5 Tech Stories You Missed This Week

Lorna GareyDon’t Call Them ‘Appliances’

Oracle is offering its fifth-gen Exadata Database Machine at a steep discount, says market watcher site Trefis (its analysis is well worth a read). Its goal is to challenge integrated systems from rivals such as IBM, HP and notably the VCE (VMware/Cisco/EMC) alliance. Sales of integrated systems, in which vendors pre-bundle compute, storage, networking, middleware and applications, are big business. IDC puts sales at $4.3 billion for the first half of 2014. My take is that both solutions providers and CIOs should be wary of this trend. When an enterprise drops a cool $562,000 (the cost of the new Exadata) or more, that’s all in: no integration work, no ability to mix and match best-of-breed options from a mix of vendors. Smaller, and often more innovative, hardware, software and channel companies get frozen out. Sure, there’s less complexity, but at the cost of lock in. What’s your take on the rise of integrated systems? Am I missing the point?

Box Bets on Key Management

As anyone who’s provisioned, or sold, storage knows, the appetite to keep data is effectively bottomless. That’s good news for those who resell SANs and NAS systems, right? Well, maybe. Box, which essentially gives away storage space, recently had an IPO and raised a cool $175 million. It, and others in the same business, no doubt have some enterprise CIOs deciding they don’t need that new storage array after all. Now, Box has to figure out how to gin up revenue because, as the 2112 Group’s Larry Walsh points out, free is never a value statement. To that end, Box co-founder and CEO Aaron Levie this week revealed the Box Enterprise Key Management offering. EKM is meant to allay fears of storing data on the cloud by letting IT keep control of encryption keys, and it’s signed on AWS and Safenet as partners. Key management has long been a sore point for IT. Storing keys in house demands hardware redundancy, bulletproof backup and recovery, a strong authentication system to regulate access, physical controls — it’s the ultimate “all your eggs in one basket” situation. Sore points equal sales ops, so the EKM program should be of interest to Box’s channel partners. Take a look.

Speaking of Encryption …

HP announced Monday that it’s acquiring Voltage Security, which provides encryption, tokenization and key management, for an undisclosed sum. Are you sensing a trend? One excuse presented by Anthem for not encrypting data is that once encrypted, it’s difficult to do analysis. That’s where tokenization comes in. As the name suggests, a randomly generated token is substituted for a unit of sensitive data, such as a Social Security number. The tech has long been part of PCI. One benefit is that tokenized data may still be used for business analysis. In fact, HP highlighted the ability of Voltage’s products to allow enterprises to use protected data in applications without having to re-architect. Security budgets are up by double digits in some verticals, according to analysts. No wonder – Ponemon’s latest Cost of Cyber Crime Study pegged the average annual cost of cybercrime for a U.S. organization at $12.7 million. Solutions providers with innovative ideas, like tokenization to preserve data analysis capabilities, have a strong opportunity.

Cisco Impresses Analysts On Earnings Call

By now you’ve likely skimmed the highlights of Cisco’s earnings call. If not, here are three channel takeaways.

  1. The Internet of Things is hot, and it’s driving the company’s Smart Cities program. If you work with local governments, take a look.
  2. Intercloud Fabric is another initiative for resellers to watch; Cisco now boasts more than 400 data centers across 50 countries.
  3. And, there’s renewed focus on enterprise data centers, where CEO John Chambers says the company posted 40 percent growth, largely thanks to its Unified Computing System. “UCS has now reached over $3 billion revenue run-rate with over 41,000 customers,” said Chambers on the call. “More than 85 percent of the Fortune 500 have chosen UCS, because of the innovative architecture with particular traction in cloud, big data and enterprise application solutions.”

Never mind what I just said about integrated systems — more than 80 percent of UCS sales happen through the channel. As an aside, does anyone else find all the complaining about Chambers’ age (65) and calls to step down in favor of a new, and presumably younger, leader a bit offensive? There’s something to be said for experience.

Set My Smartphones Free

As of yesterday, the FCC requires that all U.S. carriers comply with requests from customers to unlock their devices, both smartphones and tablets, once the contract period has expired. The move, spurred by the amazingly bi-partisan “Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act,” is a portability win — though not a slam dunk. Just because a device is unlocked does not mean it will work on any network; GSM and CDMA don’t play. Still, it could provide some leverage for solutions providers to help customers with large fleets of company-owned devices negotiate better deals from the big carriers.

Remember, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Grab your sweetie something nice.

Follow executive editor @LornaGarey on Twitter.

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