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Why Exchange 2010 Users Can’t Afford to Delay Their Software Upgrades – and How MSPs Can Help

By David Mills, Director of Product Management, BitTitan

It’s been a decade since the 2009 release of Exchange Server 2010, which means the lifecycle for this Microsoft product is soon coming to an end. Originally scheduled for January 14, 2020, Microsoft recently extended the end-of-support date to October 13, 2020. This may be welcomed news for businesses still relying on Exchange 2010, but it should also serve as a wake-up call: The time to upgrade is now.

In announcing the end-of-support deadline extension, Microsoft stated it was doing so “to give Exchange 2010 customers more time to complete their migrations.” These migrations require a considerable amount of time and planning to successfully deploy and complete – and keeping the project on schedule is a task within itself. Businesses should not delay their upgrades, as there are serious ramifications, and Microsoft will not extend the deadline again.

This is where it is critical for managed service providers and IT professionals to step in and advise their clients of the necessary upgrades they need to make. Doing so is win-win for IT pros and their clients, as it builds trust, ensures the health of a customer’s business remains strong and enables the continued business growth for all parties.

The Potential Risks

So, what are the risks businesses face if they don’t upgrade their software? There are quite a few. During a product’s lifecycle, Microsoft provides a substantial number of new features, bug fixes and security updates. Once the end-of-support deadline passes, Exchange 2010 users will not receive technical support from Microsoft for issues that may occur. They will not receive bug fixes for issues that arise that affect the usability of their server. They won’t receive security patches for vulnerabilities that are found. These businesses will face an increased risk of data breaches and malicious cyberattacks. In addition, depending on the compliance regulations of their industry, these businesses may become liable to legal issues for falling out of compliance.

It’s a harrowing outlook, but the good news is there are practical courses of action businesses can take to remedy their situation.

The Most Viable Solutions

Primarily, there are two options that are most ideal for organizations looking to upgrade. For those considering a full transition to cloud technologies, a fitting course of action may be an upgrade to Exchange Online/Office 365. Taking this approach is typically the most reliable and ensures that users will receive regular software updates from Microsoft. End users will have the latest feature enhancements provided in the cloud Office suite. From Microsoft’s perspective, this is likely the preferred route, though subscribers must be vigilant of price increases.

However, not all businesses are ready to abandon on-premises systems just yet. For those that require on-prem hardware, upgrading to Exchange Server 2016 or 2019 may be the way to go. This option offers businesses more control over their email data, as well as a breadth of backup and recovery options for their workplace systems. It must be noted that when pursuing this option, businesses migrating from Exchange 2010 must conduct a “double-hop” migration when moving data to Exchange 2019, and first migrate to Exchange 2013 or 2016. This can seem like a tedious step to add to an already complex process. Employing a third-party migration tool – such as BitTitan’s MigrationWiz – can eliminate this step and afford the ability to migrate directly to Exchange 2019.

Taking a Broader Approach

There is another wrinkle as to why now is an important time to facilitate migrations for customers: Exchange 2010 isn’t the only product that Microsoft will no longer support in 2020. An end-of-life deadline is set for Windows 7 on January 14, 2020. Nine months later, Microsoft will discontinue support for both SharePoint Server 2010 and Office 2010 on October 13, 2020. That’s a considerable number of products reaching their lifecycle end in a short amount of time – and it creates an opportune timeframe for MSPs to potentially bundle migration projects for customers.

MSPs and IT pros can delve into larger workplace upgrades and digital enhancements for clients. They can potentially explore overseeing multiple upgrades for these products at once and ensure that a stable and secure workplace plan is established for the long term.

For IT pros and their clients, staying on top of the end-of-support date goes beyond simply upgrading software. By not making the necessary upgrades, the health and well-being of a customer’s business is at stake. Making sure clients are running software and relying on workplace systems that are appropriately upgraded, secure and compliant eliminates these threats and vulnerabilities. It ensures that business for both IT pros and their clients continues to successfully hum along.

Bio

David Mills is Director of Product Management at BitTitan, driving product strategy, defining product roadmaps and ensuring customer success. David is an experienced product management leader with more than two decades of industry experience. Prior to BitTitan, he worked as a principal consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, a product manager at Microsoft and director of product management at Avanade. His areas of expertise include product planning, cloud infrastructure and applications, and marketing communication.

Small and Medium Businesses Are More Vulnerable to Cyberattacks

Tips for Small Businesses on How to Enhance Cybersecurity

By Daniel Markuson, Digital Privacy Expert, NordVPN

According to the study conducted by the Ponemon Institute, only 28% of small and medium businesses mitigate cyber threats, vulnerabilities and attacks effectively. The study revealed that nearly half of the companies have no understanding of how to protect their data, finances, employees and customers against cyberattacks.

However, small businesses may often be even more attractive targets for hackers than larger enterprises. Here are some of the reasons:

  1. The owners of valuable data. Contrary to what most of the small companies may think, they do have useful data for hackers. It can be anything from financial information that can be used for fraud, to the personal details valuable for identity theft.
  2. The path to other companies. Often hackers target small companies for easy access into larger enterprises. It can also be a path into the data of many other small businesses.
  3. Easy to hack. Small businesses often lack adequate cyber-defenses, so they are frequently much easier to hack compared to larger enterprises. There are usually no security personnel and technology in place, so it’s also more challenging to detect an attack when it occurs. Effective handling of cyber threats is impossible without a strategy and strict policies applied to all employees.
  4. More difficult recovery. Every small business has computer-based data it needs to operate. Unfortunately, few can recover from an attack independently. However, a cyberattack might be the end of the road, especially for a small business. Therefore, small business owners are more likely to pay ransoms.

Ransomware and spear-phishing attacks are the most common cybercrime tactics used against small businesses. The first one blocks access to a computer or mobile phone until the attackers receive a ransom payment. The second one is an email-spoofing attack seeking unauthorized access to valuable information. There are hundreds of different ways to harm any enterprise, its employees or customers. Some of the most usual methods don’t even require advanced technological knowledge. For example, social engineering schemes are easy and effective to launch.

Simple tips for small business owners to boost cybersecurity

Do regular backups. Regular backup of your data in a secure location – offsite and offline – is essential. It helps to protect yourself from a ransomware attack. For small businesses with less sensitive data, even external hard drives might be enough. For more significant comfort, consider special paid backup security services (don’t trust free ones).

Secure all your smart devices. Cybersecurity is not limited to your smartphone, tablet or computer. These days, even printers and TVs are connected to the internet, so make sure these are secure as well. If the password and even username are insecure, change them. Additionally, restrict admin privileges to your networks and accounts. Each team member must have their personal credentials with an assigned role. This way you will always know who made a mistake.

Secure all your data. Encrypting your data makes it more difficult to exploit or hijack. A reliable and reputable VPN service provider, like NordVPN, SurfShark or ProtonVPN, can encrypt the online traffic of all your employees. This ensures that your data is safe when they need to access it. Many small business owners and employees work at office hubs or at home, so their data gets sent through unsecured channels. A reliable VPN can fix this problem. Of course, don’t forget that you need an antivirus and a strong firewall.

Educate your team members. It is essential to cultivate the secure mindset of every employee. Keep your team members informed about the dangers of downloading attachments or clicking on links from unknown sources. Make sure to educate them about social engineering tactics, latest hacks and phishing attacks. You can use an online cybersecurity test to understand how much your employees know about digital security.

Always update your devices. Don’t forget to update your computers, tablets, smartphones and other devices regularly. Do the same for software. New updates fix security vulnerabilities and system bugs that could cause insecure situations. Make sure to update your firewalls and antivirus.

Create a strong password. Use unique passwords for different accounts or devices. Make sure to create strong passwords and change them every three months. It’s also crucial for your company to have a strict password policy and ensure that all employees comply with it. Additionally, share some tips with your colleagues on how to create strong and reliable passwords.

An average data breach costs $3.92 million, and that’s a heavy burden on small and medium enterprises. Leaks drive away clients, plus companies end up paying millions in fines and compensations. Even though cyberattacks often target SMEs, the media focuses only on the big hacking scandals. That’s why small company owners tend to think only of major corporations with vast amounts of valuable data as the primary targets. Consequently, SMEs often do not take the most basic steps to protect their digital resources. It’s time to understand that your business’s security is in your own hands.

Bio
Daniel Markuson is a Digital Privacy Expert and Internet security enthusiast at NordVPN. Daniel is generous with spreading news, stories and tips on how to stay secure in the fast-changing digital world.

Overcome Teams Migration Challenges with Agility and the Right Tools

By David Mills, Director of Product Management, BitTitan

In the unified communications market, Microsoft Teams has proven to be a dominant player, with adoption rates surging. In July, Microsoft reported that Teams has reached 13 million daily active users to outpace rival platforms. By comparison, its primary competitor, Slack, recently reported 12 million daily active users.

Further fueling Teams’ success is the year-over-year increase of activity in the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) market. In a report on 2019 M&A trends from Deloitte, industry experts from corporate and private-equity organizations overwhelmingly predict a sustained increase in M&A deals over the next 12 months. Considering Microsoft’s strong market presence with Office 365 products and services – particularly among larger organizations – this M&A activity is likely to increase adoption of Teams when smaller companies migrate from other platforms. And this increased activity of merging and separating businesses is driving the need for Teams migration projects.

However, a multitude of hurdles exist, as vendors and businesses are searching for an ideal solution to handle Teams migrations. So, what specifically are the difficulties standing in the way?

Three Challenges

The first challenge facing MSPs and IT professionals is that Microsoft has yet to release full fidelity for its Teams migration API, so IT pros must rely on what’s available via Microsoft’s Graph API and SharePoint API. This is not ideal because these solutions need further refinement to enable seamless and efficient Teams migrations.

The second challenge surrounds the complexity of Teams, as the platform is comprised of many individual components, such as Teams, channels, conversations and user permissions. All these parts need to be migrated in the proper sequence, along with the underlying SharePoint site and folder structure.

Finally, when conducting a Teams migration in a merger scenario, it is not uncommon to encounter Teams or channels that have the same names or username conflicts. These issues can present migration problems that can lead to extended downtime for your users or customer. It is important that MSPs and IT professionals be aware of these challenges before beginning a Teams migration. A little planning will help avoid obstacles and ensure a successful migration.

Solutions on the Market

As MSPs and IT professionals search for the ideal Teams migration tool, there are a few important requirements to consider. First, look for a tool that has the scalability to move an abundance of files and handle large workloads. Given the complex nature of Teams, migration tools must also provide flexibility. Many companies are increasingly wanting to conduct partial migrations and restrict the movement of specific files during a migration, deviating from the normal “lift-and-shift” approach.

Reliable solutions for Teams migrations are becoming available on the market. Earlier this year, BitTitan added Teams migration capabilities to MigrationWiz, its 100-percent SaaS solution for mailbox, document and public-folder migrations. These capabilities enable MSPs and IT professionals to migrate Teams instances and their individual components, including Teams, channels, conversations and permissions. MSPs and IT pros can leverage MigrationWiz to conduct a pre-migration assessment to better gauge the timeline of a Teams migration, the number of required licenses and an overall estimate of the project scope and cost.

BitTitan continues to release Teams migration enhancements that allow MSPs and IT pros more flexibility when conducting Teams migrations. These updates offer MSPs and IT pros some compelling capabilities, including the ability to:

  • Rename Teams in bulk from the Source to the Destination to avoid file-name duplication and username conflict.
  • Exclude guest accounts from the overall assessment count.
  • Move conversation history to the Destination while maintaining similar formatting from the Source.
  • Support Teams instances of U.S. government tenants. This is a crucial sector of the market that requires careful and calculated action when conducting migrations to ensure compliance and security regulations are met.

The new Teams migration features are the result of soliciting partner feedback on how to best meet their needs, with more updates to come soon.

“BitTitan really stepped up for this project,” said Chuck McBride, founder of Forsyte IT Solutions. “We looked at several other solutions, but when we scoped the size of the project and workloads, BitTitan brought us the best option for everything we wanted to do.”

Adopting an Agile Approach to Teams

With the absence of a full-fidelity API from Microsoft, MSPs and IT professionals continue to refine the process for migrating Teams to deliver the most seamless migration possible. As updates and enhancements continue to roll out, MSPs and IT pros must adopt an agile approach to continually meet the evolving needs of users and customers, and ensure they’re leveraging the most current APIs for migrations.

By assessing the landscape up front, leveraging available tools and maintaining an agile approach, MSPs and IT pros will position themselves to successfully meet the growing demand around Teams migrations – and they’ll be well-positioned to address the challenges that arise.

Bio
David Mills is Director of Product Management at BitTitan, driving product strategy, defining product roadmaps and ensuring customer success. David is an experienced product management leader with more than two decades of industry experience. Prior to BitTitan, he worked as a principal consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, a product manager at Microsoft and director of product management at Avanade. His areas of expertise include product planning, cloud infrastructure and applications, and marketing communication.

Innovation Comes from Listening to Customer Needs

By Sandi Renden, Director of Marketing, Server Technology

Product improvements are not solely the result of product management influences.

In many cases, the most innovative products are the result of customer feedback and they are often the most successful. To remain relevant, products must be in lockstep with customers’ changing needs to enhance their experiences. And data centers are a perfect example of an industry that must constantly adapt to change.

Why is the data center industry a good example? Because workloads need elastic processing abilities, servers have gone virtual and networks are sprawling at the edges. As this continues to happen, the power required to run these environments must be as flexible as their hardware and software counterparts. Intelligent rack power distribution unit (PDU) manufacturer, Server Technology, knows all too well how fast data center power requirements can quickly decrease a product’s usefulness when it comes to supporting changing rack devices. However, they also have a history of circumventing this unfortunate situation and exceling where other PDU and rack mount power strip manufacturers often struggle and sometimes fail.

Marc Cram, Director of New Market Development for Server Technology, shares some insights into how his company is able to quickly pivot product manufacturing and redesign data center PDUs to fit today’s elastic workload environments. Spoiler alert: their success comes from listening to their customers and allowing them to design their own PDUs.

Turning Pain into Gain

Where do good inventions truly come from? Willy Wonka states the secret to inventing is, “93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation and 2% butter-scotch ripple.” Although this may be practical for creating Everlasting Gobstoppers, in the data center environment, game-changing inventions are predicated on more simplistic methods. And perhaps the simplest, but successful stimulus for inventors comes from listening to customers’ pain points.

Cram says that Server Technology was founded by listening to customers and figuring out how to satisfy as many of their power needs—with a single PDU design. “It’s a tradition that continues to this very day; we still do leading-edge work for our customers by listening to their specific needs and turning that information into targeted products for their exact applications,” he says.

Cram understood that data centers were traditionally built in a raised floor environment and the IT managers were in the same facility. This situation made it easier for managers to frequently replace rack mount power strips as servers were swapped out. As time went by and the data center industry evolved, servers and racks were not necessarily located on the same premises where the IT managers were residing. Listening to customers, it became clear that having the ability to remotely read the rack power status made a tremendous amount of sense and alleviated the pain of traveling between data centers to read or reset PDU devices.

However, all customer needs are not created equal and some organizations did not want remote management capabilities. Rather, they voiced the need for PDUs to be equipped with alarm capabilities instead. “Banks are a good example of this,” Cram said. “The last thing a bank wants is for somebody to come in and turn off their rack power supply that just happens to be processing someone’s ATM transaction. You don’t ever want it to be interrupted.”

The Difference Between Hearing and Listening

Hearing is the act of perceiving auditory sounds versus listening, which is the act of paying attention to sounds and giving them consideration. Listening to customers allowed Server Technology to jump directly to a Switched PDU from a basic, unmanaged PDU. Cram says that by listening to customers, the company discovered a need for a power strip that had remote monitoring capabilities, but also provided individual outlet controls. Cram noted, “this is where the ‘smarts’ in our products came from.”

A similar listening/consideration process was also undertaken when Server Technology developed outlet power sensing. It was learned that customers like the per-outlet sensing capabilities, but they did not like the control. With this information, the company created smart PDU options. Now, Server Technology is offering five different PDU levels: Basic (power in/power out) Metered, Switched, Smart Per Outlet Power Sensing (Smart POPS) and Switched POPs.

The flexibility of five distinct data center PDU offerings, as well as the High-Density Outlet Technology (HDOT) line of PDUs, decreases the need to go back and reconfigure rack power when new devices are added. Cram says that “whether the need is for a full rack-of-gear or a rack that starts its life with three servers and a switch then eventually is used for some other configuration, Server Technology’s family of PDUs can handle the entire transition.”

The innovation behind the HDOT and the HDOT Cx resides in the ability that enables customers to select what outlet types they want as well as have them placed in the desired location on the PDU.  “You can reconfigure the rack to plug in a different device into the same CX outlet,” Cram says. For example, a customer populated a rack with 1u height servers with C13 outlets. Using the HDOT Cx would give them the ability to remove servers and add a high-end Cisco router or another big-power device that requires C19 outlets. The HDOT Cx outlet provides the flexibility they need without throwing away the original PDU.

Perhaps the ultimate result of listening to customers’ concerns comes in the ability Server Technology has given its customers to actually “build your own PDUs” or BYOPDU. This power strip innovation provides a website where customers may configure the exact type of outlets needed, based upon the PDU’s intent and initial use. By specifying the CX modules, the customer has extreme flexibility and the opportunity to extend the life and usability of each power strip.

Listening, Not Hearing, Pays Dividends

Customer feedback is one of the greatest sources of product inspiration and listening is a skill that needs to be developed to ensure useful evolution. Incorporating feedback to advance products will benefit entire industries—and creating a perpetual feedback/innovation loop ensures a steady stream of improvements. Aside from the flexible HDOT PDU family, Server Technology also developed other PDUs that distribute 415VAC, 480VAC or 380VDC—all in response to customer feedback and customer needs. “In an industry where rigidity breeds stagnation and stagnation impedes a data center’s ability to efficiently process workloads, customers’ voices are the inventor’s greatest ally,” Cram concluded.

Bio
Sandi Terry Renden is Director of Marketing at
Server Technology, a brand of Legrand in the Datacenter Power and Control Division. Sandi is a passionate leader and creative visionary, with over 25 years of management, digital marketing and sales execution experience, with a proven track record of success recruiting and retaining talent, hitting sales targets and developing multi-channel digital marketing and branding campaigns for non-profit and profit organizations in both B2B and B2C. She has international working and cultural (residency) experience on three continents (Americas, Asia and Europe.) Sandi has earned a BA in Marketing from the University of Utah and an MBA in Marketing.

Alert Logic Report Reveals Wealth of Vulnerabilities for SMBs

By Rohit Dhamankar, Vice President, Threat Intelligence, Alert Logic

When it comes to incorporating strong cybersecurity hygiene into their practices, small and midsize businesses (SMBs) sometimes don’t realize how susceptible they are to cyber attacks. They read the latest news about a big-name organization getting hacked and conclude that this would never happen to a “small fish” company like theirs.

But they are mistaken.

Due to increasingly automated attack methods, cyber adversaries aren’t distinguishing between “big” and “small” fish anymore. They’re targeting vulnerabilities, with automation that empowers them to cast a wide net to cripple SMBs and large enterprises alike. New research from Alert Logic indicates that lack of awareness may be leading to a wealth of exposures for SMBs: A clear majority of their devices are running Microsoft OS versions that will be out of support by January 2020, and most unpatched vulnerabilities in the SMB space are more than a year old.

What Alert Logic’s New Findings Really Say

These and other findings from the Alert Logic Critical Watch Report 2019 should serve as an eye-opener for SMBs. Our analysis was based on 1.3 petabytes of data from more than 4,000 customers, including data from 2.8 million intrusion detection system (IDS) events and 8.2 million verified cybersecurity events. Here are highlights from the report that illustrate the most significant challenges we found:

Digging into the Numbers

More than 66 percent of SMB devices run Microsoft OS versions that are expired or will expire by January 2020. There’s little representation, in fact, of the current Windows Server release – 2019 – among this group and the majority of devices run Windows versions that are more than ten years old. Even if not exposed to the internet, these versions make it easy for attackers to move laterally within systems once they compromise a host.

Three-quarters of the top 20 unpatched vulnerabilities in the SMB space are more than a year old. Even though automated updates have improved software patching, organizations struggle to keep up the pace. The use of open source software – a common technique for building software projects efficiently – complicates the patch cycle, especially when the open source software is embedded. To uncover and reduce the vulnerabilities left by unpatched code, organizations must invest in third-party validation of the efficacy of the update process in their software development life cycle (SDLC) while conducting regular vulnerability scans.

Security Challenges SMBs Face

Weak encryption continues to create headaches, accounting for 66 percent of workload configuration problems. Unfortunately, many SMBs simply implement a default encryption for a particular app. Defaults were typically defined when older encryption protocols were still considered safe but might no longer be. It’s not surprising then that our research found that 13 encryption-related configuration flaws are leading to 42 percent of all security issues found.

Nearly one-third of the top email servers run on Exchange 2000, which has been unsupported for nearly 10 years. Email is the life blood of most businesses, so SMBs place their operations, sales and other critical functions at risk if they encounter newly identified vulnerabilities for which there are no available patches.

The three most popular TCP ports – SSH (22/TCP), HTTPS (443/TCP) and HTTP (80/TCP) – account for 65 percent of all vulnerabilities. Internal security teams should regularly scan ports to determine weaknesses and firewall misconfiguration issues, as well as whether unusual, possibly harmful services are running on systems. In addition, they need to close ports that are no longer in use; install firewalls on every host; monitor and filter port traffic; and patch and harden any device, software or service connected to ports.

Half of systems are running a version 2.6 Linux kernel, which has been out of support for more than three years. There are at least 69 known vulnerabilities for this kernel level, with many relatively easy to exploit. Kernels serve as the heart of an operating system, managing hardware, memory, apps, user privileges and an assortment of other key functions/components.

What to Think About Next

An obvious answer for SMBs is to inventory their cyber ecosystem and replace systems that have outlived support. But this is impractical for many. Resource constraints and inability to scale often prevent SMBs from upgrading and they struggle to apply best practices in patching, hardening and cyber hygiene. These organizations don’t have to go it alone, however, and can partner with security providers who offer strong but cost-conscious options to provide needed threat visibility, intelligence and security and compliance experts. With this support, SMBs can better defend existing infrastructure while addressing security challenges that occur during upgrades or migrations to the cloud.

Bio
Rohit Dhamankar is vice president of threat intelligence products at Alert Logic. Dhamanker has over 15 years of security industry experience across product strategy, threat research, product management and development, technical sales and customer solutions. Prior to
Alert Logic, Dhamanker served as vice president of product at Infocyte and founded consulting firm Durvaanker Security Consulting. He holds two Masters of Science degrees – one in physics from The Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, India and one in electrical and computer engineering from University of Texas – Austin.

 

The 5 Best Practices in Data Center Design Expansion

By Mark Gaydos, Chief Marketing Officer, Nlyte Software

When it comes to managing IT workloads, it’s a fact that the more software tools there are, the more risk and complexity is introduced. Eventually, the management process becomes like a game of Jenga, touching a piece in the wrong manner can have an adverse reaction on the entire stack.

In the past, data center managers could understand all the operational aspects with a bit of intuitive knowledge plus a few spreadsheets. Now, large data centers can have millions, if not tens of millions of assets to manage. The telemetry generated can reach beyond 6,000,000 monitoring points. Over time, these points can generate billions of data units. In addition, these monitoring points are forecasted to grow and spread to the network’s edges and extend through the cloud. AFCOM’s State of the Data Center survey confirms this growth by finding that the average number of data centers per company represented was 12 and expected to grow to 17 over the next three years. Across these companies, the average number of data centers slated for renovation is 1.8 this year and 5.4 over the next three years.

Properly managing the IT infrastructure as these data centers expand is no game-of-chance; but there are some proven best practices to leverage that will ensure a solid foundation for years to come.

5 Must Adhere-To Designs for Data Center Expansion:

  1. Use a Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) solution. As previously mentioned, intuition and spreadsheets cannot keep up with the changes occurring in today’s data center environment. A DCIM solution not only provides data center visualization, robust reporting and analytics but also becomes the central source-of-truth to track key changes.
  2. Implement Workflow and Measurable Repeatable Processes. The IT assets that govern workloads are not like Willy Wonka’s Everlasting Gobstopper—they have a beginning and end-of-life date. One of the key design best practices is to implement a workflow and repeatable business process to ensure resources are being maintained consistently and all actions are transparent, traceable and auditable.
  3. Optimize Data Center Capacity Using Analytics and Reporting. From the moment a data center is brought to life, it is constantly being redesigned. To keep up with these changes and ensure enough space, power and cooling is available, robust analytics and reporting are needed to keep IT staff and facility personnel abreast of current and future capacity needs.
  4. Automation. Automation is one of many operational functions that IT personnel perform. This helps to ensure consistent deployments across a growing data center portfolio, while helping to reduce costs and human error. In addition, automation needs to occur at multiple stages, from on-going asset discovery and software audits to workflow and cross-system integration processes.
  5. Integration. The billions of data units previously mentioned can be leveraged by many other operational systems. Integrate the core DCIM solution into other systems, such as building management systems (BMS), IT systems management (ITSM), and with virtualization management solutions such as VMware and Nutanix. Performing this integration will synchronize information so that all stakeholders in a company may benefit from a complete operational analysis.

Find a Complete Asset Management Tool

Technology Asset Management (TAM) software helps organizations understand and gain clarity as to what is installed, what services are being delivered and who is entitled to use it. Think of TAM as being 80% process and 20% technology. Whatever makes the 80% software process easier, will help the IT staff better manage all their software assets. From the data center to the desktop and from Unix to Linux, it does not make a difference—all organizations need visibility into what they have installed and who has access rights.

A good asset manager enables organizations to quickly and painlessly understand their entire user base, as well as the IT services and software versions being delivered. Having full visibility pays high dividends, including:

  • Enabling insights into regulatory environments such as GDPR requirements. If the IT staff understands what the company has, they can immediately link it back to usage.
  • Gaining cost reductions. Why renew licenses that are not being used? Why renew maintenance and support for items that the organization has already retired? Companies can significantly reduce costs by reducing licenses based on current usage.
  • Achieving confidence with software vendor negotiations. Technology Asset Management empowers organizations to know beyond a shadow of a doubt, what is installed and what is being used. Now the power is back in the company’s hands and not the software publishers.
  • Performing software version control. This allows companies to understand the entitlements, how this changes over time and who was using the applications. Software Asset Management allows for software metering to tell from the user’s perspective, who has, or needs to have, the licenses.

Accommodating Your Data Center Expansion

Complexity is all too often the byproduct of expanding data centers and it’s not subject to IT hardware and software only. To accommodate this expansion, facility owners are also seeking new types of power sources to offset OPEX. The AFCOM survey underscores the alternate energy expansion by finding that 42 percent of respondents have already deployed some type of renewable energy source or plan to over the next two months.

Selecting the Right IT Management Tool

Many IT professionals fall into the cadence of adding additional software and hardware to manage data center sprawl in all its forms, but this approach often leads to siloed containers and inevitably—diminishing returns from unshared data. When turning to software for an automated approach to gain more visibility and control over the additional devices and services connected, it’s important to carefully consider all integration points.

The selected tool needs to connect and combine with the intelligence of other standard infrastructure tools such as active directory and directory services for ownership and location. Additionally, the value of any new IT management tool that sums up the end-to-end compute system should be able to gather information utilizing virtually any protocol or if protocols are disabled or not available, and the baseline must have alternative methodologies to collect the required information.

IT Workloads are too Important to be Left to Chance

IT workloads are too important to be left to chance and managing data centers is not a game. Pinging individual devices at the top of the stack to obtain information only yields temporary satisfaction. There may be a devastating crash about to happen, but without knowing the stability of all dependencies—the processing tower could topple. Don’t get caught in a Jenga-type crisis. Help mitigate risks with management tools that offer intuitive insights up and down the stack.

Bio
As Chief Marketing Officer at Nlyte Software, Mark Gaydos leads worldwide marketing and sales development. He oversees teams dedicated to helping organizations understand the value of automating and optimizing how they manage their computing infrastructure.

Edge Infrastructure Meets Commercial Property

By Michael C. Skurla, Director of Product Strategy, BitBox USA

Until very recently buildings had tacked on the Smart prefix with promises of solving issues that we didn’t care about or hadn’t dreamed up yet. Such things as personal control solutions, even personal temperature control cropped up. Much of these smart extras were woven with grand marketing promises of future enabled ecosystems.

At the heart of the matter, the building industry has been highly proprietary and fractured, with each solution competing for monetary attention along with numerous other building trades on any construction budget. Lighting, security, irrigation, elevators, HVAC, wayfinding and dozens more; each vying for core competency and right to play – with a desire to gain revenue share of a fixed size pie of a commercial building budget.

With the introduction of IoT in the marketing envelope, a new lease was offered on an old marketing game in commercial buildings. There was a twist, however, since commercial building companies were somewhat behind the times compared to residential buildings. People had already enabled their home or at least embraced the advantages of Connected things in their lives powered by platforms such as Alexa, Siri and Nest by Google.

Commercial Building Gaps

Building management system (BMS) companies were exceptional at adapting to the game. With a core competency grown out of HVAC, BMS solutions superbly integrate and manage HVAC, and are sudo-network based. They naturally expanded their scope using their existing frameworks as a base and excelled at building automation. However, given the siloed building industry as a whole, they still lacked the expectations residential building occupants demanded in their homes and personal lives, while meeting the newly evolved demands of commercial buildings. These gaps included:

Scale – Managing one large building is one thing but managing hundreds under one portfolio is challenging – with existing building management frameworks being cost prohibitive on a scale.

Synergy – BMSes are good at control, but lack leveraging inter-system data sets. Hence, although the BMS may control lots of systems simultaneously, it lacks (without the customization) the learning and interacting process between the systems to leverage sensing platforms for greater efficiency and insight.

Micro-Analytics – While BMSes enable facility management and facility trades analytics, they could not be used beyond the facility context. The data remained private in the context of building infrastructure.

Commercial solutions needed a new methodology to address these needs, and the IT space, ironically already had it.

Enter IoT platforms.

For years, Edge Data Centers faced the same struggle as the market matured. It’s important to note that Edge data solutions are deployed en-masse – in the hundreds or thousands across large swaths of geography. Much of the same infrastructure used in commercial buildings, such as HVAC, security and power monitoring, are similar between traditional and Edge deployments. What differs, however, is the sheer quantity, technological diversity and geographic swath. Staffing these edge locations 24×7 is impractical hence the operations must be monitored and managed entirely remotely; while also using this monitoring technology to take on tasks typically handled by on-premises staff.

IoT Platforms Offer Scale

Unlike BMSes and SCADA systems of the past, IoT platforms at their core are built with the concept of diverse data at massive scale, and with the simplicity of installation and growth. Instead of relying on onsite commissioning and often custom programming to bridge the hardware, IoT platforms natively extract data from dozens of in-building protocols and subsystems. They also normalize the data and move it to a cloud location. Additionally, the setup of these solutions is vastly nimbler and generally consists of an Edge Appliance, wired and connected to a port that allows communications with a cloud infrastructure. Everything is then provisioned, managed and monitored remotely from the cloud – making this a perfect solution not only for Edge Data Centers, but the likes of commercial building portfolios.

IoT Platforms Bring Synergy

Given the number of subsystems in a building and the growing number of technologies and IoT sensing devices, there is an exceptional opportunity to leverage data between diverse systems. There is a significant amount of redundancy in these building trades in the way of sensing, which makes this technology, when viewed holistically, expensive to install and maintain. A prime example is evident in the simplicity of an office building meeting room where most likely there are three occupancy sensors detecting if someone is there. One for temperature control, another for lighting and security, and a third for a room reservation system. But why can’t one sensor provide all this data? Each of these requires wiring, programming and a separate system to monitor.

Beyond this, there is a strong case for external data to be applied and combined with in-building data for AI-related functionality. Google Maps for traffic information, external business databases, Twitter feeds; the sky is the limit.

IoT Platforms Enable Micro-Analytics

With all of this data collected in the cloud from a portfolio of sites, the data’s value is worth significantly more to the emerging field of Micro-service Analytics. These analytics services and visualization engines tap organized data-lakes, such as those provided by the IoT platform, and transform them into context-specific outcomes. Here are some possible scenarios:

  • Building data making actionable recommendations on building performance to reduce energy spend
  • IWMS (Integrated Workplace Management Systems) using the same data to analyze space utilization and recommend leasing adjustments
  • Retail marketing engines analyzing traffic patterns for merchandising

The analytics possibilities are endless through an ever-expanding marketplace of third-party micro-service companies, all enabled by the IoT platform and offering a consolidated API as a single source of “data” truth.

An Edge Site as a Commercial Building

IoT Platforms in the commercial property sector aggregate what is already integrated into buildings on a scale, to allow the building technologies to become alive as part of the business, and less of what is seen as a necessary evil of simple facility maintenance.

Traditional building technology solutions have met the mark on improving facility performance from an operation and maintenance perspective. It is time to move beyond this, however. Facility data can be used for considerably greater purposes to generate meaningful outcomes beyond the physical building when integrated with the breadth of other system data commonly referred to as “business operational information”.

This mix of information availability opens doors to analytics and visualization data, driven by analytics that has wide-reaching potential to have implications on the enterprises’ top and bottom line.

This certainly does not advocate an end to SCADA or BMS solutions, quite the contrary. The IoT platforms perform vital control and operations of some subsystems that should neither be duplicated nor replaced. An IoT platform layered on top of the systems discussed enhances the performance competency of the traditional silos of their core functionality to the best of their trade ability. This is done while leveraging the analysis of every bit of data, from vastly different angles, to impact the greater business good beyond just the facility sector.

In our fast-paced digitized infrastructure world merging various systems is critical to allow for profitable outcomes while enabling facility operators and managers to confidently make data-driven business decisions.

Bio
Michael C. Skurla is Director of Product Strategy for BitBox USA, which offers a single, simple and secure IoT platform solution for enterprises to collect, organize and deliver distributed data sets from critical infrastructure with a simple-to-deploy Edge Appliance with secure cloud access.

Seamless Tenant-to-Tenant Migrations Through Coexistence

By Kelsey Epps, Senior Technical Partner Strategist, BitTitan

There’s no question that businesses have adopted the cloud, big-time. In fact, Reuters reports that Microsoft has been shifting its reliance from the Windows operating system toward selling cloud-based services. Revenues have topped $1 trillion as the software giant predicts even more cloud growth.

Now that businesses have moved so many of their key workloads out of on-premises servers and shifted them into the cloud, the great wave of on-prem-to-cloud migrations is past its peak. With the cloud so well-entrenched, IT departments and service providers are being asked more and more to migrate workloads from one cloud instance to another. There are a variety of business reasons for making such a move, whether it’s employee preferences for a given software stack, realigning contracts, or utilizing APIs that are a better business fit.

It would seem that once a set of workloads is in the cloud, moving them to another cloud instance should be a straightforward process. However, ensuring business continuity through a cloud-to-cloud migration is every bit as tricky as an on-prem-to-cloud move.

In fact, now that workers are enjoying the work-from-anywhere access that the cloud provides, they may even be less tolerant or forgiving of any interruption in their user experience. When workers expect uninterrupted data access and seamless collaboration through the transition, the “Big Bang” approach of migrating everything in a single sequence, user-by-user or workload-by-workload until the job is done is rarely an option. Organizations are increasingly turning to a batched approach with their migrations, which targets specific groups or departments to migrate at the most opportune times.

This approach offers many benefits, but also its own challenges, because when a batched approach is taken, end users will exist on both the Source and Destination. This is where tenant-to-tenant coexistence comes into play to help facilitate the move.

Tenant-to-tenant migrations defined

A tenant-to-tenant (T2T) migration is a form of cloud-to-cloud migration where the Source and Destination applications are the same; the move is from one instance of the applications to another instance of the same applications. In the case of Office 365, the scope of applications and supporting data typically includes mailboxes, personal archives or personal storage tables (PST files), OneDrive or SharePoint files, and of course, the data files associated with the various Office 365 applications.

Migrating a business (or a subset of one) is a challenge because of the heavy reliance on email communications and calendars. Users have no way of knowing who among their coworkers have migrated to the Destination and who have yet to do so.

What is the impact of this? Emails bounce back to the sender or pile up in a mailbox that’s no longer accessible. Meeting invites are missed, or users are erroneously double-booked because the free/busy information associated with their calendars is no longer available to all users, as some are still working from the Source and others from the Destination. These obstacles work against the primary goal that the IT team brings to any migration: to make the whole process seamless and essentially invisible to the users.

Continuous collaboration through coexistence

Coexistence is a migration technique that gets around the synchronization problems and keeps users happily working and collaborating with each other even though they’re being migrated at different times. When a migration is the result of a merger, acquisition or divestiture, an entire organization, department or division is moving from SourceCompany.com to DestinationCompany.com. It’s the ideal scenario for taking advantage of coexistence. All one has to do is follow these easy steps:

  • First, enable organizational sharing of the Office 365 tenants. For all users to be migrated, create mail-enabled contacts on the Destination that resolve to each individual’s mailbox on the Source.
  • As you migrate each user, remove the mail-enabled contact from the Destination. Create an Office 365-licensed user account to establish the new mailbox, with a forward that points back to the Source mailbox. This allows the user to keep working in the Source mailbox. Migrate the mailbox items from the Source to the Destination.
  • Finally, after you migrate each user, remove the forward on the Destination mailbox. On the Source, you can remove the mailbox and replace it with a mail-enabled contact that points to the Destination mailbox. Or, keep the mailbox in place and forward to the new Destination.

Plan ahead for swift execution

Coexistence is an effective technique, especially if you combine it with selective migration of older files or emails that are less likely to be needed and move them either before or after the active migration. This enables you to make the whole process quick and seamless. Put coexistence in your toolkit and use it the next time you’re faced with a tenant-to-tenant migration between domains. Of course, careful preplanning is the key — as it is with any migration.

Bio
Kelsey Epps is a senior technical partner strategist with
BitTitan. A 20-year IT industry veteran, Kelsey works with MSPs and IT specialists on the technical preplanning aspects of the most complex migrations projects.

Choosing a Managed Service Provider – How to Make the Case

By Al Alper, CEO, CyberGuard360 and Absolute Logic

Cyberattack! It’s the word that strikes fear in the heart of every business owner. By now, most business owners are aware of the basic measures needed to help mitigate the threat – training employees to verify email that looks remotely suspicious, disallowing company data to be stored on personal devices – but these actions alone won’t guarantee prevention from malware, hacks and any other variety of cyberattack.

But, like most business owners, they concentrate first on what they need to keep the business running (or so they think): sales, marketing, managing employees and so forth.

Ask any business owner who probably feels they need another five or six hours in a day to accomplish everything how much time they spend thinking about cyber security, and you’re apt to get a response like, “Yes, I know it’s a threat, but we keep our software up-to-date and this stuff usually happens to someone else.”

Highlighting the scope of the problem

That’s where it’s tempting to launch into full sales mode and say something like, “Did you know that every day over 80,000 variants of malware are released, with thousands of hackers leveling tens of thousands of new hacks against businesses daily? And if that hasn’t frightened you enough, consider that it has been determined someone is hacked every 39 seconds.”

Or, “Would you buy a brand new BMW or Cadillac if it didn’t come with a warranty? Think of your business as the car, and your infrastructure protection as the warranty. You hope you never need it, but if you don’t have it and something happens, it’s costly to fix.”

One of the mistakes that companies make is having their IT support team expand their role to include cyber security. Without the right training, and in the absence of a clear understanding of the link between cyber security as an IT risk and a business risk, companies might focus on the wrong cyber security threats. Inasmuch as there are different business contexts, individual cyber security threats or sources may or may not cause financial, compliance and/or reputation issues. Therefore, companies might treat cyber security purely as an IT risk and could prioritize threats incorrectly.

The case for retaining the services of an experienced MSP

Here is where retaining the services of an experienced managed service provider (MSP) comes into the picture.

For us, part of the “sales” process is education. And it should be that way for everyone in this industry. We all know that there are a lot of organizations that promote themselves as MSPs. But, just as no two drops of rain are the same, neither are any two MSPs identical.

Here is where the education kicks in for us, and it should for anyone seeking to either sell or recommend MSP services.

What to look for in selecting an MSP

Elements to look for when selecting an MSP include:

  • Technical capabilities and experience working within your industry
  • Ability to support complex software infrastructures
  • Single point of contact/dedicated manager assignment
  • Remote and on-site support
  • Globalized service
  • Centralized analytics capabilities
  • Responsiveness and ability to communicate easily
  • Tiered cost system options

The range of security services an MSP can offer is wide, including:

  • Cloud security
  • Compliance monitoring
  • Detection and response services
  • Endpoint security, including monitoring for attacks
  • Firewalls
  • Intrusion detection and reporting
  • Log management and analysis
  • Managing advanced threat defense technologies
  • Penetration testing
  • Virtual private networks, or VPNs
  • Web and email security, such as anti-viral service and spam protection

An MSP should also have a thorough understanding of the compliance regulations that apply not only to their specific industry, but also in the state(s) they operate from. It’s wise to work with a single MSP with the ability to provide security program design and management with comprehensive knowledge of regulatory and standards compliance.

The importance of retaining an MSP that utilizes cutting-edge security management and mitigation tools cannot be overstated. You should look for firms that consistently introduce products designed to detect and alleviate cyber threats.

Many mitigation tools, for example, face challenges with the time and distance between storing and analyzing data. And having an MSP with the tools to meaningfully combat identified threats is an imperative. Many SIEM systems face challenges keeping up with real-time and immediate investigations of threats and acting on them requires a second or third level of effort. An MSP should have the tools to provide real-time monitoring of threats across the entire technological domain, and the ability to analyze large quantities of data to determine where issues/incidents are occurring, as well as the ability to confront and handle threats immediately.

Where cyber threats are concerned, sometimes seconds can make the difference.

IT leaders have a responsibility to educate our clients

As leaders in the field of IT, it is incumbent upon us to educate our prospective clients to make the best and most informed choice when it comes to partnering with an MSP.

A comprehensive portfolio, thorough understanding of industry compliance regulations and an arsenal of leading-edge security management and mitigation tools are the trifecta to look for when choosing a managed service provider. Remember, our prospects and clients have worked far too hard and invested far too much to leave a business vulnerable to cyberattacks. The cost of retaining a well-rounded MSP pales in comparison to the price a business will need to pay if the company is left exposed to threat.

Bio

Al Alper is CEO and Founder of Absolute Logic, which since 1991 has been providing Fortune 500-style technical support and technology consulting to businesses of up to 250 employees within Connecticut and New York. He is also the founder and CEO of CyberGuard360, a firm which develops and markets a solution set of products designed to detect and mitigate threats from cyberattacks. Al is a national speaker on IT and security issues and has authored a series of books, Revealed! which addresses cyber security issues.

Alternative Energy and the War of the Currents

By Marc Cram, Director of Sales, Server Technology

In the 1880s, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla battled for the nation’s energy contract in what is now known as the War of the Currents. Edison developed direct current (DC) and it was the standard in the U.S. However, direct current is not easily converted to higher or lower voltages.

Enter Edison’s nemesis, Nikola Tesla. Tesla believed that alternating current (AC) was the solution to the voltage problem. Alternating current reverses direction a certain number of times per second and can be converted to different voltages relatively easily using a transformer.

It’s extraordinary to think that after all this time, there is still an AC/DC conundrum happening and—nowhere is it more prevalent than in the data center power flow that churns the workload, to supply the applications for our digital lives. Consider that even when alternative energy is brought into the mix, these production technologies initially produce DC power and AC power is still being delivered to the IT racks within the data center.

Progress Since the War of the Currents

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the United States has relied on coal, oil and natural gas to provide the majority of the energy consumed since the early 1900s. Nuclear energy was once seen as the clear successor to coal for domestic electricity generation in the U.S., but a series of mishaps over the years has delayed, perhaps permanently, the widespread adoption of nuclear power. In addition, incidents at Three Mile Island (U.S.), Chernobyl (USSR/Russia) and Fukushima (Japan) have made it difficult in the minds of many to justify the growth of nuclear power plants as a source of electricity. Not to mention, the waste byproducts of nuclear fission. The decades-long fight over a long-term storage facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada has forced many facilities to retain their spent nuclear fuel on site.

And in the early 2000s, solar power was first considered as a potential alternative to carbon-based sources of energy. However, the cost per kWHr has traditionally had difficulty reaching parity with power from coal, oil and natural gas until recently. Even with decades of drawbacks, it’s still vitally important to pursue renewable forms of energy.

The EIA defines renewable energy as “energy from sources that are naturally replenishing but flow-limited. They are virtually inexhaustible in duration but limited in the amount of energy that is available per unit of time.”

It’s important to keep the EIA definition in mind as data center builders are considering renewable power. A mix of renewable power is important because it lessens the strain on the local utilities while also helping them to meet local, state and federal requirements for alternative energy use.

New Alternative Energy Current War?

Since 2001, the uptake of renewable energy has seen slow but steady progress. The figure below provides a detailed breakout of the types of renewable energy used in 2017, with biomass, hydroelectric and wind being the top sources.

Source: https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/?page=renewable_home

As previously mentioned, the power train supplying a data center has historically been implemented using AC power. From generation to transmission to point of use the power has been AC that gets stepped up or stepped down in voltage, as needed before being converted to DC power by the power supply residing in a server, network switch, router, load balancer or storage application.

On the other end of the power spectrum, many of the renewable energy sources inherently generate one form of electricity or another. Photovoltaic (PV) solar cells generate DC. Biogas and natural gas-powered fuel cells also generate DC. In order to be used in most data centers, the DC power from solar farms and fuel cells goes through an inversion process that turns DC into AC power. This allows the electricity to be transmitted efficiently across a distance and to be put back into “the grid” when not being put into energy storage systems or into loads such as data centers.

Regardless of renewable energy sources, data center locations are still primarily chosen for their proximity to cheap, reliable AC power from one or more utility provider power sources. However, by using renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, fuel cells and hydroelectricity to power data centers, companies can minimize power transmission and conversion losses, reduce their perceived carbon footprint and gain control over their sources of energy production. This allows them to grow their data centers to meet customer demands while complying with local, state and federal environmental impact laws.

But here is the rub: data centers are not situated close enough to the windmill, or to the dam supplying the hydroelectric power, requiring that the data center relies on an AC infeed supplied by a utility to get the electricity from the point-of-generation to the point of consumption. Google’s Sustainability Report underscores this statement by saying, “The places with the best renewable power potential are generally not the same places where a data center can most reliably serve its users. And while our data centers operate 24/7, most renewable energy sources don’t — yet. So, we need to plug into the electricity grid, which isn’t currently very green.”

Who’s Doing Their Part?

Contrary to the “rub” statement, good energy precedent is being set by some of the largest data centers, processing the biggest workloads.

Microsoft has been a notable pioneer in attempting to re-think the power train for their data centers. For example, their data center in Cheyenne, WY is powered from a biogas source supplying fuel cells on site. More recently, Microsoft built an evaluation lab that brings natural gas to the top of the rack and uses fuel cells located there to convert the gas to DC power that is consumed directly by the devices in the rack. This saves on power transmission losses and conversion losses at the expense of deploying some potentially costly fuel cells.

Facebook is also leveraging renewable energy sources and it is predicted that by 2020, the company will have committed to enough new renewable energy resources to equal 100 percent of the energy used by every data center they have built.

For Google’s part, in the same Sustainability Report, as previously mentioned, the company says, “In 2017 Google achieved a great milestone: purchasing 100% renewable energy to match consumption for global operations, including our data centers and offices. We’re investing in a brighter future for the whole industry. And we’re going beyond investing in renewable energy for our own operations—we want to grow the industry as a whole. Not only have we invested $3 billion in renewable energy projects, but we freely share technology that might help others study and respond to environmental challenges.”

Conclusion

The transition to higher adoption of renewable energy production continues for both utilities and consumers while being led and paid for by the largest internet properties around the globe. By working with the utility companies to develop large renewable energy production facilities and committing to purchase the outputs, the data center giants are leading the way to meet the clean energy needs of their businesses and communities.

While renewable energy coming from these projects is still a mix of AC and DC power, in the end, AC power is the common intermediary that joins the point-of-production to the utility and on to the point-of-consumption at the data center. Thus, most enterprise and cloud data centers rely on AC power to run their IT infrastructure. Sorry Edison, this is the “elephant” in the room, conclusion.

Whether your data center is using renewable energy or not, AC power is still the primary infeed to a data center, and AC power is distributed within the data center to the IT rack. For those data centers electing to remain with this tried and true approach, look for ways to help, such as using an intelligent PDU that supports an infeed of 415VAC 3-phase to deliver 240VAC to the outlet without requiring a transformer in the PDU. This helps to minimize conversion and distribution losses, minimize the size of copper cabling required for power and enable maximum power density for the rack, resulting in a greener, more efficient data center.

Bio

Marc Cram is Director of Sales for Server Technology (@ServerTechInc), a brand of Legrand (@Legrand). Marc is driven by a passion to deliver a positive power experience for the data center owner/operator. Marc brings engineering, production, purchasing, marketing, sales and quality expertise from the automotive, PC, semiconductor and data center industries together to give STI customers an unequalled level of support and guidance through the journey of PDU product definition, selection and implementation. Marc earned a BSEE from Rice University and has over 30 years of experience in the field of electronics.