Supplier Report: 4/15/2017

Oracle is telling customers they can do more with less.  While competitors Google, AWS, and Microsoft are expanding their cloud centers, Oracle CEO Mark Hurd believes Oracle’s databases are better optimized, thus consuming less infrastructure. Perhaps those smaller cloud centers will require less tax in Korea, as Oracle has been found to be underpaying in the country for several years.

With the success of Alexa, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is telling staff that AI is the future of the company (and to expect more AI innovation). The people at Planet Money also believe in the power of AI… they taught a bot to trade stock based on President Trump’s tweets (seriously… listen to the episode below).

Acquisitions

  • Foxconn Offers Up to $27 Billion for Toshiba’s Chip Business (next highest bid was $18B)

    The latest bid by Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., could put the government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a tough spot. Some in the government are hoping to see a Japanese company or a joint U.S.-Japan team take the prized Toshiba asset because they see the chip business as strategic, say people familiar with the matter. But it would be hard for financially strapped Toshiba to turn down extra cash if Foxconn has the highest bid.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/foxconn-could-bid-up-to-27-billion-for-toshibas-chip-business-1491833399

  • Microsoft to buy Kubernetes container-orchestration vendor Deis

    In his own blog post, Gabe Monroy, chief technology officer of Deis, said the Deis team will continue with its contributions to Workflow, Helm, and Steward, as well as “maintaining our deep engagement with the Kubernetes community.”

    Microsoft originally announced plans to work with Google on Kubernetes in 2014. Kubernetes is an open-source container cluster manager that provides automated deployment, scaling and operations of application containers.In February this year, Microsoft made Kubernetes generally available on its own Azure Container Service.

    http://www.zdnet.com/article/microsoft-to-buy-kubernetes-orchestration-vendor-deis/

  • AT&T to Buy Straight Path for $1.25 Billion as It Gobbles Up Spectrum

    Straight Path shareholders will receive $95.63 in AT&T stock, a sharp premium to Straight Path’s closing price last week of $36.48. The acquisition, expected to close within a year, gives AT&T access to Straight Path’s portfolio of millimeter wave spectrum, including 39 GHz and 28 GHz licenses.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/at-t-to-buy-straight-path-for-1-25-billion-as-it-gobbles-up-spectrum-1491833024

Artificial Intelligence

  • AI Is The Key To Amazon’s Future Success, Says Jeff Bezos

    “Machine learning” is a type of Artificial Intelligence and enables computers to “learn” without being programmed. It is used in all sorts of technology, from the mundane such as search engines and voice recognition through to high-profile projects, such as self-driving cars. AI technology has also made Amazon Go possible. Currently only open to Amazon employees as it’s in beta mode, the Amazon Go store in Washington is an entirely new concept in grocery shopping. The idea is that customers will be able to download an app, then walk into the store, do their grocery shopping and have it charged straight to their Amazon account without the need to pay at a checkout. This is made possible by cameras and sensors in the store. The project has taken over four years of work and was initially expected to open early this year, although that hasn’t happened yet and the company has not given any recent updates. The CEO ended his annual letter by promising “much more to come” in the area of AI.

    https://www.androidheadlines.com/2017/04/ai-key-amazons-future-success-says-jeff-bezos.html

  • Planet Money: Botus (Episode 763)
    Here is a great example of simple artificial intelligence use in a practical application (building a bot to trade stock based on President Trump’s tweets).
    http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2017/04/07/522897876/meet-botus-planet-money-s-stock-trading-twitter-bot

Cloud

  • Microsoft, Oracle, NetSuite: Why Some Cloud Deals Are Fake News

    So why does this happen? The issue seems to be companies feel pressured to come up with news at their various events. And, in this cloud era in particular, they are threatened by AWS’ dominance in so many areas that they want to team up to combat the threat. But it’s hard for multi-party alliances to really take off: Too many cooks in the kitchen united only by a common threat.

    To compound the issue, reporters do not often follow up to see what happened with a given pact. Credit VMware here: At least it publicly announced that VMforce would never happen. Many companies just bury the dead alliance and hope no one notices.

    http://fortune.com/2017/04/14/netsuite-oracle-microsoft-cloud/

  • Tech’s High-Stakes Arms Race: Costly Data Centers

    Combined, Amazon, Microsoft and Alphabet doled out $31.54 billion in 2016 in capital expenditures and capital leases, according to company filings. That is up 22% from 2015.

    Not every dollar of that is spent on data centers that deliver infrastructure as a service, but each company describes the cloud as a major investment area. Amazon, the leader in providing such web-based, on-demand resources, didn’t disclose the cost of the new cluster of data centers in Stockholm, known in industry-speak as a “region.” Analysts peg the price tag of a region at several hundred million dollars.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/techs-high-stakes-arms-race-costly-data-centers-1491557408

  • Oracle CEO: We Can Beat Amazon and Microsoft Without as Many Data Centers

    “We try not to get into this capital expenditure discussion. It’s an interesting thesis that whoever has the most capex wins,” Hurd said in response to a question from Fortune at a Boston event on Tuesday. “If I have two-times faster computers, I don’t need as many data centers. If I can speed up the database, maybe I need one fourth as may data centers. I can go on and on about how tech drives this.”

    Also:

    Oracle execs, including executive chairman Larry Ellison, have argued that Oracle’s big machines can actually work cheaper and more efficiently than the other public cloud configurations. Many industry analysts have their doubts on that, maintaining Oracle must spend much more to catchup with Amazon. Toward that end, in January, Oracle announced plans to add three new data center farms within six months and more to come.

    http://fortune.com/2017/04/12/mark-hurd-oracle-data-centers/

Datacenter

  • The serverless cloud could swallow up hardware

    Serverless computing is actually something of a misnomer, as it most definitely does not do away with servers. Rather, it takes away the need for the consumer of cloud computing to have to deal directly with servers, either in provisioning them or managing them, and instead focus on developing and deploying the business logic to power their own application or service.

    This sounds a lot like PaaS, or platform-as-a-service, a long established and well understood cloud service model, but the serverless approach sees applications and services broken down into smaller, more discrete functions. Some serverless proponents have even coined the term functions-as-a-service (FaaS) to describe it.

    http://www.datacenterdynamics.com/content-tracks/colo-cloud/the-serverless-cloud-could-swallow-up-hardware/98120.article

Software/SaaS

  • IBM Ramps Up China Blockchain Work With Supply Chain Trial

    The platform is designed to bring greater transparency into supply chain networks by tracking the flow of drugs, encrypting trading records and offering an easier means of authenticating transactions. The end goal is to reduce the time small retailers must wait to be paid after delivering medicine to hospitals – which currently can be as high as 60 to 90 days.

    Overall, Ramesh Gopinath, vice president of Blockchain Solutions at IBM, said that the use case offers an ideal example of how the company’s enterprise blockchain platform can smooth multi-party transaction processes.

    http://www.coindesk.com/ibm-amps-china-blockchain-new-supply-chain/

  • IBM Targets Pharmaceuticals With Blockchain Supply Chain Tech

    “Overall,” IBM and Heija said, “the platform is designed to help reduce the turnover time of funds on both sides of the supply chain and allow banks to be more informed and grant access to funding for small and medium pharmaceutical retailers.”

    The solution is already working with one pharmaceutical retailer, a hospital and a bank to facilitate transactions between these parties. The companies said they plan to add more retailers, hospitals and banks later this year.

    http://www.pymnts.com/news/b2b-payments/2017/ibm-blockchain-supply-chain-finance-management-pharmaceutical-industry-china/

Other

  • Oracle Korea slapped with $293M USD in back taxes

    The NTS slapped the punitive tax in January last year, after discovering that the company transferred some 2 trillion won of gains it earned in Korea between 2008 and 2014 to a tax haven abroad.

    Oracle Korea protested the decision and filed a complaint with the Tax Tribunal in April last year. But the tribunal dismissed the request in November.

    http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/tech/2017/04/133_227285.html

  • BlackBerry’s stock had a great day after the company won a big dispute with Qualcomm

    BlackBerry’s stock hit its highest point more than a year, and all it took was a lousy $814.9 million arbitration win. It’s a healthy bounce back for the embattled company, which has spent the last year working to make a major shift from all-in phone maker to software and services company.

    But while shareholders are likely pleased, BlackBerry no doubt would have rather its stock hit its highest level in 15 months due to, say, a new product or service, but, well, you take what you can get.

    https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/12/blackberry-stock-qualcomm/?ncid=rss

  • Ubuntu Linux uncertainty continues as Canonical CEO walks away

    The timing of this could not be worse, as there is already a lot of uncertainty in the Ubuntu community — some stability would have been appreciated after all of the other recent chaos. Canonical would have been wise to wait a bit longer before making this announcement. After all, Silber isn’t leaving today, but in a few months — is the company trying to give Ubuntu users and developers ulcers? There are reports that there’s been a bit of an exodus by Canonical employees as a result.

    https://betanews.com/2017/04/12/ubuntu-linux-canonical-ceo-jane-silber/

Photo: Clay Banks

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SourceCast: Episode 66: Toshiba’s Turmoil

Toshiba is not having a good week.  As the company struggles to survive, political pressures from the Japanese government are complicating an already messy situation.

Photo: Amos Bar-Zeev

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News You Can Use: 4/12/2017

  • How Many Robots Does It Take to Replace a Human Job?

    The study’s authors find that the addition of one robot per 1,000 workers reduces the employment-to-population ratio (the number of people actually employed in an area divided by the number of people of working age) by 0.18 to 0.34 percentage points, and reduces wages by between 0.25 and 0.5 percent. On the low end, this amounts to one new robot replacing around three workers. The impact is unsurprisingly most pronounced in manufacturing (particularly in the production side of the auto industry), electronics, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals, among others. Perhaps most importantly, there were negative effects for virtually all workers except managers.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/03/work-automation/521364/?utm_source=feed

  • This Neighborhood is Transforming by Letting Artists Buy Its Vacant Homes for Cheap

    In Indianapolis, one block in the Garfield Park neighborhood south of the city’s downtown is experimenting with a different model. An arts nonprofit worked with other partners to buy and renovate vacant houses and is now offering to co-own them with artists. Artists will pay half the cost–one $80,000 home, for example, will sell for around $40,000. If they later move out, they’ll get their equity back, but no more; the house will be sold at the same cost to someone else, keeping the neighborhood accessible as the artists help make it more desirable.

    https://www.fastcompany.com/3069252/this-neighborhood-is-transforming-by-letting-artists-buy-its-vacant-homes-for-cheap

  • Labeling Workers As Contractors To Avoid Taxes
  • Shattering remote worker stereotypes

    “There is still a stigma that remote workers are disconnected from the rest of the team, yet this study proves that they are more sociable and proactively reach out to develop strong relationships. The new technology tools that enable communication and collaboration are motivating workers to pick up the phone, seek face time and create lasting bonds. This is the upside of remote work we rarely talk about,” says Jeanne Meister, partner, Future Workplace.

    http://www.cio.com/article/3185430/hiring/shattering-remote-worker-stereotypes.html

  • Why So Many Workers Prefer Their Remote Colleagues To The Ones In Their Office

    Herrmann might be onto something. In a recent study by the communications company Polycom, which covered over 25,000 workers across 12 countries, 66% said their favorite colleague isn’t located in their own office but in another one far away.

    Also:

    There is a fear of remote-work tools and policies, though. Many companies don’t implement them well, and wind up building virtual fences that hurt their projects’ success and limit accountability. When that happens, many employers think twice about going remote. Yahoo, in perhaps the best-known example, scrapped its remote-working policy in 2013 and maintained years afterward that that was the right move.

    https://www.fastcompany.com/40401697/why-so-many-workers-prefer-their-remote-colleagues-to-the-ones-in-their-office

Photo: Miki Czetti

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Supplier Report: 4/8/2017

Google is investing in a new subsea cable that connects Singapore to Australia that should greatly improve international bandwidth to those countries and within the countries (especially Australia). But Google shouldn’t celebrate too hard, their Deepmind AI was recently defeated by an open AI solution playing old Atari games.

Analytic companies Tableau and Teradata announced changes to their software models. Tableau is shifting to a subscription model for their BI tools and Teradata was forced to admit their products are falling behind and need a refresh.

IBM is teaming up with Walmart to track food supply chains using blockchain’s general ledger system… once again trying to convince companies that blockchain has commercial applications outside of bitcoin.

Acquisitions

  • Oracle and Accenture? A non-starter and here’s why

    To give you a flavor of what this means, in its latest filing, Accenture recorded operating income of 13.7%. For its part, Oracle reported operating income of 32%. As you can readily see, there is no comparison between the two companies, despite the fact Accenture has been acquiring and developing its own software for solutions outside the ‘mainstream’ of solutions that Oracle sells.

    If a deal was on the table then Oracle would have some very difficult explaining to do about how margins would work given that it is under enough pressure over ambitious cloud based growth numbers. In short, it doesn’t make sense to distract Oracle management with profit table juggling when the company is already focused on other things.

    http://diginomica.com/2017/04/03/oracle-accenture-non-starter/
    Oracle rejects Accenture buyout speculation

    An ORCL spokesperson initially declined comment on Saturday but sent Fortune a categorical denial via email on Sunday.

    https://seekingalpha.com/news/3255046-oracle-rejects-accenture-buyout-speculation

  • Amazon and Google’s reported interest in Toshiba’s chip unit could be a sign of things to come

    While Amazon and Google’s flash needs are large and growing, it’s quite unlikely that either company (unlike Apple) could single-handedly consume all of the flash currently sold by Toshiba, or come close to doing so. Toshiba has been estimated to control about a fifth of a NAND market worth about $35 billion, and expected to see strong growth this year.

    Thus in the event that Amazon and Google are eying Toshiba’s flash business, it’s likely to buy a minority stake. One that would let the companies guarantee a stable supply of NAND in the coming years, and the chance to procure it at reasonable prices via long-term contracts.

    https://www.thestreet.com/story/14073764/1/amazon-and-google-s-reported-interest-in-toshiba-s-chip-unit-could-be-a-sign-of-things-to-come.html

Artificial Intelligence

  • OpenAI Just Beat Google DeepMind at Atari With an Algorithm From the 80s

    In one hour training on the Atari challenge, the algorithm reached a level of mastery that took a reinforcement-learning system published by DeepMind last year a whole day to learn. On the walking problem the system took 10 minutes, compared to 10 hours for Google’s approach.

    One of the keys to this dramatic performance was the fact that the approach is highly “parallelizable.” To solve the walking simulation, they spread computations over 1,440 CPU cores, while in the Atari challenge they used 720.

    This is possible because it requires limited communication between the various “worker” algorithms testing the candidate policies. Scaling reinforcement algorithms like the one from DeepMind in the same way is challenging because there needs to be much more communication, the researchers say.

    https://singularityhub.com/2017/04/06/openai-just-beat-the-hell-out-of-deepmind-with-an-algorithm-from-the-80s/
    Thanks JD!

  • Honda, IBM create Dave to solve recall riddle

    Dave — for Digital Assisted Virtual Engineer — is a virtual online agent Honda created in conjunction with IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence system. Essentially a highly developed online chat bot run out of Honda’s Chino, Calif., call center, Dave is designed to answer consumer questions about Honda and Acura recalls 24/7.

    “The concept of this was to say if we want to really service our customers in general, what is the gap?” Tony Gomes, assistant vice president of the parts, service and technical division at Honda, told Automotive News. “The gap is when the centers are closed.”

    http://www.autonews.com/article/20170401/MOBILITY/304039963/honda-ibm-create-dave-to-solve-recall-riddle

Cloud

  • IBM’s cloud adds support for Nvidia’s fastest GPUs yet

    There is still a chance that Google could beat IBM to the market, though. Late last year, Google also announced that it would support Nvidia’s newest GPUs early this year, but we haven’t heard when exactly the company plans to launch this feature. We asked Google for an updated timeline but haven’t heard back yet.

    AWS, too, offers GPU support, of course, and its machines can be outfitted with up to 16 GPUs (those are the older K80 cards, though 16 of those obviously offer a lot of raw computing power, too). Microsoft’s Azure offers a similar setup with support for up to 4 of Nvidia’s slightly older GPUs.

    https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/05/ibms-cloud-adds-support-for-nvidias-fastest-gpus-yet/?ncid=rss

  • Why Amazon may eventually touch everything we do online

    Most of the websites that you already go to run through Amazon. Increasingly, their devices are actually coming into your home, you know, they’re delivering groceries. You will, at some point, not conduct business online without Amazon getting a cut of it. And so, they’ve been very good at slow and steady execution so far, and if they make money off everything you do online, there may be no such thing as stretched too thin.

    http://ualrpublicradio.org/post/why-amazon-may-eventually-touch-everything-we-do-online#stream/0

  • New Study Shows AWS Losing Ground to Azure in Enterprises

    “In the early days of the cloud, Amazon Web Services (AWS) took the lead as the cloud computing vendor of choice,” the survey report said. “But the survey revealed that as the cloud matures, organizations are becoming more comfortable with vendors other than AWS and are using multiple cloud vendors. In fact, while other reports show that AWS still has a lead in cloud market share, the top cloud vendor in this survey — which included only organizations with at least 500 employees — was Microsoft Azure.

    https://virtualizationreview.com/articles/2017/04/04/aws-losing-ground-to-azure-in-enterprises.aspx

Software/SaaS

  • Tableau switches to subscription pricing for its BI products

    Businesses will need to pay $70 per user per month for a license of Tableau Desktop Professional, and $35 per user per month for Tableau Server. That compares to the company’s boxed software prices of $2000 for Desktop, plus a $400 annual renewal fee for software updates, and $800 for Server, plus a $200 annual fee.

    It’s a move that will provide additional flexibility, scalability and risk mitigation for Tableau customers, according to Francois Ajenstat, the company’s chief product officer.

    http://www.cio.com/article/3187842/business-intelligence/tableau-switches-to-subscription-pricing-for-its-bi-products.html

  • Walmart and IBM Will Use Blockchain to Ensure Food Safety

    Yiannas explains in an article by Fortune that his company was inspired to utilize blockchain technology for supply chain monitoring by a deadly E. coli scare that happened about a decade ago. The tainted food was, in this case, spinach, and Yiannas believes it goes back to poor practices of sourcing and tracing the contaminated food products. “Consumers, in general, stopped eating spinach…if you could track and pinpoint where that came from faster, you could alleviate all that and ensure consumer confidence continues,” he said. Beyond that, in a case like this one, you could also potentially reduce the number of people who were sickened or killed by poisoned food.

    With an effort at retaining consumer confidence in the event of a similar scare, Walmart has worked with IBM and Beijing’s Tsinghua University to use blockchain to digitally track how pork products in China move. Walmart’s experiment makes use of blockchain technology designed specifically for this purpose by the Hyperledger Project. This is an open source project that was based out of the Linux Foundation and which aims to create blockchain applications for non-cryptocurrency purposes.

    http://www.investopedia.com/news/walmart-and-ibm-will-use-blockchain-ensure-food-safety-wmt-ibm/

  • Teradata CEO aims to regain ‘customer focus’ with embrace of cloud and open source

    He added: “We were shying away from new technologies like open source and cloud. We weren’t being as aggressive as we should be in moving forward to drive our offering to the point where the customer wanted.”

    However, he said that the vendor has moved at “lightning speed” over the last year to address some of the concerns.

    http://www.computerworlduk.com/applications/teradata-ceo-aims-regain-customer-focus-by-embracing-cloud-open-source-3656964/

Other

  • Google invests in new subsea cable that connects Singapore to Australia

    The cable will feature two fiber pairs with a total capacity of about 18 terabits per second — with the option to expand in the future.

    As Google notes, that’s enough to power 8 million simultaneous Google Hangout video calls (or are those Hangout Meet calls now?). Google, however, is obviously sharing the capacity here, so it won’t quite be able to handle all of those calls at any given time. It’s also worth noting that 18 terabits isn’t extremely fast by today’s standard. The subsea cable between Hong Kong and Los Angeles Google and Facebook invested in last year tops out at 120 terabits per second.

    https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/05/google-invests-in-new-subsea-cable-that-connects-singapore-and-australia/?ncid=rss

  • Expect to see BlackBerry’s name (and tech) on more devices

    On the company’s earnings call, CEO John Chen said (via Seeking Alpha) that “We are now expanding to the next phase of our licensing program. This will focus on a broader set of endpoints. What this might mean, and I make no promise, is that you may soon see a BlackBerry tablet, and it will also extend to cobranded handset with IoT and Enterprise of Things to EoT devices. These endpoints will run our software and security features and be cobranded Secure by BlackBerry.”

    https://www.engadget.com/2017/04/01/expect-to-see-blackberrys-name-and-tech-on-more-devices/

  • EFF: Verizon will install spyware on all its Android phones (update)

    But the EFF spent a little time staring at AppFlash’s privacy policy, where it’s revealed that the software will vacuum up any and all of your private data. For instance, it’ll snag your cell number, device type, operating system and the apps or services that you use. More crucially, the app will also harvest the details of everything installed on your device, your location and the contact details of everyone in your phonebook.

    Verizon admits that the information will be shared within “the Verizon family of companies,” including that of (Engadget parent) Aol. From there, the data will be used to “provide more relevant advertising within the AppFlash experiences and in other places.” The other places being a euphemism for banner and display advertising all across the web.

    https://www.engadget.com/2017/03/31/eff-verizon-will-install-spyware-on-all-its-android-phones/

  • Follow-up to SourceCast Episode 65: H-1B Visa Overhaul Could Actually Benefit Big Tech Companies

    “The top 15 job shops are all pretty much all from India. They get 85 percent of the H-1Bs. If they cut that number, then the American firms will get the bigger slice of the pie,” Shusterman said. “A lot of the Apples or Googles are paying over $100,000 a year. They’re going after top talent. This memo is really going after the lowest paid people.”

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-04-04/u-s-visa-revamp-poised-to-benefit-big-u-s-tech-punish-outsourcers

Photo: Thomas Shellberg

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SourceCast: Episode 65: The Consigliere Conundrum

Rumors of Oracle purchasing Accenture have been greatly exaggerated. Why wasn’t Larry Ellison interesting in buying one of the largest consulting firms in the world? I also look at other IT consulting firms to determine if the entire industry is in a decline.

Photo: Chevanon

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