December 21, 2014

5 Technology Companies to Watch

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Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would have something in common with stock market watchdog theStreet.  Much to my surprise, I do!  TheStreet just came out with an article on the “5 Cisco Alternatives“, Juniper, Aruba, Polycom, Riverbed and Fortinet, all five of which Carousel represents, and I talk with customers about on a daily basis.  TheStreet has noticed a trend that I have personally been seeing as well, “best of breed” is becoming more important than “brand name”.

TheStreet’s five technology picks to watch out for are Juniper Networks, Riverbed, Polycom, Aruba Networks and Fortinet.  Carousel’s great relationship with these partners has given me the opportunity to be a part of small group trainings hosted by the different partners and learn more about their exciting growth and technology.

As demand on customers’ network becomes greater, customers are becoming increasingly impatient.  A slow network is simply not acceptable.  Andon Lucas and George Kaminski of Juniper have done a great job of getting the Carousel team excited about one of Juniper’s new QFabric technology, a platform that will simplify the network and make it run at a rate that will exceed customers’ previous expectations.

Arguably, one of the biggest game changers in the industry has been the entrance of tablets and smart phones in to the work force.  Whether a company is providing these smart devices or consumers are bringing them into the workplace, the IT team must react and evolve with this trend.  Enter Junos Pulse, another Juniper bleeding edge technology.  Junos Pulse is the answer to the security question that has every corporate IT team biting their nails: How do we install corporate level security on these consumer items?  Junos Pulse has security features such as remote wipe, gps, and secure VPN to ensure that these devices are not threats to the protection of corporate information.

However, security is not the only issue on the table when it comes to smart devices.  Creating a network where tablet users can move throughout the workplace without connection interruption is now becoming a requirement.  Aruba Networks has developed a “Mobile Virtual Enterprise” that answers this demand. The quick adoption of this technology has helped Aruba become the “biggest gainers”, according to Goldman Sachs’ recent IT spending survey.

The workforce is always on the move, they are also expected to be everywhere at once.  While this is still impossible, Polycom is making it a little easier for employees to meet this expectation. Polycom is one of the most strategic corporations on the market, leveraging relationships with AVAYA, Juniper, and Microsoft to create a seamlessly integrated visual communications offering.  I personally have seen more customers interested and excited in getting visual communications on to their network than any other technology.  Enabling the workforce to be present without travel cost or time undeniably increases workforce efficiency.  However, IT Directors must prepare themselves for the extremely high bandwidth demands that come along with it.

Enter Riverbed.  Riverbed has been exploding in popularity as IT Directors are realizing that traffic and demand on their WAN is only going to skyrocket in the future, and adding more bandwidth is only a temporary fix that will have continuous cost.  Riverbed changes and modifies the way traffic runs flows through a WAN allowing it to get there faster with a lower demand on the network.  However, the technology does not just work to improve the WAN, their recent Steelhead hardware works to improve traffic flows to both public and private clouds.

Cloud and hosted technology is a great fit for many customers who don’t want to pay the upfront cost and liability of having the technology their company needs to run.  However, allowing a free flowing pipe out of your company also has its repercussions.  Unified Threat Management is becoming increasingly important as companies become more vulnerable with the increase of traffic in and out of their network.  Fortinet has earned its position as the largest gainer in the IT security market because its sole focus is security. 

These technologies have all earned the title of “best of breed” because they choose to focus on their market and improve vertically instead of trying to expand into unknown markets.   Carousel recognizes these 5 companies, Juniper, Aruba, Polycom, Riverbed and Fortinet as the technologies available today that will help prepare IT Directors for the demands of the future.  It is extremely exciting to have such close working partnerships with companies who are all technology visionaries.

Technology and Education Come Together at the NY Superintendents Show

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The New York Superintendents show brought together 60 school districts from across New York State, all looking for innovative ways to improve their institutions.  The past few years have delivered incredible advancements in the ability of technology to enhance the classroom experience.  Students expect faster networks, parents are demanding a safer network, and teachers are using resources from across the world to broaden and enhance their curriculum.  As technology standards and performance expectations are raised, technology directors are challenged with trying to meet these expectations within tight budget constraints.

Jackie Meyers, Carousel Account Executive, put together a team to provide insight into the next generation of technology infrastructure. Bringing together a panel of expert technology executives from Aruba, Polycom and Extreme, we kicked off our panel discussion with John Lynch, Carousel’s New York Regional Sales Director.  John gave an introduction on the importance of leveraging Unified Communications and technology integration for school districts.  An integrated network allows for technology directors to have more control over the structure of their networks and gives them independence from being tied to the technology of one manufacturer.

At the conference I had the opportunity to speak with several Superintendents about the status of their districts.  Their two largest pain points have nothing to do with technology.  Firstly, they are facing extremely tight budgets, which leads to their second largest problem, having to let teachers and faculty go.  While this is not something that a widget will fix, strategic technology decisions can save schools hundreds of thousands of dollars which can then be applied to other areas of the school budget.

Extreme Networks joined Carousel in this conversation to discuss their technology solutions and how they are able to help schools realize significant cost savings. Extreme Networks comes up against leading technology providers in competitive “bake offs” every day and proves its technology time and time again. When Extreme puts their final proposal on the table, they typically come in at a significantly lower price.  If a technology of comparable quality can save hundreds of thousands of dollars (or several teacher’s jobs), how could a school district with good conscience choose an alternative?

One of the biggest areas of interest for schools today is distance learning.  When I was in school, integrating media into the classroom was more of a chore than a teaching tool.  From teachers trying to find the correct web video to tracking down DVD’s from the library or at its worst, using ancient video cassette tapes, it was always a time consuming production.  Technology now allows teachers to call on resources from around the world for an interactive learning experience.  Over the past few years teachers have begun to use videoconferencing to connect with Museum resources to create a virtual field trip.  Polycom is one of the leading technology companies making this happen.    Polycom creates permanent in-classroom solutions, distance learning suites and mobile video carts.  Teachers are able to record sessions for students who missed class or use it in later classes.  These virtual field trips allow students to have an experience they would otherwise be unable to have, as well as save on the costs, both financially and in time spent, and reduce the liability of having a large number of students in transit.

However, the biggest issue technology directors are dealing with is upgrading their wireless infrastructure.  Aruba joined us at the conference to shed some light on how to create a robust wireless network that can handle a high density of mobile users.  Wireless networks are also required to support more diverse demands, such as visual communications for distance learning.  Aruba is a key player here as their infrastructure offers application assurance for voice, video and the interactive learning that teachers are providing for their students.  For a great case study on how one college deployed a wireless network on their campus click here.

The New York Superintendents conference was very successful and we were able to help technology directors and superintendents identify pain points they are dealing with on their campuses.  Carousel breadth of portfolio enables us to take a consultative approach in creating technology solutions that will integrate and enhance with the technology in place.