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5 Channel Ops: Cisco Shuffles Channel Chiefs, Microsoft Signals Its Future

Lorna GareyCisco announced this week that current global channel chief Bruce Klein will turn over leadership of the company’s Worldwide Partner Organization to Wendy Bahr on July 27. Bahr is currently SVP of the Americas Partner Organization and no stranger to the U.S. channel. We also saw some grim PC sales numbers, with IDC pegging 2Q15 U.S. shipments at nearly 16.4 million PCs — down 3.3 percent from the same quarter a year ago.

So where’s the money going? IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Cloud IT Infrastructure Tracker, also out this week, shows cloud IT infrastructure spending, comprising servers, storage and Ethernet switches, up 26.4 percent for 2015, to $33.4 billion, with most of that, $21.7 billion, going to public cloud. In comparison, spending on non-cloud IT infrastructure will remain flat at $67 billion, says the consultancy.

Red Hat Ups Cloud Partner Game

Maybe Red Hat isn’t the first name that pops into MSPs’ minds when they think “new cloud partnerships.” The company is working to change that, announcing this week a revamped Red Hat Certified Cloud and Service Provider program to replace the current Certified Cloud Provider designation. The aim is to expand Red Hat’s cloud ecosystem to better support distributors, managed service providers and other partners that are heavily involved in all aspects of hybrid cloud build-out, not just multi-tenant public clouds, said the company in a statement.

If you’re wondering what kind of support Red Hat provides its partners, check out my Q&A with channel chief Mark Enzweiler. Short answer, the company is selective, but once a provider is in the ecosystem it can expect significant help with subscription renewals and first refusal for reselling new Red Hat products in its territory. Cloud is an entry point — Red Hat’s overall cloud partner ecosystem has grown by 58 percent over last year.

The updated program includes better technical support for complex cloud architectures and makes available to partners as an array of new products, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux for SAP HANA, the OpenShift open source PaaS, Gluster Storage, the RHEL OpenStack platform and JBoss middleware to tie it all together. Enrolled partners can also use the Red Hat Cloud Access migration tool to smoothly transfer customer accounts. Red Hat’s Certified Cloud and Service Provider designation is awarded to Red Hat partners ranging from cloud service providers to MSPs following a validation program to demonstrate adherence to certification requirements and sufficient cloud expertise.

And You Thought Your Week Was Bad

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is leaving little doubt where he plans to take the company. This week, amid layoffs of some 7,800 employees, many from the ill-fated Nokia acquisition (what was Steve Ballmer thinking?), Microsoft finally released a long-awaited update of Office 16 for Mac. Partners with customers that support Apple users should take note — it’s been five years since Office for Mac was refreshed, and the suite was definitely showing its age.

While the layoffs, not to mention a $7.6 billion write-down, must sting, for partners supporting customers’ mobile ecosystems, it’s probably a net win. In an email to employees, CEO Satya Nadella said “we are moving from a strategy to grow a standalone phone business to a strategy to grow and create a vibrant Windows ecosystem that includes our first-party device family.”

Translated, that means Windows Phone, already a very distant third platform behind Android and iOS, is less likely to be a factor when rolling out mobile device and app-management tools and supporting BYOD programs for customers. Every bit of simplification helps. Meanwhile, a new focus on its core productivity suites, as well as, presumably, Lync for Business, plays to Microsoft channel partners’ strengths. New Office 16 for Mac features are enumerated in this blog, but the best, and most telling, bit of news is that Microsoft says it plans to release updates and new features for Office 365 customers at least once per quarter.

Databases, Meet Cloud

To say the database ecosystem is ripe for disruption is an understatement. While Oracle prepares for a high-stakes court date with Rimini Street, database-as-a-service vendors are courting developers. Their goal: Make that fight over third-party support, if not moot, then certainly less compelling for companies tired of paying big bucks for features they rarely use. To gauge attitudes toward new open databases, DBaaS vendor Tesora commissioned a survey comprising more 500 North American developers, 40 percent from organizations with more than1,000 employees. The full results, released this week, are available here. Tesora does admit that respondents are mostly early adopters. Still, partners interested in where the database puck is heading, rather than where it’s been, might want to take a look and see how their plans align.

Some highlights: The big three relational databases – Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL and Oracle – are by no means in imminent danger of obsolescence. SQL Server is in use by 57 percent, MySQL by 40 percent and Oracle by 38 percent of those surveyed. However, NoSQL databases together racked up a respectable 25 percent usage rate in respondent shops, with MongoDB and Hadoop the most popular options. Twenty-four percent have databases running in the public cloud, making them the No. 2 most popular hosted service, behind websites (32 percent) and surprisingly ahead of storage (21 percent). Ten percent use a DBaaS now, with Amazon RDS the most popular option; that percentage is expected to reach 21 percent in 24 months. Interestingly, 31 percent say their organizations want to implement DBaaS in a private cloud.

Tesora, which supports the OpenStack Trove DBaaS project, has a partner program open to cloud service providers and systems integrators, as well as a certification program for MSPs interested in adding a database option. If you’re looking to experiment with a DBaaS, Trove is a great starting point. It supports both relational and non-relational databases engines, has a vibrant open source community and is purpose-built to make it easy to provision and manage multiple instances without sacrificing resource isolation. There’s also an emphasis on automation for backups, restores and monitoring.

EnCase The Joint

Channel partners looking to add a lucrative service offering might want to check into Guidance Software’s new “Channel First” initiative, launched this week. Guidance’s Encase software is a longtime leader in forensics and e-discovery, tasks that few customers have the capacity to perform in-house. Most would prefer to turn to trusted local advisers, and enabling those providers is the aim of new updates in the Guidance Software Global Partner Program.

“Guidance Software is partnering with leaders who sell to leaders,” said Frank Cohen, Guidance’s director of North American channels, in a statement. “This is a company-wide commitment to put our channel partners first, and it’s reflected in the way we’re evolving our internal processes within many departments, from sales to service. In particular, we believe that the addition of our new channel account manager team will help build genuine partnerships.”

The program offers access to the company’s EnCase Endpoint Security products, but it’s the EnCase eDiscovery and Enterprise tools that could be a smart investment. Other players in the e-discovery and forensics space include AccessData, which has traditionally had an edge in ease of use, and Mandiant (now FireEye). If you think forensics investigations demand a “CSI: Cyber” setup, not so. While a full discussion of assembling an incident response team is beyond the scope of this column, log analysis and e-discovery tend to be time-consuming and tedious work that benefit greatly from an understanding of the customer’s network and familiarity with the tool at hand. In particular, e-discovery, the process of gathering, preserving and processing electronically stored information for legal or compliance reasons, is a lucrative and growing business. Getting a practice started requires an investment in tools and training, but Radicati Group predicts revenues for e-discovery services will grow from over $1.6 billion in 2014 to more than $3.8 billion by 2018 — an average annual growth rate of over 24 percent. Guidance is offering product training, increased channel discounts, deal registration, access to channel account managers, demand generation and joint field marketing.

NFV Webinar

Delivering network services like firewalls, load balancers and WAN optimization as virtual functions has big benefits for solutions providers; I run down a few of them here, as well as six keys to success. A big benefit for customers, however, is that NFV has security implications — most of them good. Vendors are working to adapt firewalls, AV, threat detection and mitigation products to be delivered virtually. Such technologies benefit from the ability to roll out updates in near-real-time. If you’re interested in learning more, Infonetics Research is hosting a free webinar, in conjunction with Juniper, on July 15. You can register here.

Follow editor in chief @LornaGarey on Twitter.


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