It’s been a busy week as the tech industry gets geared up for show season, aka March. I hope you’re joining us at the Channel Partners Conference in a few weeks. I still have some briefing slots open; if you’d like to meet up, hit me on Twitter.
This week Google announced Android at Work, an initiative to help businesses secure, manage and develop apps for Android smartphones and tablets. In a blog, Rajen Sheth, director of product management for Android and Chrome for Work, said the product has four key features: work profiles, essentially sandboxes that include encryption and enable IT to nuke work data while leaving personal content intact; the Android for Work app, which includes mail, calendar, contacts, documents, browsing and access to work apps approved by IT; Google Play for Work, an app store with push capabilities; and support for productivity tools, including both Exchange and Notes. Sheth notes a number of existing partners in the ecosystem, including MobileIron and Citrix for EMM, Samsung and HTC for hardware, Box and Salesforce.com for apps, and Cisco and F5 for networking.
Moreover, Blackberry said Wednesday that its BES 12 EMM system, popular in government and other security-minded industries, will be able to manage Android for Work devices. If you sell or support BYOD programs, this is a big deal.
The theme of UCStrategies’ latest Industry Buzz podcast is advice for various unified communications constituencies — all of them on solutions providers’ radar: CIOs, vendors, contact centers, carriers and service providers, and startups. Analyst Dave Michels moderates the discussion, which includes Channel Partner contributor Michael Finneran, Steve Leaden, PKE Consulting’s Phil Edholm, UniCom’s Don Van Doren and Marty Parker, enableUC’s Kevin Kieller and Fossa’s Clark Richter. Specifically for channel partners, Richter suggests keeping an eye on the new app marketplaces — AppDirect and Jamcracker are almost a new breed of distribution channel. Definitely good advice. Other covered topics: consumerization, UC&C, contact center trends, innovative partner incentives and the declining quality of voice calls and carrier outages. Oh, and how mobile could kill the PBX in five years.
If you haven’t been following upstart storage providers, you’re missing some innovative products that you could be offering customers. This week, GreenPages solutions architect Chris Chesley discussed Nimble, DataGravity, Simplivity, Pure Storage and VMware in a blog on emerging storage technology. To Chesley’s list I’d add the three new XC series appliances Dell announced this week. The devices deliver significantly more storage density thanks to the software Nutanix brings to the table as a result of its June deal with Dell. Nutanix is in the business of software-enabled “hyper-converged infrastructure.” In other words, take a pile of vanilla x86 servers, build some scale-out clusters, and run both compute and storage from a single interface. Convergence is complicated and a challenge for the channel — by definition it blurs data center lines. But it also represents a way to add flexibility while saving your customers money.
In a ruling overshadowed by the hubbub around Net neutrality, the FCC voted yesterday to preempt state laws that prohibit municipalities from creating their own broadband services and then compete against private incumbent carriers; the challenge was brought by the cities of Wilson, North Carolina; and Chattanooga, Tennessee. The ruling, covered in detail by Jon Brodkin in Ars Technica and our own Josh Long, is unlikely to unleash an immediate flood of muni broadband services taking on Time Warner and Comcast; however, it is worth noting for solutions providers that work with local governments — particularly those frustrated by expensive, low-performing or in some cases, nonexistent broadband services for residents. These IT teams are unlikely to have the on-staff expertise to get a broadband Internet network up and running, much less manage the ongoing maintenance, security and billing.
Finally, earlier this week I had a chance to speak with Nayan Naik, senior director of product strategy for NTT Communications, about the company’s current NTT Enterprise Cloud, which can deliver either a hosted or a virtual private cloud, and the next-gen “One Cloud” vision. NTT now operates 11 data centers in nine countries, and by the end of the year Naik says it expects to have 16 facilities online around the globe. Channel partners whose customers are hesitant to move to cloud over worries about integration may want to consider NTT’s partner program. The Enterprise Cloud is a fully standardized offering; it’s based on VMware’s Virtual Cloud Director and uses an enterprise-grade stack, from Cisco switching to EMC to HP and IBM hardware — components that will provide that warm, comfortable feeling that many CIOs just don’t get from stacks of interchangeable white boxes.
For legacy workloads that can’t be virtualized, NTT offers the option of a secure MPLS link from the colo site directly into the enterprise data center. Resellers can offer integrated edge services through purpose-built hardware or Cisco-based virtual firewalls and load balancers (see my earlier discussion of NFV). Going forward, Naik says the company’s next-gen One Cloud will deliver a common orchestration layer for single-pane management and the ability to spin up hosted private clouds based on either VMware, Hyper-V and potentially even OpenStack, and meet compliance requirements via isolation and single-tenancy requirements.
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