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'Project Natick' Dunks Microsoft's Cloud in the Ocean

Microsoft's cloud business is red-hot, but the company may have found a new way to keep its cloud server farms cool.

During Microsoft's earnings call last week, CEO Satya Nadella gave investors an update: "Our commercial cloud run rate surpassed $9.4 billion, up over 70 percent year over year and almost halfway to our [fiscal year 2018] goal of $20 billion." As one impressed financial analyst put it in the Q&A portion of the call, that run rate is "up $1.2 billion quarter to quarter, 70 percent year over year."

With that increased usage comes increased investments. Microsoft CFO Amy Hood said investments in datacenters and servers to respond to the demand included $2 billion in the last quarter, up from $1.5 billion the quarter before.

On Monday, Microsoft revealed where some of its R&D budget is going -- straight into the Pacific Ocean via an effort code-named Project Natick.

Providing air conditioning and power for tens of thousands of servers has always been a problem for the cloud megavendors. Microsoft, Google and others have pioneered different next-generation datacenter designs over the last decade. The earliest reports about Microsoft's huge datacenter buildout featured former Microsoft senior executive Ray Ozzie poring over maps for remote sites with enough water and power for the huge facilities.

But since the middle of last year, Microsoft has been testing an eight-foot-diameter steel capsule sunk 30 feet underwater off the coast of California. The ocean water keeps the servers cool, and Microsoft is theorizing about ways to use ocean currents to provide power.

"Microsoft researchers do believe this is the first time a datacenter has been deployed below the ocean's surface. Going under water could solve several problems by introducing a new power source, greatly reducing cooling costs, closing the distance to connected populations and making it easier and faster to set up datacenters," according to Microsoft's account of the project. See the full description and related video here.

It's not Microsoft's first go at the ocean in its cloud buildout. Over the last two years, Microsoft announced a number of major undersea cable projects. With Project Natick, though, Microsoft could completely change the way datacenters are built and deployed.

Posted by Scott Bekker on February 01, 2016 at 1:17 PM0 comments

Microsoft CSP Partner AppDirect Buys Radialpoint

AppDirect, one of the major players in the Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) ecosystem, on Wednesday announced the acquisition of Radialpoint, a provider of cloud and technical support services for small businesses and consumers.

San Francisco-based AppDirect is one of just a few cloud marketplace technology providers in the Microsoft CSP ecosystem that combine their own systems with Microsoft's CSP API to handle functions like activating the Microsoft cloud service, license provisioning and recurring billing. AppDirect offers similar functionality for many non-Microsoft cloud applications, allowing Microsoft CSPs to offer richer bundles of services.

According to executives for both companies, the addition of Radialpoint will help AppDirect's CSP partners wrap services around Office 365 and other products.

"Customers can buy augmented support or migration services right at the time that they buy that app, and that goes with any app that's bought through the cloud marketplace," said Warren Levitan, president and CEO of Montreal-based Radialpoint, in a telephone interview.

Levitan joins AppDirect to lead the Radialpoint business as a subsidiary of AppDirect. All of the company's 80 employees will also join AppDirect, the companies said.

AppDirect is offering three new premium technical support services as a result of the Radialpoint acquisition: Cloud Services Support for Microsoft Office 365, Cloud and IT Helpdesk, and Consumer Technical Support.

AppDirect President and Co-CEO Daniel Saks says the addition of Radialpoint addresses the key "human element" of sales and support for AppDirect partners. "Business owners still need real people to help them get the most out of those services," Saks said.

The other major cloud marketplace technology provider in the U.S. CSP market, Odin, was acquired in December by distribution giant Ingram Micro.

For more detail on the CSP ecosystem, see RCP's guide here.

Posted by Scott Bekker on January 27, 2016 at 3:14 PM0 comments

Microsoft To Recognize 2nd, 3rd and 4th Partners in Cloud Engagements

Microsoft on Thursday announced tweaks to its internal systems to recognize more partners for the work they do to help customers get to the cloud in customer engagements where more than one partner is involved.

Over the last year, Microsoft has urged partners to work together to get customers actively using more of the eligible workloads within their cloud subscriptions, such as the less-used Yammer and Skype components of an Office 365 subscription. Lighting up those workloads is a priority for Microsoft as a corporation, with some in the investment community noting the risk to the company if customers don't perceive value in their cloud bundles and cancel their subscriptions.

However, even as it urges partners to cooperate, Microsoft's internal systems only recognize partners in a winner-take-all way. In the Digital Partner of Record process that has been fully in place since July, there is only room for one partner.

The moves announced Thursday will not change one critically important element: Incentives will still only be paid to the one partner who is the Digital Partner of Record, a designation given by the customer to an eligible partner from within Microsoft's customer portal.

There are other boons to be handed out, though. Microsoft wants to measure partners' services capacity and to track how many seats partners are involved with for the purpose of advancing a partner to a gold competency.

That last element could be difficult for a partner specializing in something like Yammer where they are the third or fourth partner involved with a customer, are paid directly by the customer, and therefore fly far below the Partner of Record radar.

"We've run into a challenge where in many situations there are actually multiple partners helping the same customer because of the number of workloads in Office 365," said Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group General Manager Gavriella Schuster in a telephone interview. "We got a lot of feedback from partners, not necessarily where incentives were concerned, but much more where earning the competency was concerned. They couldn't earn the competency even though they were helping partners because they were the secondary or even the third partner in the same customer."

Now Microsoft plans to use proof from several of its other systems to count seats on behalf of partners for competency purposes. Schuster said Microsoft will now also use:

  • Records from Microsoft sales for the transacting partner of Enterprise Agreements and Open licenses
  • The Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) Commerce Platform
  • Conversations with Microsoft employees in the Microsoft FastTrack Onboarding Center
  • Delegated Admin Privileges per workload

While the new procedures and integration of back-end systems should be fully up and running later this quarter or in April, Schuster said that Microsoft will begin counting seats toward partner competency targets as of the announcement Thursday.

Posted by Scott Bekker on January 14, 2016 at 3:06 PM0 comments

StorageCraft Gets $187 Million Equity Investment

Channel-focused business recovery vendor StorageCraft Technology Corp. is getting a private equity investment of $187 million, as well as a new chairman and CEO in SonicWALL veteran Matt Medeiros, the company announced Wednesday.

Medeiros was the longtime president and CEO of SonicWALL when Dell bought the channel-centric security company in 2012. He had been at Dell as a vice president and general manager of security products since the acquisition.

The investment comes from TA Associates, a private equity firm based in Boston that has raised $24 billion in capital since it was founded in 1968. Some of the firm's previous technology investments include AVG, Nintex and Idera.

With a signed definitive agreement to invest, the deal is pending regulatory approval in Australia and is expected to close by the end of the month. As part of the changes, StorageCraft CEO Jeff Shreeve is retiring. Medeiros will have an ownership stake in the company, as will previous owner-executives Curt James, Scott Barnes, Brandon Nordquist and Mike Kunz. TA Associates Managing Directors Jonathan W. Meeks and Jason P. Werlin will join the StorageCraft Board of Directors.

"Our organic development is really working. It doesn't mean we won't be looking at inorganic opportunities."

Matt Medeiros, Chairman and CEO, StorageCraft

In a telephone interview Wednesday morning, Medeiros said StorageCraft's channel partners should expect even more attention and commitment from the 300-employee company, which opened a new headquarters facility in Draper, Utah, last year.

"We are, in fact, a channel company. We only have one way to go to market, and that's through our channel," Medeiros said. Both directly and through relationships with remote monitoring and management (RMM) providers and OEMs, StorageCraft's products are in use by more than 10,000 MSPs.

"Part of the reason TA's investing in the company is how do we double our partner count globally in the next 18 months?" Medeiros said. While the biggest greenfields for partner count growth are in the Asia/Pacific region, Japan and Latin America, Medeiros said there are also still opportunities for expansion in North America.

StorageCraft has traditionally developed its technology organically, including the recent broadening of its ShadowProtect technologies from its Windows base to also cover Linux and the development from the ground up of a new architecture for cloud backup.

Asked if the infusion of private equity money would lead to growth by acquisitions, Medeiros suggested that would not be his immediate focus. One of the reasons the investment was attractive to TA Associates, Medeiros said, was because StorageCraft had a large amount of intellectual property for a company of its size.

"In the near term, I think we have a lot in our development pipeline, and we're very pleased with it. Our organic development is really working. It doesn't mean we won't be looking at inorganic opportunities," he said.

Meanwhile, the company is also planning to ramp up its resources for partners, with overhauls of the partner program and the partner portal in the second half of the year, said Curt James, vice president of marketing and business development. The company also plans to launch its first partner conference in 2016 and make the show an annual event.

Posted by Scott Bekker on January 13, 2016 at 10:19 AM0 comments

Marching Orders 2016: Intro and the IT Landscape

One of our most popular recurring features over the years has been "Marching Orders," a collection of advice and predictions from channel luminaries about what to do and what to expect in the year ahead.

For 2016, we'll be running individual Marching Orders entries all through the month of January. Check back often for updates. This week look for entries from other 1105 Media editors from RCP's sister publications, including Redmond, Virtualization Review and MSDN. Next week, we'll carve out space for RCP columnists and contributors. The following week, Microsoft and other channel executives will weigh in. In the last week of the month, we'll hear from partners, analysts and other industry experts.

This first installment of Marching Orders is a look at some of the handrails that could help you plan for the coming year. Historically, the health of the Microsoft channel has tracked a few macro indicators, primarily sales of PCs, servers and storage. Mobility and cloud have become critical more recently. Last month, market researchers at IDC released Q3 2015 results, projections for the full year and some expectations for 2016. It's a very mixed bag.

  • PCs: Following a dismal year, which saw PC shipment volumes drop a projected 10.3 percent, IDC is looking for the bleeding to slow in 2016. IDC still expects a soft market in the first half of the year, with a tailwind of commercial replacements and Windows 10 business upgrades in the second half. Still, the net effect is for a slight drop in shipments for 2016 from already low levels. A bright spot that the Framingham, Mass.-based analyst house sees is in detachable systems, such as the Microsoft Surface and its clones. Counting detachables as part of the PC market might be enough to flip a slight fall in shipments into a slight increase.

  • Servers: Last year was a relatively strong year for server sales. The third quarter (the most recent available) marked the sixth consecutive quarter of year-over-year revenue growth. The biggest boost was earlier in the year with the combination of Windows Server 2003 end of support and Intel Grantley platform refreshes. More opportunities for growth of the modest, single-digit variety exist in early 2016 with the end of support for SQL Server 2005 on April 16. IDC estimates that there are 800,000 servers globally running SQL Server 2005. As you'd expect, most growth is happening in the rack-optimized, blade and density-optimized sectors, with towers on the decline. A lot of those rack-and-blade-style servers are going to the cloud megavendors, rather than to more traditional server customers.

  • Storage: The picture for disk-based storage is similar to that for servers. Overall, the market is growing, but slight declines in enterprise shipments are masked by booming growth in shipments direct to hyperscale datacenters.

  • Smartphones: Looking at smartphones as a proxy for mobility, there's no question that mobility continues to be a huge market force, but the go-go period where vendors rushed to fill every hand with a smartphone appears to have run the most profitable part of its course. IDC expects that when all the data is in, 2015 will prove to be the first year of merely single-digit growth in worldwide smartphone sales, albeit high single digits (9.8 percent). While that's a challenge for carriers and handset manufacturers, it speaks to the ongoing huge opportunities for the channel in enabling mobility, helping manage devices and creating cloud-based applications that help customers get the most business value out of their devices.

As with almost every year since the Great Recession started almost a decade ago, the core technology infrastructure business has problems but seems able to float traditional Microsoft partner infrastructure businesses for another year. The real growth, though, as in most of the last few years, appears to be available only to those partners who can harness the trickier opportunities in cloud and mobility.

More Marching Orders 2016:

Posted by Scott Bekker on January 04, 2016 at 10:46 AM0 comments

What Microsoft Bought and Why in Its Busiest M&A Year Since 2008

Microsoft was busier on the merger-and-acquisition front in 2015 than it has been in any year since 2008.

With two weeks still to go, Microsoft has acquired 14 companies in a calendar year that has seen a ton of M&A activity across the industry.

"It's white-hot," said Mike Harvath, CEO of Revenue Rocket Consulting Group, the Minneapolis-based firm that does a lot of M&A consulting in the channel, of the overall acquisition environment in 2015. Industry deal volume growth is expected to be up by double digits in 2015 with more of the same coming next year. "The bigs like Microsoft are buying around SMAC and the small guys are consolidating," Harvath said, using an abbreviation for social, mobile, analytics and cloud.

Many of the companies that industry giants like Microsoft are snapping up got investments right after the downturn and founders and owners are looking to monetize, Harvath said. "We've got some bubble and frothiness on the low end of the market due to this pressure to transform, and there's a bubble at the top end, primarily led by SMAC."

To be clear, there are different metrics for M&A activity. This year is clearly busy, although some of the years with fewer deals had some blockbusters. Case in point, 2014, when Microsoft completed only 11 acquisitions, but one of them was the $2.5 billion deal for Minecraft developer Mojang.

Source: Microsoft Investor Relations

Looking at the company's purchases in 2015, many fit Microsoft's unique spin on SMAC, with a focus on personal productivity, machine learning-heavy analytics and security-specific cloud acquisitions, while at the same time padding strategic products like Office 365, Dynamics CRM and System Center with acquisitions that complement the existing feature set.

Mobile/Personal Productivity
In CEO Satya Nadella's nearly two years at the helm, Microsoft has de-emphasized Windows as a mobile phone platform and instead focused on making Microsoft software the best personal productivity software no matter the device OS. A big signifier of that trend was Microsoft's decision in late 2014 to buy someone else's smartphone e-mail software (Acompli) and slap the Outlook brand on it. It was a big move for Microsoft to essentially say, "Outlook is one of our most storied products, but someone else made a better version for the iPhone so we'll buy it and make that the new Outlook."

This year saw the continuation of Microsoft snapping up mobile app providers for other traditional Outlook functions, calendaring and task lists. The specific acquisitions in that area where Sunrise, a calendar-app maker for iOS and Android, and 6Wunderkinder, maker of the popular Wunderlist to-do list app.

Another mobile productivity acquisition with implications for Office 365 and Office Graph is Mobile Data Labs, which specialized in mobile apps that simplify and automate mileage, expenses, time tracking and reimbursement for what Microsoft describes as the "self-directed workforce."

Combining mobility, personal productivity, analytics and social is Datazen Software, which Microsoft acquired in April. Datazen made one of the most promising early Windows 8 apps for data visualization and Microsoft plans to plug the technology into its Power BI strategy.

Ed.'s Note: Microsoft also acquired teleconferencing firm Talko on Dec. 22, after this blog was published. Read about that acquisition here.

Another analytics acquisition with a foot in the personal productivity world is organizational analytics specialist VoloMetrix, which Microsoft acquired in September. The company's software is supposed to help Microsoft's customers answer complicated questions like, "How can I improve my e-mails to ensure my communications are impactful?" and "Am I spending my time focused on my priorities?" according to Rajesh Jha, Microsoft corporate vice president for Outlook and Office 365. Microsoft plans to integrate the VoloMetrix technology with Office 365, Office Graph and Delve Organizational Analytics.

At the beginning of 2015, Microsoft bough Equivio, which the companies described as a provider of machine learning technologies for e-discovery and information governance. Microsoft has already productized Equivio in one of its most strategic product lines -- Office 365. At the beginning of this month, Microsoft launched the top-tier Office 365 E5 SKU, which bundles Equivio Analytics for e-discovery as one of several exclusive features along with secure attachments and URLs, access control, Power BI Pro, Delve Analytics, cloud PBX and PSTN conferencing.

Key to machine learning is statistical computing and predictive analytics. Microsoft got back to its programming language roots while also increasing its vertical integration in that strategic area with the acquisition of Revolution Analytics. The company was a commercial provider of software and services for R, a programming language for analytics.

Ed.'s Note: After this blog was published, Microsoft acquired analytics firm Metanautix on Dec. 18. Read about that acquisition here.

While Microsoft has a huge arsenal of cloud technologies, Redmond buffed its capabilities in security and application management in 2015 via acquisitions.

Adallom, one of several Israeli companies Microsoft bought this year, has a cloud access security broker that works as a Security as a Service solution. Microsoft plans to use the Adallom technology to complement Office 365, the Enterprise Mobility Suite and Microsoft Advanced Threat Analytics.

Microsoft also acquired close partner Secure Islands, which built a data protection solution on top of Microsoft's rights management technology. Microsoft expects Secure Islands' technology to enhance the capabilities of the Azure Rights Management Service.

Just as Secure Islands works across on-premises systems, Microsoft cloud services, third-party services and Windows, iOS and Android devices, another acquisition, BlueStripe Software, gives Microsoft a quick step up into a hybrid environment. Microsoft customers were already using BlueStripe to extend System Center with application-aware infrastructure performance monitoring, according to a blog post by Mike Neil, Microsoft general manager for Enterprise Cloud, announcing the acquisition. Microsoft planned to discontinue BlueStripe as a product and integrate it into System Center and the Operations Management Suite.

Dynamics CRM
Improving Dynamics CRM was the focus of three separate acquisitions in the second half of 2015.

Adxstudio Inc. is another longtime partner that became part of Microsoft via acquisition. The company's Adxstudio Web portals are built natively on Dynamics CRM to allow customers to connect and engage with sales and customer services, according to Microsoft Corporate Vice President for Dynamics CRM Bob Stutz, who said the solutions will be available to all Dynamics CRM customers, both on-premise and in the cloud.

Microsoft also picked up FieldOne Systems LLC for its field service management solutions that include work order management, automated scheduling, workflow capabilities and mobile collaboration. Microsoft positions FieldOne as a fit with the functionality Microsoft acquired with Parature in early 2014.

Although the company name doesn't sound like it, the acquisition of Incent Games Inc. was also Dynamics CRM-related. Incent developed FantasySalesTeam, a sales gamification platform that Microsoft is integrating with its CRM product.

Microsoft had one other large acquisition in 2015, but it's on the pure gaming development side of the business. Microsoft bought Havok, the real-time 3-D physics creator, from Intel. Microsoft plans to include Havok in its tools and platform components for developers and to continue to license the development tools to Havok's existing partners.

Microsoft 2015 Acquisitions
Date Company
Nov. 9 Secure Islands
Nov. 5 Mobile Data Labs
Oct. 2 Havok
Sept. 28 Adxstudio Inc.
Sept. 8 Adallom
Sept. 3 VoloMetrix
Aug. 3 Incent Games Inc.
July 16 FieldOne Systems LLC
June 10 BlueStripe
June 2 6Wunderkinder
April 14 Datazen Software
Feb. 11 Sunrise
Jan. 23 Revolution Analytics
Jan. 20 Equivio
Source: Microsoft Investor Relations

Posted by Scott Bekker on December 16, 2015 at 10:04 AM0 comments

Survey: IT Department Dominance of Tech Purchases in Decline

One tech trend we've been hearing a lot about over the last few years is the idea that the IT department's dominance of the technology purchasing process is declining.

Nintex added some data points to the argument Wednesday in releasing results of a survey of about 150 of its 1,500 channel partners. Nintex sells business productivity software and cloud services that work with Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft SharePoint and Salesforce.com, among other platforms.

Among the survey's findings:

  • 40 percent say the buyer in the sales process has changed over the last year.

  • Line-of-business (LOB) leaders are present 37 percent of the time in the sales process for software and technology purchases, with finance and procurement present in nearly a quarter of the deals.

  • The marketing department is playing an increasing role.

  • 26 percent see fractured relationships between IT and other departments.

This infographic summarizes its other data:

[Click on image for larger view.] Source: Nintex

"As organizations continue their digital transformations, channel partners must expand their engagement with customers to focus their effort with LOB leaders and others outside of IT as these stakeholders have a much greater impact and influence on buying decisions than ever before," said Nintex VP of partner strategy and srograms Josh Waldo in a statement. "There is a significant and growing opportunity for the channel to act as the broker between the Sales, Operations, Marketing, and IT departments within their customers' organizations especially as these customers navigate through digital change and work to make their businesses more autonomous rapidly."

Posted by Scott Bekker on December 16, 2015 at 9:01 AM0 comments

Survey: More Microsoft Partners Selling Azure, Fewer Selling Windows

More Microsoft partners are including Azure in solutions they sell to customers while fewer partners are selling the Windows client than they did a year ago, according to a new survey of RCP readers.

The shifts align with Microsoft's changing emphasis from a PC operating system-centric business to a cloud services company.

Azure has been surging as a cloud platform over the last year, running a fast second behind the market leader Amazon Web Services (AWS), according to market researchers. Microsoft has released new Azure services on a near-weekly basis, and also moved to expand the ways partners can offer Azure.

On the other hand, the last year has been an unprecedented trough for desktop Windows as a partner opportunity. An ongoing, historic decline in PC sales, the new free upgrade options to Windows 10 for consumer and low-end business versions, and the usual corporate upgrade delay following a new release appear to be taking a toll on partners' sales of the client OS in their solutions.

To be clear, far more partners are selling Windows than Azure. About 300 partner readers responded to the question, "What Microsoft products do you commonly include in customer solutions?" in RCP's 2014 and 2015 surveys.

Azure climbed 10 percentage points, from 29 percent in 2014 to 39 percent in 2015. The Windows client dropped 8 percentage points, from 64 percent in 2014 to 56 percent in 2015.

The most popular products for Microsoft partners to sell this year were Windows Server (68 percent), the Office suite (65 percent), SQL Server (59 percent), the Windows client and Office 365 (56 percent each).

Included for the first time in the survey was the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) -- a bundle of Azure Active Directory Premium, Intune and Azure Rights Management -- which Microsoft has touted as its next $1 billion product. While it became available as part of Enterprise Agreements in 2014, it wasn't until the second calendar quarter of 2015 that it hit Open Licensing and later in the year the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) subscription model. About 12 percent of survey respondents said they were including EMS in customer solutions.

Posted by Scott Bekker on December 09, 2015 at 9:00 AM0 comments

New Signature's 2015 Acquisition Tear Continues

New Signature, the Microsoft U.S. Partner of the Year for both 2014 and 2015, acquired yet another Microsoft ecosystem player this month in its venture capital-fueled quest to be the premier Microsoft partner in North America.

The acquisition of Atlanta-based Microsoft partner InfraScience this week adds 55 employees, bringing Washington, D.C.-based New Signature to 250 employees.

"Our aspiration is to be the go-to partner for Microsoft across North America," said New Signature CEO Jeff Tench in an interview.

Tench joined the company as CEO in April as part of a $35 million cash infusion from Alexandria, Va.-based Columbia Capital. New Signature quickly took that capital to Toronto for a shopping spree, buying professional services firm CMS Consulting and cloud specialist Infrastructure Guardian in June, then snapping up application developer imason inc. last month.

New Signature had built a strong geographic presence in the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast over its first dozen years. Tench said he and New Signature Founder and President Christopher Hertz immediately started looking to the Southeast as a logical adjacent territory for an acquisition.

"We talked to a lot of folks within the Microsoft ecosystem and every time we had a conversation, folks would mention two or three companies, and every time they talked about InfraScience and how great they were," Tench said.

For his part, InfraScience Co-Founder Jeff Meyer, who is now president, Greater Southeast, for New Signature, knew New Signature by reputation. "InfraScience is a company that's been in business about 12 years, almost exactly the same timeframe as New Signature. We kind of grew up together in the Microsoft ecosystem, and we knew of each other in the last few years, up on stages accepting awards for various different districts and regions," Meyer said. The companies started talking over the summer, closed the deal just before Thanksgiving and announced it Monday.

With additional offices in Charlotte, N.C., Durham, N.C., and Tampa, Fla., InfraScience completes the Eastern Seaboard puzzle for New Signature. "We have a contiguous territory effectively up and down the East Coast, including Eastern Canada," Tench said. He added that the company has employees in over 25 states and several countries and will continue to pursue business opportunities outside that territory when it makes sense.

With their deep focus on the Microsoft stack, both firms have a lot of technological overlap, Hertz said. However, InfraScience brings deeper expertise on identity and access management, said Hertz, adding, "Essentially, identity rules everything when it comes to the cloud."

InfraScience also has a more developed health care practice than New Signature did. "We've been working the health care industry for eight years," Meyer said. "We've acquired a lot of health care clients and specific expertise and some solutions that are unique to the market."

Meanwhile, New Signature has fully developed SharePoint, application development and managed services practices that InfraScience didn't previously offer that can now be extended to the acquired company's customer base.

While New Signature's management remains aggressive, Tench suggested that the torrid pace of acquisitions may tail off a bit in 2016.

"We're carefully considering where we go next. But we've got an awful lot to do within our existing markets and a lot more business to grow there, as well," Tench said. "I would say it will be a bit more balanced probably as we look at 2016 between organic versus inorganic investment."

A Busy 2015 for New Signature
Date Event Company Type HQ
April 22 Gets $35 million investment from Columbia Capital Venture capital Alexandria, Va.
June 1 Acquires CMS Consulting Professional services Toronto
June 1 Acquires Infrastructure Guardian Cloud governance and operations Toronto
Nov. 2 Acquires imason inc. Application development Toronto
Dec. 1 Acquires InfraScience Regional solution provider Atlanta, Ga.

Posted by Scott Bekker on December 02, 2015 at 11:06 AM0 comments

Ingram Micro To Buy Odin Service Automation Platform

Ingram Micro is buying the Odin Service Automation platform from Parallels Holdings Ltd. in a deal announced Wednesday that will shake up the cloud services provider market.

Distribution giant Ingram Micro is one of the most important players in the emerging cloud services provider market, including Microsoft's Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program. In Microsoft's strategic CSP model, Ingram is one of the handful of 2-Tier distributors that serve as intermediaries for cloud service subscriptions between Microsoft and thousands of Microsoft partner resellers in each geographic market.

With Odin, Parallels developed a cloud marketplace technology infrastructure that provides APIs and storefronts to enable the provisioning, billing and managing of hundreds of cloud products by individual distributors, telcos and cloud services providers. In Microsoft's CSP ecosystem, Odin, AppDirect and Ensim Corp. had emerged to fill this technology niche.

The move toward vertical integration by Ingram Micro raises the stakes for other distributors, such as other U.S. Microsoft CSP 2-Tier distributors AppRiver, Intermedia, SherWeb, Synnex Corp. and Tech Data.

Ingram Micro expects to retain about 500 Odin employees when the deal closes later this month, assuming it meets closing conditions. Ingram Micro plans to keep using the Odin brand and to run the business as its own division led by executive vice president Nimesh Dave.

With the Odin business sold, Parallels will restructure itself as three business units owned by Parallels Holdings Ltd -- Parallels, Plesk and Virtuozzo. Parallels will be the name for the cross-platform solutions business unit, Plesk is the business unit for Parallel's Web management solutions for small businesses and hosters, and Virtuozzo will be the name for the unit for the container virtualization technology.

Posted by Scott Bekker on December 02, 2015 at 12:36 PM0 comments

Top-Tier Office 365 Subscription Pricing Set at $420 per Year

The top-tier SKU of Office 365, which Microsoft executives have estimated will open up tens of billions of dollars in greenfield opportunities, will cost $420 per user per year when it goes on sale Dec. 1.

Microsoft released pricing Monday on Office 365 E5, which replaces E4 as the top suite, with significantly more capability and a price tag nearly 60 percent higher than E4 (see the chart below). The new E5 suite also costs 75 percent more than the Office 365 suite's workhorse enterprise SKU, E3. On a per-user per-month basis, E5 costs $35, E4 is $22 and E3 is $20. E4 will continue to be available until the end of Microsoft's fiscal year in June 2016.

[Click on image for larger view.] Source: Microsoft

With the Dec. 1 availability, Microsoft squeaks by on a promise to offer E5 in calendar year 2015. Unveiled at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in July, E5 adds cloud-based calling and conferencing, business analytics and advanced security capabilities to Office 365.

"We think what that does is more than double the available market for Office 365," said John Case, corporate vice president of Office Marketing for Microsoft, in an interview at WPC. "The number that I put on the slide [in a WPC keynote] was a $56 billion addressable market. We think we're less than half that today with services like e-mail and the Office client."

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella also used a $50-billion-plus figure in a call with financial analysts in describing the E5 opportunity a week later.

Case at the time promised E5's pricing would be aggressive relative to individual components. He cited Power BI as a $10 per user per month product, while arguing that Advanced Threat Protection, Lockbox and Web conferencing will compete with products that other vendors charge a lot of money for.

"When you add all that up, we'll be able to give a significant advantage to those that buy from one vendor for something like E5," Case said in the interview.

Exclusive to E5 among the Office 365 subscriptions are Equivio Analytics for eDiscovery, secure attachments and URLs, access control, Power BI Pro, Delve Analytics, and, via Skype for Business, both Cloud PBX and PSTN Conferencing.

A new feature set that E5 and E3 now share is archiving, rights management, data loss prevention and encryption. Meanwhile, E1, E3 and E5 all now have several new social and collaborative features, including Skype Meeting Broadcast, which allows virtual meetings via browsers and devices for up to 10,000 attendees.

Microsoft is also now offering PSTN calling as an enterprise plan add-on for $12 per user per month for domestic-only calling plans or $24 per user per month for domestic plus international calling.

Posted by Scott Bekker on November 30, 2015 at 1:53 PM0 comments

Gartner: Windows 10 Migration on Track To Be Fastest Yet

All that consumer activity around free upgrades will prime the pump for Windows 10 to become the most widely installed version of Windows ever, according to analysts at Gartner.

"In the consumer market, a free upgrade coupled with broad legacy device support and automatic over-the-air upgrades ensures that there will be tens of millions of users familiar with the operating system (OS) before the end of 2015," said Steve Kleynhans, research vice president at Gartner, in a statement Monday. "For enterprises, we expect that implementation will be significantly more rapid than that seen with Windows 7 six years ago."

Gartner's current prediction is that many enterprises will begin pilots in the first half of 2016 and half of enterprises will start their Windows 10 deployments by January 2017, with a goal of completing migrations in 2019, just ahead of the January 2020 end of extended support for Windows 7.

In a separate endpoint prediction, Gartner said touch will become much more price-competitive in the second half of 2016, and touchscreens will ship on a third of all notebooks by 2018.

Platform tracker StatCounter's Global Stats in September reported that in its first full month on the market Windows 10 had jumped out to a much faster start than Windows 8 had and a slightly faster start than Windows 7 had.

Windows 10 Windows 8 Windows 7
Worldwide 4.88% 1% 4.05%
United States 5.64% 1.16% 4.3%
United Kingdom 8.45% 1.17% 4.34%

Internet usage share for first calendar month since launch. (Source: StatCounter)

Posted by Scott Bekker on November 23, 2015 at 10:49 AM0 comments