Four ways to sell more cloud and mobile tools to SMBs

Fleur Doidge

27 Feb, 2020

Only 40% of SMBs have adopted public cloud offerings or plan to in the next 12 months, according to IDC’s European Tech and Industry Pulse Survey 2019-2020Cloud boosts customer profits by supporting productivity-enhancing mobile, collaborative or flexible-working tools; the channel should be in pole position to grow this market.

Yet just 46% of respondents in the IDC survey bought their cloud tools through channel partners. What will persuade the other 54%?

Describe how tools improve employee satisfaction and productivity

Research carried out by analyst house Forrester, sponsored by Lenovo and Intel, highlights flexibility and mobility as drivers for the good employee experience that underpins an effective workplace.

Michael Littler, executive director of global SMB marketing in Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group,  says it suggests SMBs aren’t supplying the tools that support how people want to work.

“When we drill into why people don’t feel productive, the tech aspect is a huge piece of it. Only 26% of respondents said ‘my company is providing me with access to cloud-based tools’,” he says.

Of employees in the 2019 survey who indicated feeling productive at work, 81% were satisfied with the devices available. The converse is true among those who said they don’t feel productive: 47% of workers who feel unproductive are satisfied with device provision. Only 23% of the group who feel unproductive felt satisfied with their work overall.

74% said they have no flexibility to choose “suitable” technologies to perform their tasks, and 71% rely on desktops as their main device. Only 49% of SMB buyers said, though, that these desktops would be replaced at refresh time, with only 40% promising to invest in laptops instead, for example.

Yet 87% of buyers within these SMBs cite employee productivity as a high or critical priority over the next 12 months, notes Littler.

Offer SMBs access to dynamism and enterprise-grade offerings

The channel should be asking SMBs if their systems are sufficiently flexible and scalable for future agility or new ways of working. 

Steve Joyner, managing director for UK and Ireland at Avaya, says SMBs need more sophisticated offerings. “Once it was assumed that only enterprises needed the connectivity or higher-end use cases, because they had many employees and really worried about how to collaborate.

“Everyone now expects to be able to collaborate and work together and use systems and applications the same way,” Joyner says.

Meanwhile, younger employees who grew up using mobile tools flexibly and collaboratively expect to do so in the workplace as well. 

In response Avaya, like other vendors, has rejigged its offerings, opening up its platforms as well as researching customer needs, offering a full suite of solutions, education and training to all sizes of customer and channel partner, says Joyner.

Devise specific solutions that deal with questions about cost

SMBs that don’t use cloud often perceive it as expensive or insecure – even though moving non-core tech and systems to the cloud can save money.

Avaya’s Joyner thinks this preconception goes back to the days of on-prem, when sophistication, reliability, redundancy and security came at a premium. Cloud can enable complexity to be delivered per user.

“Smaller firms can enjoy the security and encryption that large enterprises do, because the platforms in the cloud are actually large-enterprise platforms,” he says. “And there’s nothing stopping them taking private cloud – still consuming and not having all those up-front costs.”

Demonstrate benefits concretely via proofs-of-concept

Spinning up a proof-of-concept quickly can enable customers to “kick the tyres” and lay concerns to rest. Avaya’s Joyner notes that customers, large or small, typically ask to review their various cloud offerings live, whether they’re public, private or hybrid.

“Demos are far easier to do with cloud. They used to be just for the enterprise, because it was less cost-effective to do proofs-of-concept for smaller customers – but that’s not the case now,” Joyner adds.

It’s the channel’s role, as trusted advisors on cloud and mobile, to ensure it has the skills to communicate these benefits to more SMB customers.

Google to invest $10bn in US offices & data centres

Bobby Hellard

27 Feb, 2020

Google will build 11 office and data centres across the US as part of a $10 billion investment plan.

The tech giant announced these new buildings will create thousands of jobs and provide opportunities for local businesses.

It follows on from the company’s ambitious 2019 plan to invest $13 billion in rural states such as South Carolina and Nevada. Along with R&D funding, this made Alphabet the largest investor into the US, according to the Progressive Policy Institute.

The new investment will be used to build on that by adding 11 new sites in Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and California.

As an example of the impact Google’s investments could have, CEO Sundar Pichai pointed to the company’s data centre in Mayes County, Oklahoma.

“Last year, I visited Pryor to announce a $600 million investment, our fourth expansion there since 2007,” Pichai said in a blog post. “It felt like the whole community came out to welcome us, from small business owners to teachers to Google employees.

“Pryor Mayor Larry Lees told the crowd that Google’s investments have helped provide local schools with the resources they need – including the latest textbooks and STEM courses – to offer a world-class education. He talked about the small businesses we have helped train and the mentorship Googlers have provided to Pryor’s students.”

The new offices and data centres will create roles with Google, as well as jobs in construction and renewable energy facilities, the company said.

This is also further evidence of Google’s relentless investment into its cloud business. Recently it announced the $2 billion acquisition of Looker, a data analytics firm and also Cornerstone Technology, a mainframe-to-cloud migration firm.

Salesforce acquires Vlocity in $1.33bn all-cash deal amid executive shuffle

Salesforce is to acquire Vlocity, a provider of industry-specific cloud and CRM apps, for $1.33 billion (£1.04bn) in an all-cash deal – amid an action-packed end to the company’s fiscal year.

The news was tucked away at the very end of Salesforce’s fourth quarter update. The company’s financial results were described as ‘phenomenal’ by CEO Marc Benioff – not co-CEO, more on which shortly – with Q4 revenue up 35% year over year to $4.8bn (£3.7bn), and total fiscal 2020 revenue at $17.1bn on a 29% increase.

Vlocity’s acquisition by Salesforce – in terms of the acquiring company – should come as little surprise. The Vlocity solution is built natively on the Salesforce platform, with Salesforce Ventures co-leading its most recent funding, a $60 million series C round in March.

The six primary industries targeted by Vlocity are communications, energy and utilities, government, health, insurance, and media and entertainment, with key customers including T-Mobile, Telus, and Sky. The company placed in the top 25 of the most recent Forbes Cloud 100 ranking, as well as just outside the top 50 on the Inc. 5000 Series earlier this month, representing the fastest growing private companies in California.

Writing to customers following the Salesforce acquisition news, Vlocity CEO David Schmaier noted the growth the company had undertaken to this point. “Every organisation, including the world’s largest customer-centric corporations and industries, must digitally transform,” Schmaier wrote. “It is more important than ever for our customers to have products that speak the language of their industries.

“The best customer experiences are industry-specific,” Schmaier added. “Together, our customers, our partners and our employees have accomplished so much. I am thrilled about our future with Salesforce.”

Speaking to investors following the earnings report, Benioff noted that Vlocity was a ‘relatively small transaction’ – not idle words when you’ve previously spent $15.7bn on Tableau – but that the time was right to invest. “In our relationship with Vlocity and the way that we originally invested in the company, it created a situation for acquisition that we needed to take advantage of and which is why we have acquired it at a very attractive price, because we have been partners with them from the very beginning,” he said.

Alongside this, it was announced that Keith Block has stepped down as co-CEO of Salesforce, with Benioff carrying on alone. Block will remain an advisor to the CEO, with Benioff leading the tributes to an executive who ‘helped position [Salesforce] as a global leader and… the envy of the industry.’ Gavin Patterson, former BT chief, is joining the company as president and CEO of Salesforce International, based in London.

The Vlocity transaction is expected to close during the second quarter. in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.

Salesforce co-chief Keith Block steps down

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

26 Feb, 2020

The joint-Salesforce CEO Keith Block has stepped down from his leadership role after just 18 months in-post, leaving founder Marc Benioff as the sole CEO of the software company.

Block’s resignation has come as a surprise, given the former Oracle VP has come on leaps and bounds since joining Salesforce in 2013, and was widely considered to be a potential successor to Benioff in the future.

The co-CEO first joined the customer relationship management (CRM) company in 2013 as head of sales, before being promoted to COO.

He took up the co-CEO role from August 2018, meaning that he’d only been in the role for little more than 18 months before announcing his intent to step down.

The nature of his departure is also somewhat of a mystery, with no explicit reason offered by the company.

Block will stay on with the company for an extra year to serve as an advisor before moving on, and Benioff will now handle the duties the two had previously shared.

The company revealed Block’s decision on a conference call with analysts in which it shared financial results for the fourth quarter of 2019, according to Business Insider.

The firm’s executives, including Benioff, praised Block for his almost seven-year stint at the company, and wished him well for the future.

“I am his biggest supporter,” Benioff said, adding: “I’m his close friend. You’ll always be part of our Ohana [the Hawaiian word for family].”

On the call, the company reported a net loss of $248 million for the fourth quarter of last year, compared with a net income of $362 million for the same quarter in 2018. Moreover, its total revenues rose by 34.6% to $4.85 billion, which beat analyst estimates of $4.75 billion.

The CRM company has made a series of acquisitions over the last year, the most significant of which is its purchase of data management firm Tableau for approximately $16 billion. This was in addition to its purchase of ClickSoftware for $1.35 billion in August.

Already in 2020, the company has acquired data personalisation company Evergage, and industry-specific cloud provider Vlocity.

Firefox activates DNS over HTTPS for US users by default

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

26 Feb, 2020

Mozilla has begun the rollout of encrypted DNS over HTTPS (DoH) by default for all its US-based Firefox users after working for years to upgrade the Domain Name System (DNS) protocol.

Over the next few weeks, Firefox users will be able to use the DoH protocol by default while surfing the web, meaning their web traffic will be fully encrypted. This technology blocks third-party interception and also prevents Internet Service Providers from maintaining visibility over users’ activity.

DNS, which remains unchanged since the 80s, has been long-considered an insecure protocol that, while fundamental to the internet’s structure, allows for threats such as man-in-the-middle attacks.

The archaic database links a URL to an IP address, with browsers able to identify the websites for users by matching the two when a query is made. Because there is no encryption, however, other devices may intercept these queries and potentially collect this data.

DNS lookups are often sent to servers that can allow third-parties to gain access to users search and browsing history without their knowledge. It’s one of the key methods that ISPs deploy when implementing tools like web blockers.

“Today, we know that unencrypted DNS is not only vulnerable to spying but is being exploited, and so we are helping the internet to make the shift to more secure alternatives,” Mozilla said

“We do this by performing DNS lookups in an encrypted HTTPS connection. 

“This helps hide your browsing history from attackers on the network, helps prevent data collection by third parties on the network that ties your computer to websites you visit.”

Mozilla’s DoH implementation involves routing users’ web traffic to a DNS server hosted by either Cloudflare or NextDNS depending on their preference, instead of DNS servers hosted by ISPs and networking companies.

The DoH protocol will be configured by default for US users over the next few weeks, although users outside of the US may activate this level of encryption by accessing the settings menu. This is an option in the connection settings menu.

This privacy-focused move typifies the approach Mozilla has taken in recent years to fine-tuning and differentiating its Firefox browser from a host of competing applications, such as Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge.

Chrome, however, also allows users to adopt DoH, although this will have to be manually configured, unlike for US users in Firefox, and soon across the rest of the world, who will enjoy DoH security by default.

Microsoft, similarly, embraced this protocol in November, announcing it would work to implement more secure technology into its products. This would start with plans to upgrade its servers to use the DoH protocol.

The shift to DoH is expected to anger ISPs, who in the UK previously branded the company an ‘internet villain’ for simply considering implementing the protocol.

Service providers, and regulators like Ofcom, or the FCC in the US, have relied on the DNS protocol for a host of functions, such as implementing content blockers. The mass implementation of DoH would render such tools useless as ISPs would lose all visibility over their customers’ web traffic.

How SaaS, AI and machine learning are boosting sports broadcasting: A guide

The sports broadcasting industry has a problem. Fan bases are growing, as are viewing figures; but it is becoming harder and far more expensive for sports broadcasters and rights holders to manage, package and distribute their content. Obsolete methods of distribution that require expensive software and hardware packages, sold on fix term licenses, are hindering broadcasters from making back-end efficiencies that can ultimately lead to enhanced fan experience.

In short, the traditional linear services used to broadcast sporting events are broken.

This is increasingly true for smaller, more niche sports that are further exposed to the strain on resources and struggle to achieve the fan exposure they require to grow. Where technology is concerned, enhancing fan engagement and increasing audience figures are normally viewed as part of the front-end program, but that should no longer be the case.

By tidying up the backend technology used to manage, package and distribute content, sporting organisations can funnel budget savings – and profits – into frontend production value.


This is where a software as a service (SaaS) solution can make a big difference. One of the main benefits of the SaaS model is that it is pay-per-use. This has huge advantages for the sports industry, as it means that they can scale their operations up and down in accordance with peak times. Take the European football season as an example: using a SaaS platform for content management, production and delivery would mean that the broadcasters and rights holders can scale up their operations around the season’s biggest fixtures and busiest weekends.

While this is certainly advantageous for broadcasters and rights holders across all sports, it has particular benefits for smaller sports looking to increase their exposure and break into the mainstream.

They are not fixed to long-term license agreements for their content management platforms, which used to mean having to pay full price near the season’s close. Additionally, the sports broadcasting service industry has traditionally been linear-based and on-premise, meaning that the increasingly complex services required to produce and distribute content require increasingly pricey hardware.

Breaking the strain

In many cases, the traditional methods of editing and distribution are too expensive and require too much staffing for emerging sports, meaning they struggle to keep up and can’t gain the exposure they require to grow their audience. Through utilising a SaaS platform for their content servicing, these sports can overcome the strain on resources by saving money through paying for only what they use, and by decreasing the time it takes for them to package and distribute content. Content, whether that be advertisements to broadcasters, or archive footage to social media, can be accessed and distributed to multiple platforms in a matter of seconds.

In the age of social media, this can pay dividends for smaller sports. A recent study conducted by consumer research organisation Global Web Index found that 22% of social media users cited engaging with sports content as a primary reason for its use in 2019, marking a 37% increase from 2016. Social media provides sporting organisations with the ability to build communities that keep existing fans engaged and help to reach new audiences, providing them with potential new revenue opportunities.

The problem thus far for smaller sporting organisations is that effectively managing and packaging content to distribute to multiple social media channels can be a complicated and arduous process that requires resources these organisations simply don’t have. By using a SaaS platform, social media teams at smaller sports can quickly and efficiently access, edit, and distribute content to multiple platforms. Football teams can have clips of goals posted on their Twitter feed within one minute of the goal being scored. For smaller sports, near to live highlights, analysis and replays creates an element of interactivity, helping to engage larger online audiences.

Boosting fan experience with AI and ML

Once broadcasters and rights holders have developed efficient means of distributing their content, the next question centres upon how they can develop fan experiences to grow their audience figures. Again, the answer for many organisations appears to lie in technology with a number of sports investing heavily in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).

Formula 1, for instance, partnered with AWS to boost fan experience by giving them unique insight into the split-second decisions made by racing teams and drivers mid-race. The technology collects data from 120 sensors on the car before using Amazon’s machine learning algorithms to provide fans insights such as real-time race predictions, and car performance. The unique and new analyses that are created by emerging technology inject an additional sense of spectacle. The result is a more immersive experience allowing a sport to build and grow audience numbers.

While these technologies may currently only be accessible to the more mainstream sports, it is clear that the technology being developed for the enterprise can play a significant role in the sports broadcasting industry. With SaaS, developing sports can move on from the traditional linear and legacy systems that are currently holding them back. With SaaS, they can drive back-end efficiencies and feed their fans growing appetite for quick content.

Read more: At the front of the grid: How Formula 1 leads sporting franchises in data and analytics in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.

Cisco reveals cloud-native SecureX platform

Bobby Hellard

25 Feb, 2020

Cisco has unveiled a cloud-native security platform called SecureX, which is aimed at giving businesses more visibility across security services with analytics and workflow automation.

SecureX fits into Cisco’s existing security products and those from third-party providers, and analyses data across endpoints, cloud, networks and applications to help identify threats.

What’s more, it can respond to these threats more efficiently, according to Cisco. This is one of the first cloud security services to come out ahead of the RSA conference and another big vendor looking to aid customer security with AI.

Last year, Box announced a similar feature with Box Shield that aimed to protect the customers from outside threats and also their own mistakes. SecureX has a similar protocol that takes an automated approach to cloud security.

“Today we are introducing Cisco SecureX – a new way for users to experience Cisco’s Security portfolio,” said Jeff Reed, SVP of product for Cisco’s security business. “Cisco SecureX streamlines our customers operations with increased visibility across their security portfolio and provides out-of-box integrations, powerful security analytics, and automated workflows to speed threat detection and response.

“SecureX is an open, cloud-native platform that connects Cisco’s integrated security portfolio and customers security portfolios for a simpler, more consistent experience across endpoints, cloud, network, and applications.”

The platform offers a full multi-domain orchestration, with AI capabilities through a low-code approach and drag and drop interface. It uses adaptor models to orchestrate the platform, with more than 50 adaptors for security, networking, IoT, cloud and data centres.

The new service will be bundled into every Cisco security product from June when it becomes generally available.

Unlike the competition, SecureX helps customers get more value quicker, according to Reed. He suggests that users can get up and running in minutes, rather than hours, with its simple homepage that just requires API keys.

Google Cloud bolsters security offerings at RSA – as Thales report warns of more breaches

Google Cloud has beefed up its security offerings to include greater threat detection, response integration, and online fraud prevention.

The news, announced at the RSA Conference in San Francisco, focused predominantly on enterprise security product Chronicle, which was ‘acquired’ by Google Cloud last year having been a bet of the ‘moonshot’ X R&D company.

Users will be able to target threats through YARA-L, a new rules language built specifically for modern attack behaviours, with Google Cloud promising ‘massively scalable, real-time and retroactive rule execution.’

One part of Chronicle’s development, ‘intelligent data fusion’, is also being forwarded as part of this rollout. This means companies can automatically link multiple events into a single timeline. The move is alongside security partners, with Palo Alto – announced as a collaborator for hybrid cloud platform Anthos in December – first on the list.

In terms of more general security defences, Google Cloud is also introducing an enterprise-strength reCAPTCHA product, as well as Web Risk API, both available for separate purchase. The former has recently been fortified with various bot defence systems, while the latter enables client applications to check URLs against unsafe web resources.

For Google, whose updates and iterations are mainly focused around the enterprise – the company certainly being the ‘noisiest’ of the biggest cloud providers – this aims to represent another step in the right direction.

“When it comes to security, our work will never be finished,” wrote Sunil Potti, Google Cloud VP security in a blog post. “In addition to the capabilities announced today, we’ll continue to empower our customers with products that help organisations modernise their security capabilities in the cloud or in-place.”

Alongside this, security provider Thales has reported in its latest global Data Threat study that while around half of all data is now stored in cloud environments, a similar number of organisations across various industries have suffered a data breach.

The study, conducted alongside IDC and which polled more than 1,700 executives, found that 47% of organisations experienced a breach or failed a compliance audit over the past year. Financial services firms, at 54%, suffered the most, ahead of government (52%) and retail (49%). Yet government respondents said they were the most advanced in their digital transformation strategies.

IDC noted four key strategies based on the report’s findings, with encryption at the heart of security across big data, IoT, and containers. Organisations should invest in hybrid and multi-cloud data security tools; increase focus on data discovery and centralisation of key management; focus on threat vectors within their control; and consider a Zero Trust model.

Yet the latter came with a caveat. “Zero Trust is a fantastic initiative to authenticate and validate the users and devices accessing applications and networks, but does little to protect sensitive data should those measures fail,” said Frank Dickson, IDC program vice president for cybersecurity products. “Employing robust data discovery, hardening, data loss prevention, and encryption solutions provide an appropriate foundation for data security, completing the objective of pervasive cyber protection.” in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.

Oracle accused of coercing customers into cloud migrations

Bobby Hellard

25 Feb, 2020

Oracle is being sued for allegedly inflating cloud revenues and resorting to “systematically coercing and bribing” existing customers into cloud migrations.

This is according to a 164-page complaint filed to a Federal District Court in California by German-based Union Asset Management AG.

It’s the third time that the company has sort to challenge Oracle in US courts having failed to get beyond the first hurdle in 2018 and 2019.

The report names founder Larry Ellison, CEO Safra Catz, former CEO, the late Mark Hurd. and claims that its top executives were “highly motivated to misleadingly inflate Oracle’s Cloud revenues through the use of engineered deals by virtue of the company’s compensation plan”. 

The documents also name Oracle’s former cloud boss, now Google Cloud CEO, Thomas Kurian as a defendant.

In the court filings, it stats that Oracle employed a strategy known as Audit, Bargain, Close that it used to coerce cloud sales. With this Oracle would install its on-premise software in its existing client’s ecosystems with preferences automatically enabled, which, according to the filing, would cause the customer to unknowingly exceed the limits of its license.

“After the customer fell into this trap, Oracle would audit the on-premises customer for violations of its on-premises software license,” the filings said. “When it found violations, Oracle would threaten to impose extremely large penalties. Oracle would then offer to reduce or eliminate those penalties if the customer agreed to accept a short-term cloud subscription that the customer neither desired nor intended to use.”

The documents also quote a 2017 email from Kurain, sent while working at Oracle. In the email, he is critical of the interface for Oracle Human Capital Management Cloud, calling it a “disgrace”.

“I continue to get extraordinary pressure from our two CEOs [Mark Hurd and Safra Catz] and LJE [Larry Ellison] himself that the UI is not tenable… the core product UI is awful. Until you all collectively accept the mess you have made and the need to move quickly we are talking past one another.”

In June 2018 the tech giant changed the way it reported cloud revenues every quarter by only putting forward a combined figure for SaaS, PaaS and IaaS. Cloud Pro has approached Oracle for a response. 

Half of Indian enterprises will operate hybrid multicloud environments by 2021, predicts IDC

Half of the enterprises in India will be operating in a hybrid multicloud environment by 2021, according to predictions from analyst firm IDC.

The finding appears as part of the company’s India-contextualided Worldwide Cloud Predictions for 2020 and beyond. Alongside this, by 2021, IDC predicted that 30% of Indian enterprises will deploy unified VMs, Kubernetes, and multicloud management processes and tools to support robust multicloud management across on-premises and public clouds.

Rishu Sharma, the principal analyst, cloud and artificial intelligence, IDC India, said: "Enterprises in India are looking at cloud as a key enabler to meet their business priorities. As per IDC's Cloud Pulse 2Q19, 75% of organisations in India have plans to invest in the cloud-based infrastructure and applications to meet their business goals.

“Cloud will become the enabler for all things digital but will bring in challenges associated with the management of multiple clouds and traditional systems," Sharma added.

In January, Google Cloud partnered with Bharti Airtel, an Indian telecommunications company. The deal with Airtel will see the organisation offer collaboration tool G Suite to small as well as medium sized businesses as part of its integrated B2B connectivity solutions. In August 2019, fellow Indian telco Reliance Jio, announced a 10-year partnership with Microsoft to utilise and promote Azure and ‘accelerate the digital transformation of the Indian economy and society.’ As per the agreement, Jio will move its non-network applications to Azure, and also set up data centres across India with Azure housed there. in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.