Oracle launches autonomous database for online transaction processing

Posted by on 7 August, 2018

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Oracle executive chairman and CTO, Larry Ellison, first introduced the company’s autonomous database at Oracle Open World last year. The company later launched an autonomous data warehouse. Today, it announced the next step with the launch of the Oracle Autonomous Transaction Processing (ATP) service.

This latest autonomous database tool promises the same level of autonomy — self-repairing, automated updates and security patches and minutes or less of downtime a month. Juan Loaiza SVP for Oracle Systems at the database giant says the ATP cloud service is a modernized extension of the online transaction processing databases (OLTP) they have been creating for decades. It has machine learning and automation underpinnings, but it should feel familiar to customers, he says.

“Most of the major companies in the world are running thousands of Oracle databases today. So one simple differentiation for us is that you can just pick up your on-premises database that you’ve had for however many years, and you can easily move it to an autonomous database in the cloud,” Loaiza told TechCrunch.

He says that companies already running OLTP databases are ones like airlines, big banks and financial services companies, online retailers and other mega companies who can’t afford even a half hour of downtime a month. He claims that with Oracle’s autonomous database, the high end of downtime is 2.5 minutes per month and the goal is to get much lower, basically nothing.

Carl Olofson, an IDC analyst who manages IDC’s database management practice says the product promises much lower operational costs and could give Oracle a leg up in the Database as a Service market. “What Oracle offers that is most significant here is the fact that patches are applied without any operational disruption, and that the database is self-tuning and, to a large degree, self-healing. Given the highly variable nature of OLTP database issues that can arise, that’s quite something,” he said.

Adam Ronthal, an analyst at Gartner who focuses on the database market, says the autonomous database product set will be an important part of Oracle’s push to the cloud moving forward. “These announcements are more cloud announcements than database announcements. They are Oracle coming out to the world with products that are built and architected for cloud and everything that implies — scalability, elasticity and a low operational footprint. Make no mistake, Oracle still has to prove themselves in the cloud. They are behind AWS and Azure and even GCP in breadth and scope of offerings. ATP helps close that gap, at least in the data management space,” he said.

Oracle certainly needs a cloud win as its cloud business has been heading in the wrong direction the last couple of earnings report to the point they stopped breaking out the cloud numbers in the June report.

Ronthal says Oracle needs to gain some traction quickly with existing customers if it’s going to be successful here. “Oracle needs to build some solid early successes in their cloud, and these successes are going to come from the existing customer base who are already strategically committed to Oracle databases and are not interested in moving. (This is not all of the customer base, of course.) Once they demonstrate solid successes there, they will be able to expand to net new customers,” he says.

Regardless how it works out for Oracle, the ATP database service will be available as of today.

Posted Under: Tech News
InVision hires former Twitter VP of Design Mike Davidson

Posted by on 7 August, 2018

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InVision continues its slow march toward design world domination, today announcing the hire of Mike Davidson who will take over as Head of Partnerships and Community.

Davidson was previously the VP of Design at Twitter, where he built a 100-person team that was responsible for every aspect of Twitter’s user experience and branding, including web, mobile web, native apps, and business tools.

Before Twitter, Davidson worked at ESPN/Disney until 2005, when he founded NewsVine, which was purchased by NBCNews in 2007. Davidson then took on a Vice President roll for five years before starting at Twitter.

At InVision, Davidson will oversee partnerships, product integrations, strategic acquisitions and community building. This includes leading InVision’s Design Leadership Forum, which hosts private events for design leaders from big companies like Facebook, Google, Lyft, Disney, etc. Davidson will also work with the new Design Transformation team at InVision to help create educational experiences for InVision’s customers.

Davidson says he plans to spend the next 30 to 60 days talking as little as possible, and listening to the feedback he hears from his team around what can be improved.

“InVision has a seamless workflow that includes everyone in the company in the design process,” said Davidson. “If there’s one goal I’d like to realize, it’s that. Design is a team sport these days, which wasn’t the case 10 or 20 years ago.”

In Davidson’s own words, the position at InVision is “less about business to business and more about designer to designer.” Davidson will be meeting predominantly with the design teams from various companies to discuss not only how InVision can help them build better experiences, but how InVision can incorporate those design teams’ personalities into the product.

InVision was built on the premise that the screen is the most important place in the world, considering that every brand and company is now building digital experiences across the web and through mobile applications. CEO Clark Valberg hopes to turn InVision into the Salesforce of design, and partnerships, acquisitions and product integrations are absolutely vital to that.

“We couldn’t be more excited to have an authentic leader like Mike step into this role to help us further build out our design community — which is as important to us as our product — and to help drive design maturity inside of every organization,” said Valberg. “Digital product design is shaping every industry in the world, and as the leader in the space, we see it as our responsibility to support and foster community and advanced education.”

Posted Under: Tech News
RiskRecon’s security assessment services for third party vendors raises $25 million

Posted by on 7 August, 2018

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In June of this year, Chinese hackers managed to install software into the networks of a contractor for the U.S. Navy and steal information on a roughly $300 million top secret submarine program.

Two years ago, hackers infiltrated the networks of a vendor servicing the Australian military and made off with files containing a trove of information on Australian and U.S. military hardware and plans. That hacker stole roughly 30 gigabytes of data, including information on the nearly half-a-trillion dollar F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

Third party vendors, contractors, and suppliers to big companies have long been the targets for cyber thieves looking for access to sensitive data, and the reason is simple. Companies don’t know how secure their suppliers really are and can’t take the time to find out.

The Department of Defense can have the best cybersecurity on the planet, but when that moves off to a subcontractor how can the DOD know how the subcontractor is going to protect that data?” says Kelly White, the chief executive of RiskRecon, a new firm that provides audits of vendors’ security profile. 

The problem is one that the Salt Lake City-based executive knew well. White was a former security executive for Zion Bank Corporation after spending years in the cyber security industry with Ernst & Young and TrueSecure — a Washington DC-based security vendor.

When White began work with Zion, around 2% of the company’s services were hosted by third parties, less than five years later and that number had climbed to over 50%. When White identified the problem in 2010, he immediately began developing a solution on his own time. RiskRecon’s chief executive estimates he spent 3,000 hours developing the service between 2010 and 2015, when he finally launched the business with seed capital from General Catalyst .

And White says the tools that companies use to ensure that those vendors have adequate security measures in place basically boiled down to an emailed check list that the vendors would fill out themselves.

That’s why White built the RiskRecon service, which has just raised $25 million in a new round of funding led by Accel Partners with participation from Dell Technologies Capital, General Catalyst, and F-Prime Capital, Fidelity Investments venture capital affiliate.

The company’s software looks at what White calls the “internet surface” of a vendor and maps the different ways in which that surface can be compromised. “We don’t require any insider information to get started,” says White. “The point of finding systems is to understand how well an organization is managing their risk.”

White says that the software does more than identify the weak points in a vendor’s security profile, it also tries to get a view into the type of information that could be exposed at different points on an network,

According to White, the company has over 50 customers among the Fortune 500 who are already using his company’s services across industries like financial services, oil and gas and manufacturing.

The money from RiskRecon’s new round will be used to boost sales and marketing efforts as the company looks to expand into Europe, Asia and further into North America.

“Where there’s not transparency there’s often poor performance,” says White. “Ccybersecurity has gone a long time without true transparency. You can’t have strong accountability without strong transparency.”

Posted Under: Tech News
Evolute debuts enterprise container migration and management platform

Posted by on 7 August, 2018

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Evolute, a 3-year old startup out of Mountain View, officially launched the Evolute platform today with the goal of helping large organizations migrate applications to containers and manage those containers at scale.

Evolute founder and CEO Kristopher Francisco says he wants to give all Fortune 500 companies access to the same technology that big companies like Apple and Google enjoy because of their size and scale.

“We’re really focused on enabling enterprise companies to do two things really well. The first thing is to be able to systematically move into the container technology. And the second thing is to be able to run operationally at scale with existing and new applications that they’re creating in their enterprise environment,” Francisco explained.

While there are a number of sophisticated competing technologies out there, he says that his company has come up with some serious differentiators. For starters, getting legacy tech into containers has proven a time-consuming and challenging process. In fact, he says manually moving a legacy app and all its dependencies to a container has typically taken 3-6 months per application.

He claims his company has reduced that process to minutes, putting containerization within reach of just about any large organization that wants to move their existing applications to container technology, while reducing the total ramp-up time to convert a portfolio of existing applications from years to a couple of weeks.

Evolute management console. Screenshot: Evolute

The second part of the equation is managing the containers, and Francisco acknowledges that there are other platforms out there for running containers in production including Kubernetes, the open source container orchestration tool, but he says his company’s ability to manage containers at scale separates him from the pack.

“In the enterprise, the reason that you see the [containerization] adoption numbers being so low is partially because of the scale challenge they face. In the Evolute platform, we actually provide them the native networking, security and management capabilities to be able to run at scale,” he said.

The company also announced that it been invited to join the Chevron Technology Ventures’ Catalyst Program, which provides support for early stage companies like Evolute. This could help push Evolute to business units inside Chevron looking to move into containerization technology and be big boost for the startup.

The company has been around in since 2015 and boasts several other Fortune 500 companies beyond Chevron as customers, although it is not in a position to name them publicly just yet. The company has 5 full time employees and has raised $500,000 in seed money across two rounds, according to data on Crunchbase.

Posted Under: Tech News
Twilio came ahead of expectations and the stock is going nuts

Posted by on 6 August, 2018

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Twilio today reported a positive quarter that brought it to profitability — on an adjusted basis — ahead of schedule for Wall Street, sending the stock soaring 16 percent in extended hours after the release came out.

While according to traditional accounting principles Twilio still lost money (this usually includes stock-based compensation, a key component of compensation packages), the company is still showing that it has the capability of being profitable. Born as a go-to tool for startups and larger companies to handle their text- and telephone-related operations, Twilio was among a wave of IPOs in 2016 that has more or less continued into this year. The company’s stock has more than doubled in the past year, and is up nearly 170 percent this year alone. Twilio also brought in revenue ahead of Wall Street expectations.

Still, as a services business, Twilio has to show that it can continue to scale its business while absorbing the cost of the infrastructure required and acquire new customers. It also has to ensure that those customers aren’t leaving, or at least that it’s bringing on enough new developers more quickly than they are leaving. Larger enterprises, as a result, can be more attractive because they’re more predictable and can lead to bigger buckets of revenue for the company — and, well, most larger companies still need communications support in some way still today.

On an adjusted basis, Twilio said it earned 3 cents per share, ahead of the loss of 5 cents that analysts were expecting. It said it brought in $147.8 million in revenue compared to $131.1 million analysts were expecting, so it’s a beat on both lines, and more importantly shows that Twilio may be able to morph its toolkit into a mainline business that can end up as the backbone of any company’s communication with their customers or users.

Posted Under: Tech News
Airbnb for Work now accounts for 15 percent of bookings

Posted by on 6 August, 2018

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Business travelers have become an increasingly important part of the Airbnb business, according to a new blog post. The company says that Airbnb for Work, which launched in 2014, has seen bookings triple from 2015 to 2016, and triple again from 2016 to 2017. In fact, Airbnb says that almost 700,000 companies have signed up for and booked with Airbnb for Work.

Interestingly, the breakdown of companies working with Airbnb for traveler lodging are pretty diverse — employees from large enterprise companies (5,000+ employees) and employees from startups and SMBs (one to 250 employees) take a 40-40 split, with the final 20 percent of Airbnb for Work bookings going to mid-sized companies.

In July of 2017, Airbnb started making its listings available via SAP Concur, a tool used by a large number of business travelers. Airbnb says that this integration has been a huge help to growing Airbnb for Work, with Concur seeing a 42 percent increase in employees expensing Airbnb stays from 2016 to 2017. Moreover, 63 percent of Concur’s Fortune 500 clients have booked a business trip on Airbnb.

One interesting trend that Airbnb has noticed is that nearly 60 percent of Airbnb for Work trips had more than one guest.

“We can offer big open areas for collaborations, while still giving employees their own private space,” said David Holyoke, global head of business travel at Airbnb. “We think this offers a more meaningful business trip and it saves the company a lot of money.”

Given the tremendous growth of the business segment, as well as the opportunity it represents, Airbnb is working on new features for business travelers. In fact, in the next week, Airbnb will be launching a new feature that lets employees search for Airbnb listings on a company-specific landing page.

So, for example, a Google employee might search for their lodging on Google.Airbnb.com, and the site would be refined to cater to Google’s preferences, including locations close to the office, budget, and other factors.

While the growth has picked up, Holyoke still sees Airbnb for Work as an opportunity to grow. He said that Airbnb for Work listings only represent 15 percent of all Airbnb trips.

But, the introduction of boutique hotels and other amenity-driven listings such as those on Airbnb Plus are paving the way for business travelers to lean toward Airbnb instead of a business hotel.

Plus, as mobility and relocation become even more important to how a business operates, Airbnb believes it can be a useful tool to help employees get started in a new town before they purchase a home.

Posted Under: Tech News
Goodly looks to give companies student loan payments as an employee benefit

Posted by on 3 August, 2018

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As employers duke it out over hiring the best possible candidates, especially ones coming out of school, they are starting to get a little bit more creative with their incentive packages — and that includes offering an option for paying down student debt.

Goodly is a new startup that’s looking to help those employers offer that as a benefit. Smaller companies without the resources to create complicated incentive packages especially need tools that help shortcut the process of offering those benefits. It’s following a similar playbook of companies looking to make it easier to get the tools they need in place and focus more on the set of products that are going to make it an actually differentiated company. Goodly is launching out of Y Combinator’s summer class this year.

“We found it to be a really great tool for recruiting and retaining,” co-founder Gregory Poulin said. “When people hear student loan benefits, they instantly think it’s very expensive. You can offer student loan benefits starting $25 to $50 per employee per month, up to $200. Our system is completely flexible. You can offer any company size for any budget. You can offer meaningful benefit for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a day. For the average borrower, when they have an employer contributing an extra $100 per months, it could help your average employee get out of debt almost a decade faster.”

There are more common benefits like stock packages, 401(k) matches, insurance, better time off policies, or others along those lines. But as student debt increasingly becomes a factor in a candidate’s decision on where they work, it’s another way that companies — ones without larger compensation packages or very aggressive recruiting operations like, say, Google or Facebook — can still get the attention and interest of good candidates coming out of school. Like other companies (like Human Interest for 401(k)s, for example), the goal is to make it easy to get started and maintain the whole process.

Employees connect their student loans to Goodly, which takes a few minutes to verify them before setting up the contribution plan. Goodly integrates with payroll operations and gives companies and employees a pretty flexible way to set their spending schedule. Then, it goes from there, without the employees having to manage it on a per-period basis. While it might have the robust tax incentives in place like a retirement plan, it’s still a way to help companies offer some way of showing employees that they’re invested in their employees’ future success, which is another way that those companies might be able to retain that talent. Goodly then brings back detailed reports on the company’s implementation to help it better understand whether the policies are working for their employees.

It’s certainly an area that’s attracted interest — and funding — from a number of startups like Tuition.io which look to help employers get a little more creative about their benefits. Much like contributions to retirement plans, it’s another way to offer employees a way to invest in their future by reducing the financial stress they have through some of their biggest financial decisions like where to go for college. Poulin also said it’s a way to help discover a more diverse talent pool as it surfaces up underrepresented parts of the population that are acutely dealing with student debt as a factor in their decision-making.

Posted Under: Tech News
Optic wants to help developers drop boilerplate code into their development flow

Posted by on 3 August, 2018

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Stack Overflow and other various sites and tools have made it easy to Google search for solutions — or code snippets — to the easier parts of putting together an app or program for developers, but Aidan Cunniffe wants to take that one automated step further.

That’s the premise behind Optic, which gives developers a way to grab very common coding use cases that they can drop right into their code. It works by finding the sort of routine additions developers might need, like how to create a form that will add a user to a database, as well as all the ancillary parts that come with that like tests. Optic works within a developer’s IDE, so they don’t have to look externally for the code they need, which is compiled together from online sources. Right now it works for JavaScript, with Python next on the docket. Optic is coming out of Y Combinator’s summer 2018 class.

“The biggest problems are when people have a bunch of systems that have to talk together,” Cunniffe siad. “Optic’s really good at syncing that code. If you change something on the backend, it’ll update the front end. That’s a big problem that anyone who develops anything complex. We generate a lot of unit tests for people, speed up the development of new features, and larger companies are using us as an advanced linter to ensure developers write code that conforms to their standards.”

Optic works as a little Clippy-like object within an IDE, where developers can search for things to add to a slice of code. The processing is all done locally, and the project itself is open source with a free version (in addition to a paid version for larger teams). While there are a number of other code-generating tools, Cunniffe says Optic competes primarily with those kinds of Google searches for Stack Overflow results, and one of the primary reasons it’s better is that any changes on any part of the code will propagate through existing code throughout a system.

“Code generators had been around for a long time,” Cunniffe said. “There’s a ton of tradeoffs to tools that existed, people wanted stuff that was useful but didn’t change their workflow. They could also only be used once, so there’s not as much utility, and there wasn’t work to maintain the code. [Code search engines] are really useful, but the biggest drawback they have is it’s not your code. What sets us apart is it’ll help you generate those snippets but it’ll do that in a smart way. All the args and parameters are variables in your own code.”

Posted Under: Tech News
Arm acquires data management service Treasure Data to bolster its IoT platform

Posted by on 2 August, 2018

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Arm, the semiconductor firm you probably still remember as ARM, today announced that it has acquired Treasure Data, a data management platform for large enterprise customers. The companies didn’t announce the financial details of the transaction, but earlier reporting by Bloomberg pegged the price at $600 million.

This move strengthens Arm’s IoT nascent play, given that Treasure Data’s specialty is dealing with the large streams of data that these systems produce (as well as data from CRM, e-commerce systems and other third-party services).

This move follows Arm’s recent acquisition of Stream and indeed, the company calls the acquisition of Treasure Data “the final piece” of its “IoT enablement puzzle.” The result of this completed puzzle is the Arm Pelion IoT Platform, which combines Stream, Treasure Data and the existing Arm Mbed Cloud into a single solution for connecting and managing IoT devices and the data they produce.

Arm says Treasure Data will continue to operate as before and continue to serve new clients as well as its existing users. “It will remain an important part of industry IoT enablement, providing the ability to harness new, complex edge and device data within a comprehensive customer profile to personalize their products and improve their experiences,” the company says.

Posted Under: Tech News
Altru raises $1.3M to improve recruiting with employee videos

Posted by on 1 August, 2018

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Marketers are increasingly looking for social media celebrities and influencers who can promote their products with more authenticity (or at least, the appearance of authenticity) than a traditional ad.

So Altru CEO Alykhan Rehmatullah wondered: Why can’t businesses do something similar with recruiting?

And that’s what Altru is trying to accomplish, powering a page on a company’s website that highlights videos from real employees answering questions that potential hires might be asking. The videos are searchable (thanks to Altru’s transcriptions), and they also can be shared on social media.

The startup was part of the recent winter batch at Techstars NYC, and it’s already working with companies like L’Oréal, Dell and Unilever. Today, Altru is announcing that it’s raised $1.3 million in new funding led by Birchmere Ventures.

Rehmatullah contrasted Altru’s approach with Glassdoor, which he said features “more polarized” content (since it’s usually employees with really good or really bad experiences who want to write reviews) and where companies are often forced to “play defense.”

On Altru, on the other hand, employers can take the informal conversations that often take place when someone’s deciding whether to accept a job and turn them into an online recruiting tool. Over time, Rehmatullah said the platform could expand beyond recruiting to areas like on-boarding new employees.

Since these videos are posted to the company website, with the employees’ name and face attached, they may not always feel comfortable being completely honest, particularly about a company’s flaws. But at least it’s a message coming from a regular person, not the corporate-speak of a recruiter or manager.

Rehmatullah acknowledged that there’s usually “an educational process” involved in making employers more comfortable with this kind of content.

“These conversations are already happening outside your organization,” he said. “In the long-term, candidates expect more authenticity, more transparency, more true experiences.”

Posted Under: Tech News
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