Survey Documents MSP Struggles with COVID-19

A major new survey of managed service providers (MSPs) finds that revenues are down, customers are struggling to pay their bills and interest in mergers and acquisitions is flagging in the midst of COVID-19's twin health and economic crises.

IT Glue, an IT documentation provider for IT professionals and MSPs, released results of the survey on Monday. Originally fielded in February with 1,500 participants, IT Glue conducted a follow-up survey in May to gauge sentiment after the effects of the pandemic had begun to hit the United States, which is home to about three-quarters of the respondents. That follow-up survey had about 500 respondents. More

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 15, 2020 at 11:43 AM0 comments


Under Pressure, Microsoft Steps Further From Facial Recognition for Police

Microsoft President Brad Smith said Thursday that the artificial intelligence platform powerhouse won't be selling facial recognition technology to U.S. police departments until there is a national law in place that is "grounded in human rights."

Smith's statement comes after IBM and Amazon both took similar positions in the wake of worldwide protests against police brutality and racism in policing sparked by the death of George Floyd. Those moves by Microsoft's AI peers led critics to call on Microsoft this week to take public steps, as well. More

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 11, 2020 at 5:03 PM0 comments


Vectra AI Offers a Security Assist to Microsoft Defender ATP and Azure Sentinel

Vectra AI, a surging security company applying artificial intelligence to network-based intrusion detection, on Tuesday unveiled strategic integrations with Microsoft's core security technologies.

The eight-year-old, San Jose, Calif.-based Vectra attracted $100 million in a Series E funding round last June in part due to growing interest in its approach to network threat detection and response (NDR).

Vectra's Cognito platform uses artificial intelligence to help identify attacks coming over the network and over the cloud and deploys easy-to-understand scoring and charting to help professionals in a security operations center (SOC) prioritize the most critical threats and respond to them quickly or automatically based on user-defined rules.

The company is going to market through partnerships with major security players, emphasizing a Gartner-published concept known as the "SOC visibility triad." In Vectra's implementation, the triad consists of the company's own NDR tool for network and cloud visibility, combined and integrated with other vendors' endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools and with partners' security information and event management (SIEM) tools.

In theory, the triad would cast a wider, more comprehensive net for potential attacks while dramatically reducing the signal-to-noise problem with security alerts. Current Vectra partners for other legs of the triad include CrowdStrike, Carbon Black, Cybereason, SentinelOne, ArcSight, IBM, Chronicle and Splunk.

The news on Tuesday is not Vectra's first foray into Microsoft technologies. In February, Vectra launched Cognito Detect for Office 365, which used detection models focused on credentials and privilege in SaaS applications to stop attacks.

But the Tuesday announcement involves working with Microsoft to bring the SOC visibility triad effort to the Microsoft stack. In triad terms, Vectra is the NDR piece, and as of Tuesday, it is integrated with Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) for the EDR piece and with Azure Sentinel for the SIEM piece.

The Defender ATP integrations with Vectra combine the cloud/datacenter detections with Microsoft's process-level context from the endpoint, and allow for the isolation or disabling of compromised systems. On the Sentinel side, Vectra created custom workbooks in Azure Sentinel that bring elements of their dashboard into Microsoft's cloud SIEM product.

By working with those two strategic components of the Microsoft security mix, Vectra also on Tuesday joined the Microsoft Intelligent Security Association (MISA), a group of more than 80 members with deep programmatic hooks into a dozen Microsoft security technologies or products. In addition to Defender ATP and Azure Sentinel, the MISA-related technologies include Azure Active Directory, Azure Information Protection, Microsoft Endpoint Manager, Microsoft Graph Security API, Microsoft Cloud App Security, Azure Security Center, Azure Security Center for IoT Security, DMARC reporting for Microsoft 365, Windows antimalware platform and Azure DDOS Protection.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 09, 2020 at 12:07 PM0 comments


Could the Economic Crisis Accelerate 5G Adoption?

Recent technology spending (and economic forecasts in general) for 2020 have been bleak.

But couched in IDC's latest forecast for smartphone spending is an interesting side effect, the current pandemic-induced economic crisis could mean 5G technology arrives faster than previous forecast models indicated. More

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 03, 2020 at 9:21 AM0 comments


Study: Hourly Cost of Application Downtime Nearly $68K

A new study puts the hourly cost of downtime for high-priority applications at $67,651 per hour.

The survey of 1,550 business leaders and IT decision makers in 22 countries was conducted earlier this year on behalf of data management specialist Veeam Software.

One question asked respondents to estimate their downtime costs per hour for high-priority applications and for normal applications. The cost for normal applications came to $61,642. Although in our all-data-all-the-time world, the amount of applications that respondents rated as high-priority was a whopping 51 percent.

Alongside those costs, the survey also tried to nail down the prevalence of data outages and reached some high numbers on that front as well. Nearly all organizations (95 percent) reported unexpected downtime, with one server in 10 having at least one outage per year.

When it comes to time, the average outage is 117 minutes, just a few minutes short of two hours.

As a company specializing in cloud-focused and virtualization-centric methods for backing up data and moving around workloads on the fly, Veeam posed a number of questions about where organizations were in their journey to having their business continuity infrastructure modernized.

For the purpose of the survey, Veeam defined legacy as tools designed to back up on-premises file shares and applications. The survey found that 40 percent of organizations were relying on legacy systems to protect their data.

Asked to pick defining aspects of a modern data management solution, respondents put Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) first. DRaaS was followed in descending order by the ability to move workloads from on-premises to cloud, the ability to move workloads from one cloud to another and the ability to automate recovery workflows/orchestration.

Lack of staff and lack of budget each counted as inhibitors to new initiatives for about 40 percent of respondents.

As for the factors that would drive organizations to change their primary backup solution, respondents most often cited the ability to improve the reliability of backups (39 percent) and reduced software or hardware costs (38 percent).

About two in five respondents reported that they planned to leverage cloud-based backup managed by a backup-as-a-service provider within the next two years.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 02, 2020 at 8:52 AM0 comments


Microsoft Contest To Pit Security Machine Learning Models Against Each Other

It's time to let the security machine learning (ML) models punch it out.

Microsoft on Monday unveiled an ML contest to run later this summer that will pit security defenders against attackers. With the "Machine Learning Security Evasion Competition," Microsoft is hoping to engage both ML researchers and security professionals to develop cutting edge machine learning models related to security.

The idea builds on a contest held last summer at DEF CON 27, where contestants attacked a white box containing static malware ML models.

For its part, Microsoft, along with partners CUJO AI, VMRay and MRG Effitas, will run a two-stage contest with ML playing a part in each stage. First comes a Defender Challenge running from June 15 through July 23. Participants must provide novel countermeasures that will be judged based on their ability to detect real-world malware without triggering too many false positives.

A few weeks later is an Attacker Challenge. Unlike the DEF CON competition, the Attacker Challenge will be a black-box model. Attackers will have API access to hosted antimalware models, including models developed in the Defender Challenge. That part of the competition will go from Aug. 6 to Sept. 18.

Winners of each challenge will get $2,500 in Azure credits with a runner up earning $500 in Azure credits.

By combining defense and attack and bringing together different groups of experts, Microsoft hopes to improve the maturity of machine learning in security and make security professionals more aware of the potential, and threat, of machine learning.

"One desired outcome of this competition is to encourage ML researchers who have experience in evading image recognition systems, for example, to be introduced to a threat model common to information security," Hyrum Anderson, principal architect for Enterprise Protection and Detection wrote in an entry on the Microsoft Security Research Center blog. "Concurrently, security practitioners can gain deeper insights into what it means to secure ML systems in the context of a domain they are already know."

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 01, 2020 at 3:49 PM0 comments


Microsoft Teams: In a Sign of Maturity, Another Vendor Joins the Migration Party

Successful Microsoft products tend to follow a certain path. There's the splashy introduction, followed by a rapid adoption gold rush, where Microsoft and its partners work flat out to enable deployments at unparalleled scale.

In the middle stages of that gold rush, even as most of the focus is on onboarding new seats, second-order problems start to emerge. One of the biggest of those second-order problems is that some early adopter customers need to migrate their deployment for various reasons, such as mergers and acquisition.

That's where we are with Microsoft Teams -- Microsoft's three-year-old collaboration platform. With a huge assist from the global shift with coronavirus to working from home, Teams daily active users (DAU) has soared to 75 million, as of April, and Microsoft claimed more than 200 million meeting participants in a single day in April.

ShareGate, a Montreal-based company with a decade of experience in SharePoint migrations and other Microsoft cloud tools, jumped into the mix this week.

Benjamin Niaulin, who runs strategy and roadmap for all ShareGate products as head of product, this week announced the addition of a Microsoft Teams migration feature to ShareGate Desktop in the 13.0 version of the company's migration tool.

The tool allows organizations to migrate teams to a new tenant in a process that includes retaining conversation history, channels, team settings and files.

The problem was getting significant attention from vendors well before the current remote work surge.

In May 2018, Teams was about a year old and many companies were uncertain where the tool would fit with Microsoft's many collaboration technologies, including SharePoint, Yammer and Office 365 Groups. AvePoint Inc. took the new tool seriously enough to add support for migrating Teams from one tenant to another in its FLY tool for cloud and SharePoint migrations.

In July 2019, as Teams was getting some traction with around 13 million DAU, BitTitan introduced Teams migration capabilities by folding the functionality into its MigrationWiz product for broader Office 365 migrations.

As demand for Teams was building last November, a time when Microsoft claimed about 20 million DAU, Quest Software was also addressing the issue of Teams migrations. The company updated its Quest On Demand Migration tool that added Microsoft Teams migration support to tenant migration support for Exchange, OneDrive and SharePoint.

Following the usual Microsoft product rollout playbook, there is plenty that Microsoft still needs to do to make migration a more seamless transition, even with third-party tools and community-created PowerShell scripts. In a November post, Mike Campbell, a senior solutions architect with Perficient, discussed some of the common gaps in the Teams migration experience, mostly due to underlying limitations in Microsoft's APIs.

"Teams provides the integration glue that holds together so much collaborative goodness, but the result is a complex Teams Tenant migration story," Campbell wrote. "The nature of Teams integrations and extension means that there are likely to be gaps in the migration experience for the foreseeable future, especially for extensively used Teams that take advantage of a full range of Teams capabilities. That's understandable, but we should also collectively encourage Microsoft to provide better tenant portability for the core Teams workloads."

(Editor's Note: This article was updated on June 3 to include AvePoint Inc.'s support for Teams migrations.)

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 29, 2020 at 6:36 PM0 comments


Microsoft Gives Azure Lighthouse MSP Tool Some Attention

Azure Lighthouse, Microsoft's most ambitious managed service provider tooling effort in years, is now sporting important new features and integrations with Microsoft's main partner portal.

Microsoft released Azure Lighthouse last July during the Microsoft Inspire partner conference. It represents a way for MSPs to manage Microsoft Azure tenants for many customers using technology that provides visibility and control to both the partner and the customer. Azure Lighthouse is free for partners to use on top of their existing Azure subscriptions. More

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 27, 2020 at 8:58 PM0 comments


Microsoft Build: 10 Interesting Technologies Hitting GA

The Microsoft Build conference was virtual this year, but many of the product and platform revelations coming out of the show were concrete.

Let's look at 10 interesting technologies that hit general availability (or at least got GA timeframes) at the developer-centric event that kicked off on Tuesday. More

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 19, 2020 at 3:30 PM0 comments


Phil Sorgen Heads to RingCentral

Longtime senior Microsoft partner and sales executive Phil Sorgen has moved to RingCentral Inc.

Sorgen took on the role of Chief Revenue Officer at Belmont, Calif.-based RingCentral earlier this month. More

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 13, 2020 at 8:06 AM0 comments


Microsoft Releases New Badges for Teams Partners

Microsoft on Wednesday launched two new advanced specializations that allow partners to highlight their capabilities around remote work with Microsoft Teams and related teamwork platforms.

A specialization focused on using the Office 365 platform for distributed collaborative work is called Teamwork Deployment. The other specialization, Calling for Microsoft Teams, is for partners who can deploy and support voice calling capabilities within Teams. More

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 06, 2020 at 1:27 PM0 comments


Virtual Microsoft Inspire To Last 2 Days; Registration Opens in June

Microsoft's annual partner conference, Microsoft Inspire, will be packed into two online-only days this July with registration opening next month.

Microsoft Channel Chief Gavriella Schuster provided a video and blog update on Friday about Inspire, which Microsoft had already announced in late March would be changed to a virtual event due to COVID-19. More

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 01, 2020 at 11:14 AM0 comments