Earlier this week, Lenovo introduced a service that could have big implications for your clients.
The new service, called Unified Workspace Cloud, is a hosted and cloud-based version of Lenovo’s Unified Workspace, an on-premises workspace solution.
Unified Workspace is actually based on webNetwork, a service Lenovo gained in 2012 with its acquisition of Stoneware Inc. Unified Workspace lets users work from pretty much anywhere and pretty much any device via a single-sign-on, customizable browser-based UI to files, applications and data.
The older on-premises version of Lenovo Unified Workspace has gained some 3 million users at 600 public- and private-sector organizations, according to Lenovo. The new cloud-based version, the company adds, is aimed at organizations with IT departments too small, IT infrastructures too limited, and IT expertise too lacking to run the solution themselves. Instead, the idea is, they can partner with Lenovo.
Lenovo Unified Workspace Cloud can be accessed from just about any device, regardless of its operating system. Users do not need to go through a virtual private network (VPN). Nor do they need to install a desktop agent.
Lenovo Unified Workspace acts as a remote-access proxy to data centers.
Once logged in, users of Lenovo Unified Workspace can gain access to web-based applications, legacy Windows applications, both virtual and remote desktop infrastructures, file shares and cloud-based storage.
‘Break the Status Quo’
What’s the big deal? Well, as Sal Patalano of Lenovo Software said, “Unified Workspace Cloud helps businesses and IT organizations break the status quo.”
He adds: “What users can and can’t do with their apps, devices and data is no longer the focus. Empowering users to work seamlessly, in a manner consistent with how they ‘choose” to work, from the location and device of their choice, is no longer a luxury – it’s table stakes!”
He’s in good company. Lenovo cites a Gartner prediction of nearly 21 billion connected devices being used worldwide by 2020. And a Forbes survey that found 91 percent of employees believe they’re more productive when working remotely.
Sound interesting for your clients? They’ll need to license Unified Workspace, and Lenovo currently offers 3 options: Named License, with an account for each user; Concurrent License, with gives access to simultaneous users; and Education License, which covers teachers and students in schools.
Lenovo hasn’t released pricing for its Unified Workspace Cloud. It looks like prospective users will have to ask Lenovo for a price quote. Still, this is a fascinating offering, one that offers a glimpse of how many IT departments will function tomorrow, if not sooner.
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With the PC business in decline now for the last 2 years (according to this new Gartner report), you may be wondering, where’s the growth? One answer is drones.
The global market for drones is expected to hit $12 billion in 2021, up from about $8 billion last year, predicts a recent report from BI Intelligence. Much of that will come from governments, specifically defense. But in the consumer market, shipments will quadruple over the next five years, BI Intelligence forecasts, thanks to competition on prices and new technologies that make drones easier to fly for beginners.
Another emerging market is drones for business. According to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s June update on what it calls “unmanned aircraft systems,” business uses for drones include crop monitoring and inspection, power-line inspection, aerial photography and aiding rescue operations.
Intel Jumps In
Intel may not be the first name you associate with drones, but in fact the company has been pretty busy in this space:
> Earlier this year Intel showcased a consumer drone, the Yuneec Typhoon H with Intel RealSense technology. This drone retails for just under $1,900.
> Last month, Intel received a waiver from the FAA authorizing the company to fly as many as thousands of drones.
> And yesterday, Intel announced its first commercial drone system, the Falcon 8+. The Falcon is called a system because it includes not only a drone vehicle, but also a controller, the Intel Cockpit, and a “smart battery” power supply, the Intel Powerpack. The target market, Intel says, includes drone service providers (yes, that’s a thing) and other industries in North America.
Intel’s new Falcon 8+ drone and its Cockpit ground controller are designed for commercial use.
As you might expect from the chipmaker, Intel also offers drone components for developers:
The Intel Aero Compute Board is a $400 developer kit that packs a quad-core Intel Atom processor, storage, communications and I/O on a single card.
The Intel Aero Ready-to-Fly Drone is a development platform that includes a quadcopter drone, Intel Aero Compute Board, Intel RealSense technology and the Linux OS. It’s set to ship by year’s end, and prices haven’t yet been announced.
The Intel Aero Vision Accessory Kit, retailing for about $150, offers three cameras for drones: RealSense, 8 megapixel and VGA. The cameras attach directly to the Intel Aero Compute Board, and cables are included.
So if you’re looking for a new market — especially one that’s marked for fast growth — you might look into drones.
IT budgets are stagnant. Cloud and hosted services are hot. Laptop spending will approach that of desktops. And artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), 3-D printing and the Internet of Things (IoT) are getting real.
These are among the findings of the 2016 survey on IT budgets and technology trends recently released by Spiceworks, an Austin, Texas-based professional network for IT professionals. The report is based on Spiceworks’ survey of nearly 900 IT pros, as well as social data from conversations on its own network.
For solution providers, the survey findings can help you focus your sales and marketing efforts on the areas that IT pros — your clients — believe are of highest importance and priority.
Here are the survey’s high points:
> IT budgets will barely budge in 2017. The average budget among respondents was $293,093 this year, and for next year, $294,081, a difference of less than $1K. In the U.K., budgets are actually trending downward, with respondents there expecting to see 2017 budgets down by 5 percent. This chart, courtesy of Spiceworks, shows the expected breakdown of overall spending by IT category:
> IT staffing is mostly flat, too. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents said they expect no change in the size of the IT staff in 2017. Another 30 percent expect the IT staff next year to increase, and just 4 percent expect their IT staff to decrease.
> In the hardware spend, laptops will get nearly as much budget next year as desktops. Respondents say desktop spending will fall from 21 percent of the total hardware budget this year to 18 percent in 2017. That will bring it just 2 points higher than laptop spending, which is expected at 16 percent of the hardware budget next year.
> Software spending will be flat next year. And the highest priority projects will include virtualization (accounting for 15% of the software budget), productivity (13%), operating systems (13%) and CRM/ERP (10%).
> Cloud spending in 2017 will go mainly to email hosting (19% of the hosted/cloud budget), online backup/recovery (14%), web hosting (11%) and productivity solutions (9%).
> What spurs buyers to buy new products? Mainly, equipment at the end of its useful life, cited by 70 percent of respondents. Other drivers include business growth (cited by 63%), upgrades/refresh cycles (59%) and project need (58%). (Multiple replies were permitted.)
> The most important IT initiatives for 2017 are security, networking and storage, as shown by the following chart, courtesy of Spiceworks:
> AI, VR, 3-D printers and IoT were increasingly hot topics of conversation among IT pros. Spiceworks tracked the number of mentions in its social network between January and August of this year, and all four were trending sharply upward.
Actual adoption of these advanced technologies, while not quite as robust, is nonetheless real, Spiceworks finds. IoT adoption was cited by 13 percent of respondents, with another 10 percent planning to use IoT in the future. 3-D printing is used by 7 percent, and planned by 5 percent. VR is used by 4 percent and planned by 3 percent. And AI is used by just 2 percent and planned by 3 percent.
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You know about the Internet of Things, but did you know those “things” could be in an office or apartment building?
“Smart buildings” is a new and growing segment of the IoT market. Most of the action involves what are known as building management systems (BMS) or building automation systems (BAS).
There’s a big need, because buildings use — and often waste — huge amounts of energy. The U.S. Green Building Council, a trade group, says that buildings consume 70 percent of the electricity load in the U.S. and account for nearly 40 percent of all carbon-dioxide emissions.
To help, Intel yesterday introduced its Building Management Platform. The platform connects disparate building equipment and devices that use a variety of protocols, then sends their data to cloud-based services and applications for business intelligence, analytics, dashboard and other applications.
Intel says use cases for its new BMP include:
> Monitoring and analyzing building energy usage
> Remote monitoring of assets, such as space utilization and equipment usage
> Gaining insights into disparate building systems used to optimize operations
Smart, energy-efficient buildings are the goal of Intel’s new IoT management platform.
Key features of the new Intel BMP platform include:
>Easy access to building data and devices, thanks to the integration of CANDI Power Tools. These let users manage secure data flows to and from third-party applications and services. They also include built-in discovery tools and a drag-and-drop interface to help installers quickly find and provision devices.
> Over-the-air updates to remotely provision, manage and maintain device drivers, security fixes and application software.
> Cybersecurity protection with McAfee Embedded Control. This lets only signed software run on the gateway during the boot sequence, prevents unauthorized software from running, encrypts data transfers to the cloud, and accesses the gateway remotely when addressing new security threats.
> Flexibility and choice for ecosystem solutions. An out-of-the-box, Linux-based software appliance reduces development time by eliminating the need to work with low-level software components.
So if you’re looking to get started in the IoT marketplace, consider smart buildings. The market is big, growing and important. And new tools make it more attractive than ever.
Explore the new Intel Building Management Platform:
> Download the BMP product brief (PDF)
> View the BMP overview
Wondering how to get started with the Internet of Things? It’s a big opportunity — maybe too big. To narrow it down, many solution providers are focusing on a fast-growing segment of the IoT market: digital signage.
To help solution providers understand and enter this market, our sister site IoT Solution Provider held a live social chat yesterday with two executives from Ingram Micro: Alex Khalil, business development executive; and Eric Kenyon, senior channel account executive.
As IoT Solution Provider editor Patricia Schnaidt pointed out in a recent blog post, digital signage isn’t only for big retailers anymore. Acquisition costs have dropped, and turnkey bundles have emerged. As a result, Patricia writes, “solution providers targeting SMBs can pitch affordability and simplicity as key selling points.”
Digital signage: the market opportunity
Here are some of the high points from yesterday’s IoT Solution Provider social chat with Alex Khalil and Eric Kenyon of Ingram Micro:
> Definition: Digital signage is a way to display the right message, at the right time, to the right audience. Displays can be interactive, too.
> Market size: Digital signage was a $35 billion business in North America during 2015. It’s projected to hit $42 billion in North America in 2017. That translates into some 27 million digital-signage devices being shipped this year.
> Related revenue opportunities: Solution providers can offer digital-signage services that include site surveys, system design, content creation, installation, programming and break/fix. Margins for these services are typically in the range of 25 to 40 percent.
> Vertical market opportunities: Solution providers should find demand for digital-signage services in verticals including retail, bars and restaurants, education, healthcare, sports arenas, transportation and houses of worship.
> Applications: What can digital signage be used for? Top uses include advertising, wayfinding kiosks, check-in, touch/gesture walls, interactive tables and shelf media.
How to get started? Start by knowing the specific markets, their language and hot buttons; you’ll need that to sell effectively. Then get ready to educate your clients, as they may not really understand the technology. Next, prepare your sales message to hit your clients’ hot buttons, answering their question, “What’s in it for me?”
Finally, prepare to explain to your clients the digital-signage return on investment (ROI). Talking tech isn’t enough. Clients also want to hear how digital signage will help them save or make money.
Explore digital signage:
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Yes, if Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and now Google have their way.
You (and your clients) will talk to a wide range and variety of computing devices. These devices, in turn, will use voice recognition, artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies to listen and respond.
Apple and Microsoft are already out there with their Siri and Cortana voice-activated assistants. These are good early efforts, but many users them both somewhat limited and a bit clumsy to use.
More successful has been Amazon’s Echo, a 9.3-inch-tall intelligent speaker that uses the company’s Alexa voice service. It currently retails for about $180.
Last month, Amazon upped the ante by introducing a smaller (1.3 inches tall) version. Called the Echo Dot, it retails for just under $50 yet features seven far-field mics. Amazon says that means Alexa on the Echo Dot can hear the user even in a noisy, music-filled room. Requests can include not only the user’s choice of music, but general questions and requests such as “Find me an Italian restaurant” or “What’s on my calendar today?”
Google is Listening
Now Google has raised the voice-recognition bar. Yesterday the company introduced several products, including a new smartphone, the Pixel, and a home-automation system, Google Home. Both use Google Assistant, the company’s voice-activated AI system.
Google’s new Pixel is the first phone to use the voice-activated Assistant.
Google says Assistant lets users have a “natural conversation” with their Pixel phones. The user switches on Assistant either with a voice command (“Okay Google”) or by touching the phone’s Home button. Then they can ask (and get answers to) requests and questions such as “How long will it take me to get to work this morning?” and “What’s on my agenda for next Wednesday?”
Google also offers a “smart messaging app” called Google Allo. It lets users get help from Google Assistant while chatting with other people, either one-to-one or in a group. For example, imagine that you and a friend are using Allo to chat about dinner plans. You both agree on pizza. Now you can activate Assistant with a text command and ask it to recommend a pizza restaurant that’s both good and nearby.
In a recent blog post, Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, calls this “the beginning of this journey” to AI.
“In the next 10 years,” Pichai adds in his blog, “we will shift to a world that is AI-first, a world where computing becomes universally available — be it at home, at work, in the car, or on the go — and interacting with all these surfaces becomes much more natural and intuitive, and above all, more intelligent.”
Assuming Pichai is right, your clients will soon be clamoring for voice-controlled computing devices. Do you hear them yet?
The early days of the cloud are over. Now comes the time for greater savvy and refinement.
A new report from IT nonprofit association CompTIA finds that more than 90 percent of companies are already using some form of cloud computing. As a result, the report says, they’re ready for a “refined understanding and a rebalancing of self-assessment around cloud activity.”
The new Trends in Cloud Computing report, released late last week, is based on CompTIA’s online survey, conducted this past July, of 500 business and IT executives. The authors say the margin of error is +/- 4.5 percent.
Among the CompTIA report’s key findings:
> One third (33%) of respondents describe their use of cloud computing as being in full production, down from 42 percent in 2014. A slightly larger group (38%) describe their use of the cloud as noncritical. About one in five (21%) say they’re still experimenting. Only 8 percent say the cloud has transformed their IT.
> Private clouds dominate. Nearly half (46%) of respondents said they’ve installed private clouds. Over a quarter (28%) said they have public clouds. And about the same number (26%) have hybrid cloud installations.
> Software as a Service (SaaS) is the most common cloud platform, cited by nearly three-quarters (74%) of respondents. It was followed by Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), cited by 42 percent. Platform as a Service (PaaS), is used by a third (33%).
> Top benefits of the cloud, says respondents, are cost reduction, reducing capital expenses, reducing operational complexity, and modernization of legacy IT.
> The most common applications for the cloud are: email (cited by 51% of respondents), web presence (46%), business productivity (45%) and collaboration (39%). But as the following table, courtesy of CompTIA, their usage has changed — in some cases, dramatically — over the last two years:
Don’t be discouraged. It may seem the cloud is losing steam. But the reality, says Seth Robinson, a tech analyst with CompTIA, is that “the cloud market is undergoing refinement as users gain greater appreciation and understanding of what cloud computing entails.”
In other words, your clients are getting smarter about the cloud. And smarter clients? Those are good clients.
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Browsing celebrity websites is a harmless if time-wasting activity, right?
Wrong. A new report finds clients who search celebrity websites may be exposing themselves to dangerous malware. Cybercriminals use celebrity searches as a way to plant traps, infect computers and steal personal information.
The report, published this week by McAfee and Intel Security, explains that cybercriminals create phony sites that appear on the search results pages next to legitimate sites. When your client looks for a top celebrity on Google or other search engines, the results may include links to not only legitimate sites, but also trap sites filled with nasty malware.
To see how bad the problem is, McAfee used its WebAdvisor — software that scans sites to rate them with green, yellow or red signals — and browsed the internet for celebrity sites. With cable-cutters in mind, McAfee also did searches pairing the names of popular celebs with words including “torrent” and “HD download.”
Based on these tests, McAfee compiled what it calls its list of the “most dangerous celebrities.” The rankings indicate which celebs generated the most dangerous search results. Courtesy of Intel Security and McAfee, here’s the new top 10 list:
Those percentages indicate your client’s likelihood of clicking on a malware trap when they search for a particular celeb. For instance, search “Amy Schumer” and you have a 16 percent chance of clicking on a baddie.
Other search phrases are even worse. Search “Amy Schumer torrent,” McAfee says, and you’ll get a 33 percent chance of connecting to a malicious website. That’s a one-in-three chance — not good!
Amy Schumer: #1 dangerous celeb online.
What to do? The McAfee report offers several suggestions, which you may want to pass along to your clients:
> Watch media only from its original source. For example, if you want to watch “The Daily Show” online, get it from the official Comedy Central site. An acceptable Plan B would be a trusted site like Hulu or YouTube.
> Avoid file downloads. McAfee says searches including the word “torrent” (for popular P2P file-sharing sites) were the most dangerous. Cybercrooks can embed malware in authentic files, so a file that seems safe may actually be infected.
> Protect your personal information. If a celebrity site asks for a password, credit-card number, home address or Social Security number, don’t give it. Such information should be shared only with well-known, trusted sites.
> Use security protection for browsing. These software tools scan webpages for malware and potential threats, then give users a warning before they click too far. Naturally, McAfee recommends its WebAdvisor, and it’s even offering a safe and free download here.
Help your clients stay safe online. If they must waste time browsing celebrity sites, make sure they’re at least being careful.
The Internet of Things is really taking off.
Just last week, we reported on a new survey of IT decision-makers, conducted by research firm IDC, which found 55 percent calling IoT “strategic” and 21 percent “transformative.” IDC also found that about one in three (31%) IT pros already have IoT solutions in place, and nearly half (43%) expect to deploy IoT in the next 12 months.
This week, IDC published a regional look at IoT implementations, and it was similarly stunning. Fully one in four (25.2%) of Asia-Pacific organizations — not including Japan — have already launched IoT solutions, IDC says. Nearly half (46%) plan to deploy IoT in the next 12 months. And roughly two-thirds (62%) call IoT “strategic” to their ability to compete.
In related news, SAP, the Germany-based enterprise software supplier, today announced plans to invest €2 billion (that’s about $2.24 billion) over the next 5 years on IoT solutions for government and business customers. This ambitious program includes the establishment of a global network of IoT labs, the introduction of a new package aimed at helping customers jump-start their IoT solutions, and several key acquisitions.
“With billions of connected devices, we now have the potential to reshape society, the economy and the environment,” said SAP CEO Bill McDermott in a statement.
On the IoT acquisitions front, SAP says it has just acquired an Italian supplier of enterprise IoT solutions, PLAT.ONE, and will add its capabilities to the SAP HANA Cloud Platform. SAP also recently acquired another IoT firm, Fedem Technology, a Norwegian specialist in engineering analysis and building software.
Wearables in the Workplace?
Yes, says ABI Research. Just yesterday, the research firm issued a prediction that global shipments of wearables will more than double in the next 5 years, growing from 202 million units this year to more than 501 million in 2021. By then, ABI expects, 17 percent of all shipments will go to users in the enterprise.
What’s the appeal of wearables in the workplace? Stephanie Lawrence, an ABI research analyst, says they give workers immediate, direct access to important information. “This hands-free approach saves time,” she adds, “allowing staff to become more efficient and, ultimately, saving companies money.”
Self-Driving Cars? Maybe Not Yet
Kelley Blue Book, the source for used-car prices, today released findings from its automonous-vehicle survey. It seems many Americans aren’t ready for self-driving cars. Among other things, Kelley found that just over half (51%) of U.S. respondents prefer to keep their hands on the wheel, maintaining full control of their vehicle, even if it’s not as safe for other drivers.
Hyundai’s self-driving car has been tested on public roads in South Korea.
Other key findings of the Kelley survey:
> Six out of 10 respondents admitted they know little or nothing about autonomous vehicles.
> 80 percent of respondents believe people should always have the option to drive themselves.
> Yet nearly two thirds (63%) believe the roadways would be safer if self-driving cars were standard.
> More than two thirds (67%) of younger Gen Z (12-15 years old) respondents believe they will see fully autonomous vehicles in their lifetimes, compared with only 1 percent of Boomers (aged 51-64).
Coolest IoT of the Month
As September draws to an end, CRN today posted a slideshow of the month’s 10 coolest IoT products.
High on CRN’s list: Neato Robotics’ new smart-connected vacuum cleaners, the Apple Watch Series 2, and Sen.se’s ThermoPeanut Smart Temperature Monitor.
As CRN editor Lindsey O’Donnell notes, “vendors are broadening the scope of the IoT market across the board.” That’s for sure!
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Microsoft this week made two sets of announcements that demonstrate the company’s commitment to the whole wide world of computing, ranging from light and mobile 2-in-1 devices to the enterprise cloud.
First up is the company’s expansion of its Surface Enterprise Initiative, announced yesterday.
This partner program, originally launched a year ago, aims to help large enterprises get the most out of Microsoft’s Surface devices by working with partners for support and services, vertical-industry applications and flexible purchase/deploy programs. Partners that have joined the program in the last year include Dell, Booz Allen and CDW.
Now Microsoft says it will expand the program with investments that help partners create and provide services and support worldwide in 4 main areas:
> Configuration and deployment: These services could include imaging, asset management, provisioning and integration.
> Enhanced replacement and exchange: For example, next-day replacements, advanced exchanges and onsite services.
> Logistics and warehousing: Custom shipping, order-consolidation and the like.
> Next-Generation services and support: Here, partners will work directly with clients to create new Surface-based solutions.
Microsoft Surface 2-in-1 devices are increasingly offered “as a Service.”
Microsoft also said its 2-month-old Surface as a Service program, which lets customers shift their device expenses from a CapEx to an OpEx model, is growing nicely. Tech Data and Ingram Micro are among the reseller and distributor partners who have signed on already. And one partner, Also of Germany, has reportedly recruited 300 resellers.
Next month, Microsoft adds Ingram Micro will expand its participation by launching a program called Surface as a Subscription. Customers will be able to essentially “subscribe” to a device, paying a monthly fee over a set period, rather than buying the device outright. Microsoft says the program will offer customers a 20 percent cost savings over two years. Longer terms will be available, too.
Tools for the Secure Enterprise
Addressing the enterprise cloud, this week, Microsoft is holding its big (20K+ attendees) Ignite conference in Atlanta. At the show, Microsoft yesterday announced Windows 10 and Office 365 features for what the company calls “the new secure productive enterprise.”
> Starting Oct. 1 — that’s this Saturday — businesses will be able to get Microsoft’s Secure Productive Enterprise (SPE) with Windows 10 Enterprise, Office 365 and Enterprise Mobility & Security. And they’ll be able to deploy it either on-premises or in the cloud. Offered in two versions, SPE includes tools for mail and social, authoring, meetings and voice, security and more.
> Windows Defender Application Guard, a security stack for Microsoft’s Edge browser. This new tool employs virtualization technology to protect web users from advanced attacks.
> Threat-intelligence sharing between Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection and Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection. The former is a recently introduced cloud-based service that detects, investigates and responds to advanced attacks on networks. The latter is an email filter that protects again spam, viruses, malware and advanced attacks.
By sharing information, Microsoft says, these two tools can now help IT security pros identify and follow the complete chain of attack, from email to network endpoints.
> Windows Upgrade Analytics is a new, free service that helps IT pros analyze their environments in preparation for updating (or replacing) systems to Windows 10. It gathers information about installed hardware and software, then analyzes the data, and finally provides a plan for updates and (if needed) remediation.
Selected solution providers and other Microsoft partners like the announcements, reports CRN. “Microsoft is…removing the fear and uncertainty of security in the cloud,” Ric Opal, senior director of SWC Technology Partners in Oak Brook, Ill., told CRN.
Michael Goldstein, CEO of LAN Infotech in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., also spoke with CRN, adding: “The timing couldn’t be better for the security enhancements.”