Last week, the attention of the IT world was divided when two huge events – the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference and Cisco Live! were scheduled for exactly the same time. Long Island-based Nectar Services has a major foot in both camps, making announcements of significance at both events. At Cisco Live!, Nectar announced Nectar Evolution, a quality of service [QoS] automation solution that integrates with the Cisco Digital Network Architecture [DNA]. At the Microsoft event, Nectar announced a suite of cloud enablement solutions that supports Microsoft Skype for Business Online.
Nectar has been around since 2006, and originally came out of the Avaya partner space. They have spent the last 4-5 years focused on growth around Microsoft and Cisco.
“We wanted to leverage strength there, as the market shifted in that direction,” said Tom Tuttle, SVP of US Strategy and Global Alliances at Nectar. “As a result we have become much stronger and much more mainstream. We used to be white-labelled by the partner community. Now, Powered by Nectar is more common. We provide everything from unified communications planning and assessment to diagnostics and advanced analytics.”
Nectar has about 1400 enterprise clients, and goes to market through indirect partners.
“These include service providers, system integrators, and 38-40 Microsoft partners,” Tuttle said, “This includes many who span all the unified communications environments.”
Nectar Evolution integrates with Cisco ‘s Digital Network Architecture (DNA), which was announced in March, to automate quality of service (QoS) in Cisco and Microsoft collaboration environments that run in Cisco and Microsoft collaboration environments on Cisco-based networks.
“We are working with Cisco on their big push to their new DNA, bringing application awareness and functionality to help drive Cisco powered networks,” said Steven Purcell, Nectar’s Senior Director, Global Cisco Program Management. Their focus is on APIC-EM, which provides centralized automation of policy-based application profiles.
The objective is to simplify the QoS process.
“QoS is extremely complex, because of multiple vendor platforms, modalities that come into and out of the network, and multiple configurations,” Purcell said. “It takes too much time and money to do a QoS change because they are manually configured.”
Nectar Evolution addresses this with a cross-platform UC solution software solution. It provides a pre-determined QoS using Nectar’s rules-based policy engine. Once the user registers, Evolution does a security verification to ensure the UC endpoints are registered. Nectar’s policy engine then sends specific UC QoS data to the Cisco APIC-EM API. The Cisco DNA controller then sets the QoS policy within seconds, specific for the corresponding device type and IP to all the required Cisco hardware. Nectar can then utilize its passive and active real-time UC performance monitoring and diagnostics technology to close the loop and ensure QoS compliance across the UC network.
“There’s a lot going on behind the scenes to have bidirectional communications in this,” Purcell stated. “Customers don’t adopt new QoS very easily, especially with new apps coming out every day. It’s a constant challenge, especially because it has been manually configured, so they don’t have the time to maintain the complexity.”
In addition to Evolution’s innovative nature, Purcell said that Evolution offers several significant pluses for the channel
“One of the benefits the channel is seeing is that it helps them move from being a break-fix maintaining partner to a full blown solution type partner,” he said. “Using APIC with Nectar lets them roll our QoS policies very quickly when deploying a UC solution.”
It’s also an excellent way to bring QoS to wireless deployments.
“Wireless has not seen a lot of QoS configuration,” Purcell said. “This is a great starting point to start adopting QoS automation.
“Developing something like this has its own inherent challenges,” Purcell indicated. “Cisco did a great job with APIC, because it allows companies to make the complexity easier. We had looked at doing a product like APIC-EM ourselves. But customers don’t want these solutions adding another finger in the network.”
“We are an incredible collector of information and correlator of important information,” Tuttle said. “Combined with the ability to provide a policy information, that’s what we do best. We could go further, but we focus on our core competency.” That of course, allows Nectar to partner with Cisco rather than compete against them.
Nectar Evolution will be available on Cisco’s price list in the second half of the year.
Nectar’s announcement from the Microsoft WPC, where it was a Microsoft Partner of the Year finalist, was a suite of cloud-enablement solutions to ensure an optimum Skype for Business end-user experience in an Office 365 cloud or hybrid migration.
The suite includes tools for enterprise network assessment and cloud assessment, network and cloud monitoring, diagnostics and real-time quality for hybrid environments, and infrastructure inventory and management of legacy environment.
“We are announcing this new suite of offerings around cloud enablement solutions because we are dealing with a number of hybrid environments, and we want to make sure we have a suite of solutions to support these migrations,” Tuttle said. “We have an assessment product that partners have been using, and are repositioning it here so it can be extended into the Azure cloud.”
Tuttle said that Nectar was the only certified Microsoft tool partner for on-prem assessments, and they want to be positioned for the cloud going forward.
“This gives a feel for how the cloud environment operates, and will identify an issue before it becomes a problem,” he said. “For customers deploying hybrid, it can look at the user experience of online users as they leverage assets within on-prem deployment. This gives IT pros more insight.”