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 03/23/2011 at 1:14 PM0 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 03/16/2011 at 1:14 PM0 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 03/16/2011 at 1:14 PM0 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 03/16/2011 at 1:14 PM0 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 03/10/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


Kaavo Tips Hat to Amazon's CloudFormation

Amazon Web Services' new CloudFormation offering promises to simplify the development and deployment of applications to its cloud service.

Announced last month, CloudFormation provides sample templates that let developers and system administrators describe various AWS resources such as Amazon EC2 Instances, Elastic Load Balancers, AWS Elastic Beanstalk and Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) Instances. Amazon refers to the complex combination of resources as "stacks."

That was welcome news to one startup, Stamford, Conn.-based Kaavo, which argues it has a more robust alternative to CloudFormation and hopes it creates demand for its own product, called Kaavo IMOD, which stands for Infrastructure and Middleware on Demand.

"Although this is the first release of CloudFormation Service and it is still in [the] very nascent stages of providing a full application-centric solution, there are a lot of similarities with Kaavo's solution," said Jamal Mazhar, Kaavo's founder and CEO, in a blog post.

The so-called Amazon CloudFormation "stacks" or templates resemble Kaavo's system definitions, according to Mazhar. I spoke with Mazhar who explained Kaavo IMOD can be used in customer datacenters using VMware's vCloud API or Eucalyptus cloud platform software, or in public clouds including those provided by Amazon, Rackspace Hosting, Terremark and IBM.

Kaavo's software, which runs in the cloud, solves two problems, Mazhar explained. First, it automates the deployment of complex applications and configurations. "You can get the server and the storage and network resources from cloud providers within minutes, but it is no fun if you spend days configuring the software and deploying the applications," he said. "What we do is enable you to automatically deploy and configure your complex multi-server applications within minutes."

Second, it allows admins to automate the administration of their sites while responding to pre-defined events. "We give an autopilot framework, where you can define the events and you can preprogram the responses for what to do in case of those events," he said.

For its part, Kaavo is a small, privately funded company employing fewer than 20 people. Mazhar said its core customer base consists of enterprises that are running various pilots and Web 2.0 companies. One such company is SellPoint, a provider of online video tours of consumer products.

Kaavo's pricing starts at $100 per month for two servers running 24x7 with additional server usage costing 6 cents per hour, amounting to $45 per month if it's running 24x7. Customers have to pay for cloud usage separately from their provider.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 03/10/2011 at 1:14 PM1 comments


Rackspace To Help Others Build Clouds with OpenStack

In a departure from its traditional cloud hosting business, Rackspace today launched a new service that will help those who want to build their own clouds.

The company's new Rackspace Cloud Builders program is a training, certification and deployment offering based on the OpenStack cloud compute and storage platform. As I recently wrote, the open source OpenStack effort is gaining momentum with more than 50 members now supporting it since the project was formed eight months ago.

The OpenStack cloud operating system originated with code developed by Rackspace and NASA, which built the NASA Nebula Cloud Computing Platform. A new telco-grade version of OpenStack, code-named Cactus, is due next month.

Now companies will be able to contract with Rackspace, which will train and support them as they build their own OpenStack-based clouds. Specifically, Rackspace Cloud Builders will offer formal training and certification, deployment services, and support and management.

That Rackspace is helping others build clouds is a major shift for the company, which has never offered services outside its datacenter before. "For the first time, people will be running the same software that we write and that we operate at scale," said Mark Collier, VP of marketing and business development for Rackspace Cloud Builders.

Rackspace will be offering the paid service to those who want to build their own private clouds, including businesses and government agencies, as well as service providers. But why would Rackspace want to enable service providers, who are potential competitors? Collier sees it as broadening the market for OpenStack.

"Our crown jewels are not technology. It's the people, it's the service and support that we're known for," he said. "If you put aside cloud and just think about managed hosting, which has been the historical business we've been in, we have the exact same technology as everyone else. We want to see technology standardized. That's good for our industry and it floats all boats in the end. We're actually good with that outcome."

Rackspace is able to offer this service thanks to last month's acquisition of Anso Labs, a professional services firm that has already helped a number of large businesses and government agencies build private clouds based on the OpenStack platform, including NASA's Nebula.

The goal with OpenStack is to provide a viable ecosystem that can scale in order to provide an alternative to the market leader, Amazon Web Services, Collier explained. "There are very few alternatives out there that can help you scale to Amazon's scale and meet the aggressive price points to be competitive, and we know for a fact you can achieve that with OpenStack," Collier said. "The OpenStack code base is designed to run on standard hardware across the industry. It's not tied to any proprietary high-end storage or proprietary databases, and the software itself is free."

While Rackspace believes OpenStack will help provide an alternative open source cloud environment, it does not see its new Cloud Builders offering as a major revenue booster. "We are not expecting it to be material for the foreseeable future," Collier said. "Time will tell how much money there is in it, but we definitely think there is a huge demand for OpenStack and we want to see that succeed and that's our first priority."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 03/08/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


How Many Enterprises Are Deploying Google Apps?

A survey by cloud migration services consultancy White Stratus suggests that nearly 20 percent of enterprises have, to some degree, deployed Google Apps.

It's an interesting finding because the percentage of Google's 3 million enterprises and 30 million customers that are using Google Apps in actual deployments is still an open question.

Of the 19.5 percent that say they have used Google Apps, nearly half, or 47.8 percent, are using it in pilot mode, while 19.4 percent are no longer using it. That leaves less than a third, or 32.8 percent, that have deployed it throughout their organizations.

"For us, [that] suggests that there is momentum behind the Google Apps product, which is encouraging," noted White Stratus CEO Tim Drury in an e-mail.

This is the first time New York-based White Status has conducted the survey, but it intends to continue to conduct it quarterly, Drury said. "I am keen to understand more about the rate of conversion from pilot to full-scale rollout, so we will be focusing on that in the next assessment," he said.

The current survey also found that of the 19.5 percent using Google Apps, 64 percent were using just the default products (Docs, Calendar, Sites, et cetera), while 35 percent were using that plus Gmail.

The survey was based on a sample of 2,030 enterprises in the United States with more than 250 employees. White Stratus, it bears noting, is a Google Authorized Reseller. A copy of the report is available for download.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 03/07/2011 at 1:14 PM1 comments


Cisco Launches Cloud Partner Initiative

Count Cisco Systems as the latest major IT provider to launch a cloud partner program.

The networking giant rolled out its Cisco Cloud Partner Program (CPP) at the company's annual Cisco Partner Summit, taking place this week in New Orleans. Cisco has established three tracks for partners: Cloud Builder, Cloud Provider and Cloud Reseller.

"Cloud Computing is transforming the way organizations consume and deploy IT resources. For our channel partners, cloud computing opens up additional market opportunities for them to design and build clouds or offer cloud services to the market," said Ralph Nimergood, vice president of datacenter and cloud for Cisco's Worldwide Partner Organization, in a pre-recorded video statement. "Our program provides a well defined roadmap to assist partners in determining what roles they want to play with Cisco in the cloud market."

Here's a description of the three tracks:

  • Cloud Builder: This is for partners who, as the name implies, design and implement private clouds for customers. The partner with the Cloud Builder Badge must hold sales and implementation competencies in cloud infrastructure and cloud management, and it requires a Cloud Professional Services Practice.

  • Cloud Provider: These are partners that want to offer public cloud services. "Our program supports these partners by enabling their Cisco-powered cloud service creation with enablement tools and reference architecture support," Nimergood explained. "Both the Cloud Builder and the Cloud Provider tracks offer many benefits, including branding, offer creation support, our Jumpstart financing, market development funding and access to channel partners as a route to market." Cisco's own salesforce will be compensated on the Cisco-powered cloud offerings that its providers sell to encourage engagement with the Cisco's salesforce, he added.

  • Cloud Reseller: These are partners who OEM or resell the Cloud Providers' offerings. In concert with the Cloud Provider, Cisco will recruit and train partners and support them in their demand-generation activities, Nimergood said.

 The program will roll out in the summer timeframe, Cisco said.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 03/03/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


Rackspace Kicks Off Unified Partner Program

Rackspace Hosting on Tuesday launched a new partner program that combined four separate programs into one. The company hopes the revamped program will incent partners to offer a broader range of Rackspace's hosted and cloud offerings.

Once a dedicated sales organization, the company now boasts 4,500 channel partners. CEO Lanham Napier said on the company's most recent earnings call last month that channel-influenced sales have more than doubled in 2010. "We will continue to invest in the channel and think there is a whole lot more performance and upside that we can get there," Napier told investors.

The program combines managed hosting; cloud hosting, including its Cloud Servers, Cloud Files and Cloud Sites offerings; Hosted E-mail (Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint); and Rackspace Cloud Drive (a backup and recovery service). By combining the four key lines into a common program, Rackspace is offering a centralized partner portal, single compensation structure and new tiered partner levels.

The new levels are Platinum, Gold, Silver and Member, where channel partners can reach any tier by selling any of the company's product lines, explained Robert Fuller, Rackspace's VP of worldwide channel sales. "Generally, there's little overlap between the partners in one program and the other, so we think there will be a good opportunity here to cross-sell services," Fuller said.

"When a partner is offering mail, it will be very easy for them to offer Jungle Disk [the backup service], which is of course a natural extension of the business for security purposes, and maybe offer some cloud. The small-business area is where we are seeing so much of our cloud business."

Kenan Rappuchi, VP of business development at WebSiteMovers.com, is a Rackspace partner who also works with other hosting providers. But the new program is likely to make it more appealing to upsell Rackspace's services.

"It's much easier for us to not have to worry about multiple providers and be able to keep it under one roof and be able to manage it simply and to have a very elastic solution that fits in," Rappuchi said.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 03/03/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


HP Ties 3PAR to CloudSystem

When Hewlett-Packard dropped a jaw-dropping $2.4 billion for cloud storage provider 3PAR, it left many scratching their heads.

HP paid so much for 3PAR, a company with about $200 million in revenues, after a protracted and very public bidding war against Dell as the two companies looked to shore up their cloud storage offerings. Now the company is making the 3PAR technology available with HP's new CloudSystem.

CloudSystem, launched in mid-January, is a turnkey appliance based on HP's converged BladeSystem server-, storage- and network-based hardware and loaded with the company's Cloud Service Automation (CSA) software.

The HP 3PAR Utility Storage offering can now be managed by CloudSystem, which company officials said will simplify the deployment of cloud solutions. Available now, initial configurations will be customized until next quarter, when a configuration tool will provide SKUs and more standardized pricing, according to the company.

Furthermore, HP has integrated the 3PAR Utility Storage with the HP X9300 Network Storage Gateway based on networked attached storage (NAS) technology it acquired from IBRIX in 2009. In so doing, HP said it will be easier for cloud providers to add both block and file-based storage capacity on demand. Pricing starts at $45,500.

HP has also integrated 3PAR technology available with its BladeSystem Matrix orchestration platform. "Now we can orchestrate, manage and provision applications across both the server and the network and now also the 3Par storage environment," said Tom Joyce, VP of marketing strategy and operations for HP's enterprise storage business.  "So we have comprehensive management across the top of the whole thing, combined file and block solutions."

Available now, HP BladeSystem Matrix starts at $190,000. HP will add support for its Storage Provisioning Manager next quarter.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 03/03/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


IBM Launches Cloud Partner Program

IBM is kicking off a new program intended to make it easier for partners to sell the company's cloud-based products.

Big Blue unveiled the new Cloud Computing Specialty at its PartnerWorld Leadership Conference in Orlando last week. Up until now, the company lacked a cohesive go-to-market strategy for its various cloud initiatives.

"We did have a couple of programs that were in certain areas but as we looked at what cloud has become, there are so many more opportunities now," said Dave Mitchell, director of strategy and emerging business for IBM's ISV and developer relations organization. "Our portfolio has become so much wider, and our capabilities have become so much broader, that we felt it was a good time to really see how we could bring this together into a single story."

The company has identified five types of cloud partners it is addressing:

  • Cloud Application Providers: Typically, these are ISVs that are moving toward the Software as a Service (SaaS) model.
  • Cloud Builders: Systems integrators, consultants and solution providers that build private clouds for customers.
  • Cloud Infrastructure Providers: Telcos, regional hosters and managed service providers, and anyone building out cloud infrastructure.
  • Cloud Services Solution Providers: Those that resell multiple cloud services to offer custom or vertical solutions for customers.
  • Cloud Technology Providers: Companies that provide tools aimed at extending the value of public clouds, such as cloud management, billing and monitoring software.

Each of the five parts of the program has its own defined criteria for skills, revenue and references that partners can establish, Mitchell said. And in return, there's detailed go-to-market benefits and technical support benefits that are customized for each of the paths.

Using its LotusLive network, IBM is also linking partners together so they can collaborate on deals, Mitchell added.

While the Cloud Computing Specialty is aimed at partner development, IBM last week also launched its first authorization and certification program for its software resellers. The IBM Cloud Computing Authorization program is an extension of the company's existing software reseller program known as the IBM Software Value Plus program.

"These two programs are very complementary," Mitchell said, referring to the skills and specialties required.

Partners who join the program and get certifications in the right combination of products, including the WebSphere CloudBurst appliance, Tivoli Service Manager, Tivoli Provisioning Manager, IBM Solution Delivery Manager and some of the cloud development tools in the Rational development suite, will be eligible for incremental margin incentives.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 02/24/2011 at 1:14 PM0 comments


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