Avanade Posts Microsoft ERP to Cloud

Fresh off Microsoft's announcement last week that the next version of its Dynamics AX enterprise resource planning (ERP) suite will be available as a hosted cloud service, systems integrator Avanade said it will do the same -- but customers don't have to wait.

Avanade, 80 percent of which is held by IT outsourcing firm Accenture with the remaining stake held by Microsoft, launched Cloud ERP at the annual Convergence conference that took place in Atlanta last week. Cloud ERP will work with the forthcoming version, Dynamics AX 2012, as well as the current release.

"We are seeing demand from our current clients for a cloud-based Software as a Service-type ERP provisioning around Dynamics," said Bernd Weidenmueller, VP of Dynamics AX at Avanade.

The service is available to companies with at least 40 employees but can scale up to the largest of Fortune 500 companies, Weidenmueller said. Avanade performs the customization of customers' applications and uses a third-party hosting company to host the application, Weidenmueller explained.

Genesis Casket Co., an Indianapolis-based startup manufacturer, is Avanade's first reference customer. The company needed an ERP solution and didn't want to develop or run it internally. "They were looking for a provider that can provide an ERP system with the strength of Dynamics AX but run in a Software as a Service delivery model which could scale up with their user growth with pricing attached to that," Weidenmueller said.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 04/19/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


Iron Mountain Exits Public Cloud Storage

Iron Mountain is shutting down its public cloud storage services Virtual File Store and Archive Service Platform, market researcher Gartner reported in a research note last week, making it the third company to make an exit over the past year.

Startup Vaultscape shut down last year, and EMC's Atmos Online also went offline last year, Gartner noted. "To date, public cloud storage IaaS has had a modest level of adoption," according to the research note. "Not incidentally, all three service providers' go-to-market strategies focused purely on cloud storage unaccompanied by any cloud compute services."

In a statement, Iron Mountain confirmed that it is shutting down the two services. "Iron Mountain did recently notify customers of our Virtual File Store and Archive Service Platform that we are retiring these two commodity cloud-storage solutions," the company said.

"This decision only affects those using Virtual File Store, a low-cost cloud storage option for inactive files, and technology partners who use the Archive Service Platform as a general-purpose cloud for storing their customers' data," the statement continued. "As the Gartner report notes, public cloud service offerings like these have seen modest levels of adoption."

While the company stopped taking orders for the services as of April 1, they won't be retired before the first half of 2013. Iron Mountain will transfer Virtual File Store customers to its higher-value File System Archiving (FSA) service next year, a hybrid service that uses policy-based archiving of data both on-site and in the cloud. There is no migration path for Archive Service Platform customers.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 04/13/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


Microsoft Adds New Azure Features

At the MIX 11 conference in Las Vegas this week, Microsoft revealed a number of new features in its Windows Azure service, as well as several new offers to those testing the company's cloud service.

The new features are targeted at developers to help them build apps faster, while accelerating the performance of applications and providing access to those apps via popular identity providers, including Microsoft's Active Directory, Windows Live ID, Google, Yahoo! and Facebook.

Here's how an MSDN blog post describes each of the new services:

  • An update to the Windows Azure SDK that includes a Web Deployment Tool to simplify the migration, management and deployment of IIS Web servers, Web applications and Web sites. This new tool integrates with Visual Studio 2010 and the Web Platform Installer.

  • Updates to the Windows Azure AppFabric Access Control service, which provides a single-sign-on experience to Windows Azure applications by integrating with enterprise directories and Web identities.

  • Release of the Windows Azure AppFabric Caching service in the next 30 days, which will accelerate the performance of Windows Azure and SQL Azure applications.

  • A community technology preview (CTP) of Windows Azure Traffic Manager, a new service that allows Windows Azure customers to more easily balance application performance across multiple geographies.

  • A preview of the Windows Azure Content Delivery Network (CDN) for Internet Information Services (IIS) Smooth Streaming capabilities, which allows developers to upload IIS Smooth Streaming-encoded video to a Windows Azure Storage account and deliver that video to Silverlight, iOS and Android Honeycomb clients.

On the offer side, Microsoft announced the following, as described by the MSDN post:

  • The extension of the expiration date and increases to the amount of free storage, storage transactions and data transfers in the Windows Azure Introductory Special offer. This promotional offer now includes 750 hours of extra-small instances and 25 hours of small instances of the Windows Azure service, 20GB of storage, 50K of storage transactions, and 40GB of data transfers provided each month at no charge until September 30, 2011. More information can be found here.

    • An existing customer who signed up for the original Windows Azure Introductory Special offer will get a free upgrade. An existing customer who signed up for a different offer (other than the Windows Azure Introductory Special) would need to sign up for the updated Windows Azure Introductory Special Offer separately.
  • MSDN Ultimate and Premium subscribers will benefit from increased compute, storage and bandwidth benefits for Windows Azure. More information can be found here.

  • The Cloud Essentials Pack for Microsoft partners now includes 750 hours of extra-small instances and 25 hours of small instances of the Windows Azure service, 20GB of storage and 50GB of data transfers provided each month at no charge. In addition, the Cloud Essentials Pack also contains other Microsoft cloud services including SQL Azure, Windows Azure AppFabric, Microsoft Office 365, Windows Intune and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. More information can be found here.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 04/13/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


Nimbula Releases Director for Hybrid Clouds

A high-profile startup run by key founders of Amazon Web Services EC2 cloud service is shipping its first product.

Nimbula last week officially released Director 1.0, a cloud operating system that enterprise customers and service providers can install on their own servers. The software provides an EC2-like experience, according to the Mountain View, Calif.-based company.

Using policy-based identity management, Director lets customers manage both on- and off-premise cloud services. Running on x86-based server hardware, Director provides the EC2 model offering secure multitenancy, orchestration and metering and monitoring, said Martin Buhr, the company's vice president of sales and business development.

The company came out of stealth mode last June, when it delivered the first private beta of Director, followed by a public beta in December. "The announcement of GA has been a huge catalyst to us," Buhr said. "We were talking to a lot of potential customers and prospects both with enterprises and with service providers who were waiting for us to exit beta."

The company is continuing to encourage customers to test its software. For deployments up to 40 cores, the company is offering Director free of charge. For larger installations, Nimbula is offering annual subscriptions that include support and maintenance.

While there is no shortage of cloud startups, Nimbula has an all-star cast of founders. CEO Chris Pinkham was VP of engineering at Amazon, where he was responsible for the company's worldwide hardware and software infrastructure and shepherded the EC2 project in its early days.

Also, Willem van Biljon, who wrote the business plan for EC2 and managed the original EC2 engineering team, is a Nimbula co-founder and VP of products. And Buhr himself was on the original EC2 sales and business development team.

The company has $20.75 million in funding from Accel Partners and Sequoia Capital.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 04/12/2011 at 1:14 PM0 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 04/06/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


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 04/06/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


HP Launches Cloud Partner Program

Now that it has a cloud strategy that it launched in January, Hewlett-Packard Co. wants its partners to start selling its solutions. The company this week launched the CloudSystem Partner Program, which aims to enable solution providers to build cloud computing expertise.

Kicked off at the HP Americas Partner Conference in Las Vegas, the new CloudSystem Partner program is very much focused on helping partners sell HP's CloudSystem portfolio, which consists of the company's Cloud Service Automation software, Cloud Maps configuration templates and its related BladeSystem Matrix hardware.

The program emphasizes helping partners sell internal private cloud solutions to customers, said Frank Rauch, VP of channel sales for HP's enterprise servers, storage and networking business. "That's where we're seeing a lot of the activity," Rauch said.

To that end, HP has launched its Cloud Enablement Program, which offers training, certification and financial incentives including leasing options for acquiring HP's "Converged Infrastructure" of servers, networking and storage solutions, along with the CloudSystem software portfolio, Rauch explained.

"We're seeing a number of partners who want to build out their own cloud offerings," he said. "Whether it's public, hybrid or whatever, we've put together a set of programs that utilize market development funds, hardware incentives, financing, engineering help, to be able to help them build out their own clouds."

HP will allow partners to sell its new Cloud Discovery Workshop, a service by which HP consultants meet with a customer to assess requirements and develop a cloud strategy. Right now, partners can sell the Cloud Discovery Workshop and sit in on the sessions, but they can't deliver the services. Over time, that will change, Rauch said.

"We want to be able to make it scale out," Rauch said. "So we want to make it as pervasive or ubiquitous as we can, and the way to do that truly is through letting the partners to be able to deliver it, because then you enable scale that we don't have right now."

HP also said it is extending the number of Cloud Centers of Excellence, which are demonstration locations set up by partners who have already invested in the CloudSystem portfolio. With 20 now up and running in the United States, Rauch said 18 more are on the way. Among those that have set up these demo centers are AdvizeX Technologies, Forsythe Technology and Presidio Networked Solutions. GTSI, Melillo Consulting, Nth Generation Computing and Works Computing are slated to open new demo centers.

Rauch admits that some of HP's largest partners are hosting the demo centers now but over time he sees solution providers serving SMBs coming on board. "It's a substantial bet on their part," he said. "I don't know how many will be able to participate but believe me, it's not just open to large partners. We have a number of SMB VARs that are extremely interested in this right now. To be honest with you, we're starting out with some of the big names, but we think it will scale over time."

Still, questions remain. For example, what about that public cloud service CEO Leo Apotheker announced earlier this month? "That's to be determined," Rauch said. "I can tell you though, there's extremely strong commitment from the top down, to be able to channelize what we do."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 03/31/2011 at 1:14 PM0 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 03/30/2011 at 1:14 PM0 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 03/30/2011 at 1:14 PM0 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 03/30/2011 at 1:14 PM0 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 03/24/2011 at 1:14 PM0 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 03/23/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


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