Salesforce.com Targets SMBs with Assistly Acquisition

Looking to extend the reach of its customer support and service platform, Salesforce.com last week said it has acquired Assistly for $50 million.

The company said it will integrate Assistly, a provider of online customer service help-desk apps for small and medium businesses that run in the cloud, into the Salesforce.com Service Cloud offering. Assistly is targeted at SMBs and startups with its $49 per month, per user subscription fee.

Founded in 2009, Assistly pulls customer interactions from a variety of channels and social media including Facebook, Twitter, e-mail and phone into a common user interface, enabling customer service agents to engage in real time with customers.

The move is in line with Salesforce.com's push to bring social networking to enterprises using its platforms. At last month's annual Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, CEO Marc Benioff focused on what he calls the emergence of "the social enterprise."

"Service Cloud will now enable even the smallest companies to become a social enterprise," said Alex Dayon, Salesforce.com's executive VP of applications, in a statement.

Of its 104,000 customers, Salesforce.com said 17,000 use Service Desk. The company said the acquisition of Assistly will help it extend its reach to SMBs by providing a lower barrier to entry and providing the option of migrating to other Service Cloud services over time.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 09/27/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


Nimbula Upgrades IaaS Cloud Software

Cloud infrastructure software vendor Nimbula has released an upgrade of its Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) platform.

Nimbula Director 1.5 now supports a geographically distributed cloud and can manage the multi-site cloud from a single management interface. It also features policy-based automation for compute and storage, aimed at simplifying the request of resources; persistent block store, which provides self-service interfaces to cloud storage; and a customizable installer for operating system, drivers and management software.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Nimbula also announced it has expanded its partner ecosystem with the addition of Atalanta Systems, Electric Cloud and Standing Cloud to its roster.

"Nimbula is continuing its commitment in building a rich, diverse partner base to serve the new use cases and solutions enabled by cloud computing," said Reza Malekzadeh, Nimbula's VP of marketing, in a statement. "We are able to strengthen our complete end-to-end solution offerings by supporting PaaS [Platform as a Service] and DevOps use cases for agile application development and by supporting additional storage solutions."

Atalanta Systems will provide integration of Opscode Chef with Nimbula Director, enabling customers to use Chef to orchestrate and manage workloads running on the Nimbula platform. Electric Cloud is enabling its Electric Commander to automate build-test-deploy processes with the Nimbula cloud platform. Standing Cloud and Nimbula created a solution that allows users and developers to build, deploy and manage applications that run on Standing Cloud's PaaS.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 09/27/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


OpenStack Rolls Out Diablo

The OpenStack consortium on Thursday released the fourth version of its open source cloud operating system.

Dubbed Diablo, the new release gains improved compute scalability, storage and networking. And OpenStack is introducing identity management features and a new Web-based management interface slated for the next release of the platform.

OpenStack, founded by NASA and Rackspace, is an open source project to deliver a cloud operating system for enterprises to build private clouds and for service providers. It has more than 100 companies contributing to the project. 

Diablo takes an important step forward in making OpenStack more suited for enterprise cloud deployments, said Jonathan Bryce, chairman of the OpenStack Project Policy Board and a founder of the Rackspace Cloud.

"It's a pretty significant release for us, it's a release that opens the door for many more organizations to come in and use OpenStack," Bryce said. "With the last release [Cactus], the functionality of the cloud was all there, but if you were not a sophisticated IT department or development shop, it could be difficult to jump right into it. I think there are quite a few features in this one that make it a lot easier and a lot more deployable for many more organizations."

With 70 new features in Diablo, Bryce emphasized three:

  1. Compute (Nova): Includes a distributed scheduler for the deployment of virtual machines globally, a high-availability networking mode and a new authentication system called OpenStack Identity management.

  2. Object Storage (Swift): A new feature called Container Syncing allows an administrator to pick individual containers or folders of data and mark them for syncing to an entire separate OpenStack Object Storage cluster. "It will keep track of the changes and make sure the containers stay in sync across separate clusters, not just within a cluster," Bryce said. "It's another added level of scale across multiple locations and data resiliency."

  3. Image Service (Glance): The Image service includes new filtering and searching functions through the API.

Also introduced in conjunction with Diablo are two incubation projects that will be core in the next release of the OpenStack platform, called Essex, which is slated for release in the next six months.

The first is Dashboard, which will let admins provision and manage cloud resources via a self-service portal. The second is Keystone, aimed at providing common authentication across all OpenStack projects. Keystone is not a new directory system, Bryce explained, but rather one that can interface with existing authentication platforms such as Microsoft's Active Directory and repositories based on LDAP.

Coinciding with next year's release of Essex, OpenStack will release another incubation project called Quantum, which provides an API that dynamically requests and configures virtual networks and offers advanced networking and virtualization capabilities, Bryce said.

Plans for Essex will be discussed at the OpenStack Design Summit and Conference, to be held in Boston during the first week of October.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 09/22/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


Microsoft Explains Recent Cloud Outage

Wondering what caused the outage that brought down some of Microsoft's cloud services two weeks ago? While Microsoft attributed it to a DNS error, that was all the company was saying at the time.

The three-hour outage occurred on the evening of Sept. 8 and affected Windows Live services such as SkyDrive, MSN and Hotmail for three hours. Also affected was Microsoft's Office 365 service.

Arthur de Haan, VP of Windows Live test and service engineering at Microsoft, elaborated on the incident in a blog post on Tuesday night, explaining a corrupt file in the company's DNS service was to blame.

Microsoft was in the process of updating a tool that helps balance network traffic and the update went awry, he noted. Consequently, the configurations were corrupted, resulting in the outage, he said.

"The file corruption was a result of two rare conditions occurring at the same time," de Haan said.  "The first condition is related to how the load balancing devices in the DNS service respond to a malformed input string (i.e., the software was unable to parse an incorrectly constructed line in the configuration file). The second condition was related to how the configuration is synchronized across the DNS service to ensure all client requests return the same response regardless of the connection location of the client. Each of these conditions was tracked to the networking device firmware used in the Microsoft DNS service."

He said Microsoft intends to further harden the DNS service to by providing greater redundancy and failover capability.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 09/21/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


Joyent Revamps Public Cloud Service

Joyent has launched a new public cloud service that it says is faster and cheaper than Amazon Web Services' popular Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2), as well as other Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offerings.

The San Francisco-based company's upgraded Joyent Cloud service is built on a new platform, called SmartDataCenter 6, which Joyent claimed offers improved performance, management and security.

Customers can now run Windows or Linux instances atop Joyent's SmartOS SmartMachines, which the company said boots in seconds and offers distributed storage. The new platform provides instant CPU bursting and intelligent data caching. The bursting capability can scale up to 400 percent, reducing the number of CPU instances customers have to add, the company said.

"Joyent Cloud provides customers with peace of mind that their infrastructure will just work, just scale, and be fully visible and transparent at all times," said Joyent Cloud GM Steve Tuck in a statement. "We eliminate the compromises inherent in running on other clouds while delivering exceptional performance and speed at a competitive price."

Along with the new service, new APIs allow customers to configure or change their SmartMachines themselves or via third-party cloud management systems. And the company has added two analytics tools to the platform, Joyent Cloud Analytics and New Relic, that provide real-time views of the stack ranging from the CPU through the application layer, helping determine issues that might be causing latency.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 09/20/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


Gartner Says Google's Gmail Is a Viable Alternative for Enterprises

Gartner has endorsed Google's Gmail service as a viable alternative to Microsoft's Exchange Online for enterprises with more than 5,000 employees.

The IT market researcher last week released a report called "Google Gmail Emerges as a Significant Threat to Microsoft in the Enterprise." The conclusions are noteworthy given the IT market researcher's clout with CIOs and the cutthroat rivalry between Microsoft and Google to win large enterprise cloud e-mail contracts.

"The road to its enterprise enlightenment has been long and bumpy, but Gmail should now be considered a mainstream cloud e-mail supplier," said Gartner research VP Matthew Cain in a statement.

While Gmail only accounts for about 1 percent of all enterprise e-mail, it has gained close to half the market for enterprise cloud e-mail, Cain noted. While Cloud e-mail only accounts for 3 to 4 percent of the overall enterprise e-mail installed base, Cain said Gartner is forecasting it will account for 20 percent of the e-mail market by 2016 and 55 percent by 2020.

The two competitors are the only ones gaining meaningful share, according to Gartner, noting that Novell GroupWise and IBM Lotus Notes/Domino are struggling. VMware has only recently started focusing its Zimbra cloud e-mail offering on the enterprise, Gartner added.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 09/20/2011 at 1:14 PM7 comments


Amazon Picks Up Added Security Credentials

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has picked up another security accreditation from the federal government, which should allow it to further penetrate the public sector with its popular infrastructure services, as well as give it more credibility with businesses.

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) last week gave Amazon the green light with its Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) Moderate level authorization and accreditation.

"The door is now open for a much wider range of U.S. government agencies to use AWS as their cloud provider," said AWS evangelist Jeff Barr in a blog post. "Based on detailed security baselines established by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), FISMA Moderate certification and accreditation required us to address an extensive set of security configuration and controls."

The accreditation covers Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Simple Storage Service (S3) and Virtual Private cloud services and their associated infrastructures, the company said.

Amazon's security and compliance framework already covered FISMA Low, PCI DSS Level 1, FIPS 140-2, ISO 27001 and SAS-70 type II, and is set up to comply with HIPAA regulations.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 09/19/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


Windows 8 Extends to the Cloud

The world got to see the next version of Windows this week, and while its new Metro user interface promises to change how users interact with their PCs, it also will leverage the cloud in new ways.

Not that that should be a surprise. With Microsoft's marching orders that it is "all in" the cloud, one would expect Windows to lead the charge. At its Build conference in Anaheim, Calif. this week, Microsoft gave the first in-depth public demos of Windows 8 and Windows Server 8, the code names for the next Windows releases.

Also at Build, Microsoft announced some important updates to its Windows Azure cloud service, including the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows 8, enabling developers to build cloud-based services for Metro-based apps. (For more on the Windows Azure announcements, see my colleague Kurt Mackie's report).

The new touch-based Metro user interface in Windows 8 replaces traditional Windows icons with tiles, the most significant overhaul in Windows since its release. Windows 8 will usher in a new crop of slate-based devices designed to compete with Apple's iPad. But Windows 8 will also work on traditional desktop PCs and laptops.

Windows 8 is intertwined with Windows Live, Microsoft's set of cloud services for individuals. Users will be able to log on to their Windows 8 devices using their Windows Live IDs. Controls ranging from browser history, themes, e-mail accounts and various other settings will be saved in the cloud and can be shared among a user's multiple PCs and phones.

"Windows 8 gets much better when you connect it up to an incredibly rich set of cloud-based services with Windows Live and use some of the new Metro-style apps that we've written to connect up to Windows Live," said Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live division, during the Build keynote Tuesday.

Chris Jones, Microsoft's corporate VP for Windows Live, demonstrated a connected address book which is a Metro-styled app that lets users combine their contacts from various e-mail accounts and social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Jones also demonstrated a photo app that uses Windows Live to share photos from other services such as Facebook and Flickr.

Windows 8 also will leverage Microsoft's SkyDrive, a cloud-based storage service that provides every Windows Live user with 25 GB of storage capacity. Users can access files in SkyDrive just as they do in the local file system, Jones explained.

Using the Live APIs for SkyDrive, developers can build their own cloud-connected Metro apps, Sinofsky said.

What's your take on Windows 8? Comment below or drop me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 09/15/2011 at 1:14 PM1 comments


Rackspace To Deploy OpenStack Across Its Infrastructure

Rackspace plans to deploy the OpenStack open source cloud platform across its entire infrastructure.

OpenStack was originally developed by Rackspace and NASA, which built the NASA Nebula Cloud Computing Platform. The year-old OpenStack Project now has more than 90 members, with a community of developers collaborating on the open source cloud operating system. The OpenStack code is freely available under the Apache 2.0 license.

"Rackspace is very committed to moving onto the OpenStack technology," said Rackspace VP of product Mark Interrante. The company's object storage system, called Cloud Files, is already based on the OpenStack platform.

The next phase is to move Cloud Servers, the Rackspace compute offering, onto OpenStack, Interrante said. Later this year, Rackspace will transition the Cloud Servers infrastructure to OpenStack Compute, code-named "Nova." OpenStack describes Nova as a cloud computing fabric controller, the heart of the Infrastructure as a Service platform.

"It's our plan to move our Cloud Servers infrastructure to OpenStack," Interrante said. "We will have customers running in 2011. It will be some customers at least. We don't have a fully locked-down set of dates for all the transitions yet but we are very happy with the progress we are making. We are definitely doing a lot of performance testing and QA right now."

The impact on customers should be negligible, he said, suggesting it would be the equivalent of typical maintenance activity. The Linux and Windows servers that customers are running shouldn't change, only the way they are controlled.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 09/14/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


CA Extends Cloud Connectivity to ARCserve Backup Software

New backup and recovery software from CA Technologies is designed to support a number of cloud services.

The company's ARCserve r16, released last week, provides a common cloud connection for all forms of data protection, including core file backup, disk imaging, replication and high availability.

It works with such public cloud services as Amazon Web Services Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Microsoft's Windows Azure, as well as cloud services based on software provided by Eucalyptus. It also works with remote monitoring and management platforms from the likes of N-able and LabTech.

The new release also lets customers use Amazon's EC2 as their disaster recovery infrastructure, CA said. The software is designed to let customers back up data both locally as well as in the cloud.

"With the release of CA ARCserve r16, we are delivering the capabilities and intelligence necessary to protect large and dynamic virtualized private and public cloud environments," said Michael Crest, general manager for the data management customer solutions unit at CA, in a blog post.

The entire ARCserve suite is priced between $10,982 and 27,600, depending on capacity, for a perpetual license. For those opting for monthly subscription, rates range from $566 to $976.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 09/14/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


HP Extends Cloud Infrastructure with VirtualSystem

While chaos seems to be reigning at Hewlett-Packard Co., one area where it doesn't appear to be making any strategic shifts is in its push into cloud computing. On Wednesday, the company revealed plans for its public cloud services, making them available to select beta testers. And at last week's VMworld conference in Las Vegas, HP launched a number of products aimed at helping both enterprises and service providers build cloud-based infrastructures.

Perhaps most noteworthy was HP's new VirtualSystem platform consisting of converged servers, storage and networking, controlled by the company's Insight management software.

According to HP, VirtualSystem provides the basis of a consolidated architecture by accelerating virtual machine mobility by 40 percent, doubling throughput and reducing network downtime with the new HP FlexFabric virtualized network platform. With HP Lefthand and 3PAR storage, HP claims VirtualSystem will cut capacity requirements by 50 percent and double virtual machine density.

The VirtualSystem is available in three configurations: VS1, VS2 and VS3. The first, VS1, is targeted at small and medium businesses, consisting of rack-mounted Proliant servers, Lefthand storage and HP's VirtualConnect network platform to tie it together. The Insight management software is tightly integrated with VMware's new vSphere 5 and ESX software.

VS2 is similar but instead of Proliant rack-mounted servers, it has HP's BladeSystem blade servers also tied to the company's Lefthand storage systems. The high-end offering, VS3, allows for the ability to extend multiple racks and uses HP's 3PAR storage. It's targeted at large enterprises that are looking to do major VMware consolidation projects or service providers.

The VS3 can host up to 6,000 virtual machines, said Tom Joyce, VP of marketing strategy and operations for HP storage. "That's a massive VM consolidation platform," Joyce said, noting the offerings also come with HP's TippingPoint intrusion detection software.  

The VS3 hardware is identical to the hardware that runs HP's CloudSystem platform. HP launched CloudSystem in January, a turnkey appliance which comes with the company's Cloud Service Automation software. "If a customer says, 'Look, I'm solving my VMware problem today but I'm looking to build my private cloud in a year from now,' if they want to build their cloud on that part of that same hardware, all they have to do is bring in the software components of CloudSystem," Joyce said.

Pricing for the VirtualSystem platform starts at $167,300.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 09/08/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


Dell Launches First Public Cloud, Adds SaaS Offering

Dell this week launched its first public and hybrid cloud offerings, following on its announcement earlier this year that it would invest $1 billion to deliver cloud computing infrastructure and services. The company also introduced cloud-based application services for small and medium businesses.

On Monday at the annual VMworld conference in Las Vegas, Dell and VMware jointly released Dell Cloud, which is built upon vCloud Datacenter Services. The two companies said they will jointly offer the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) platform to enterprises, hosting and outsourcing providers, systems integrators, and service providers.

The service will include automation, security and availability, and offer on-demand capacity, according to Dell. That will allow organizations to scale infrastructures as workloads require. Dell Cloud will be made available in three options:

  • Public: Hosted in Dell datacenters, the service will provide on-demand access to computing, storage and network capacity.

  • Private: Dell will construct private clouds either on a customer's premises or run it in a Dell datacenter.

  • Hybrid: Using VMware's vCloud Connector, this configuration offers management of on- and off-premise private clouds and Dell's public cloud offering.

Dell Cloud is in beta now and will be generally available in the United States next quarter. It will be available in Europe and Asia next year.

Separately, the company Tuesday announced Dell Cloud Business Applications Services, a bundle of pre-integrated SaaS applications that can be linked to existing software via its Dell Boomi platform. Dell last year acquired Boomi, a SaaS provider that connects cloud and premises-based applications.

Dell also said it is expanding its partnership with Salesforce.com, where it will offer integration of the Salesforce Sales Cloud customer relationship management (CRM) services with Intuit's QuickBooks and Microsoft's Dynamics GP software packages.

Salesforce.com and Dell are now jointly offering a CRM service for SMBs. Dell intends to offer additional SaaS-based apps such as marketing and accounting next year. Dell also said it plans to offer cross-application dashboards and reporting capabilities delivered as a service. Called Cloud Integrated Analytics, the service will be released in the first half of next year.  

Available now, pricing for the Dell Boomi-Salesforce.com integration starts at $565 per month. Integration service packages start at $5,000.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 09/01/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


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