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Lorna Garey

Lorna Garey is editor in chief of Channel Partners. She has been in the tech publishing trenches since 1995, when she joined eWeek, and was most recently content director of InformationWeek digital media.

5 Channel Ops: IBM Watson, Pure Storage, Microsoft

- Blog

Lorna GareyThis week’s uber theme: Big data is coming. The question is, will it be a source of business insight and higher profits for you and your customers or just a cost center for all that storage? Google is among the companies looking to help. Its new Cloud Dataflow performs data-processing tasks of any size. Pricing for a Dataflow job is very dependent on resources consumed, including cloud storage, database and networking, but it’s likely going to be less expensive than running demanding computational tasks in-house.

IBM Launches Watson Health Cloud

This week IBM made a string of announcements around its new open Watson Health Cloud, which is aimed at helping doctors, researchers and insurers mine health-related data without running afoul of HIPAA. Among the moves to support the Health Cloud, IBM is buying two health-care analytics companies, Explorys and Phytel. Phytel sells cloud-based services that help practitioners coordinate care, while Explorys’ cloud platform is used by health-care systems to identify patterns in diseases, treatments and outcomes. IBM will also work with an expanded slate of partners, including Apple, Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic, to help optimize consumer and medical devices for data collection, analysis and feedback.

The Watson Health Cloud team will be based in Cambridge, Mass. That makes sense given that Cambridge is a hot spot for biotech firms. And, the sheer volume of data involved in, and amount of money spent on, health care seem to justify the effort — each person generates one million gigabytes of health-related data over a lifetime, says IBM, and chronic conditions cost as much as 80 percent of the $7 trillion global health-care spend. IBM says partners are already using Watson to develop apps and systems to make health care more efficient, and the company promises to dedicate at least 2,000 consultants, medical practitioners, clinicians, developers and researchers to the effort. Channel partners that support medical practices and regional hospital groups and insurers will want to explore Watson Health.

Security Roundup

Even though Verizon’s annual Data Breach Investigation Report pegged the prevalence of serious mobile malware at about zero, that doesn’t mean customers don’t need to manage mobile devices. A lost laptop with unencrypted customer data still triggers expensive, and embarrassing, notifications.

Some security vendors and services channel companies should keep an eye on:

  • My Digital Shield this week appointed to its advisory board Caleb Sima, a co-founder of mobile security specialist Bluebox Security, and said Sima would focus on accelerating growth in the IT channel and SMB markets. Late last month the security-as-a-service provider announced that Jason Graf had joined its executive team as VP of operations, with responsibility to ensure the success of channel partners and small business customers, in part by improving standardization processes. MDS is highly channel-focused — it bills itself as a 100% partner-centric sales company and says it offers one of the most lucrative partner programs in the market. 
  • IBM announced yesterday the X-Force Exchange, a new cyber threat intelligence-sharing platform powered by IBM Cloud (are you sensing a trend). The SaaS-based platform is free and provides access to IBM and third-party threat data, including more than 15 billion monitored security events per day and threat intelligence from a network of 270 million endpoints, more than 25 billion Web pages and images, more than 8 million spam and phishing attacks, and reputation data on nearly 1 million malicious IP addresses. While primarily targeted at security analysts, anyone can access the data. Solutions providers that run security operations centers or offer network security services should set up accounts.
  • Looking for a new vendor partner? Huntsman just entered the U.S. market and this week announced the global launch of Huntsman Unified Console, which offers a single view of various security information and event management (SIEM) systems. The company has partnerships with professional services firms in the UK, Japan and Australia and is seeking U.S. partners that focus on enterprise security.

Plus: Bloomberg reports that the Pentagon will miss its own deadline for hiring cyber-security personnel. That could leave gov-focused partners to pick up the slack.

Pure Solidifies Channel Stance

Solid-state storage array vendor Pure Storage yesterday announced the addition of two channel veterans to its leadership team and a new partner-centric Customer and Partner Success Organization. Michael Sotnick, previously an EVP and channel chief at Moovweb and Quest Software, joins Pure Storage as vice president of global channels and alliances, while Alex Hesterberg, formerly of Riverbed and Symantec, joins as vice president, customer and partner success and technology services. "Since inception, Pure Storage has been laser-focused on building a high-performing and differentiated channel program, while en route to becoming the next great storage company," said Sotnick in a release.

Pure is certainly on a roll. It posted revenue growth of more than 300 percent for the fiscal year that ended in January, while closing $225 million in Series F funding to bring its valuation up to around $3 billion, with $470 million total capital. Technology partners include Citrix, Cisco, CommVault, Microsoft and Oracle, and Pure just launched an all-flash converged infrastructure system, the FlashStack CI, in tandem with VMware (vSphere 5 and Horizon 6) and Cisco (UCS blade servers, Nexus switches).

For channel partners, the storage space is heating up; as content director Art Wittmann discusses in an in-depth report on software-defined storage, coming soon, the falling price of solid-state arrays has radically altered market dynamics. This week, Pure CEO Scott Dietzen told ComputerWorld that the company has driven the cost of flash below that of disk storage for Tier 1 applications, and says some customers can realize savings of $500,000 per storage appliance per year. That’s a lot of money that could be spent on new services. The interview is well worth reading — Dietzen makes a strong case that flash will take over sooner rather than later.

Get Off My Lawn!

A fascinating new report sponsored by EMC and conducted by the Institute For The Future, called The Information Generation: Transforming The Future, Today, surveyed 3,600 business leaders from midsize and large enterprises in nine industries across 18 countries to “determine top business imperatives required for success today and over the next decade."

The upshot: Members of "the information generation" have little tolerance for slow-moving companies. They expect fast, 24/7 and "everywhere" access to services, ubiquitous connectivity on all their devices, and “unique personalized" experiences. Fully 96 percent of the business leaders surveyed say new technologies have forever changed the rules, and most agree on five make-or-break business attributes that are critical for any company that wants to be a disruptor — and not disrupted:

  • Predictively spot new opportunities in markets.
  • Demonstrate transparency and trust.
  • Innovate in agile ways.
  • Deliver unique and personalized experiences.
  • Operate in real time.

The angle for trusted advisers: Very few respondents say they have these under control. Only 12 percent can spot new opportunities very well on a companywide basis, 9 percent say they innovate in agile ways, 14 percent believe they demonstrate transparency and trust, 11 percent deliver personalized experiences and 12 percent operate in real-time. What all these have in common is a mandate to crunch data faster and better — yet 49 percent admit to not knowing how to turn all of their data into actionable information, 52 percent say they do not use their data effectively or are drowning in information, and only 24 percent consider themselves “very good" at turning data into useful insights and information.

The report offers vertical-specific guidance for health care, retail and manufacturing as well as plenty of general examples and suggestions that partners can bring to customers, hopefully in time to prepare for the full onslaught of the information generation.

Plus: One metric for appealing to Millennials: social responsibility. As national volunteer week comes to a close, I took note that the Etsy IPO is touted as the largest ever for a B-corporation, a certification for socially and environmentally responsible businesses that applies to almost 100 telecom and IT software and services firms.

Microsoft: Ready, Set, Update

The Skype for Business update to Lync rolled out on April 14 as part of regular Office monthly updates. The new client will be the default for Office 365 ProPlus, Office 365 Business Premium and Office 2013, and Microsoft expects all instances to be updated by the end of May. If you have customers that need more time to prep, admin users of both Lync Online and Lync Server can control when the updated client is rolled out to users. Microsoft explains the particulars in this PowerPoint. The company also provides plenty of resources for training and awareness.

There are new features that make the update worthwhile; they include simplified menus, easier file transfers and meeting joins and controls, OneNote integration and of course the triumphant return of Skype’s emoticon palette. Still, the interface is different enough that it’s a good idea to ensure customer end users have a heads up.

Microsoft also acquired big-data expertise this week via its purchase of mobile BI and data visualization company Datazen. While not specifically targeted at any vertical, it reinforces the demand for expertise around big data analytics.

Follow executive editor @LornaGarey on Twitter.

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