SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

All Together Now: CloudBlue

At this week’s Ingram Micro’s Cloud Summit conference for partners, MSPs and resellers, a new line of business called CloudBlue was announced and released into the wild whacky world of cloud computing. My take is CloudBlue basically aggregates a lot of existing Ingram Micro cloud assets under one umbrella. It is considered a new division within Ingram Micro and Microsoft is a significant strategic partner in this solution. Microsoft declined to specify if it was a financial investor.

Microsoft and Ingram Micro will co-sell the CloudBlue commerce platform to new service providers joining Microsoft’s Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program, and the CloudBlue platform will operate on Microsoft Azure.At this week’s Ingram Micro’s Cloud Summit conference for partners, MSPs and resellers, a new line of business called CloudBlue was announced and released into the wild whacky world of cloud computing. My take is CloudBlue basically aggregates a lot of existing Ingram Micro cloud assets under one umbrella. It is considered a new division within Ingram Micro and Microsoft is a significant strategic partner in this solution. Microsoft declined to specify if it was a financial investor. Microsoft and Ingram Micro will co-sell the CloudBlue commerce platform to new service providers joining Microsoft’s Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program, and the CloudBlue platform will operate on Microsoft Azure.

Almost two and a half years ago, Ingram Micro acquired Odin (the successor brand to Parallels). While I’ve covered that in the past, Odin brought a line of work to Ingram allowing ISVs, Distis and entrepreneurs to create a cloud marketplace with provisioning, billing and support. In many ways I thought that interesting in that I liked Odin as an independent solution that could serve other distributors such as D&H Distributing plus its really strong research arm that published excellent primary research. Over the past couple of years, I felt we had “lost” both the independent platform and research with the Odin acquisition; CloudBlue now clarifies what “happened” to Odin and brings the platform back to the center of attention. 

In an interview with Richard Dufty, Executive Vice President of Ingram Cloud, he stated that CloudBlue brings together a rich set of assets in the Ingram Micro family in a multi-year development effort.CloudBlue has the following components: 

Marketplace

Service Catalog

Subscription Management

Billing and Invoicing

Provisioning

Reporting/BI

Channel Enablement

Platform

You can see in Figure 1 showing a significant resource commitment in terms of money, time and labor. You can also get a sense of the CloudBlue scale, scope and geography. 

CloudBlue Fig1

Figure 1: CloudBlue facts. 

The CloudBlue commerce platform enables service providers of any size and a wide variety of business models to automate, aggregate and monetize their own cloud and digital services as well as those from third-parties. CloudBlue also enables ISVs to take their offerings to market almost instantly across the entire multi-service provider ecosystem with the company’s industry-leading cloud commerce and anything-as-a-service (XaaS) platform. Loosely translated, an SMB Nation MSP could be a cloud market place/cloud distributor. Reflecting Odin’s roots, CloudBlue launches with significant telecom support: Sprint, Centurylink, Cogeco, Telefonica, O2, Telenor, Telekom Austria, AmericaMovil, Cobweb, GTI, Copaco, PCM and Telstra.

Self-Service Platform?

In another private meeting with Ingram Micro executives, it was noted that CloudBlue will endeavor to offer a customer-facing self-service portal. I called BS as it has been my (admittedly biased) experience that technology self-service is an oxymoron (customers are lazy IMHO). But the upside for CloudBlue is that I believe partners and MSPs will be in continued market demand; this stuff doesn’t just happen on its own. Self-service is over-rated.

Developers are the New Rock Stars

An inherent assumption concerning CloudBlue is the focus on intellectual property and DevOps. This is less of an infrastructure play and more of a app bolt-on play. It’s a natural progression as they aren’t making servers like they used to buddy boy. It creates a challenge for us Big Iron server-side guys as we’ll need to continue our own transformative journey to recreate and reinvent ourselves. Look at Figure 2 and observe the CloudBlue architecture and design. This is showing the internals with an emphasis on API-based connectivity. 

fig2 cloudblue

Figure 2: Get Your Geek On!

The Ingram CTO who presented the CloudBlue architecture emphasized ease-of-use in API creation and integration but I’ve had my fingertips burned in software development projects so I’ll withhold judgement until I learn more about CloudBlue. At the core of the CloudBlue ecosystem, is its proprietary API technology, APS, which customers can use to immediately connect to CloudBlue’s network of vendor solutions, enabling them to offer these vendor solutions in conjunction with their own core services quickly and easily. CloudBlue provides a single entry point to an ecosystem of the world’s most innovative ISVs, including more than 200 pre-integrated solutions from Microsoft, Dropbox, DocuSign, IBM, Cisco, Symantec and many more.

BTW – you can revisit a past blog on Slingr’s “Platform as a Service” play that provides additional context on API integrations and the bolt-on concept here.  

Scale Sales Quickly

A woman who most recently was a CMO inside a Big Data organization once told me what her takeaway was from her graduate school experience (MBA): learning how to scale. Agreed as MBAs are typically oriented towards enterprises and not entrepreneurs. Adopting the same MBA-like mindset, I’d concur with Ingram Micro’s assertion that CloudBlue’s raison d'être is rapid sales scalability (CloudReferral; CloudMarketplace; CloudPremium). It’s “graduate school” for the merchant and reseller class. You can see BlueClouds scalability intentions in Figure 3. 

CloudBlue Fig3

 

Figure 3: Visualizing worldwide scalability via CloudBlue.

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10 Key Technologies that enable Big Data Analytics for businesses

Big Data

 

The big data analytics technology is a combination of several techniques and processing methods. What makes them effective is their collective use by enterprises to obtain relevant results for strategic management and implementation.

In spite of the investment enthusiasm, and ambition to leverage the power of data to transform the enterprise, results vary in terms of success. Organizations still struggle to forge what would be consider a “data-driven” culture. Of the executives who report starting such a project, only 40.2% report having success. Big transformations take time, and while the vast majority of firms aspire to being “data-driven”, a much smaller percentage have realized this ambition. Cultural transformations seldom occur overnight.

At this point in the evolution of big data, the challenges for most companies are not related to technology. The biggest impediments to adoption relate to cultural challenges: organizational alignment, resistance or lack of understanding, and change management.

Here are some key technologies that enable Big Data for Businesses:

 

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SMB HR: LinkedIn isn't the best way to...

shakinghands

by John Reed

7% of candidates that come through referrals account for 40% of total hires

As a source of new, competent staff, employee referrals have no equal. There is no other source for candidates that generate the same ROI; in fact the 7% of candidates that come through referrals account for 40% of total hires.

New data show that employee referrals provide better candidates, higher retention rates and help companies hire faster.

Referrals are the number one source of high performing employees.

Applicants hired from a referral begin their position quicker than applicants found via job boards and career sites (after 29 days compared with 39 days via job boards and 55 via career sites).

Referral hires have higher retention rates – 46% of employee referrals stay for three years or more, compared to only 14% of those hired from job boards.

Challenges to employee referral programs

Recruiters and hiring managers realize how important and effective employee referrals are, and every large enterprise today has referral programs to stimulate their existing workforce to help identify quality candidates within their network. Companies use monetary incentives, in some cases several thousands of dollars, to get employees to refer candidates for critical open positions.

The HR question is: why do only 7% of all applications come through referrals? What is stopping employees from referring more candidates?

Recruiters declare that especially for senior roles, the peers that could make an introduction to the right candidates are usually senior managers or directors with a very busy schedule and little or no time for browsing through a company’s open positions and then identifying great candidates within their network.

The other problem is that sometimes even though a first attempt is made, employees forget to follow up, and the referral doesn’t go further.

Make referrals easy for your employees

The best way for recruiters to quickly identify great candidates through referrals would be to source talent within an employees’ network and identify candidates upfront. Once the passive candidate has been identified, the employee’s job is to simply make the introduction and let HR follow up with the talent. In order to implement and manage this process, recruiters have to:
1. Access employee’s network upfront
2. Leverage automated notification and customized messages
3. Track in real-time the status of referrals

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(Internet of) Things as a Service (TaaS) – Hype vs. Reality

With all of the excitement around Internet of Things (IoT), it can be difficult to separate hype from reality. IoT is more about disruptive new business models than technology.

Move aside SaaS, IaaS, PaaS (Software, Infrastructure, and Platform as a service) – there is a new kid, TaaS (internet of Things as a Service), in town.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a trend in which the physical world is becoming a type of giant information system—through IOT one photo shutterstock 468787469 A2sensors and telematics embedded in physical objects and linked through wireless networks. As with all new and exciting technologies, it's difficult to separate hype from reality. Certainly the IoT, with its promise of connecting homes and cars, smart grids and smart manufacturing fit into this category. What is different this time around is the convergence of disruptive technologies such as cloud and mobile, shrinking hardware and ubiquitous connectivity, increasing business use cases that are rewriting traditional business rulebook.

IDC says the number of connected devices will increase to 30 billion this decade. The mix of devices will shift from traditional clients such as tablets, smartphones and wearables to IoT devices ranging from sensors to jet engines, transmission grids, and facilities equipment to assembly line machinery, train switches, even cattle. The things that we expect to connect to the Internet will consists of sensors, actuators with information processing and communication capabilities that will make themselves intelligent.

While consumers eagerly await a new iWatch, Android wear­able or a new smart home device from companies such as Nest; for organizations like Ford, FedEx, and GE it is all about IoT-enabled intelligent sensors, machine-to-machine connectivity, and sophis­ticated back-end data analytics to reap the busi­ness benefits of instrumenting, configuring, connecting, contextizing, and analyzing data from equipment, vehicles, physical infrastructure, smart grids and even humans. At the heart of IoT is ma­chine-to-machine (M2M) communications.

The first thing to keep in mind about IoT is the distinction be­tween the consumer and industrial spaces. IoT industrial needs to support a vari­ety of last-mile technologies driven by unique application and environmental requirements as traditional consumer oriented wireless and mobility would not work in all situations.

We would need a whole new infrastructure where disparate devices on industrial equipment, environmental sensors, home appliances, consumer wearables can relay data, and talk to the central public or private cloud services, where most powerful data aggregation and analysis will occur.

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Microsoft Buys Forerunner Software Tech to Boost Power BI Reporting

By: Pedro Hernandez | April 03, 2018


PowerBI 2The acquisition of Forerunner's Mobilizer and Report Viewer will help Microsoft improve Power BI's reporting capabilities for mobile and web apps.

Looking to grow its Power BI business intelligence and data analytics ecosystem, Microsoft went shopping close to home for its latest buy.

Microsoft has acquired enterprise report rendering technologies from fellow Redmond, Wash., technology firm Forerunner Software for an undisclosed amount, the company announced on April 2. Specifically, the software giant has snapped up Forerunner Mobilizer and Report Viewer.

Forerunner Mobilizer enables organizations to turn business insights from Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) into reports that can be viewed on a variety of mobile devices. Forerunner Report Viewer can be used to embed reports derived SSRS into web applications.

The acquisition effectively spells the end of Mobilizer and Report Viewer as commercial products, although Forerunner pledged to provide support to current customers through Oct. 20, 2020. Meanwhile, Microsoft has some big plans for the software.

"This technology includes, among other things, client-side rendering of Reporting Services (*.rdl) reports, responsive UI widgets for viewing reports, and a JavaScript SDK for integrating reports into other apps—a testament to what our partners can achieve building on our open platform," wrote Christopher Finlan, senior program manager for Power BI at Microsoft, in an April 2 blog post.

Forerunner's technology will also help pave the way for SSRS reports in the Power BI service, using client-side rendering capabilities to help deliver the experience, added Finlan. Power BI is Microsoft's cloud-based business intelligence (BI) offering, using the company's public massive public cloud infrastructure to crunch the numbers and generate interactive data visualizations, dashboards and reports.


The deal will also help Microsoft squeeze SSRS reports into smartphones and other mobile devices. Finlan expects the Power BI mobile apps to provide a snappier, more responsive user interface while users await report parameter values and navigate within reports.

Finally, Forerunner's rendering technology will offer developers more options.

The ReportView rendering control from Microsoft is based on ASP.NET Web Forms, explained Finlan. After completing its integration work, his team hopes to deliver a client-side, JavaScript solution that can be integrated "into any modern app," Finlan said.

Microsoft's mission to popularize BI in the workplace goes beyond the typical mobile devices that today's business professionals tote around.

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