Davanni's pizza chain rolls out CMS to all locations

This article was originally published on Digital Signage Today. Click here to read the original.

Davanni's, a pizza restaurant chain, has partnered with Agosto Inc. to deploy Skykit, a Chrome-based digital signage content management system. Davanni's rolled out the system to all of its locations, including to its coffee shop, Coffee Bene, according to a press release.

The pizza restaurant will use Skykit to create, manage and import content to its displays, which include menu boards, large TVs and promotional displays. Davanni's previously used three different platforms to manage its digital signage content, so it decided to consolidate with a single solution.

"Skykit allows Davanni's the flexibility and control to manage content at a very detailed level, such as unique menu items available at select restaurants, through our easy-to-use labeling feature, as well as allowing content schedules in real-time," Linda Hofflander, vice president of global channels and alliances for Skykit, said in the release.

Container consulting: Channel can help deploy technology

This article was originally published on SearchITChannel. Click here to read the original.

Channel partners may find new business opportunities in container consulting as customers grapple with container adoption and how to achieve competitive advantage.

Containers promise to help organizations write applications in a more efficient manner. While the potential benefits of container adoption are significant, companies often have trouble determining how to take advantage of the fledgling capabilities.

"In many cases, IT is not ready to deploy and manage containers," said Raghu Kamath, vice president of sales and partner success at NetEnrich, which has 600 employees spread across the globe.

Channel partners can play a container consulting role, helping clients use the emerging technology for competitive advantage. But they need to possess the right skills and may find themselves selling outside of their traditional IT department customers.

Container adoption in context

Traditionally, programs have been quite large -- often millions of lines -- and the code worked as a single monolithic unit. If a developer wanted to tweak a security check, the entire application had to be recompiled. With containers, a broad category of next-generation development tools, programs are broken up into small sets of code that are designed to be easily mixed and matched. In this approach, a security check can be recompiled without impacting any other module.

This change is viewed as revolutionary rather than evolutionary.

"The interest level in containers is very high right now," said Gary Chen, research manager of software-defined compute at IDC. "That hype is not unfounded. The digital and web companies,  such as Google, have been using containers for many years and have demonstrated their benefits."

Corporations have many compelling reasons to consider container adoption, starting with speed. Container technology quickens the configuration cycle, the setup of virtual machines, and the application delivery process. Because containers standardize APIs, companies have the potential to deliver updates more quickly.

"Containers enable corporations to build applications in a more flexible fashion," noted Simon Margolis, director of cloud platform at channel partner SADA Systems, a cloud solutions and managed services provider based in Los Angeles.

Another plus: Containers mesh with modern system design.

"Containers separate legacy physical systems into a virtual layer that companies can leverage with the cloud to reduce costs and increase availability," said Rick Erickson, co-founder and executive vice present of business development at Agosto, a cloud services company and Google channel partner based in Minneapolis.

Must-haves for container consulting

Consequently, these programming tools have a bright future. Market research firm 451 Research group expects worldwide container revenue to increase from $1.11 billion in 2017 to $2.69 billion at the end of 2020, a CAGR of 28.8%.

If channel companies want to take part in this uptick in a container consulting role, they first need to develop knowledge of how containers fit with traditional compute, storage and networking infrastructure. In order to help their customers build cloud solutions, partners also must know the latest development techniques and application architectures.

Next, they must determine who is buying containers, a step that may push them out of their comfort zones. "The typical containers buyer today is DevOps teams, cloud developers, and [business units] charged with digital transformation," IDC's Chen said.

As the technology gains traction, the traditional IT and infrastructure managers are expected to become more involved in the purchasing process.

Where do the profits come from?

How do partners make money selling containers? Integration services. Containers are a more complicated deployment than virtualization software. Right now, these solutions are not plug-and-play and require a great deal of customization.

"Companies need to architecture their applications and standardize their libraries in order to take advantage of containers' potential benefits," Agosto's Erickson explained.

Sales opportunities exist among middle market customers who lack the resources to do the integration themselves, according to Erickson. In some cases, such customers have legacy systems that have been running for many years. The IT team is busy scaling down those systems and lacks the time and personnel to get up to speed with new development methodologies. That situation opens the door for container consulting services.

Gaining new skills

Selling container solutions creates challenges and the channel partner may need to develop new skills. Traditionally, partners focused on selling infrastructure: server, network and storage resources. Containers represent a new paradigm. The reseller has to move away from infrastructure and up into the application layer.

Because the technology is new, some components are only now being developed. For instance, frameworks for managing containers are now being put in place, but it is not clear which ones will gain market traction.

Security is another issue. "A lot of developers who modernize applications fail to effectively look at the security aspects of these solutions," NetEnrich's Kamath said. Security has to be integrated into the start of the development process and emphasized during the rest of the process.

Software development has been a tedious process for many organizations. Containerization is the latest approach designed to ease that process. The technology is emerging, but resellers need to sharpen their skills before they can help customers with container adoption.

Intel Data Center Bigwig Diane Bryant Joins Google Cloud As COO

This article was originally published on CRN. Click here to read the original. 

Intel top executive Diane Bryant has jumped ship to join Google as the new chief operating officer of its cloud business, the company said in a blog post Thursday.

“Diane’s strategic acumen, technical knowledge and client focus will prove invaluable as we accelerate the scale and reach of Google Cloud,” said Diane Greene, senior vice president at Google Cloud, in a blog post.

“Google Cloud is the most technologically advanced, most highly available, and most open cloud in the world. We are growing at an extraordinary rate as we enable businesses to become smarter with data, increase their agility, collaborate and secure their information,” she said.

The longtime Intel employee was recently promoted in April to group president of the Data Center Group, which generated $17 billion in revenue in 2016 and has been one of Intel’s areas of growth as the company continues its restructuring efforts to become less dependent on its traditional PC market, and more of a data-driven company. 

Previously, Bryant was Intel’s corporate vice president and chief information officer, where she was responsible for corporatewide information technology solutions and services.

While Bryant was key to expanding the business to focus on cloud computing, network virtualization and the adoption of artificial intelligence solutions, Intel in May said that she would take a leave of absence from the company and would be replaced by Client Computing Group executive Navin Shenoy.

Bryant, who worked over the past few years to transform the Data Center Group from a server-centric business to one that spans servers, network, and storage across all end-user segments, joins a growing list of top-level executives –  like former Client Compute Group Senior Vice President Kirk Skuagen – who have left the Intel over the past year.

Google, for its part, will benefit from the hire as a significant "investment in building an enterprise practice," said Aric Bandy, president of Agosto, a Minneapolis-based Google partner.

“Diane [Greene] has brought in a number of outside individuals to move in a direction of driving the Google Cloud division further into a leading contender for enterprises,” he said. “This is positioning Google as a go-to for the enterprise.”

Connected Pigs: Google Partner Agosto Deploys IoT Solution To Help Farmers Remotely Monitor Livestock

This article was originally published on CRN. Click here to read the original. 

Solution provider Agosto and sow management company Remote Insights have teamed up to create an IoT solution that will help farmers monitor and predict the health of their livestock.

The two companies linked up in 2016 to design and deploy a proof-of-concept solution that tracked the behavior of pigs for animal farm company Zoetis and Pipestone Systems.

“We leveraged core offerings on Google’s cloud as a starting point for the IoT solution,” said Agosto CTO Paul Lundburg. “It’s important to understand where you can leverage pre-existing components, like Google’s platform, and find the skill sets required to fill in the gaps.”

Remote Insights, formed in August 2016, offers a sow management solution to help take the guesswork out of health issues and help sick animals recover more quickly, said founder Jim Cairns.

The agriculture market faces an array of challenges – farms are struggling with a 40 percent turnover rate of workers, while employees must work long hours making minimum wage. Also, there is typically one employee to 300 sow ratio, making it extremely difficult to maintain an accurate record of livestock health and farrowing rate, said Cairns.

Cairns said he was first approached by Zoetis and Pipestone Systems to design the sow management system in 2016 – and brought in Google partner Agosto to leverage its expertise of scalable cloud services to the IoT solution.

“We had a great opportunity, but didn’t have a solution in hand to bring it to market … we knew what we wanted to do, and had the right skillsets in-house, but needed to quickly get a scalable cloud that could ingest and make sense of the data,” said Cairns.

Agosto tapped into several of Google’s Core IoT platform, including its open source IoT Message Broker enabling businesses to develop IoT applications with the MQTT protocol – a lightweight messaging protocol – as well as the cloud platform’s analytics and visualization tools.

The two companies' solution applied BLA tags to pigs’ ears in a farm, and these tags included a variety of sensors, including accelerometer and temperature sensors.

These sensors collect info on the pigs’ movements, body temperature, and other data to provide indicators of their overall health and whether they're ready for breeding, said Cairns.

That data goes through a gateway and then up to the cloud, where it is both collected and stored for research purposes – but also analyzed and sent back to farmers working at the sows, providing them with real-time alerts about whether pigs are showing signs of ill health.

“We wanted to research how this IoT solution could be applied to better optimize sow operations and improve the health of the sows, so we can better understand events of interest such as when they go into heat and the optimal time to inseminate,” said Cairns.

Moving ahead, the companies will bring the solution beyond proof of concept to customer trials in February, said Cairns.

“We want to go beyond research purposes and bring this solution to sow operations … pig farmers are dealing with health issues and limited employees on hand, and we see a myriad of additional use cases for our solution,” he said. 

Solution Providers: Business-Outcome-Based Model Key To IoT Sales Success

This article was originally published on CRN. Click here to read the original. 

Solution providers are seeing business-outcome-based models as key to driving Internet of Things success and enabling win-win conversations with customers.

The business-outcome-based model, which is comprised of an entire IoT ecosystem, brings together partners and customers into a project agreement where the payment is based on the performance of the IoT solution.

"We've pivoted our business model to give companies visibility into the outcome of the IoT projects," said Rick Erickson, co-founder and executive vice president of business development at solution provider Agosto. "We need to eventually get to a place where [IoT is] outcome-based, reduce the cost up front to get the pilot phase done quickly, and get to the minimum viable product faster so the customer doesn't have to spend as much to get to market."

Minneapolis-based Agosto, for example, has worked with a big air quality monitoring and inspection company to help it flesh out its business model. As the initial part of that sales process, Agosto worked with the company to collect data from sensors in the field and look for patterns that would help provide the most business value.

"This joint success model is becoming bigger with partners on the industrial design side of things," Erickson said. "Companies like Agosto can take advantage of the back end for operative models that work, so you want to pay for what you use, but there has to be a threshold."

John Thayer, vice president of sales and strategic business development at Grand Rapids, Mich.-based solution provider Open Systems Technologies, said the solution provider has been working on a "handful" of business-outcome-based projects.

"We provide client solutions with outcome-based pricing, which connects our pricing to the value of outcomes for our clients," he said. "We'll agree to different pricing models, a set of hourly pricing that might involve weekly pricing or monthly pricing, plus milestone- or accomplishment-driven payments."

Open Systems Technologies works with the customer to "collaboratively define success" in a project, such as a certain amount of money saved through IoT-driven efficiencies, said Thayer.

"Both parties see it as a win, not an ability to avoid costs. … Our desire is to make money as it's earned and see through the lens of outcomes versus the lens of hourly revenue," he said.

Scott Udell, vice president of IoT solutions at Boston-based Cloud Technology Partners, said he is actively encouraging the business-outcome-based model.

"It goes back to the very beginning of the sales process … we start the customer journey by asking the most basic question, ‘Why are you doing this?'" he said. "Services companies are warming up to that model; it's a shared risk and shared reward model. It's also an opportunity for partners and customers to really take a step back and ask questions about how to measure success in IoT. Those are reasonable questions to ask."

Cisco Partner Summit 2017: Vendor highlights Google pact

This article was originally published on the TechTarget SearchITChannel. Click here to read the original. 

Cisco and Google Cloud executives took the stage at Cisco Partner Summit to talk about the companies' collaboration on hybrid clouds, containers, and Kubernetes.

DALLAS -- Cisco is making hybrid clouds and multi-cloud management a key theme at the vendor's annual partner meeting.

The company tipped its hand a bit on Oct. 25 when it announced a hybrid cloud partnership with Google, just days before the opening of Cisco Partner Summit 2017, which runs Nov. 1-2. The hybrid cloud offering combines the Cisco HyperFlex hyper-converged infrastructure offering as the private cloud component and Google Cloud Platform as the public cloud element. Containers and their management via the open source Kubernetes platform figure prominently in the hybrid cloud alliance.

At the summit, Cisco and Google executives talked up the partnership and the partner implications. Chuck Robbins, CEO at Cisco, called the alliance "monumental," adding that early field trials of the hybrid technology are slated for the first half of 2018. The partnership, he said, brings "all the benefits of the open cloud to the enterprise."

Diane Greene, Google Cloud chief, who joined Robbins on the stage at Cisco Partner Summit 2017, said the Google sales force is getting a lot of questions about the partnering arrangement. "We think that bodes really well for the partners."

Green said the hybrid offering in the works represents a huge opportunity for partners. She said customers need help modernizing their applications and suggested partners can provide them a "modern, container-based approach." She said partners can also offer assistance to customers as they navigate cloud services and move workloads between them.

"Our success is completely tied to your success," she said in reference to partners.

Partner reaction

Channel partners, for their part, see some plusses in the Cisco-Google combo.

Jason Parry, vice president of client solutions at Force3, a network security and IT solutions provider in Crofton, Md., and Cisco partner, suggested the partnership is on track with how large customers consume cloud services.

"There's no doubt that hybrid cloud is the preferred option for enterprise and federal government buyers," Parry said. "It allows organizations to test the capabilities of cloud without having to go all in."

Cisco's contribution to the partnership stands to help enterprises adopt the hybrid model. Parry said hybrid clouds require a high level of connectivity to ensure the private and public cloud components can communicate. He said Cisco addresses that issue.

"This is where the partnership comes in as Cisco's cloud networking infrastructure allows Google to offer users the ability to securely leverage any cloud they need at any time," Parry said.

Aric Bandy, president of Agosto Inc., a cloud services company and Google partner based in Minneapolis, also cited the importance of hybrid clouds and Cisco's role in advancing that technology among enterprise customers. Bandy said large companies can't uproot and re-platform all their applications and move them to the cloud at one go.

"Hybrid is the way that most of these companies are going to get there," Bandy said.

Cisco's combination of enterprise experience and orchestration technology can help customers "leverage Google on the back end as part of their journey," he said.

Cisco's participation in the alliance also helps broaden the use cases for the Google Cloud Platform. Over the past couple of years, Agosto has focused on customers with high-performance workloads or those who needed the Google Cloud Platform's advanced services such as machine learning and data analytics.

"That is where Google has played really well," he said.

Cisco, however, with its trust among enterprises, infrastructure architects, toolsets and processes, can enlarge the potential customer set for Google's public cloud, Bandy said.

A container focus

Container technology, meanwhile, is another important component of the alliance. The partnership "appears very focused on containerization and microservices offerings," said Greg Layok, senior director and leader of the Advanced Analytics practice at West Monroe Partners, a technology and business consulting firm based in Chicago.

Indeed, the alliance places a particular emphasis on containers and the Kubernetes container management platform. In the on-premises environment, Cisco's hyper-converged infrastructure offering, Cisco HyperFlex, will run Kubernetes and containers. HyperFlex is built on Cisco's Unified Computing System (UCS), the vendor's data center server product line. In the cloud, Google Container Engine, Google's managed Kubernetes service, takes on the management task. According to a Google blog post, the companies aim to "deliver a consistent Kubernetes environment" for on-premises and cloud-based workloads.

"It's positive that they are considering making these offerings more seamless between on-premises and cloud," Layok said. "However, work will still need to be done to migrate on-premises services and applications to the cloud platform. This migration won't magically happen, but no PaaS platform can currently offer an automatic or perfectly seamless migration."

Layok suggested existing Cisco UCS or Google cloud customers could boost their containerization consumption when they see the ability to develop content in local or on-premises development environments and more easily or more directly port the content to the Google cloud.

However, customers with development organizations already committed to container technology may find the Cisco-Google alliance reduces their flexibility.

"We have historically seen Cisco having a hard time executing on these grand integrations with other vendors and large vertically integrated solution stacks," Layok said. "For teams that are already agility-focused and have their organizations using container-based platforms, this seems like a move in the opposite direction, to tie things down to additional hardware and specific-vendor solution stacks, versus the container portability value they are going for."

Also on tap

Other themes developing at Cisco Partner Summit 2017 include Cisco's continued push into recurring software and subscription sales, the channel's need to drive software adoption among clients and the partners' ability to migrate customers to what Cisco calls "the network intuitive."

Next Steps

Learn about Cisco's transition to the industry shift to cloud
Read about Google's Cloud Next 2017 conference
Hybrid cloud networking: Users want it to be simple



2017 Fast 50 No. 14: Agosto Inc.

This article was originally published on the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal. Click here to read the original. 

Agosto Inc. lands on the Fast 50 List at No. 14 with revenue growth of more than 105 percent since 2014. Last year its revenue approached $16 million.

CEO Irfan Khan talks about the tech company's growth:

What’s been the biggest challenge managing a fast-growing company?

Maintaining the company culture and continuing to find and hire great people

Has the jobs/skills gap impacted your company’s growth? 

Not our growth per se. However, due to a lack of candidates for certain roles, we have had to expand our search outside of Minnesota to fill the gaps.

What went right last year? 

In a tight employment market, we continue to hire great people. We launched a new digital signage platform called Skykit that has been well received by the market, and amazing customers such as Yale, Consumer Reports and Johnson Controls are being added on a weekly basis. Another highlight was Eric Schmidt calling out Agosto in front of more than 10,000 people during his keynote address at Google Next.

What is your No. 1 priority for the year ahead? 

Continue to grow our practice areas that support the design, engineering, and development of Google Cloud Platform and tools. We'll add capacity to our machine learning, internet of things, data analytics and cloud infrastructure teams.

What scares you most about the year ahead? 

Having the ability to continue to hire the best people in the market at a rate that supports our growth

Growth rate: 105.65%

2014 revenue: $7,736,320

2015 revenue: $11,319,456

2016 revenue: $15,910,088

Top executive: Irfan Khan

Founded: 2000

Business: Cloud systems integrator, software developer and Google Premier Partner

Employees at end of 2014: 20; now: 55

Partners Cheer New Google Cloud Database Aimed At Easier App Development

This article was originally published on CRN. Click here to read the original. 

Google is taking another significant step toward luring customers to its Cloud Platform by launching a new document database for use by mobile and web app developers.

Cloud Firestore, a NoSQL database that integrates with Google's Firebase mobile platform, is now in public beta. Cloud Firestore was "built in close collaboration with the Google Cloud Platform team" and includes features such as real-time synchronization of data between devices and advanced data querying capabilities, Google Product Manager Alex Dufetel said in a blog post.

As many companies are looking to embark on or expand their software development efforts, Cloud Firestore offers the promise of easier development through less complicated management of data, according to Mountain View, Calif.-based Google.

Simon Margolis, director of Google Cloud Platform at solution provider SADA Systems, told CRN that Cloud Firestore "makes it extremely easy for mobile developers to integrate powerful cloud-based services into their applications without the need to manage multiple platforms and/or front ends."

"Because the Cloud Firestore SDK is so strong and integration into mobile applications is so easy, this creates a fantastic bridge for developers looking to take advantage of the Google Cloud Platform," he said.

For SADA, a Google Cloud Premier Partner based in Los Angeles, "the ease of use allows [us] to propose these solutions to customers, especially those with smaller development teams, knowing that they can immediately benefit without a huge investment of valuable development hours on integration and configuration work," Margolis said. "This ultimately leads to greater customer adoption of Google Cloud Platform services and overall customer satisfaction."

The new release comes as Google is working with channel partners to make the Google Cloud Platform into a larger player in the enterprise, and a more serious alternative to Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. The effort has been ramping up since Diane Greene, former CEO of VMware, took the helm of Google's cloud division in November 2015.

At Minneapolis-based Agosto, a Google Premier Partner, Chief Technology Officer Paul Lundberg said new offerings such as Cloud Firestore should help draw enterprises that are pursuing mobile development to the Google Cloud Platform.

"Mobile developers within enterprises are going to start developing in Firebase, and you can certainly go cross-platform — use AWS or Azure as the back end — but it's a lot easier to do it on the Google platform," Lundberg said. "You can come in and start building out your mobile app on Firebase, and just kind of expand within the [Google Cloud] platform."

Over the past year and a half, there has been an "acceleration" in terms of the services coming from Google Cloud, which in turn is helping Agosto to move more quickly in building solutions for customers, Lundberg said.

"We're very encouraged by the innovation that we're seeing and the continual release of new functions and features to really attract customers," he said.

Google Cloud IoT Core Platform Public Beta Is Here, Company Says It's A 'Win-Win' For Partners And Customers

This article was originally published on CRN. Click here to read the original. 

Google is positioning its Cloud IoT Core platform for success by adding new features that ensure secure device connectivity and manageability at scale for end users.

The company Wednesday launched the public beta release of its Cloud IoT Core, a fully managed service, which was first unveiled in private beta in May as a tool that manages connected edge devices ingesting data.

"Cloud IoT Core is now publicly available to all users in beta, and we have introduced a new set of features in this release. With Cloud IoT Core, you can easily connect and centrally manage millions of globally dispersed IoT devices," Indranil Chakraborty, product manager at Google Cloud, told CRN. "We're very excited for this announcement … the goal is to make sure that the platform is a win-win situation for partners and enterprise customers."

Cloud IoT Core has an array of new security features on the device side so that private beta users can verify the ownership of their device keys.

Customers can now bring their own device key signed by a Certificate Authority, and Cloud IoT Core can verify that signature using this certificate during the authentication process – giving them more device visibility and management.

Google also has added secure connectivity over HTTP, in addition to the standard MQTT protocol, to help customers securely connect existing IoT devices and gateways to the IoT platform at scale.

Google has added other features to its platform as well – Cloud IoT Core now has logical device representation, which gives customers further visibility into their IoT devices' state and properties – even when the devices are not connected.

Customers will get a logical representation of a physical IoT device through APIs for their applications to retrieve and update the device properties.

Google partner Agosto, an IoT specialist based in Minneapolis, praised Google's initiatives in the IoT space as helping it keep pace with competitors Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services.

"We think Google is really competitive in IoT because they have a model of being open and providing access to commodity services in a way that doesn't lock customers in but gives direct access to the lowest cost use," said Rick Erickson, co-founder and executive vice president of business development at Agosto. "Google is the right partner in this space because of the way they think about the market and how they deliver their services to the market."

To better keep up with the massive amount of data exchanged on IoT Core, Google also unveiled a "simple pricing plan" where customers can register as many IoT devices as they want and pay only when those devices connect to and exchange data with Cloud IoT Core.

The pricing plan includes a free tier that lets users try the service at no cost for the first 250 MB of data volume of the month.

After that, Google offers three standard tiers of pricing – including a tier that allows 250 MB to 250 GB monthly that will cost a little less than a half-cent per MB; a tier that enables 250 GB to 5 TB per month that will cost 20 cents per MB; and a tier that is for  5TB of data or above per month that costs 45 cents per MB.

Google's Chakraborty said customers across vertical markets such as transportation, oil and gas, utilities, health care and ride-sharing are using Google's IoT service.

Moving forward, he said Google plans to build out key partnerships on the hardware and device side and the application side.

"We want to continue working with partners because at the end of the day, for any enterprise customer [building] a complex solution they need to work with companies on the hardware side, with ISVs, and with cloud platforms – you need all the ingredients," he said.

Google cloud migration: Agosto helps e-commerce firm retool

This article was originally published on TechTarget. Click here to read the original. 

A Google channel partner's cloud adoption project used migration as a springboard to modernize a customer's core application via multi-tenancy and containerization.

Migration may be a key milestone in a cloud consulting gig, but the job doesn't have to end there.

The case of Agosto Inc., a cloud consulting firm based in Minneapolis, Minn., and its customer, Unilog, demonstrates there's plenty of work to be done after the initial cutover. The deal initially focused on supporting Unilog's Google cloud migration but eventually branched out from there -- with multi-tenant deployment and container technology among the new directions.

But first the background: Unilog, an e-commerce platform provider based in Bangalore, India, with North American headquarters in Wayne, Pa., decided to migrate its core B2B software from a private cloud hosted in a colocation facility to the public cloud. The goal: accelerate customer deployments, boost scalability and reduce operating costs.

Lift-and-shift migration

Unilog selected Google as its public cloud vendor and also hired Agosto for assistance. At the time of the cloud decision, Google was not offering direct support and referred Unilog to Agosto as a company with technical expertise in Google and experience in data center-to-cloud migrations, noted Swamy Mahesh, CTO and vice president of U.S. operations at Unilog. Agosto is a Google Cloud Premier Partner.

The initial phase of the Unilog engagement was a lift and shift Google cloud migration. The rapidly growing company's need to quickly launch customers on its e-commerce system was a key driver.

"That was a traditional speed-of-onboarding-new-customers issue, said Rick Erickson, executive vice president at Agosto. He said Unilog's customer launch process in its private cloud took several days. Equipment would need to be procured, unboxed and installed. Then the customer's application instance would be launched and validated.

"They needed to onboard customers much faster," he said.

The public cloud transition, however, has enabled Unilog to bring a customer onboard in less than a day, rather than four to five as was previously the case. As a private cloud operator, Unilog was constantly adding memory and CPUs to accommodate the fast pace of customer growth, Mahesh explained.

"All that headache is gone," he said.

The public cloud rollout also helped Unilog expand into Europe. The company is in the midst of an implementation that will eventually span more than a dozen countries on the continent, Mahesh said. The public cloud approach makes the overseas expansion easier since Unilog can forgo the task of searching for colocation partners in different countries.

App modernization

The Google cloud migration addressed an immediate business concern, but additional challenges soon became apparent. To flesh those out, Agosto worked with Unilog on a strategic roadmap that included, among other initiatives, the modernization of the company's e-commerce application stack.

Unilog's platform business model traditionally was based on providing each client a single-customer instance of its e-commerce software under a perpetual license. But Unilog's top management sought a transition to multi-tenancy and a software-as-a-service subscription model. The multi-tenant version of the software would potentially reduce operating costs, since Unilog would only need to update a single software image rather than build and maintain individual instances.

Obtaining those benefits is a non-trivial matter, Erickson said. He called the task of re-architecting Unilog's environment to support multi-tenant deployment as a "huge development effort."

Agosto, however, was able to tap resources from its cloud product development group, which creates custom products and applications for Google Cloud Platform. Analysts and developers from that group use techniques such as journey mapping to determine customer requirements and produce a "solution vision" document that specifies what's needed to deliver a minimum viable product application.

Unilog now offers a multi-tenant version of its software. It continues to provide its traditional software for customers who require particular features not yet available in the multi-tenant software, Mahesh said.

Container adoption

As a premier partner with Google, Agosto is able to gain early insight into the company's technology roadmap and advise customers accordingly, Erickson said. That perspective played a role in Unilog's Google cloud migration project, specifically in the field of containerization and microservices.

Agosto was able to get access to Google Container Engine (GKE), a management and orchestration system for containers based on Kubernetes, before its formal launch. Early experience with GKE proved important since Unilog was looking for ways to make sure its multi-tenant application would run as efficiently as possible, Erickson said.

"We did some early validation and testing on that platform," he noted.

Containerization lets organizations, such as Unilog, run instances of its core architecture using containers. That approach became a key underpinning of the e-commerce platform company's multi-tenant application and a source of operational efficiency. Containers running microservices let organizations perform updates on the individual components of a containerized system without having to take the whole system down for maintenance, Erickson said.

Agosto, meanwhile, is cultivating similar cloud projects with other tech companies of Unilog's size; the e-commerce company employs more than 800 people. Erickson said small-to-midrange prospects not yet on the public cloud represent a good fit for his company's services.

"We've got a number who are in the pipeline or customers who fit that profile," he said. "Many of them are looking to modernize their stack in some way."

Benefits of public cloud: Unilog's Google adoption

This article was originally published on TechTarget. Click here to read the original. 

Unilog, an e-commerce platform provider, cites increased operational efficiency and faster customer onboarding among the benefits of Google Cloud adoption.

Unilog's shift to the public cloud involves considerably more than obtaining a new place to park its IT infrastructure.

The e-commerce company, based in Bangalore, India, with North American headquarters in Wayne, Pa., traditionally offered its core B2B software platform through a private cloud hosted in a colocation facility. Unilog, however, wanted to speed up customer deployments, improve its ability to scale and lower its operating costs. The company decided the anticipated benefits of public cloud could deliver on those requirements. 

Swamy Mahesh, CTO and vice president of U.S. operations at Unilog, said Unilog selected Google's public cloud from a short list of providers that included Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Rackspace. The company also hired Agosto Inc., a Google cloud partner based in Minneapolis, Minn., to provide support and consulting services.

Unilog worked with Agosto to establish a strategic roadmap for public cloud adoption, which kicked off with a lift-and-shift migration from Unilog's private hosted setting to Google. The task involved moving Unilog's virtual machines to the new environment and optimizing them for Google Cloud.

The initial migration soon led to other opportunities for improvement.

"It became apparent that strategic challenges were on the end of that" lift-and-shift phase, said Rick Erickson, executive vice president at Agosto. He said his company conducted a cloud modernization analysis to uncover ways Unilog could operate more efficiently.

Benefits of public cloud

Among the business benefits of Unilog's public cloud migration is the ability to speed up the task of bringing new customers on board its e-commerce platform. In its private cloud environment, the process of getting a newly acquired client onto the system could take several days.

"We had to constantly add hardware to the racks and set it up," Mahesh said, noting the manual labor involved. "It was not a scalable model."

"Unilog was going through significant growth with their customer base and had a backlog of customers and one of the [factors] causing the backlog was the time it took to procure infrastructure and launch new customers," Erickson said.

But with the cloud and an improved customer onboarding process, Unilog can now bring a new customer onto its system in about a day, according to Unilog.

"Customer onboarding is much faster," Mahesh said.

The cloud move also helps with disaster recovery. Unilog had previously needed to consider multiple colocation spaces for redundancy purposes, a pursuit that Mahesh said amounts to "reinventing what a good cloud has already done."

Multi-tenant shift

The benefits of public cloud also surfaced on the application software side. In Unilog's case, the company used the occasion of the cloud refit to take a look at its application stack. The company's e-commerce platform was based on providing each client a single-customer instance of its software under a perpetual license. Unilog, however, wanted to transition to a software-as-a-service subscription model and multi-tenancy.

The multi-tenant version of its Unilog's e-commerce software also contributes to improved efficiency and faster customer deployments, since it allows the company to maintain and update a single image of its application. But the approach also introduces challenges, which Unilog continues to work through.

Mahesh cited differences among clients with regard to data growth rates and the resulting traffic on each client's network pipes as one example. Another design and development challenge of multi-tenancy: accommodating different use cases across multiple customers. System availability and replicating data across regions are other considerations, Mahesh added.

Unilog is now looking to further optimize its processes as it supports a mixed customer base -- some use the multi-tenant version of its platform and others continue to use the legacy system.

Google Poses A Challenge To Microsoft With Its New Enterprise-Grade Chrome Operating System

This article was originally published on CRN. Click here to read the original. 

Looking to penetrate deeper into the enterprise, Google on Tuesday introduced a business-ready version of its popular Chrome operating system.

Chrome Enterprise adds new features to Chrome OS, including enterprise app storefronts, more security controls, and round-the-clock support. It also integrates with popular endpoint and identity management solutions from VMware and Microsoft.

Chrome Enterprise product manager David Karam blogged, "with the added capabilities Chrome Enterprise provides on top of Chrome OS, many businesses are eager to deploy Chrome further across their organizations to connect more users securely to the cloud."

Chrome OS, the lightweight operating system that powers the line of Google authorized Chromebook laptops and tablets, leans on the Chrome web browser as its primary interface to apps and data.

Chrome Enterprise integrates with VMware Workspace ONE, a unified endpoint management solution, to enable management of all Chrome devices—owned by companies or employees—from a single console. Workspace ONE is the first third-party solution that can manage Chrome devices.

"This collaboration combines the speed, simplicity, and security of Chrome with the cloud-based unified endpoint management of VMware AirWatch," Karam said, referring to the virtualization leader's mobility management software leveraged by Workspace ONE.

On the identity management side, Chrome Enterprise is the first version of Google's operating system fully compatible with Microsoft Active Directory. The Active Directory integration allows employees to use native credentials to authenticate Chrome devices, and admins to centralize user policies, Karam said.

Aric Bandy, president of Agosto, a Minneapolis-based Google partner, told CRN the latest Chrome edition would help partners push more Google solutions into the enterprise.

The new operating system offers a unique set of features that Fortune 500 CIOs have been asking for, he said. 

"It all drives cloud adoption," Bandy told CRN.

"We sell a lot of Chrome and Google has been evolving Chrome into a true enterprise solution that's challenging Microsoft."

The new operating system, along with the enablement of virtual desktops, shows Google is "changing the operating system game" much as the company has done with the office productivity suite through its G Suite product.

That's bad news for Microsoft, Bandy said, because the world's largest software company derives much of its profits from the Windows operating system and Office productivity suite.

"A $50 per year OS solution will dramatically change things," he said of Google's new offering. 

Business Insider on Agosto's Infrastructure Work With Unilog

This press release was featured on Business Insider. Click here to read the full piece.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN--(Marketwired - June 22, 2017) - Agosto Inc., a cloud services and development company and tier 1 Google Cloud Premier Partner, has completed an IT infrastructure redesign for Unilog that enables the company to leverage the public cloud to deliver its e-commerce and product data management solutions. Unilog is a global technology and services company that specializes in e-commerce solutions and enriched product catalogs for the business-to-business (B2B) marketplace.

Unilog engaged Agosto to help improve its business processes which were limited by running an on-premises, private cloud. They needed rapid deployments, unlimited scale, and reduced support costs for their customers. Agosto's team analyzed Unilog's existing application stack and determined they could modify it to support reduced operating costs, provide better scale, and accelerate client deployments using Google as a public cloud provider.

"We performed a gap analysis for architectural considerations that would support an updated design of Unilog's application stack," said Rick Erickson, executive vice president at Agosto. "We then validated performance and delivered production templates to accelerate their future client deployments."

This press release was featured on Business Insider. Click here to read the full piece.

Before Google Released Cloud IoT Core, Its Customers Relied On A Channel Partner Product To Communicate With Devices In The Field

This article was published on CRN. Read the full article here. 

The Internet of Things service Google introduced this week will make it easier to securely connect devices and sensors deployed in the field to Google's cloud infrastructure. But before that product came to fruition, many Google IoT customers relied on a predecessor built by one of Google's channel partners.

Agosto, an IoT specialist based in Minneapolis, developed the MQTT broker that powered Google Cloud's IoT services since last year. Google introduced similar technology Tuesday as a component of Cloud IoT Core, a fully managed service that evens the playing field with competitors Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services.

Aric Bandy, president of Agosto, said his company initially developed its own messaging software to meet customer demand because Google didn't yet offer that service natively. MQTT is an industry standard messaging protocol for sensors and mobile devices. 

When Google realized it needed to facilitate connections to field devices to be competitive in the IoT market, the Mountain View, Calif.-based Internet giant turned to its partner, demonstrating the evolving relationship between cloud providers and their channel. 

Google insisted the messaging broker it hired Agosto to build last year be open source so the entire community could benefit from it, Bandy said. Agosto released the service on GitHub and later Google Cloud Launcher. 

Cloud IoT Core, launched in private beta, in addition to the new MQTT broker enables managing edge devices in the wild – be they installed in oil fields, farms, manufacturing facilities or hospitals – once they're connected and data is ingested.

Click here to read the full article on CRN. 

CRN - Look Out AWS And Azure – Google Is Betting Big On The Enterprise Channel

Read the original CRN article here. 

When Diane Green took the helm of Google's cloud division in November 2015, the internet services giant was at a crossroads, and partners were growing frustrated.

They believed they had bet on a public cloud provider with game-changing technological capabilities — leading software development talent, mastery in data center operations, unrivaled network capacity. But for the most part they weren't winning deals against their hyper-scale competitors.

Google just didn't understand the enterprise, a market segment with different dynamics from its legacy consumer business, partners concluded. Marketing was off-message, feature development was slow, outbound sales was an afterthought.

Most of all, its sales leaders, through predilections and programs, weren't positioning partners to compete against those bringing Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services to market. Greene was a breath of fresh air — the former VMware CEO from day one articulated to partners a comprehensive, battle-tested vision for transforming Google's cloud business into an enterprise powerhouse.

"It had not played out the way Google hoped it would with some of these solutions," Aric Bandy, president of Agosto, a Minneapolis-based Google partner, told CRN. "Under Diane they shifted to focus on what the market wants."

Google Praises Agosto for Google Cloud Platform Success In Their Blog

Read the full article on Blog.Google.com

Last week at Google Cloud Next ‘17, we recognized 12 partners for their strong customer success and solution innovation over the past year. These partners—our 2016 Global Partner Award winners—exemplify the dedication, expertise and innovation that our customers count on. 

Recognizing customer success

Sales and services partners nurture and support customer transformation and innovation. We recognized four sales and services partners that demonstrate outstanding sales, marketing and technical expertise to help businesses of all sizes transform with Google Cloud.

Read the full article here

Partners Cheer Google's New Solutions-Oriented Channel Approach

This article appeared on CRN. Click to read the full article. 

The day before Google's Cloud Next 2017 Conference, new channel chief Bertrand Yansouni and other Google execs hosted partners at an off-site summit in San Francisco. During those sessions earlier this week, they outlined a new approach to how Google will work with its channel, one encompassing investments in product, sales and enablement programs and encouraging a mindset geared to comprehensive solutions, not individual products.

The new "unified approach" breaks down channel silos by rewarding partners for selling the whole Google Cloud stack, a change that was overdue, Yansouni told CRN. Previously "partners and sales agents were aligned by products, not accounts and solutions," he said.

Partners are elated with the new philosophy, telling CRN it aligns with how enterprise customers actually look to purchase technology. Google's program changes illustrate that, after some stumbles, the consumer-tech powerhouse is starting to understand the critical enterprise market.

"There's a really positive change that's afoot," Aric Bandy, president of Agosto, a Minneapolis, Minn.-based Premier partner, told CRN.

Google has tweaked a compensation model that could, in some scenarios, fail to provide financial parity to sales reps when delivering deals to the channel. Field agents no longer can be better compensated for taking customers direct, Yansouni told CRN, which eliminates any potential for channel conflict.

To further encourage the solutions-focused approach, Google introduced four new specialization credentials that partners can earn to validate specific skills. It also launched a revamped partner directory that makes it easier for partners to promote their expertise, as well as a new engineering team that advises partners on large engagements.

The "unified approach" assigns Google's sales reps to accounts instead of products. And the cloud operator will tabulate all revenue across the portfolio when assessing whether a partner rises to Premier status, Yansouni said.

How The Channel Can Sell More Cloud Software To SMBs

This article was published on IT Bob. Click here to read the full article. 

Reselling SaaS To Small Businesses

Cloud-based software levels the playing field for small and midsize businesses, putting enterprise-grade tools once accessible only to the big boys in their hands. That widens a largely untapped market for cloud software vendors.

But specific challenges preclude SMBs from adopting a broader array of Software-as-a-Service, a survey has found.

AppDirect, developer of a commerce platform for distributing cloud-based software, commissioned a survey of 500 small and midsize businesses to gauge their attitudes on SaaS adoption. Its report from that survey identified major stumbling blocks to adoption—challenges that only the channel can solve. "Businesses are not adopting software, not because they don’t want to or can't, but because the channel isn't enabling it enough," Daniel Saks, AppDirect's CEO, told ITBestOfBreed. "We see the opportunity for each user to use more than 20 applications, whereas now they're using only a few."

Click through to read six major findings from AppDirect's survey.

Read the full article here.