It has been an explosive week in tech news.
IBM reported their 20th consecutive quarter of loss. As their stock plunged, rival Oracle announced the acquisition of 2 companies. Oracle’s recent comments in the press caught the ire of Amazon who finally pushed back on Ellison and Hurd’s comments by calling out some of “big red’s” failings.
Microsoft took a hit this week after news leaked that the NSA created security holes in their products. The company says the vulnerabilities have already been patched, but many are wondering what else the government has done.
- VMware Buys Monitoring Company Wavefront
The acquisition lets VMware “leapfrog into application management of next-generation modern applications,” according to VMware Senior Vice President Ajay Singh. By “modern applications,” he’s referring to applications in containers.
Terms were not disclosed. Wavefront was certainly worth tens of millions of dollars, and VMware may have spent as much as $100 million or thereabouts, an estimate based on the amount of venture capital poured into Wavefront coupled with the startup’s recent claim of “hyper growth.” Wavefront attracted $11.5 million in venture capital in its series A in February of last year, followed quickly by a second round in October of $52 million.
- Oracle buys Wercker, a Dutch startup that automates code testing and deployment
Database technology giant Oracle has announced plans to acquire Wercker, a Dutch startup that offers tools for automating the process of testing and deploying code. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Founded out of Amsterdam in 2012, Wercker offers developers a container-centric platform that helps automate the development of applications and microservices. It operates in a space that includes competitors such as Shippable, Codeship, CircleCI, Drone.io, and Semaphore, though Wercker cites its ability to integrate with Docker containers as one differentiator. It’s all about helping companies that are building software specifically for deployment in the cloud.
- Oracle acquires ad measurement company Moat
Founded in 2010, Moat helps advertisers and publishers measure whether people see and interact with online ads. The need to create what CEO Jonah Goodhart has called “the currency for digital advertising” seems increasingly important given advertiser concerns around viewability, fraud and trust, and Moat has been working with some big names, including Nestle, Procter & Gamble and Unilever on the advertiser side, as well as ESPN, Facebook and Snapchat on the publisher side.
And while Moat raised $50 million just over a year ago, the funding landscape for adtech companies hasn’t been great, leading to predictions of more acquisitions and consolidation. (Moat raised more than $67 million total from investors including SV Angel, Mayfield Fund and Insight Venture Partners).
Update: They are paying $850M
- Microsoft acquires Intentional Software to bolster its productivity apps
Interestingly, Intentional Software was originally founded by a former Microsoft employee, Charles Simonyi. At Microsoft, Simonyi oversaw the creation of Word and Excel, among others. After founding Intentional Software in 2002, Simonyi focused his efforts on making programming less complicated, eventually leading the Intentional Software team to “develop productivity scenarios for the future workforce.”
Under the terms of the deal, Simonyi will be heading back to Microsoft along with members of the Intentional Software team.
- The Dark Secret at the Heart of AI
There’s already an argument that being able to interrogate an AI system about how it reached its conclusions is a fundamental legal right. Starting in the summer of 2018, the European Union may require that companies be able to give users an explanation for decisions that automated systems reach. This might be impossible, even for systems that seem relatively simple on the surface, such as the apps and websites that use deep learning to serve ads or recommend songs. The computers that run those services have programmed themselves, and they have done it in ways we cannot understand. Even the engineers who build these apps cannot fully explain their behavior.
- Amazon cloud chief jabs Oracle: ‘Customers are sick of it’
Jassy was addressing a cultural shift in the way technology is bought and sold. No longer does the process involve the purchase of heavy proprietary software with multi-year contracts that include annual maintenance fees. Now, Jassy says, it’s about choice and ease of use, including letting clients turn things off if they’re not working.
He specifically went after Oracle’s core database business, saying that “over the last few decades, it has been a lonely place for customers” because of the high prices and vendor lock-in.
“Customers are sick of it,” he said.
- IBM’s cloud provides little silver lining
It has survived mass extinctions before, but there’s mounting scepticism it can thrive in the current climate. Over the past five years, the company’s shares have fallen 16% compared to a 68% increase for the S&P 500 Index.The future for IBM resides in what it calls “Strategic Imperatives.” These initiatives, which include the AI initiative Watson and cloud operations, grew 12% over the past year and now account for more than 40% of total revenue.
Ongoing opacity makes it hard to say exactly what it means, though. IBM doesn’t break out Watson’s figures, for example, because it says it’s a “golden thread” weaving throughout the company. The Cognitive Solutions arm in which Watson is housed only grew 2% over the past year. All other divisions shrank.
- Oracle data center comment raises eyebrows at AWS
In reaction to Hurd’s comments, AWS VP and distinguished engineer James Hamilton said in a blog post: “Of course, I don’t believe that Oracle has, or will ever get, servers 2x faster than the big three cloud providers.
“I also would argue that ‘speeding up the database’ isn’t something Oracle is uniquely positioned to offer. All major cloud providers have deep database investments but, ignoring that, extraordinary database performance won’t change most of the factors that force successful cloud providers to offer a large multi-national data center footprint to serve the world.”
Hamilton went on to explain the need to have multiple data centers in a region for redundancy reasons – “One facility will have some very serious and difficult-to-avoid full-facility fault modes like flood and, to a lesser extent, fire. It’s absolutely necessary to have two independent facilities per region and it’s actually much more efficient and easy to manage with three.”
- Micro Focus signals job cuts after £7bn HP deal
In the presentation to lenders on April 4, its executive chairman, Kevin Loosemore, and chief financial officer Mike Phillips said Micro Focus planned to bring profit margins at HPE Software up from 21pc to a group-wide 46pc within four years.
It said that Micro Focus revenues currently equate to $273,000 a head compared with $185,000 at HPE Software, and highlighted previous acquisitions in which the company had cut staff numbers to boost profit margins.
- Slack, an Upstart in Messaging, Now Faces Giant Tech Rivals
There is no illusion within Slack that success is certain. But Stewart Butterfield, the chief executive, said small tech companies with new ideas had long defeated larger rivals that tried to copy them. Think of Apple’s beating IBM in personal computing, Google’s beating Microsoft in search and Facebook’s crushing Google in social networks.
One advantage Slack does have is focus, Mr. Butterfield maintains. Microsoft, for example, has numerous Slack-like products including Yammer, SharePoint, Skype for Business and now Teams. The executives who run those businesses within Microsoft must “compete for budget and mind share and attention,” he said, providing an opening for Slack to gain users while Microsoft managers wage internal wars.
- Cybersecurity Startup Tanium Exposed California Hospital’s Network in Demos Without Permission
Tanium sells software that rapidly maps computer networks and diagnoses companies’ vulnerabilities. To drive sales, co-founder and Chief Executive Orion Hindawi designed a presentation that he said showed his company’s software running inside a client. The system in the demo belonged to El Camino Hospital, a nonprofit community hospital based in Santa Clara County, Calif. He and his staff gave the presentation hundreds of times, from at least as early as 2012 through mid-2015, according to people familiar with the matter and three demonstration videos posted online by Tanium and its resellers.
“The hospital did not authorize desktop management data or other information to be used in any product demonstration and was not previously aware of these demonstrations or videos,” El Camino Hospital said in a response to inquiries by The Wall Street Journal. “We are dismayed to learn that desktop and server management information was shared. We are thoroughly investigating this matter and take our responsibility to maintain the integrity of our systems very seriously.” The hospital said Tanium didn’t have access to any patient information, and said, “based on our review to date, patient information remains secure.”
- Edward Snowden: Latest NSA leak is ‘not a drill’
Snowden said the NSA knew as recently as last year that their hacking methods were stolen, but accused the agency of refusing to tell software makers “how to lock the thieves out.”
“It’s not safe to run an Internet-facing Windows box right now,” a hacker who used to work in the Defense Department told Motherboard. The unnamed hacker also said, “this is the worst thing since Snowden.”
Microsoft says it is reviewing the leak and “will take the necessary actions to protect our customers.”
Microsoft has already patched the NSA’s leaked Windows hacks
Microsoft says it has already patched the Windows exploits released by the Shadow Brokers group. The hacking tools, likely originating from the NSA, were released online yesterday, and Microsoft was able to test and confirm patches are already available for all currently supported versions of Windows. That does mean that older Windows XP or Windows Vista systems could still be vulnerable to three of the exploits released, but it’s unlikely that Microsoft will supply patches for these older versions of Windows as they’re already unsupported.
- IBM shares dropped like a rock today
As a result shares plummeted in after hours trading and refused to gain ground over the course of the day dropping nearly 5%, or over $8.
As the Motley Fool noted, the miss and resulting tumble erased nearly $9 billion from IBM’s market capitalization and brought the Dow Jones Industrial Average down by 64 points.
The problem for IBM is the dwindling value of the consulting business on which it built much of its fortunes in the 90s and early 2000s.
First, the big numbers. Earnings per share were $2.38 vs. expectations of $2.35, according to Thomson Reuters. Meanwhile, revenue fell to $18.16 billion compared with the $18.39 billion that “the street” expected.
- Verizon, for First Time, Loses Core Wireless Customers
The carrier posted its first-ever quarterly net loss of wireless subscribers during the first three months of 2017, showing the extent of the damage resurgent rivals T-Mobile US Inc. and Sprint Corp have inflicted on the nation’s largest carrier by subscribers.
Verizon unexpectedly brought back unlimited data plans in February, which it had stopped selling in 2011, seeking to blunt the appeal of similar offers from T-Mobile and Sprint. That offer hit financials: Verizon had a 5.1% decline in revenue in its wireless business, to $20.9 billion. Total revenue has now declined four quarters in a row.
Photo: Yosh Ginsu