blog

5 Channel Ops: Activist Firm Calls for Polycom-Mitel Merger, Microsoft Struts New Win10 Hardware

Lorna GareyThis week in New York Microsoft made it very clear that it’s still in the hardware business by unveiling new Windows 10 laptops, tablets and smartphones as well as consumer gear, including a fitness wearable, a redesigned Xbox and the HoloLens holographic computer, which will unfortunately not ship in time for the holidays.

Addressing the tech press, CEO Satya Nadella says Windows 10 is now running on 110 million devices, with upgrades happening at three times the rate of Windows 7 in the same time period. The price no doubt helped. Channel partners will likely be most interested in the new Surface Book, a lightweight, convertible high-performance laptop running Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processors with up to 12 hours of battery life and a 13.5-inch detachable touchscreen display. Surface Books start at $1,499. Nadella also demoed the 12.3-inch Surface Pro 4, billed as a laptop replacement. Starting at $899, the Pro 4 has an available mechanical keyboard, optional fingerprint reader and can be configured with up to 1 TB SSD storage.

Microsoft's Surface Pro 4The Surface Book, Surface Pro 4 and accessories are available for preorder now and purchase on Oct. 26.

Microsoft also made clear that it’s still in the hunt for mobile market share. The new Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL run Windows 10 and, said Nadella, provide a consistent experience for employees who use Windows PCs and tablets. When paired with Continuum and the new Display Dock accessory, mobile employees could connect their phones to a monitor for a presentation or add a keyboard and mouse to work on PC applications, including Office. Customers that are committed to the Windows ecosystem and that issue phones to employees may find the Lumias an attractive option, given manageability enhancements through Continuum.

It’s The Most Conferency Time of Year

There was no shortage of other industry events this week. My colleagues were on site for AT&T’s Cybersecurity Conference in New York, Tech Data’s Tech Select show in Boca Raton and Intelisys Channel Connect in Napa. Amazon also held its annual re:Invent conference in Seattle. This year, AWS focused on what it says is a rapidly expanding global partner network numbering “tens of thousands” and named 46 providers to its 2016 Premier Consulting Partners list. Some channel highlights:

  • Three new AWS Partner Network competencies for partners with expertise in DevOps, cloud migration and Internet of Things. Dorothy Copeland, head of AWS’ global partner programs, said in a statement that Amazon is expanding its investments in the APN across training, solutions development and go-to-market programs and that over the past year, AWS Premier, Competency and MSP partners “have grown their AWS revenue more than 100 percent faster than the rest of the ecosystem.” Partners with competencies are eligible for preferred access to private betas, road-map briefings and MDF and customer proof-of-concept funding. Seems like specialization does pay. APN consulting partners with the DevOps competency include 2nd Watch, Cascadeo, ClearScale, Cloud Technology Partners, Logicworks, Slalom Consulting and TriNimbus.
  • An AWS Marketplace Consulting Partner Program for ISVs plus 500 new AWS Marketplace listings, bringing the total to 2,300 apps offering simplified licensing, purchasing and deployment to the AWS Cloud. The roster includes software from Avere, Calgary Scientific, Chef, Docker, Fortinet, HP, Imperva, SAP, Tableau and TIBCO.
  • Amazon QuickSight cloud-powered BI. For customers with lots of data and little money for business intelligence tools, not to mention data scientists to run them, QuickSight could be the answer. It costs just $9 per user per month with a one-year signup and uses a new analysis engine with the somewhat tortured acronym SPICE, for “Super-fast, Parallel, In-memory optimized Calculation Engine.” Customer business users can run queries against relational data stores running on Amazon EC2 or on premises (includes Amazon Aurora, Amazon Redshift, Amazon RDS, MySQL, PostgreSQL, MariaDB, Oracle, SQL Server and custom databases). They can also pull in a variety of other data, including from API-based sources like Salesforce, and see results in most browsers or iOS or Android devices.

Amazon also this week IoT this week announced the beta of AWS IoT managed cloud service.

PLUS: Hadoop provider MapR announced this week that it hired Oracle sales and channel vet Matt Mills. Joe Panettieri has some excellent analysis here. The upshot is that Hadoop is well worth a look if you help customers with data management and analysis.

The Perimeter Is Gone

Can I get an amen for a post this week by Arista Networks president and CEO Jayshree Ullal calling for security to be tied to workloads, in an open and automated fashion, and based on policies rather than some imaginary perimeter?

Ullal’s post is tied to the company’s addition of Macro-Segmentation Services to its EOS CloudVision orchestration and automation platform. MSS helps partners move customers away from security based on a dangerously outdated perimeter model and instead embed next-generation firewalls to protect cloudified workloads and data flows. MSS is tailored for highly virtualized networks and supports ADCs and firewalls from Check Point, F5 Networks, Fortinet, Palo Alto Networks and VMware. It does require Arista’s CloudVision, which continually updates a database of workloads. Using firewall APIs and the customer’s security policy, MSS learns which workloads need to be protected and deploys a firewall in real-time, without manual intervention.

That’s the simplified version; Ed Chapman, Arista’s VP of business development and alliances, will host a webinar on MSS with key partners on Nov. 19. MSS is in trials today and will be generally available in the first half of 2016.

Good News/Bad News For Polycom

Polycom's RealPresence CentroOn the plus side, this week Polycom, which turns 25 this year, announced a lineup of collaboration systems aimed at supporting work wherever it happens, from coffee shops to open offices to SOHO locations. Among the five new offerings is RealPresence Centro, pictured, that provides native interoperability with Microsoft Lync, support for H.323 and SIP and a 360° camera with five sensors to capture everyone in the room, all the time. It’s the next best thing to being there, unless you’re camera shy.

However, also this week activist investor Elliot Management (which you may remember from a Citrix kerfuffle in June) sent a letter to Polycom saying that “we have conducted extensive analysis on Polycom and its markets. We have retained experts, several top-tier consulting firms, specialty industry consultants, industry executives and investment bankers and have also surveyed hundreds of Polycom’s customers. We have spoken with executives across the industry and developed an understanding of key purchasing criteria, go-to-market strategies, competitive dynamics and industry challenges. The conclusion from all of our work is that Polycom faces a challenging future as a standalone company; we detail these findings below.”

Elliot cites market share and pricing challenges as well as the difficulty of competing with Cisco as reasons why consolidation in the UCC sector is necessary; the firm holds $100 million stakes in both Mitel and Polycom as well as an undisclosed share of ShoreTel. Partners with significant income from UC systems should check out Elliot’s reasoning.

Elliot also pressured EMC to spin off VMware earlier this year, and now The Wall Street Journal reports that Dell is in talks to merge with EMC, stating that “there has been a wave of tech and other takeovers this year, and merger volume overall is running at a near-record pace.”

No wonder Riverbed recently went private.

Hyperconvergence Growing a Hyperspeed

SimpliVity this week announced that sales bookings grew by 50 percent quarter over quarter via an expanding network of strategic partners. More than half of revenues came from outside North America, and the company said in a statement that it expects “a very strong finish to 2015.”

The term “hyperconvergence” describes a software-centric architecture that tightly integrates compute, storage, virtualization and networking, whether on commodity hardware or purpose-built appliances, and the concept has taken off like wildfire. Gartner says sales of hyperconverged infrastructure, or HDI, systems topped $6 billion in 2014, and we see no signs of this trend faltering. Channel Partners spoke this week to Chris Morgan, the new channel chief of another top HCI player, Nutanix; watch for our Q&A soon. Morgan wouldn’t provide exact growth numbers but said sales are strong.

IDC’s recent Worldwide Hyperconverged Systems MarketScape names Nutanix and SimpliVity leaders in the space and says Nutanix held 52 percent share of hyperconverged revenue during the first half of 2014; the analyst firm estimates that hyperconverged systems revenues jumped 116.2 percent in 2015 over 2014. Know any other infrastructure techs growing at that clip?

Both Nutanix and SimpliVity are 100-percent channel. SimpliVity also recently announced an expansion in its technology partner ecosystem, saying unit sales of its OmniStack Integrated Solution with Cisco UCS increased more than 200 percent quarter over quarter and that a deal to sell its Data Virtualization Platform as an integrated solution with Lenovo System x3650 servers is complete.

My take is that HCI systems are both threat and opportunity for the channel. They’re modular, prebuilt and can go from shipping dock to usable cluster in hours. They eliminate the need for separate storage and server hardware — and all that lucrative integration services work. However, they also free up time and money for higher-level IT projects that matter to the business. We’re planning an education session on hyperconvergence at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo in March.

Catbird Stalks VMware Attackers

Chris Tamblyn, SVP of product management for virtualization security vendor Catbird, sent along a list of indicators that could reveal that a customer’s VMware infrastructure has been compromised by the vCenter vulnerability reported earlier this month. The flaw could allow intruders to gain system access to VMware hypervisors. 

First off, a patch is available, and Tamblyn encourages all VMware users to apply it immediately; weaponized versions of the exploit have been seen. Still, he says the vulnerability has existed for eight months, and it’s possible a customer was infiltrated and the attackers covered their tracks and are still in the network.

Tamblyn says to look for the following changes in workload behavior, which can indicate a compromise:

  • Virtual machines communicating to and from new networks, especially those with reputation flags. A smart attacker would likely set up multiple AWS (or other known public cloud) target environments to exfiltrate data over an encrypted channel. You can monitor for and alert on egress traffic coming from a vCenter to such public could.
  • Unusual traffic patterns or spikes in traffic volume.
  • Attempts (successful or blocked) to communicate east-west inside the fabric.
  • Changes made to port groups or VLANs. An attacker could easily attach a compromised virtual machine to another area of the network, giving them increased movement within the compromised data center.
  • Leveraging built-in east-west IDS functionality, seeing signatures triggering that are consistent with exploits and malware.

All of the above examples correlate network behavior to the workload, says Tamblyn, and could be spotted using Catbird’s in-fabric visualization, monitoring and enforcement tools. Catbird is partnering with virtualization platform integrators, industry-specific resellers, cloud solution providers, service providers, VARs and trusted advisers. 

Bits & Bytes

Get Off My Lawn! Channel partners and vendors think a lot about how to attract and retain Millennial (and soon, Generation Z) workers, and how to help customers capture that market. But don’t forget the Boomers. A thought-provoking article in a recent MIT Technology Review points out that “as recently as 1992, less than 3 percent of the American workforce consisted of people age 65 and over. Today that proportion has nearly doubled, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and it’s expected to reach 8.3 percent by 2022. Most of these 13.5 million older workers will be between 65 and 74, but nearly 2.6 million will be 75 and over.” Those workers are in your customer’s sites, and they need technology to maximize their productivity. IoT can help; Verizon’s effort to develop smart health-care devices intuitive enough to require limited programming and interaction are examples. Drafting an accessible technology plan, an area where Microsoft has long focused, is another possibility.

If You Think Security Is Expensive, Try A Breach: Security can be seen as a cost center, and helping CISOs make the sale to business leaders is often tricky for partners. Kaspersky Lab and B2B International this week released some ammunition in the form of a new IT Security Risks Survey showing that the average cost of a cyberattack is $551,000 for enterprises and $38,000 for small businesses. And, attacks are now almost routine, with 90 percent of the 5,500 companies surveyed reporting at least one security incident. Nearly half, 46 percent, lost sensitive data. The companies break down costs into three buckets: professional services (IT, risk management, lawyers), lost business opportunities and downtime. The average enterprise cyberattack bill includes up to $73,000 in services, up to $58,000 in lost business and up to $420,000 in downtime. For SMBs the breakdown is $10,000, $5,000 and $23,000. Kaspersky says not to forget costs for staffing, training and IT infrastructure upgrades to prevent future incidents and reputational damage. The survey also examined the types of security incidents that most often rack up a high cybersecurity bill. Malware attacks were the most common, followed by phishing attacks and accidental data leaks by employees.

In other security news, Symantec this week announced an enhanced channel program for security-focused partners; our take on Symantec Secure One, including comment from Tom LaRocca, the company’s VP of global channel programs and sales, is here.

Follow editor in chief @LornaGarey on Twitter.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The ID is: 91050