same title, as well as on a branded vulnerability website. The team also published a capture the flag contest, posting an encrypted message and challenging the public to decrypt the message using the strategies described in the paper.

TLS protocol designers at fault

The researchers placed the blame for the ease of their exploits squarely on the shoulders of TLS protocol designers. The ROBOT attack is made possible by the behavior of servers implementing TLS using the RSA Public-Key Cryptography Standards (PKCS) #1 v1.5 specification; the issues that enable the Bleichenbacher attack are fixed in later versions of PKCS. TLS 1.3, which is expected to be finalized soon, deprecates the use of PKCS #1 v1.5 and specifies use of PKCS #1 v2.2.

The TLS protocol designers absolutely should have been more proactive about replacing PKCS#1 v1.5.
Craig Youngcomputer security researcher, Tripwire VERT

“The TLS protocol designers absolutely should have been more proactive about replacing PKCS#1 v1.5. There is an unfortunate trend in TLS protocol design to continue using technology after it should have been deprecated,” Young told SearchSecurity by email. He added that vendors also “should have been having their code audited by firms who specialize in breaking cryptography since most software companies do not have in-house expertise for doing so.”

TLS as currently deployed ignores improperly formatted data, and as described in 1999 in RFC 2246. “The TLS Protocol Version 1.0,” the original specification for TLS 1.0, the ROBOT attack “takes advantage of the fact that by failing in different ways, a TLS server can be coerced into revealing whether a particular message, when decrypted, is properly PKCS #1 formatted or not,” the RFC 2246 document states.

The solution proposed in that specification for avoiding “vulnerability to this attack is to treat incorrectly formatted messages in a manner indistinguishable from correctly formatted RSA blocks. Thus, when it receives an incorrectly formatted RSA block, a server should generate a random 48-byte value and proceed using it as the premaster secret. Thus, the server will act identically whether the received RSA block is correctly encoded or not.”

Potential for attacks, detection and remediation

The researchers noted in the paper that the ROBOT flaw could lead to very serious attacks. “For hosts that are vulnerable and only support RSA encryption key exchanges it’s pretty bad. It means an attacker can passively record traffic and later decrypt it,” the team wrote on the ROBOT website, adding that “For hosts that usually use forward secrecy, but still support a vulnerable RSA encryption key exchange the risk depends on how fast an attacker is able to perform the attack. We believe that a server impersonation or man in the middle attack is possible, but it is more challenging.”

Young said that it might be possible to detect attempts to abuse the Bleichenbacher vulnerability, but it would not be easy. “This attack definitely triggers identifiable traffic patterns. Servers would observe a high volume of failed connections as well as a smaller number of connections with successful handshakes and then little to no data on the connection,” he told SearchSecurity. “Unfortunately, I am unaware of anybody actually doing this. Logging the information needed to detect this can be cumbersome and for a site receiving a billion connections a second, it could be quite difficult to notice 10-100 thousand failed connections.”

As for other, ongoing risks, Young said that while “PKCS#1 v1.5 is not being used in TLS 1.3 but it is still used in other systems like XML encryption. Whether or not it can be disabled through configuration is highly application specific.”

Salesforce small-business customers can tap into AI, too

Salesforce competes against numerous boutique CRM, marketing and service-oriented cloud vendors catering to SMBs that don’t have the overhead Salesforce requires to do business. It might be argued that many SMBs don’t need all the bells and whistles Salesforce has to offer.

Marie Rosecrans, Salesforce’s senior vice president who leads SMB outreach, discussed at Dreamforce 2017 how SMBs can capitalize on the rich app and feature choices, as well as free training materials, that only Salesforce small-business customers can access.

What are the main challenges Salesforce small-business customers face that you’re trying to help solve?

Marie Rosecrans: One of the biggest challenges is just … time. They don’t have a lot of time. One of the things that we look to do as a technology vendor is save time by creating solutions that are easy to set up, easy to use and easy to scale. We get a lot of feedback from customers saying they want something they can set up immediately because they are so time- and resource-constrained.

With that simplicity in mind, and knowing that AI requires large data sets to derive usable insights, how can small businesses use Einstein, which is a complicated technology under the hood?

Rosecrans: One of the best tools we make available to all of our customers — but is most valuable to SMBs — is Trailhead. It’s a fun, easy, interactive way to learn. It gives everyone access to a lot of information and knowledge, and I would use that as a starting point to get educated around what you need as a small business. It’s not just for Salesforce; it’s, ‘What should I be considering as a small business around investing in CRM?’

Marie Rosecrans, Salesforce small-business leadMarie Rosecrans

Artificial intelligence is a topic that is getting a lot of momentum these days. I think small businesses feel daunted by the whole notion of AI. We launched a product called Essentials for folks just dipping their toe into CRM. We have incorporated elements of artificial intelligence directly into Essentials to help SMBs realize the benefits of that. As our customers work in email and calendars, all of that info is being captured into their CRM without data entry. That’s AI at work for them, right away.

There have been some low-code/no-code do-it-yourself Salesforce app-building tools released earlier this year and more announcements here. Is that feasible for Salesforce small-business customers? At the same time, might that cut into longtime partnerships Salesforce has with app developers who connect with SMBs?

As our customers work in email and calendars, all of that info is being captured into their CRM without data entry. That’s AI at work.
Marie Rosecranssenior vice president for SMB outreach at Salesforce

Rosecrans: Salesforce started as an SMB. SMBs have been core to our company, and so we keep that user experience top of mind. I absolutely agree that small businesses should be looking at low-code/no-code, declarative programing as a solution to accelerate their technology investments.

No two small businesses are alike. Each has its unique business challenges that they are looking to solve. One of the things that we look to make available to all of our customers is the AppExchange, the world’s largest business applications marketplace.

Finding, winning and keeping customers aren’t the only business challenges that small businesses have. So, by making the AppExchange available, we know there are going to be partner solutions out there that may more specifically fix or solve [those] business challenges. We want small businesses to use or embrace technology, because that will set them along that growth path.

Peering into the future of enterprise storage for 2018

As the end of the year approaches, analysts, vendors, consultants and anybody else who has some time on their hands are turning their attention to that age-old annual rite of making predictions about what tech to expect in the coming year.

Although I’ve ridiculed these prognostications in the past, I am not above making predictions of my own about the future of enterprise storage. Hopefully, you’ll find my prophecies a bit more fun, even if they do skimp on the facts. But, you know what, those of us who are bold enough to look into the future and tell the world what we see — no matter how silly or creepy that vision may be — can hardly be encumbered by the limitations of truth, reality and, well, sanity.

So, here it goes …

Toshiba enters a new dimension

As I peer into my SAN-attached crystal ball, I see Toshiba stumbling over a nuclear power plant to, almost literally, cause billions of IT dollars to atomize into thin air, leaving the company no choice but to sell off its most profitable, and least scary, business — it’s solid-state labs and fabs. Oh wait, that already happened, didn’t it? We’ve been reading about the sale of that business for what seems like six or seven years now.

My real prediction is we will finally find out that 4D flash is the reason why Western Digital has so desperately clung to its joint development deal with Toshiba. Already bored with run-of-the-mill 2D and 3D flash, Toshiba’s scientists have invented a new dimension where flash cells can be lined up left and right, stacked up and down, and spun out into alternate universes in the future of enterprise storage. With its infinite capacity and endless scalability, 4D has no need for wear leveling or program erase or any of those old-fashioned techniques used to extend the lives of chips stuck in a mere three dimensions.

Dell EMC splits

By about Q2 2018, Michael Dell will realize the honeymoon is over, and the venerable Dell EMC brand is in need of a shake-up that will have a profound effect on storage technology trends. With no shareholders to confer or contend with, Dell will hold long, animated conversations with himself — captured by the webcam on his Dell XPS 15 laptop (with 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD).

After weeks of negotiations, during which Dell storms out in a huff on more than one occasion, he announces that Dell EMC will split into two publicly traded companies. Dell will sell laptops and servers, and buy storage companies that few have heard of (and fewer have bought from). EMC will focus on storage hardware, diversifying by buying up so many smaller companies they have to create a team just to keep track of acquisitions.

Nutanix’s super-extra-mega-hyper-converged system

Each new Nutanix HCI system will include a living, breathing admin, sandwiched somewhere between the storage, servers and networking gear.

Nutanix, a pioneer of the hyper-converged infrastructure craze that has dominated storage and systems discussions for the last couple of years, will one-up the growing ranks of competitors by adding a new service to its HCI product line. Move over Acropolis, Prism and Enterprise Cloud and make room for Norman. While combining storage, servers, networking and virtualization in a single product helped revolutionize data center infrastructure, Norman promises to turn that on its ear in 2018.

Stuffing all that infrastructure into a single package was pretty cool and oh so convenient, but Nutanix engineers realized something was missing: someone to run the whole thing and treat users with disdain when they request a new virtual machine or some disk capacity. Enter Norman. Each new Nutanix HCI system will include a living, breathing admin, sandwiched somewhere between the storage, servers and networking gear. By the second half of 2018, expect Nutanix’s competitors to play catch-up, doing their best to erase the line that separates the man-machine interface with their own versions of the ultimate converged solution.

LTO-142 debuts

Faced with higher and higher HDD capacities and flash systems that can store the entire world’s knowledge on a single PCIe card, the LTO Consortium decided to speed up product development to keep pace with the competing media. Thus, instead of following up the recent rollout of LTO-8 with LTO-9, the consortium — anchored by IBM, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Quantum — will take the bold step of shortcutting its previously laid out LTO product development roadmap, accelerating the program with the release of LTO-142 products.

The LTO-142 specs will include capacities of up to 12 yottabytes compressed (3 YB native) and transfer speeds too damned fast to measure. It remains to be seen what effect these radical developments in tape technology will have on the future of enterprise storage or if they’ll even be noticed.

Future of enterprise storage closer to home

In 2018, you will need more capacity and have less money to spend. When you start shopping for more storage, you will have a dizzying array (pun intended) of storage choices, ranging from traditional shared systems to hyper-converged gear to object to cloud and so on.

It looks like you’ll have your hands full even if my fearless forecasts about the future of enterprise storage don’t come to fruition. Happy New Year!

CEO: How SOTI software shoots to stand out

Technology vendors are distancing themselves from the term enterprise mobility management.

Earlier this month, BlackBerry CEO John Chen called enterprise mobility management (EMM) a “lousy market.” Meanwhile, SOTI Inc., in Mississauga, Ont., is aiming to become more of a household name in enterprise mobility by expanding into new areas.

“Anybody selling just EMM these days is a dinosaur,” SOTI CEO Carl Rodrigues said.

SOTI, which has 17,000 enterprise customers, offers products designed to address businesses’ various mobile needs, from managing and securing devices to building and supporting applications. SOTI software includes MobiControl for EMM, MobiAssist remote help desk software and SOTI Snap for mobile app development.

Here, Rodrigues discusses his company’s push into new areas, as well as changes in the EMM market.

What do mobile-minded organizations need to focus on besides EMM nowadays?

Rodrigues: In the first wave of companies needing EMM, they were just trying to manage office devices. We’re way past that. Mobile is becoming mission-critical to companies’ operations. Many are running completely on mobile, and they need to be able to create apps that run on mobile devices effectively and support remote workers.

Who can deliver a disruptive business with just EMM? You need to buy 10 other pieces of technology. To create an app, that can cost $800,000 to create one on an Android platform; then you need to do it again on Apple. RMAD [rapid mobile app development] tools eliminate that barrier. If companies know they don’t have to spend millions to get started, mobile becomes more accessible.

How has the EMM market changed, and how has SOTI software evolved to address that?

Customers [leveraging mobile] have many more problems than EMM.

Rodrigues: Customers have many more problems than EMM. Our platform tackles the core problems that our customers and IT have, from app generation to how to support your people out in the field.

SOTI software has some major competition in the EMM market. What sets you apart?

Rodrigues: There are other EMM solutions out there, but [those customers] need to buy a separate help desk solution. That’s not designed for the modern era. We can remote in to the mobile device and see what’s happening from the desktop.

What about joining forces with one of bigger players as the EMM market consolidates?

Rodrigues: They’ve all come to us and tried to purchase us. [Rodrigues declined to disclose which companies.] But why partner up when we have the better product?

If SOTI has the better product, why are other vendors doing better, and why isn’t SOTI ranked higher in market reports?

Rodrigues: Traditional analyst and market reports speak to outdated ways of evaluating businesses. Profitability is overlooked, with market share [valued] over profitability. The traditional way of looking at the EMM market is quickly becoming outdated and irrelevant.

But SOTI’s market-leading position has been validated by top analyst firms.

What is your favorite movie?

Rodrigues: The Spider-Man movies — the classic ones, with just Spider-Man. Now they have 95 other superheroes in one movie.

What is the best dish you cook?

Rodrigues: My family is from the Portuguese colony of Goa in India. One of the things I make is this special tea with cardamom and dark pepper. You use loose-leaf tea and cook it with the milk.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Rodrigues: After university, I visited Santorini in Greece. It’s a beautiful place. The food is amazing. 

Quorum OnQ solves Amvac Chemical’s recovery problem

Using a mix of data protection software, hardware and cloud services from different vendors, Amvac Chemical Corp. found itself in a cycle of frustration. Backups failed at night, then had to be rerun during the day, and that brought the network to a crawl.

The Los Angeles-based company found its answer with Quorum’s one-stop backup and disaster recovery appliances. Quorum OnQ’s disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) combines appliances that replicate across sites with cloud services.

The hardware appliances are configured in a hub-and-spoke model with an offsite data center colocation site. The appliances perform full replication to the cloud that backs up data after hours.

“It might be overkill, but it works for us,” said Rainier Laxamana, Amvac’s director of information technology.

Quorum OnQ may be overkill, but Amvac’s previous system underwhelmed. Previously, Amvac’s strategy consisted of disk backup to early cloud services to tape. But the core problem remained: failed backups. The culprit was the Veritas Backup Exec applications that the Veritas support team, while still part of Symantec, could not explain. A big part of the Backup Exec problem was application support.

“The challenge was that we had different versions of an operating system,” Laxamana said. “We had legacy versions of Windows servers so they said [the backup application] didn’t work well with other versions.

“We were repeating backups throughout the day and people were complaining [that the network] was slow. We repeated backups because they failed at night. That slowed down the network during the day.”

We kept tapes at Iron Mountain, but it became very expensive so we brought it on premises.
Rainier Laxamanadirector of information technology, Amvac

Quorum OnQ provides local and remote instant recovery for servers, applications and data. The Quorum DRaaS setup combines backup, deduplication, replication, one-click recovery, automated disaster recovery testing and archiving. Quorum claims OnQ is “military-grade” because it was developed for U.S. Naval combat systems and introduced into the commercial market in 2010.

Amvac develops crop protection chemicals for agricultural and commercial purposes. The company has a worldwide workforce of more than 400 employees in eight locations, including a recently opened site in the Netherlands. Quorum OnQ protects six sites, moving data to the main data center. Backups are done during the day on local appliances. After hours, the data is replicated to a DR site and then to another DR site hosted by Quorum.

“After the data is replicated to the DR site, the data is replicated again to our secondary DR site, which is our biggest site,” Laxamana said. “Then the data is replicated to the cloud. So the first DR location is our co-located data center and the secondary DR our largest location. The third is the cloud because we use Quorum’s DRaaS.”

Amvac’s previous data protection configuration included managing eight physical tape libraries.

“It was not fun managing it,” Laxamana said. “And when we had legal discovery, we had to go through 10 years of data. We kept tapes at Iron Mountain, but it became very expensive so we brought it on premises.”

Laxamana said he looked for a better data protection system for two years before finding Quorum. Amvac looked at Commvault but found it too expensive and not user-friendly enough. Laxamana and his team also looked at Unitrends. At the time, Veeam Software only supported virtual machines, and Amvac needed to protect physical servers. Laxamana said Unitrends was the closest that he found to Quorum OnQ.

“The biggest (plus) with Quorum was that the interface was much more user-friendly,” he said. “It’s more integrated. With Unitrends, you need a third party to integrate the Microsoft Exchange.”

IT Nation 2017: ConnectWise sets sights on a ‘connected ecosystem’

ORLANDO — ConnectWise has revealed a vision for a broad and connected ecosystem of third-party technology vendors that will plug into its PSA software.

At its IT Nation 2017 conference this week, the professional services automation (PSA) software provider discussed its push to bring a seemingly infinite variety of vendor integrations to ConnectWise partners through an upcoming Developer Kit. ConnectWise also highlighted its recent partnership with Cisco to make it easier for partners to use several Cisco technologies within its PSA software. ConnectWise currently integrates with about 200 vendors.

“The whole message [of IT Nation 2017] is really that of choices in the ecosystem, and then, ‘Let’s do more of that. Let’s connect the entire ecosystem,'” said Arnie Bellini, co-founder and CEO of ConnectWise.

Cisco integration

At last week’s Cisco Partner Summit, ConnectWise unveiled the pilot program for ConnectWise Unite, a new offering that lets Cisco partners use Cisco Spark, Meraki, Umbrella and Stealthwatch through the ConnectWise management console. In addition to Amazon Web Services, ConnectWise previously integrated with Microsoft Office 365 and Azure through its CloudConsole product, which Bellini said will be merged with Unite in the first quarter of 2018.

Cisco technologies available under Unite will eventually expand, according to Nirav Sheth, vice president of solutions, architectures and engineering for the global partner organization at Cisco. “We definitely have some cloud-managed assets that we are also exploring to continue to evolve and have more offers enabled by the Unite platform,” he said.

Additionally, ConnectWise Unite will expand with other vendors, including Google, which Bellini said “is a perfect additional integration that we think will help drive more value for Cisco.” Google and Cisco announced a partnership around hybrid cloud at the Cisco Partner Summit.

The Cisco-ConnectWise partnership serves a means for Cisco to grow its market share in the small and medium-sized business (SMB) space, Sheth said, noting that Cisco is trying to change the perception that it is a vendor focused solely on the enterprise segment. This means working more closely with ConnectWise partners such as managed services providers (MSPs) that generally target SMB customers.

Cisco and ConnectWise plan to roll out MSP University, an enablement program for Cisco value-added resellers to expand into managed services. “We have committed to working with Cisco to create an amazing university that helps get Cisco partners started down the path of managed services,” Bellini said. He added that all ConnectWise partners will have access to MSP University as well.

Integrations ahead: The Developer Kit

ConnectWise has several releases on the integration front slated for 2018, the company revealed. Among these is the Developer Kit, a tool for development teams to connect products to the ConnectWise platform. The Developer Kit has a tentative launch date for the second quarter of 2018.

“The idea on the ConnectWise Developer Kit is … [to] make every solution available to our partners and … put it in one pane of glass … so they can manage it and monitor it and bill it,” Bellini said.

Bellini noted the company has put together a $10 million fund to support the Developer Kit initiative. Using the fund, which is provided through ConnectWise Capital, ConnectWise will act as an “angel investor,” investing in ideas that further connect the ecosystem, Bellini said. ConnectWise is looking to increase that fund to $25 million, he said.

Another unique feature of the Devloper Kit is that it allows channel partners to build their own integrations and customize their own experience in the ConnectWise platform without the need of development expertise. “If you want to develop with SDKs and APIs, we still have that, but we are making it easier,” said Craig Fulton, chief product officer at ConnectWise.

Gavin Gamber, vice president of channel sales and alliances, said ecosystem expansion has become a major initiative for ConnectWise leadership, driven by partner demand. Partners “are our best gauges on where we should be heading. … That’s how a lot of these integration partners pop up.”

He added that there are virtually no limits on how large the ConnectWise ecosystem could grow. “The ecosystem is just getting bigger and bigger and bigger,” he said. With a large ecosystem of integrated partners to balance, he said there are “certainly sensitivities” pertaining to ConnectWise’s competing vendor partners, but “it all boils down to who has got the best solutions for the partner and fits their needs the best at a price that they like and is affordable.”

ConnectWise software enhancements

At the IT Nation 2017 keynote presentation, ConnectWise showcased upcoming features of the ConnectWise suite, often to the applause of conference attendees.

ConnectWise Automate, the company’s automating tool, is being moved to the web and more tightly integrated with ConnectWise Manage. New web-based functions will include a computer management function and network map feature, slated for availability in the first quarter of 2018.

ConnectWise Automate “has been a tool you need to install on a Windows machine. Now we’re taking it to the web so you can now use it from any browser,” Fulton said.

Adding to remote control functionality, ConnectWise Perspective will provide a smartphone video connection between customers and technicians, available in the second quarter of 2018. Using the feature, customers can send a live video feed from their smartphones to technicians, creating an additional layer to a partner’s service delivery capabilities. Perspective will contain features for auto-scanning barcodes, recording session time and adding workstation information into tickets, ConnectWise said.

After Fulton demonstrated Perspective onstage during his IT Nation 2017 keynote presentation, he said he was surprised by the audience response to the upcoming feature. “I wasn’t sure how that was going to go, but man, that was the biggest applause. A lot of people approached me and said … ‘Now I can see what [customers] are seeing.'”

New Cisco ACI fabric stretches across multiple data centers

Cisco’s third major release of its Application Centric Infrastructure lets companies run the vendor’s software-defined networking architecture across multiple data centers, excluding those of the major public cloud providers.

Introduced Thursday, Cisco ACI 3.0 can provide network services to applications running in a maximum of five data centers. Each facility can run an ACI fabric with as many as 400 leaf switches.

Cisco has aimed its latest ACI fabric upgrade at large enterprises that want to expand their use of the policy-driven form of software-based networking from a single data center to several facilities. Companies demanding multisite networking are typically at the cutting edge of technology.

A recent survey of 200 IT organizations found 90% working on networking projects that spanned multiple data centers, according to analyst firm Enterprise Management Associates, based in Boulder, Colo. More than a quarter of those companies planned to connect five data centers or more.

With ACI 3.0, Cisco is providing a competitive product to sell to those companies, said EMA analyst Shamus McGillicuddy. “Multicloud and multidata fabrics are a must-have for these cutting-edge companies.”

Cisco ACI fabrics connect across data centers

Cisco is competing with virtualization vendor VMware in letting companies replicate the vendors’ respective application-centric networking environments so customers can manage a multisite configuration as one. The core of VMware’s approach is its NSX network overlay, while Cisco uses its hardware as the foundation.

Companies that want to access all the capabilities of ACI 3.0 will have to use Cisco’s Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) to build in each data center a networking fabric comprised of the vendor’s Nexus 9000 switches. Once that is done, the customer can connect each structure to an APIC-powered appliance that presents a single view of the multisite network.

From the appliance’s software console, network engineers can create and distribute application-centric traffic instructions to defined groups of switches in the form of policies. Also, management and monitoring tools can pull network and application performance data through the appliance’s APIC APIs.

ACI fabric’s multisite capabilities

Across multiple sites, ACI 3.0 can keep packet delivery to one second or less, said Srinivas Kotamraju, director of ACI product management at Cisco.  Traffic to an application that suddenly goes down in one data center can be redirected to a backup in another facility without changing the IP address.

Other multisite capabilities include taking a switch offline for maintenance or troubleshooting without disrupting the traffic flow. ACI 3.0 also provides latency monitoring between endpoints, such as ports and application tiers.

ACI 3.0 extends all policy-related functionality for virtual machines and bare-metal applications to containers in multiple sites. Cisco also provides integration between Kubernetes and ACI policies. Kubernetes is an open source system for managing Linux containers.

“The container stuff is most interesting for forward-looking developers and companies,” said Dan Conde, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group Inc., based in Milford, Mass.

ACI 3.0 is not supported in public clouds, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud Platform. Cisco plans to extend ACI fabric capabilities into public cloud environments using their respective APIs, Kotamraju said. Cisco has not provided a timetable.

Rival VMware has started to build a bridge between a customer’s virtualized data center and Amazon. The technology, however, remains a work in progress, with very few production deployments.