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Microsoft Ignite 2018: Channel eyes Azure products, virtual desktops

Channel companies cited Azure Data Box offline and inline data transfer products and Windows Virtual Desktop as among the interesting developments at Microsoft Ignite.

Channel companies cited Microsoft product launches around Azure and virtual desktops as among the notable developments at Microsoft Ignite 2018.

In all, Microsoft's annual event for enterprise customers and IT professionals drew more than 30,000 attendees this week to Orlando, Fla., and spawned more than 80 product announcements from Microsoft alone. The company's technology partners also debuted new offerings. Microsoft, for its part, emphasized security, highlighted customer experience AI technology and previewed SQL Server 2019 at the conference.

Azure was also a key focus for Microsoft at Ignite 2018. Ned Bellavance, director of cloud solutions at Anexinet Corp., a digital business solutions provider based in Blue Bell, Pa., said Microsoft addressed data ingestion issues at the event with announcements around its Azure Data Box offering.

In one move, Microsoft said Azure Data Box, which was announced as a preview technology in September 2017, is now generally available in the U.S. and the European Union. Data Box is an offline data transfer device that a customer ships to an Azure data center. Each Data Box holds up to 100 TB of data and is used to transfer large data sets to the Azure cloud.

"If you have a massive amount of data ... to transfer to Azure, it will be faster to load it onto a box and physically ship it than to send it over the internet," Bellavance said.

Bellavance also cited Microsoft's Data Box Heavy, a 1 PB addition to the Data Box product set, and Data Box Edge, which serves as a storage gateway to a customer's site and Azure storage. He said customers can also process data on Data Box Edge with the computing capability provided through Azure IoT Edge. He said data processed on the edge device may be upload to Azure for additional processing.

Data Box Heavy and Data Box Edge are available in preview.

On the virtualization side, Microsoft unveiled Windows Virtual Desktop, which the company said uses Azure to deliver a "multiuser Windows 10 experience" and virtualize Office 365 ProPlus. Microsoft is working on a public preview of Windows Virtual Desktop, which is expected to be available by the end of 2018.

If MSP customers aren't asking about [Windows Virtual Desktop] today, they will be and will be very soon.
JD Helmspresident at CloudJumper

JD Helms, president of CloudJumper, a workspace-as-a-service platform provider based in Garner, N.C., said Microsoft's investment in cloud-delivered desktops and its marketing prowess will create opportunities for managed service providers (MSPs).

"If MSP customers aren't asking about it today, they will be and will be very soon," Helms said of Windows Virtual Desktop.

Max Pruger, chief revenue officer at CloudJumper, said Microsoft is going to want companies to put workloads in the cloud through its new desktop virtualization offering.

"MSPs are going to help them facilitate that for the midmarket, SMB environments," he said, adding that partners will be able wrap backup, security and others services around the virtualized desktops.

At Ignite 2018, CloudJumper said its Cloud Workspace Management Suite software will integrate with the Windows Virtual Desktop. The company said the linkup will permit simplified and centralized deployment of Windows Virtual Desktop services.

New channel leader at Cisco

Cisco has appointed Oliver Tuszik as senior vice president of Cisco's global partner organization.

Tuszik, who replaces Wendy Bahr, was previously Cisco's country leader for Germany. He was also CEO and managing director of Cisco partner Computacenter Germany prior to joining Cisco in 2013. Bahr, meanwhile, "will help ensure a smooth leadership transition through Partner Summit," the company said. Cisco's annual partner meeting is scheduled for Nov. 13 to 15 in Las Vegas.

Tuszik reports to Gerri Elliott, chief sales and marketing officer at Cisco. He will focus on "creating alignment, simplifying tools, processes, programs and offers," according to Cisco.

In another channel executive shift, Julie Hens, vice president of global channel distribution at Cisco, is moving to a new role in sales. Andrew Sage, vice president for Americas distribution at Cisco, will serve as interim global channel distribution leader until a successor is appointed, Cisco said.

Continuum Navigate 2018: Tips for people-focused company culture

While cybersecurity was the big theme at IT management provider Continuum's Navigate conference this week, the event also addressed aspects of business management that continue to vex MSPs.

Conference sessions explored issues concerning MSP company culture. In a session led by Peter Melby, CEO of Greystone Technology, an MSP based in Denver, company culture was explored through the lens of Greystone's education in the culture-building process. Greystone strives to develop a people-focused culture, Melby said.

He offered three steps for improving MSP company culture that he said have been essential for Greystone's growth.

Create directed autonomy. Greystone's philosophy for managing its employees boils down to directed autonomy -- a term Melby said he coined to describe Greystone's approach.

"If we look at where our employees thrive, employees thrive when they have autonomy in their work ... but employees also say that they want really clear direction for success," he said.

Providing MSP employees with clear direction "enables autonomy," he noted.

Create psychological safety. Melby talked extensively about how Greystone looks to uphold a psychology safe environment for its employees.

To develop such a workplace, he said MSPs must celebrate success while normalizing failure. He also stressed the need to "leverage self-reflection," especially when employees make mistakes.

Define citizenship. Greystone has made a point of stating its "no-compromise expectations" to prospective employees and new hires, Melby said.

He noted that Greystone incorporates its expectations into the hiring process, including interviews, company materials provided to job candidates and the onboarding process for new employees. Greystone's no-compromise expectations include submitting "time cards on time, every time, zero reminders" and a dress code that asks employees to "use their attire to support your professional success."

CompTIA: Emerging tech, verticalization among channel trends

Customer needs are driving channel partners to offer emerging technologies and develop vertical-market specialties.

That's one of the insights from CompTIA's 7th State of the Channel report. The industry association's survey of 400 U.S. IT businesses found 72% of channel companies cited customer demand as their main reason for providing leading-edge tech.

IoT software and IoT hardware were the top two emerging technologies channel companies are experimenting with or currently offering, with about half of the partners polled engaging in those fields. AI, virtual reality and blockchain followed IoT on the list of key emerging technologies.

The survey also reflected the popularity of vertical specializations, according to CompTIA. All channel respondents surveyed reported at least some vertical-industry work within their businesses. Seventy-five percent of the channel companies described their vertical business as important.

Virtual Instruments rolls out tech alliance program

Virtual Instruments, a company that focuses on application-specific hybrid infrastructure management, has launched a program for technology vendors as an offshoot of its channel partner initiative.

The Virtual Instruments Technology Alliance Program aims to create an ecosystem for third-party interoperable vendors. Alliance members can test and validate their products with Virtual Instruments' technology. Participants include Apposite Technologies, cPacket Networks, Garland Technology and Gigamon.

While Virtual Instruments bolsters its work with technology vendors, its channel business has more than doubled over the past year, said Len Rosenthal, chief marketing officer at Virtual Instruments, based in San Jose, Calif. "The partners are increasingly becoming more important to us," he said.

Other news

  • OSIsoft, an operational intelligence vendor, launched a value-added reseller program, with the goal of sparking the development of digital transformation and industrial IoT solutions. OSIsoft said resellers participating in the program can combine their technology and services with the PI System.
  • Agari, a cloud-native email security vendor, has launched its Agari Partner Power The company already works with 70 channel partners and aims to reach the 100-partner mark by the end of 2018, a company spokesman said. About half of the company's revenue comes from the channel, but Agari would like to see that contribution increase to 70%, he added. In addition, Agari appointed Mandeep Khera as head of worldwide channel marketing and Tracy Pallas as head of worldwide channel sales.
  • ZaiLab, an omnichannel contact center software company, has entered a supplier partner relationship with Intelisys, a technology services distributor and ScanSource company.
  • The 20, an MSP based in Plano, Texas, has expanded its use of Kaseya products to include backup and disaster recovery. Kaseya offers IT infrastructure management products, including remote monitoring and management and professional services automation.

Market Share is a news roundup published every Friday.

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