Start-Up Exoprise Assesses Cloud Readiness

Start-up Exoprise Systems has come out of stealth mode. Its first product is aimed at helping customers determine whether they should move off Microsoft Exchange to a cloud-based alternative.

CloudReady Insight is a Software as a Service (SaaS) offering that monitors an Exchange implementation with the aim of determining whether an organization should remain with the premises-based version or move to an alternative, such as Google Apps for Business or a hosted version of Exchange.

"It's a platform for understanding everything that you have about your on-premise infrastructure, total cost of ownership, end user readiness [and] reliability, and in all of those areas we help you compare what you have from your existing infrastructure to what's available in the cloud," said Exoprise founder and CEO Jason Lieblich.

The service actually points to a customer's existing Active Directory and Exchange servers and analyzes all of the asset information it can collect. It also goes through all the mailboxes. "We help segment your user base and try to show you whether or not you should stay on Microsoft's stuff or if you could adopt alternative solutions," he said.

The service also determines whether an organization has a large number of power users, a finding that might sway a recommendation toward sticking with a premises-based version of Exchange, Lieblich said.

There is a free version that provides "simple breakdowns" and a paid version that offers more detailed reports, starting at $10 per user in an organization. Over the next few weeks, the company will release a product that lets customers orchestrate and automate deployments of cloud services, and at the end of April it will offer a monitoring tool.

The Waltham, Mass.-based company was launched two years ago by Lieblich, who previously serviced as CTO of virtualization at Citrix Systems. The company is small; it only has five employees, though Lieblich said he expects to have 10 later this year.

Exoprise has $1 million in funding from Fairhaven Capital and a number of angel investors.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on April 06, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


NYSE Plans To Roll Out Cloud

The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) plans to roll out a community cloud that will let its member firms acquire compute, storage and network capacity as well as Software as a Service.

Scheduled for an official launch in the coming months, under construction is a private cloud that would make it easier for firms to acquire capacity without having to incur capital expenditures, said Stanley Young, CEO of NYSE Technologies, which provides IT services for NYSE Euronext, the parent company of NYSE.

Speaking Monday at the High Performance Computing Linux Financial Markets Show and Conference in New York, Young emphasized NYSE is not building a public cloud. "There is still a lot of distrust with public clouds even though one could argue they are highly secure," Young said.  "A lot of compliance officers don't like that concept. But they like the concept of a community cloud, which is run by a brand like the NYSE."

Also presenting was Feargal O'Sullivan, NYSE Technologies' VP of platform development, who explained that one of the key goals was to provide member firms with rapid provisioning of service.

"Just call us up, tell us you want X amount of computing power. We will set it aside and then we will provide you with the interface to turn it on," O'Sullivan said. "So if a new user wants to get up and running with a strategy, forget about getting cabinets, forget about ordering servers...just log on to the Web site and sign up for X amount of storage, X amount of memory [and] X amount of CPU."

Asked about pricing, O'Sullivan said NYSE Technologies will start with a fixed resource pool with a monthly fee, "but we are looking to get to the point where we can make it more elastic."

Yet to be revealed are the vendors providing the infrastructure for the NYSE's cloud. "We're working very hard with some of the industry-leading players to make sure we have a very solid platform that really hits the ground running," he said in a brief interview following his presentation. "We are going to be making quite a big splash."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on April 06, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


MSPAlliance Releases New Audit Standards

The MSPAlliance has instituted a new certification standard for cloud and managed service providers that aims to provide more transparency to customers.

The MSPA's Unified Certification Standard, or UCS, provides an auditing framework by which MSPs and cloud providers can offer more public-facing information about how their operations are run and safeguarded.

"It will encourage MSPs to be more transparent with how they do things, especially the cloud providers," said Charles Weaver, president and co-founder of the MSPA, in an interview.

"Cloud providers need to have more openness in who has access to data, where do the datacenters reside, where is the helpdesk," he said. "Just basic things like that. They're historically not open with that information unless they are asked. Now they can do it in a much safer way."

The MSPA has arranged for the accounting and auditing firm of Frost PLLC to perform audits for members based on the UCS standard. The audits will gather information on various control objectives such as how duties are segregated by the service provider to ensure there are checks and balances, how data is encrypted and where data is stored.

UCS mimics a SAS 70 report, Weaver said. Level 1 UCS audits are based on information gathered during a fixed certification period by which a provider shares what controls are in place. Level 2 tests those controls over a period of time and are forward-looking, Weaver explained.

"So there will be a greater level of assurance to the end user in a Level 2 [audit] because that's basically saying, 'Not only were controls in place as of this date but they carried forth over a period of time and we examined and tested them over a period of time,'" he said.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on March 30, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


Microsoft Survey Finds Cloud Usage by SMBs Will Rise

Small and medium businesses are strong candidates to extend their use of cloud computing services over the next three years, according to a study released last week by Microsoft.

Based on a survey conducted by Edge Strategies for Microsoft of 3,258 companies employing 250 or fewer people, 39 percent of SMBs plan to use paid cloud services, up from 29 percent today, suggesting a 34 percent increase.

"What that's telling us is SMBs are starting to understand the value proposition of what it means to have certain workloads hosted or offered through a remote solution versus having it on their premise," said Monish Sood, marketing manager for Microsoft's communications sector.

The larger the company, the more likely they are to use paid cloud services. Fifty-six percent of those with 51 to 250 employees said they will use paid cloud services, while 81 percent will use any type of cloud services (paid or free). By comparison, 37 percent of small companies with two to 10 employees will be using paid cloud services in three years.

Among the most widely used hosted services are accounting and payroll, e-mail and collaboration. Currently, 14 percent of those surveyed said they use a hosted accounting and payroll service. That figure will increase to 20 percent in three years. Hosted e-mail accounted for 10 percent of current users, a figure that will jump to 14 percent in three years, and collaboration will escalate from 8 percent today to 17 percent.

Other services that are expected to show significant gains: data archiving and compliance services, which will grow from 5 percent to 13 percent; traditional file data storage and backup, set to grow from 8 percent to 15 percent; CRM, rising from 7 percent to 14 percent; Web conferencing, increasing from 7 percent to 13 percent; and file sharing, growing from 5 percent to 11 percent.

Despite these gains, traditional IT services will still remain dominant in three years, according to 52 percent of those surveyed, while 30 percent will use free services, and 17 percent will use paid offerings. Only 33 percent will only use a traditional e-mail client, compared with 26 percent who will use a browser, and 40 percent using multiple methods to access messages.

The primary reason SMBs are attracted to cloud services is that software will be up to date, according to 77 percent responding, with 71 percent saying access from any device anywhere is the second-most appealing reason. Cost came in third, with 63 percent saying the ability to save money is a key factor, and 49 percent said that cloud offerings provides access to services they couldn't get in-house.

Those that are not leaning toward using cloud services appear happy with the infrastructures they now have. Fifty-seven percent said they believe they have more control over the data if it's in-house, 56 percent responded that their existing infrastructures are sufficient for the next several years, 53 percent declared not knowing enough about cloud services and 30 percent said the cloud is too risky, more costly and not secure.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on March 30, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


Salesforce Extends Social Media Push with Radian6 Buy

Salesforce.com has agreed to acquire Raidian6, which provides a service that monitors multiple social networking sites, for $326 million in cash and stock.

The deal furthers Salesforce.com's push into bringing social media tools to its enterprise customers. Salesforce.com already has its own social media service dubbed Chatter, which provides a Facebook-like environment for enterprise employees.

The Radian6 Engagement Console discovers what's being said about companies. It functions as a sophisticated search engine and is intended for companies that want to manage their reputations, enabling them to react to complaints on scores of social media services, blogs, discussion forums and media such as YouTube.  

"With Radian6, Salesforce.com is gaining the technology and market leader in social media monitoring," said Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com's chairman and CEO, in a statement. "We see this as a huge opportunity. Not only will this acquisition accelerate our growth, it will extend the value of all of our offerings."

Radian6 counts among its customers Dell, General Electric, Kodak, Molson Coors, PepsiCo and United Parcel Service.

Forrester analyst Zach Hofer-Shall described the deal in a blog post as the most significant yet for what he described as social media data acquisition. "Salesforce.com can now cover social listening, data analysis, customer profiling and record storage, and social engagement all under one offering," Hofer-Shall noted.

"The move also furthers Salesforce's commitment to social media. Through its engagement console, Radian6 helped popularize the concept of social customer support -- an area that Salesforce will happily improve through this acquisition," he added.

That Salesforce.com is acquiring Radian6 is not a huge surprise. Just earlier this month, the two companies entered into a partnership, announced at the CloudForce conference in New York, in which the Radian6 Engagement Console would be offered as an option to Salesfore.com's new Service Cloud 3.

The Radian6 Engagement Console is available to agencies (such as public relations and advertising) for $600 per user per month, or to corporations starting at $1,750 per month for five users.

Salesforce.com said it intends to create a bridge between Chatter and Radian6 that will enable organizations to discern what their customers are saying about them, presumably from the Chatter interface.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on March 30, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


Microsoft Talks Up Private Clouds at MMS

With the release of its System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 (SCVMM 2012), Microsoft is aiming to help its customers move from creating virtualized infrastructures to building and managing private clouds. Set for release later this year, Microsoft issued a beta of SCVMM at the Microsoft Management Summit, taking place this week in Las Vegas.

Explaining how SCVMM will enable private clouds, Brad Anderson, corporate VP of Microsoft's management and security division, said in a blog post Tuesday:

"Our management offerings are designed to help IT organizations build private cloud solutions that deliver application services, not just virtual machines. With our approach, the applications drive the IT infrastructure, not the other way around. The management technologies at the center give both IT managers and application managers throughout the company a unified view into applications in private, public and hybrid cloud scenarios. With a Microsoft private cloud, customers can use the infrastructure they know and own today to build and deliver private cloud computing as a managed service, including other vendors' tools, platforms and virtualization technologies."

Microsoft describes SCVMM as a core component of private cloud solutions, where IT can create common infrastructure and application services. Private clouds, according to Microsoft, are resources dedicated to an organization whether they are on or off premises. That's not unlike how others describe private clouds. Like public cloud offerings, Microsoft says that private clouds offer self-service, scalability and elasticity, while providing added control and customization from dedicated resources.

The combination of Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 Hyper-V and System Center will provide the basis of building and managing dedicated cloud environments providing Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

In addition to offering what it calls Hyper-V Cloud deployment guides and access to service providers, Microsoft said it is also offering IaaS assessment services through its partners and Microsoft Services.

On top of SCVMM 2012, Microsoft has unveiled some key enabling technologies, including System Center Project, code-named "Concero." System Center Project is the successor to the Microsoft SCVMM Self-Service Portal that will allow department-level managers to deploy and administer apps on both public and private cloud resources.

Also enabling Microsoft's vision of private clouds, as reported by my colleague Kurt Mackie, is System Center Operations Manager 2012, which now fully integrates Microsoft's AVIcode acquisition, helping pinpoint flaws in applications built on Microsoft .NET and J2EE platforms. System Center Service Manager 2012 enables self-service requests from business managers to request cloud resources. And finally, System Center Data Protection Manager 2012 adds "enterprise-class" centralized backup and protection, de-duplication support and SharePoint integration functionality.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on March 24, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


Unisys Rolls Out New Hybrid Cloud Services Framework

Unisys wants customers to start thinking about their cloud deployments more holistically. The company has rolled out a new framework by which it delivers its cloud services as an integrated part of the entire IT portfolio.

The goal is to keep various cloud efforts from falling into their own silos. In support of that model, Unisys is launching what it calls its CloudBuild Services, aimed at helping IT design, plan and implement cloud services within a complete enterprise environment.

"On-premise infrastructure is going to be maintained for a long period of time. It's not going away, and the concept of how you integrate the cloud and these new models is still one that I don't think all of us cloud people have addressed very well so far," said John Treadway, Unisys' director of cloud solutions and services.

Treadway added that "this is the year of the private cloud" and explained that CIOs should be thinking about the "hybrid enterprise" rather than hybrid clouds. CloudBuild Services are built around a consistent approach to all datacenter types, including internal systems, internal private cloud, hosted private clouds, public clouds and outsourced datacenters.

In Unisys' model, there are three components of the hybrid enterprise: applications, datacenters and management. For apps, that means coming up with a framework that builds flexibility to build and transform software with the option of deploying them to any of the five aforementioned datacenter types. Likewise, it calls for consistent methodologies for different datacenters and, on the management side, a common management environment with controls to manage compliance, risk, governance and costs.

"Unisys cited the need to implement organizational change management to address the people and business process issues that arise with cloud," noted IDC analyst Gard Little in an e-mail. "Other providers may be delivering organizational change management services as well, but Unisys is the only vendor pointing that out to us right now."

The new CloudBuild Services portfolio has three core deliverables: Accelerator, which includes developing a roadmap and discovery report (a process that takes about a week); Plan and Design based on a "concept of operations," which can take anywhere from eight to 12 weeks (sometimes a bit less and other times longer); and Implementation, which includes the integration of infrastructure, automation, service catalog development, operational transformation, datacenter consolidation, service-desk integration, and training and transitional services.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on March 23, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


SAP CRM Tied to Verizon Cloud

SAP AG has moved to make its CRM applications available to workers using Verizon Communications' Computing as a Service (CaaS) cloud offering.

With the move, announced last week, SAP customers can use SAP CRM from their computers or mobile devices through Verizon's cloud-based managed service offering.

That was made available thanks to the release of SAP's Rapid Deployment Solution (RDS), which the company said includes templates that allow for the deployment of SAP CRM-type apps in the cloud in an eight-to-12-week time frame.

"It significantly reduces implementation platform for a CRM deployment," said Kevin Flynn, SAP's senior director for business development. The release of RDS for CaaS is the latest move in a relationship between Verizon and SAP inked last year.

Verizon will provide the services to customize and implement the SAP CRM apps in a browser-based interface: The user ultimately is given a URL to launch and run the CRM app, explained Jeremy Webb, a cloud principal at Verizon.

"We have preconfigured architectures already designed that we can quickly deploy in our Computing as a Service environment and we've built an implementation methodology around this where we're going to be sending a resource out to the customer site," Webb said.

Typically, the Verizon team will work onsite during a six-to-10-week implementation period. "We will work with the customer. We'll gather requirements and we work with them for the overall implementation of the service," Webb said.

Despite some of the preconfigured architectures, Webb said the engagements do involve customization. "This is a fairly robust CRM solution, so there is still a level of customization to the customer's business needs," Webb said. "We sit down with them, they can have a set level of customizations that they can make as part of the overall scope of the service, and that's why the implementation period is so long."

SAP's CRM offering is the first of a number of apps from the company that Verizon will offer over time, Webb said. As for other partners, Webb would only say Verizon is on the lookout for other opportunities. SAP CRM is Verizon's first fully managed cloud offering.

Back in November, SAP made its mobile apps available with Verizon's Managed Mobility Platform. Through that pact, companies can integrate their SAP CRM apps with Verizon Managed Mobility, which hosts SAP's Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP). In this instance, SUP provides an interface between SAP's CRM suite and multiple mobile device types.

Verizon is also the first certified global partner for SAP cloud services but SAP's Flynn said there are other partners as well. Also certified to offer RDS in the cloud is IBM. Meanwhile, SAP is working with 20 certified cloud service providers to date.

"As you would expect, most of our customers run their applications on premise," Flynn said. "SAP sees systems running on the cloud. We're in the early stages of that market."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on March 23, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


Google Lets Enterprises Schedule Updates

Over the past year, Google has added more than 100 new features to its Google Apps Web-based suite of applications. Of course, because they are Web apps, new features are available to users in real-time -- or after they refresh their browsers.

For many enterprises, though, such changes are not always welcome. Recognizing that, Google is now offering two new ways for customers to take advantage of upgrades: scheduled release and rapid release.

"Customers on the Scheduled Release track gain access to new features on a regular, weekly release schedule following the initial release of those features," said Anna Mongayt, Google's manager of online sales and operations, in a blog post. "This delay allows time for administrators to familiarize themselves with new features using a test domain, educate support staff and communicate any changes to their users. New features will be released on the Scheduled Release track each Tuesday, with at least a one-week notice following the initial feature launch."

This will affect updates to Gmail, Contacts, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Sites effective immediately. Organizations that previously had "pre-release features" enabled in the Google Apps control panel will automatically be assigned to the Rapid Release track. If not, your shop will be assigned to the Scheduled Release track, she noted.

In conjunction with this new plan, Google has created a site that will allow users to determine what upgrades are coming and when. The site is now available. 

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on March 16, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


Can HP Reach the Cloud?

Many have criticized Hewlett-Packard for being late to the cloud. Looking to undo that perception, CEO Leo Apotheker took his best stab at swaying critics, revealing that HP intends to be a major player in the cloud.

Apotheker made his cloud push at the company's annual analyst meeting, dubbed HP Summit 2011, making his first public statements since he became CEO in November.

"We intend to be the platform for cloud and connectivity," Apotheker told analysts. "The opportunities in the cloud are extraordinary and we are positioned to lead with our portfolio and to lead with our customers who need a trusted partner to help navigate the journey ahead."

THINKstrategies analyst Jeff Kaplan points out that while HP has been moving in this direction for some time and boasts a loyal following by SMB and enterprise customers as well as its strong partner network, it faces a bumpy road ahead.

"HP is also burdened with legacy products, both hardware and software, as well as cumbersome business processes," Kaplan wrote in a blog post. "Many of its systems are too expensive. Nearly all of its software is too complex. And, too many of its business processes are too disjointed. So, attacking all of these market opportunities simultaneously in a cost-effective and profitable fashion isn't going to be easy."

Derrek Harris of GigaOM put it even more bluntly: "It's not that HP doesn't have a cloud business, it's just that the business is somewhat less than compelling," Harris wrote. "Essentially, HP has some cloud hardware and management software, as well as some hosted cloud services. It's very reminiscent of IBM's arguably lackluster cloud portfolio, and just seems like an infrastructure vendor tweaking its existing products to suit a cloud-hungry customer base without having any cloud in its DNA."

Pund-IT analyst Charles King echoes those concerns. In a research note, he questioned how HP can differentiate itself against its competitors, notably IBM and Oracle, considering much of it is in line with what they are doing. HP also is reliant on its partner base, much of which could be "irked" by HP's decision to create its own cloud offerings through its services business.

Service providers are a big business for HP and Dell has promised not to compete with its service providers, King noted. "So if you were a threatened SP, which vendor would you choose?" King asked.

Overall, though, King said HP's cloud vision is practical. "It takes good advantage of existing HP solutions and services, and stretches them a bit (but not too much) to pursue emerging market opportunities," he wrote. "As a result, they should satisfy existing HP customers and provide the company a stable position for pursuing new clients and business."

What's your take on HP's cloud strategy? Drop me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on March 16, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


Amazon Eases Virtual Private Cloud Access

Amazon Web Services (AWS) this week has begun enabling customers to target its Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) service directly via the Internet.

Until now, customers using Amazon's EC2 cloud service could provision a separate section of the Amazon cloud called Amazon VPC via a virtual private network (VPN) connection to an existing customer's datacenter.

Amazon said this should be a welcome development for those who don't want to use VPN connections to link their datacenters to a VPC.

"While I would hate to be innocently accused of hyperbole, I do think that today's release legitimately qualifies as massive, one that may very well change the way that you think about EC2 and how it can be put to use in your environment," said AWS Evangelist Jeff Barr in a blog post.

"You can now create a network topology in the AWS cloud that closely resembles the one in your physical data center including public, private and DMZ subnets," he added. "Instead of dealing with cables, routers and switches, you can design and instantiate your network programmatically. You can use the AWS Management Console (including a slick new wizard), the command line tools, or the APIs. This means that you could store your entire network layout in abstract form, and then realize it on demand."

Amazon said it is not charging extra to deploy a VPC, Barr noted, nor for creating a subnet, network access control lists, security groups, routing tables or VPNs. Nor is there an extra charge for traffic between S3 and EC2 instances in the VPC.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on March 16, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


IT Seeks Cloud Experts

The cloud is having a major impact on how organizations manage their IT organizations, ranging from personnel to vendor management. The latest evidence of that is documented in a study released this week.

According to the report conducted by IDG Research Services and funded by CA Technologies, 60 percent of those surveyed said demand for personnel with cloud computing expertise has risen over the past five years, while 63 percent anticipate demand will continue to grow over the next two years.

Experience in managing service providers is the skill most likely to increase in importance over the next two years, 66 percent said. And 72 percent said their enterprises are spending more time on cloud providers or managing outsourced IT providers now compared with five years ago.

What impact is the cloud having on your organization? Drop me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on March 10, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


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