Alibaba Cloud revenue reaches $1.5B for the quarter on 62% growth rate

Posted by on 14 February, 2020

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Alibaba issued its latest earnings report yesterday, and as part of that the Chinese eCommerce giant reported that cloud revenue grew 62% to $1.5 billion U.S., crossing the RMB10 billion revenue threshold for the first time.

Alibaba also announced that it had completed its migration to its own public cloud in the most recent quarter, a significant milestone because the company can point to its own operations as a reference to potential customers, a point that Daniel Zhang, Alibaba executive chairman and CEO, made in the company’s post-earnings call with analysts.

“We believe the migration of Alibaba’s core e-commerce system to the public cloud is a watershed event. Not only will we ourselves enjoy greater operating efficiency, but we believe, it will also encourage others to adopt our public cloud infrastructure,” Zhang said in the call.

It’s worth noting that the company also warned that the Coronavirus gripping China could have impact on the company’s retail business this year, but didn’t mention the cloud portion specifically.

Yesterday’s revenue report puts Alibaba on a $6 billion U.S. run rate, good for fourth place in the cloud infrastructure market share race, but well behind the market leaders. In the most recent earnings reports, Google reported $2.5 billion in revenue, Microsoft reported $12.5 billion in combined software and infrastructure revenue and market leader AWS reported a tad under $10 billion for the quarter.

As with Google, Alibaba sits well back in the pack, as Synergy Research’s latest market share data shows. The chart was generated before yesterday’s report, but remains an accurate illustration of the relative positions of the various companies.

Alibaba has a lot in common with Amazon. Both are eCommerce giants. Both have cloud computing arms. Alibaba, however, came much later to the cloud computing side of the house, launching in 2009, but really only beginning to take it seriously in 2015.

At the time, cloud division president Simon Hu boasted to Reuters that his company would overtake Amazon in the cloud market within 4 years. “Our goal is to overtake Amazon in four years, whether that’s in customers, technology, or worldwide scale,” he said at the time.

They aren’t close to achieving that goal, of course, but they are growing steadily in a hot cloud infrastructure market. Alibaba is the leading cloud vendor in China, although AWS leads in Asia overall, according to the most recent Synergy Research data on the region.

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Judge temporarily halts work on JEDI contract until court can hear AWS protest

Posted by on 13 February, 2020

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A sealed order from a judge today has halted the $10 billion, decade long JEDI project in its tracks until AWS’s protest of the contract award to Microsoft can be heard by the court.

The order signed by Judge Patricia E. Campbell-Smith of the US Court Federal Claims stated:

The United States, by and through the Department of Defense, its officers, agents, and employees, is hereby PRELIMINARILY ENJOINED from proceeding with contract activities under Contract No. HQ0034-20-D-0001, which was awarded under Solicitation No. HQ0034-18-R-0077, until further order of the court.

The judge was not taking this lightly, adding that Amazon would have to put up $42 million bond to cover costs should it prove that the motion was filed wrongfully. Given Amazon’s value as of today is $1.08 trillion, they can probably afford to put up the money, but they must provide it by February 20th, and the court gets to hold the funds until a final determination has been made.

At the end of last month, Amazon filed a motion to stop work on the project until the court could rule on its protest. It is worth noting that in protests of this sort, it is not unusual to stop work until a final decision on the award can be made.

This is all part of an ongoing drama that has gone for a couple of years since the DoD put this out to bid. After much wrangling, the DoD awarded the contract to Microsoft at the end of October. Amazon filed suit in November, claiming that the president had unduly influenced the process.

As we reported in December, at a press conference at AWS re:Invent, the cloud arm’s annual customer conference, AWS CEO Andy Jassy made clear the company thought the president had unfairly influenced the procurement process.

“I would say is that it’s fairly obvious that we feel pretty strongly that it was not adjudicated fairly,” he said. He added, “I think that we ended up with a situation where there was political interference. When you have a sitting president, who has shared openly his disdain for a company, and the leader of that company, it makes it really difficult for government agencies, including the DoD, to make objective decisions without fear of reprisal.”

Earlier this week, the company filed paperwork to depose the president and Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper.

The entire statement from the court today halting the JEDI project:

**SEALED**OPINION AND ORDER granting [130] Motion for Preliminary Injunction, filed by plaintiff. The United States, by and through the Department of Defense, its officers, agents, and employees, is hereby PRELIMINARILY ENJOINED from proceeding with contract activities under Contract No. HQ0034-20-D-0001, which was awarded under Solicitation No. HQ0034-18-R-0077, until further order of the court.

Pursuant to RCFC 65(c), plaintiff is directed to PROVIDE security in the amount of $42 million for the payment of such costs and damages as may be incurred or suffered in the event that future proceedings prove that this injunction was issued wrongfully.

As such, on or before 2/20/2020, plaintiff is directed to FILE a notice of filing on the docket in this matter indicating the form of security obtained, and plaintiff shall PROVIDE the original certification of security to the clerk of court. The clerk shall HOLD the security until this case is closed.

On or before 2/27/2020, the parties are directed to CONFER and FILE a notice of filing attaching a proposed redacted version of this opinion, with any competition-sensitive or otherwise protectable information blacked out. Signed by Judge Patricia E. Campbell-Smith.

Posted Under: Tech News
Google closes $2.6B Looker acquisition

Posted by on 13 February, 2020

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When Google announced that it was acquiring data analytics startup Looker for $2.6 billion, it was a big deal on a couple of levels. It was a lot of money and it represented the first large deal under the leadership of Thomas Kurian. Today, the company announced that deal has officially closed and Looker is part of the Google Cloud Platform.

While Kurian was happy to announce that Looker was officially part of the Google family, he made it clear in a blog post that the analytics arm would continue to support multiple cloud vendors beyond Google.

“Google Cloud and Looker share a common philosophy around delivering open solutions and supporting customers wherever they are—be it on Google Cloud, in other public clouds, or on premises. As more organizations adopt a multi-cloud strategy, Looker customers and partners can expect continued support of all cloud data management systems like Amazon Redshift, Azure SQL, Snowflake, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server and Teradata,” Kurian wrote.

As is typical in a deal like this, Looker CEO Frank Bien sees the much larger Google giving his company the resources to grow much faster than it could have on its own. “Joining Google Cloud provides us better reach, strengthens our resources, and brings together some of the best minds in both analytics and cloud infrastructure to build an exciting path forward for our customers and partners. The mission that we undertook seven years ago as Looker takes a significant step forward beginning today,” Bien wrote in his post.

At the time the deal was announced in June, the company shared a slide, which showed where Looker fits in what they call their “Smart Analytics Platform,” which provides ways to process, understand, analyze and visualize data. Looker fills in a spot in the visualization stack while continuing to support other clouds.

Slide: Google

Looker was founded in 2011 and raised more than $280 million, according to Crunchbase. Investors included Redpoint, Meritech Capital Partners, First Round Capital, Kleiner Perkins, CapitalG and PremjiInvest. The last deal before the acquisition was a $103 million Series E investment on a $1.6 billion valuation in December 2018.

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Datometry snares $17M Series B to help move data and applications to the cloud

Posted by on 13 February, 2020

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Moving data to the cloud from an on-prem data warehouse like Teradata is a hard problem to solve, especially if you’ve built custom applications that are based on that data. Datometry, a San Francisco startup, has developed a solution to solve that issue, and today it announced a $17 million Series B investment.

WRVI Capital led the round with participation from existing investors including Amarjit Gill, Dell Technologies Capital, Redline Capital and Acorn Pacific. The company has raised a total of $28 million, according to Crunchbase data.

The startup is helping move data and applications — lock, stock and barrel — to the cloud. For starters, it’s focusing on Teradata data warehouses and applications built on top of that because it’s a popular enterprise offering, says Mike Waas CEO and co-founder at the company.

“Pretty much all major enterprises are struggling right now with getting their data into the cloud. At Datometry, we built a software platform that lets them take their existing applications and move them over to new cloud technology as is, and operate with cloud databases without having to change any SQL or APIs,” Waas told TechCrunch.

Today, without Datometry, customers would have to hire expensive systems integrators and take months or years rewriting their applications, but Datometry says it has found a way to move the applications to the cloud, reducing the time to migrate from years to weeks or months, by using virtualization.

The company starts by building a new schema for the cloud platform. It supports all the major players including Amazon, Microsoft and Google. It then runs the applications through a virtual database running the schema and connects the old application with a cloud data warehouse like Amazon Redshift.

Waas sees virtualization as the key here as it enables his customers to run the applications just as they always have on prem, but in a more modern context. “Personally I believe that it’s time for virtualization to disrupt the database stack just the way it has disrupted pretty much everything else in the datacenter,” he said.

From there, they can start developing more modern applications in the cloud, but he says that his company can get them to the cloud faster and cheaper than was possible before, and without disrupting their operations in any major way.

Waas founded the company in 2013 and it took several years to build the solution. This is a hard problem to solve, and he was ahead of the curve in terms of trying to move this type of data. As his solution came online in the last 18 months, it turned out to be good timing as companies were suddenly looking for ways to move data and applications to the cloud.

He says he has been able to build a client base of 40 customers with 30 employees because the cloud service providers are helping with sales and walking them into clients, more than they can handle right now as a small startup.

The plan moving forward is to use some of the money from this round to build a partner network with systems integrators to help with implementation so that they can concentrate on developing the product and supporting other data repositories in the future.

Posted Under: Tech News
Tozny introduces encrypted identity tool as part of security service platform

Posted by on 13 February, 2020

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Tozny, a Portland, Oregon startup that wants to help companies more easily incorporate encryption into their programs and processes, introduced TozID today. It is an identity and access control tool that can work independently or in conjunction with the company’s other encryption tools.

“Basically we have a Security as a Service platform, and it’s designed to help developers and IT departments add defense in depth by [combining] centralized user management with an end-to-end encryption platform,” Tozny CEO and founder Isaac Potoczny-Jones told TechCrunch.

The company is introducing an identity and access solution today with the hope of moving beyond its core developer and government audience to a broader enterprise customer base.

Under the hood, TozID uses standards identity constructs like single sign-on, SAML and OpenID, and can plug into any existing identity framework, but the key here is that it’s encryption-based and uses Zero Knowledge identification. This allows a user (or application) to control information with a password, while reducing the risk of sharing data because Tozny does not store passwords or send them over the network.

In this tool, the password acts as the encryption key, which enables users or applications to control access to data in a very granular way, only unlocking information for people or applications they want to be able to access that information — and nobody else.

As Potoczny-Jones points out, this can be as simple as one-to-one communication in an encrypted messaging app, but it can be more complex at the application layer, depending on how it’s set up. “It’s really powerful to have a user make that decision, but that’s not the only use case. There are many different ways to enable who gets access to data, and this tool enforces those kinds of decisions with encryption,” he explained.

Regardless of how this is implemented, the user never has to understand encryption, or even know that encryption is in play in the application. All they need to do is enter a password as they always have, and Tozny deals with the complex parts under the hood, using standard open source encryption algorithms.

The company also has a data privacy tool geared towards developers to build in end-to-end encryption into applications, whether that’s web, mobile, server and so forth. Developers can use the Tozny SDK to add encryption to their applications without a lot of encryption knowledge.

The company has been around since 2013 and hasn’t taken any private investment. Instead, it has developed an encryption toolkit for government agencies, including NIST and DARPA, that has acted as a de facto kind funding mechanism.

“This is an open source toolkit on the client side, so that folks can vet it for security — cryptographers like that — and on the server side it’s a SaaS-type platform,” he said. The latter is how the company makes money, by selling the service.

“Our goal really here is to bring the kind of cybersecurity that we’ve been building for government agencies into the commercial market, so this is really work on our side to try to, you might say, bring it down market as the threat landscape moves up market,” he said.

Posted Under: Tech News
Model9 gets $9M Series A to move data between mainframes and cloud

Posted by on 12 February, 2020

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Model9, an Israeli startup launched by mainframe vets, has come up with a way to transfer data between mainframe computers and the cloud, and today the company announced a $9 million Series A.

Intel Capital led the round with help from existing investors including StageOne, North First Ventures and Glenrock Israel. The company reports it has now raised almost $13 million.

You may not realize it, but the largest companies in the world like big banks, insurance companies, airlines and retailers still use mainframes. These companies require the massive transaction processing capabilities of these stalwart machines, but find it’s difficult to get the valuable data out for more modern analytics capabilities. This is the hard problem that Model9 is attempting to solve.

Gil Peleg, CEO and co-founder at Model9, says that his company’s technology is focused on helping mainframe users get their data to the cloud or other on-prem storage. “Mainframe data is locked behind proprietary storage that is inaccessible to anything that’s happening in the evolving, fast-moving technology world in the cloud. And this is where we come in with patented technology that enables mainframes to read and write data directly to the cloud or any non-mainframe distributed storage system,” Peleg explained.

This has several important use cases. For starters, it can act as a disaster recovery system eliminating the need to maintain expensive tape backups. It can also move this data to the cloud where customers can apply modern analytics to data that was previously inaccessible.

The company’s solution works with AWS, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure and IBM’s cloud solution. It also works with other on-prem storage solutions like EMC, Nutanix, NetApp and Hitatchi. He says the idea is to give customers true hybrid cloud options, whether a private cloud or a public cloud provider.

“Ideally our customers will deploy a hybrid cloud topology and benefit from both worlds. The mainframe keeps doing what it should do as a reliable, secure, trusted [machine], and the cloud can manage the scale and the rapidly growing amount of data and provide the new modern technologies for disaster recovery, data management and analytics,” he said.

The company was founded in 2016 and took a couple of years to develop the solution. Today, the company has 10 customers, but these are the kinds of large organizations that would be using mainframes. Peleg says, he wants to use the money to expand the sales and marketing operation to grow the market for this solution.

Posted Under: Tech News
Good news for enterprise startups: SaaS helped kill the single-vendor stack

Posted by on 11 February, 2020

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In the old days of enterprise software, when companies like IBM, Oracle and Microsoft ruled the roost, there was a tendency to shop from a single vendor. You bought the whole stack, which made life easier for IT — even if it didn’t always work out so well for end users, who were stuck using software that was designed with administrators in mind.

Once Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) came along, IT no longer had complete control over software choices. The companies that dominated the market began to stumble — although Microsoft later found its way — and a new generation of SaaS vendors developed.

As that happened, users saw a way to pick and choose software that worked best for them, as they were no longer bound to clunky enterprise software; they wanted tools at work that worked as well as the ones they used in the consumer space at home.

Through freemium models and low-cost subscriptions, individual employees and teams started selecting their own tools, and a new way of buying software began to take hold. Instead of buying software from a single shop, consumers could buy the best tool for the job. This in turn, led to wider adoption, as these small groups of users led the way to more lucrative enterprise deals.

The philosophical change has worked well for enterprise startups. The new world means a well-executed idea can beat an incumbent with a similar product. Just ask companies like Slack, Zoom and Box, which have shown what’s possible when you put users first.

Posted Under: Tech News
Infosys is acquiring Simplus for $250M to grow its Salesforce consulting arm

Posted by on 11 February, 2020

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Infosys is a huge consulting organization based in India, which works with clients as they implement complex software integrations. Today, the company announced it was buying Simplus, a Salesforce integration consultant, for $250 million.

The company, which is based in Salt Lake City, Utah, launched in 2014 and has raised almost $50 million, according to Crunchbase data. It brings a wide range of Salesforce consulting, training and integration services along with general Salesforce expertise, which Infosys hopes to put to work.

The acquisition follows the purchase of Fludio, another Salesforce consulting shop in 2018. The moves suggest that Infosys wants to build deeper expertise around Salesforce and make that a key piece of its consulting operations moving forward.

Brent Leary, a CRM industry veteran, who is owner at CRM Essentials, says that Simplus is well positioned in the Salesforce ecosystem to capture lucrative cloud integration services, and it should help expand Infosys’s Salesforce consulting arm. “By acquiring Simplus, it allows Infosys to grab more market share, while extending Salesforce capabilities to offer existing clients,” Leary told TechCrunch.

Ravi Kumar, president at Infosys sees it in similar terms. “Simplus will be a valuable addition to the Infosys family. Complementing our industry knowledge and existing Salesforce footprint with their strong presence in key markets, deep Salesforce consulting and advisory expertise will help accelerate the transformation journey of incumbent companies,” Kumar said in a statement.

The deal is expected to close in Infosys’s fiscal 2020 fourth quarter. Per usual, it is subject to standard regulatory approval.

Posted Under: Tech News
Tangle EE project joins Eclipse Foundation to bring distributed ledger apps to enterprise

Posted by on 11 February, 2020

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As the number of IoT devices proliferate, and machines conduct transactions with machines without humans involved, it becomes increasingly necessary to have a permissionless system that facilitates this kind of communication in a secure way.

Enter the IOTA Foundation, a Berlin-based open source distributed ledger technology (DLT) project, which has hooked up with the Eclipse Foundation to bring IOTA DLT to the enterprise via the Tangle EE project. For starters, this involves forming a working group.

The distributed ledger idea first emerged as a way to distribute digital currency on the blockchain. Since then, there have been multiple ideas, both open source and commercial, to bring this concept to the enterprise to provide a secure, immutable and frictionless way to share data.

One such open source project is IOTA, which saw an issue with DLT as it was being implemented by other entities. “IOTA is the first distributed ledger technology that went beyond blockchain with a completely new architecture that resolves the bottleneck problems of blockchain that has prevented real world adoption,” Dominik Schiener, co-founder of IOTA Foundation told TechCrunch.

The broad vision is to provide a way for machines and devices to communicate securely. “We provide a protocol layer that enables both humans and machines to bulk transact value without fees, as well as ensure data integrity, which is of course, increasingly important in the age of Internet of Things where hundreds of billions of devices are being connected over the next decades,” Schiener said.

Tangle EE is the part of the project aimed at enterprise users — EE stands for Enterprise Edition — that can take this technology and enable larger organizations to build applications on top of the project. For starters the foundation is working with the Eclipse Foundation to bring corporate entities on board who can help better define the requirements of the large business user.

Dell Technologies and STMicroelectronics are the first major companies joining the project, but the hope is that through discussion and dialogue, Tangle EE will begin to gain traction. “The main reason why we created Tangle EE was because of the discussions that we’ve had with corporations. They really understood that we need to have a working group around IOTA to discuss the application layer, to discuss what kind of solutions we can develop broadly across industries, but also really start having more serious discussions about the protocol,” Schiener said.

Much like the Linux Foundation, the Eclipse Foundation will provide a governance framework for the project. “The Eclipse Foundation will provide a vendor-neutral governance framework for open collaboration, with IOTA’s scalable, feeless and permissionless DLT as a base,” Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation explained in a statement.

If it gains traction, more companies will join in the coming months and years, and begin building out Tangle EE, while developing applications based on the protocol.

Posted Under: Tech News
Google backs productivity startup building algorithmic inbox for Slacks, emails and texts

Posted by on 11 February, 2020

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There have been plenty of stories written about the so-called “Slack-lash” and the growing unrest among workers dealing with DM interruptions that take their attention away from the task at hand. Slack is a poster boy for the problem, but VCs have invested heavily in a number of collaboration tools over the past several years that have compartmentalized chat and commenting systems and have left workers reeling.

It seems fairly likely that we’ve reached peak VC interest in collaboration, but VCs are dealing with any slowdown by betting more heavily on tools that help workers make sense of the panoply of slick interfaced messaging tools. The latest bet, ’nuffsaid, is, yes, yet another productivity startup, though one that seems devoted to making the messaging realities of 2020 employment a bit more tolerable.

The Utah startup is emerging from stealth, launching the first element of their productivity platform in early access, and disclosing that they’ve raised $4.3 million in seed funding from General Catalyst, Google’s Gradient Ventures, Global Founders Capital, Work Life Ventures, SV Angel and Wasabi Ventures.

The oddly-named company is releasing its first oddly-named product, ‘nflow, into early access, bringing multiple collaboration platforms and a calendar into a single inbox.  Just as the algorithmic timeline shaped how we digest the firehose of social media content, algorithmic inboxes might be the solution to a Slack-lash. ’nuffsaid is taking this algorithmic approach for prioritizing Slack messages, as well as emails, texts and Zoom messages with ‘nflow. The searchable unified inbox brings all of your messages into a single app, letting you know what’s urgent and what can probably wait until you’re finished taking care of the task at hand.

“We think there’s going to be an entire category of products that are all about adding AI into existing workflows. With ‘nflow, we think we’re taking our first baby step to our vision of that future,” CEO and co-founder Chris Hicken tells TechCrunch. Hicken was previously COO of UserTesting.

One of the more exciting elements of ‘nflow is the way it brings the calendar inside the communications hub. Google Calendar is still among the more estranged elements of productivity workflows. Using messages and emails as the basis for calendar events has always been a wishlist item, but the integration is rarely tight enough. ’nuffsaid’s drag-and-drop interface for creating calendar events while tagging team members and adding additional info showcases seems to be a pretty attractive solution, though I’ll wait until I can poke around the app myself before making any full-throated endorsements.

The ’nuffsaid team says ‘nflow will launch commercially at (a rather pricey) $25 per month, but that people who sign up for their early access waitlist will unlock a lifetime rate of $10 per month.

The team of 18 has bigger near-term ambitions than the product they’re launching in early access today. If ‘nflow represents a more mass-market approach to delivering a productivity tool to workers frustrated by a messaging overload, their future launches signify a desire to dig deeper into specific enterprise workflows and bring specific types of teams onboard.

Over the summer, the company plans to roll out a separate AI-driven customer success module which integrates with a variety of apps to give workers more actionable insights on what tasks are the most critical to maintaining and building customer relationships. The startup plans to build and roll out dedicated versions of the module for engineering, product and marketing as well.

“There are so many collaboration tools, what I like about ’nuffsaid is that it’s where the work is actually happening and they’re not asking users to change their procedures,” General Catalyst Managing Director Niko Bonatsos tells TechCrunch. “Users still have the same email address, they’re still contacting their customers the same ways, they don’t have to start doing unnatural things that disrupt their workflows.”

Posted Under: Tech News
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