SMB Nation Blog

Small business IT and technology news for the SMB channel VAR, MSP, and IT professional.

Azure announced last week additional networking features, making Azure a more powerful networking tool that allows users to design network topologies with more control and agility.Microsoft Azure

New capabilities include an ExpressRoute premium offering, ExpressRoute support for Office 365 and Skype for Business Enterprise Voice, a Standard VPN gateway with S2S VPN Connectivity, and virtual network enhancements including user defined routes.

ExpressRoute: The ExpressRoute premium add-on supports up to 10,000 routes to seamlessly connect to large global enterprise networks, and ExpressRoute and ExpressRoute premium will both support connectivity to Microsoft Cloud services, including O365 and Skype.

VPN gateway: The new standard VPN gateway will enable new connectivity scenarios, and Azure will now have a variety of VPN gateways available.

Virtual Network Enhancements: According to Azure, it continues to enhance the Azure Virtual Network with features including user defined routes, which give Azure users complete control over the traffic flow in their virtual networks.

Virtual Appliance Partners: A10, Cisco, Fortinet and NGINX joined the Azure Network Virtual Appliance ecosystem.

Azure DNS: This new service, which uses anycast networking, hosts DNS domains and provides name resolution using Microsoft’s global infrastructure.

Networking Support: Azure Resource Manager now supports composition of complex networking infrastructures through simple JSON templates.

More information about Azure’s newest features is available here.

By Patrick Houston, long-time industry leader and founder of Media Architects

Who’d have thunk it? Not me. Or not until Harry and I had a recent conversation with Blackberry’s David Moellenkamp.BBRY2674 Cloud Blog Banner

Remember the days when every blockbuster business or government movie character clicked away on a BlackBerry keyboard? Gone. And for a time everything at the Waterloo, Canada, company seemed to go from bad to worse. Its every attempt to reverse its slide — never mind regaining its stature — seemed tone deaf to its customer base, never more symptomatic than its ill-begotten launch of the Playbook tablet.

Even BlackBerry itself admitted to very crux of its challenge in what actually became a prize-winning PR campaign built around the slogan a “From Relic to Relevant.” Relic is right. Like so many others, I figured the company was headed the way of those ghosts of business history like Digital Equipment, Palm and Kodak.

But then we talked to Moellenkamp. Ever since John Chen came aboard as CEO last year, BlackBerry has been showing glimmering signs of a comeback. Here’s mainly why: It’s actively and publicly dispelling any lingering delusions it has of being a leading smartphone maker. Self-awareness is, after all, the first step. Instead, it’s embracing its consummate natural strength as a provider of secure communications services (Stick to your knitting!).

By way of introduction, Moellenkamp is BlackBerry’s executive director of Enterprise Solutions Development, one of its four key operating units. A Devices group is still one, but it’s outweighed by three others, all revolving around enterprise software services. Across the board, the company’s moves are being dictated, Moellenkamp said, by BlackBerry’s newfound focus on its core strengths of security, productivity, communication, and collaboration for business.

But those are just words. The real issue: Can Blackberry execute on them? But Moellenkamp offers us a few dots. And if its audience can connect with them, well, it just might be on the verge of becoming a player yet again:

Consider just three:

  • BlackBerry is moving to the cloud. The company has a gem in its mobile-device-management platform, BES12. I have no idea what its name has to do with product. I do have an idea — a good one — that BES12 is a gem. Businesses, especially in highly-regulated sectors like healthcare, remain consummately concerned about data security, and it doesn’t take a genius to understand what vulnerabilities mobile devices present. Moving it to the cloud promises to make the EMM-platform promises that much better. It’ll make it accessible and affordable faster to more companies, especially small-to-medium-sized ones. And to make it more accessible to a wider swath of businesses, it’s going to have to be easier to use. BlackBerry says it is, but we’ll have to see because, after all, like beauty, ease-of-use in is the eye of the beholder.
  • BlackBerry is playing in the Internet of Things. Get this: Secure BlackBerry software powers embedded computer chips in cars, factories, and medical devices. Who knew? The company has data centers around the world transacting 35 petabytes of mobile data a month. It handles peer-to-peer connections with 700 mobile and partner networks. As more things connect to more other things, security will become an exponential concern. Yep, you’ve got it. BlackBerry has a big ace of spades in its hand.
  • BlackBerry is acquiring more advanced security technologies. In April, it bought an Israeli company called WatchDox. Even though endpoint security has become all the rage, WatchDox adds a smart, new precaution to the mix: It embeds security into the document itself, allowing it to “travel” with the file no matter where it goes. You can protect, share, and work with it on any device. You can see where it is at any moment. You can control who can edit, copy, print, and forward. Most of all, you can revoke access or delete a file remotely. And by the way, as a company name, WatchDox, I get. Dox, doc, dog, nice.

BlackBerry just reported its second consecutive profitable quarter, and its customer loyalty scores have spiked. It was named the biggest gainer in an annual ranking of 220 big brands, released in March.

It’s too early to declare a comeback. According to reports as recently as May 5, CEO Chen was opining the challenge of convincing his own employees that BlackBerry isn’t a smartphone company anymore. (Hey, disbelievers, have you been hibernating? Apple, Samsung, Google, and Microsoft have won that battle. But take warm comfort. You’re in good company. Nokia, Ericsson, HTC, and Sony are also-rans too.)

Nevertheless, the glimmers are bright enough to suggest that BlackBerry shouldn’t be written off as a has-been — and should be considered as channel partner that can add a suite of secure business software services to your portfolio.

Cloud recovery solution provider Unitrends announced yesterday Enterprise Management Associates named it a “Vendor to Watch,” recognizing it as a company that delivers unique customer value by solving previously unaddressed problems. Unitrends logo

Unitrends specifically works to address limited IT resources and lack of effective products for SMBs and midmarket enterprises through its cloud-empowered, all-in-one business continuity solutions, including multi-environment backup, archiving, and DRaaS.

"Unitrends greatly lowers risk by automatically and non-disruptively testing the recovery process following backups or replication," said Jim Miller, senior analyst at EMA. "Recovery assurance quantifies the actual time to recover, and confirms whether recovery point and recovery time objectives are being met." 

Unitrends’ President and CEO Kevin Weiss said the company works to increase IT confidence and reduce stress for SMBs.

The “Vendor to Watch” report featuring Unitrends is available here.

Cybersecurity continues to be a center-stage concern for business owners, especially SMBs with limited budgets.

Intronis and My Digital Shield yesterday announced they Intronis will host a webinar centering on how MSPs can best approach discussion of cyber security with SMB clients.

MDS CEO Andrew Bagrin will lead the webinar here 2 p.m. May 14, using his 17 years of IT industry experience to describe how to bring the topic of security into conversations with clients, how to educate clients about security threats and protection and available security services.

I’ve finally recovered from the robust Lenovo Accelerate conference in Las Vegas a week ago. Something about that city.

With the passage of time, as an ardent analyst, I’ve got the benefit of reflection on my side. I’d offer my insights were fortified and this much more impactful than if I had been in breaking news mode.WP 20150427 16 30 42 Pro

One Lenovo

Speaking with Chris Frey (pictured), vice president of North America commercial channels and SMB at Lenovo, he shared very few people thought that Lenovo could do what it did throughout the past decade as he celebrated Lenovo’s 10th anniversary.

Reflecting back, he highlighted the integration of the PC cultures in integrating the IBM PCs and, more importantly, the ThinkPad.

“It’s a classic business case study of bringing two brands together,” Frey said. “Moving forward, if history is any indicator, Lenovo will continue to be number one! Lenovo’s staff is energized and our people want to be great.”

I sensed the hunger. “We’re a culture of DO’ERS and we get stuff done!”

Concerning One Lenovo, Frey shared some operational thinking. The intention is to treat the channel with more respect by managing one Profit & Loss statement.

The “not my department” barrier is coming down. Generalist will manage the partner relationship with an overlay of specialists that can be called in from time to time.

“I hope everyone gets excited about One Lenovo,” Frey said. “One coverage model, one distribution model.”

Frey concluded with a peek into the ANY strategy, which signifies any products to any customer at any time. “We don’t care about routes.” Frey added.


In other news, Lenovo continue to expand its brand with multiple celebrities including Kobe Bryant. Lenovo will return as an official sponsor for Super Bowl 50 when the Seattle Seahawks will claim victory.


Next up, I’ll discuss Lenovo’s education play and its success producing Chromebooks—Wintel buster? We’ll also take a peek at phone! Look for my installment shortly.