Google made friends with Cisco and SaleForce, who in turn made friends with AWS and Facebook. Can these partnerships truly add value when the players keep shrinking?
Photo: Sneaky Elbow
Here is the weekly YouTube port of SourceCast covering Cisco’s recent acquisitions and strategy overview since CEO Chuck Robins joined in 2015.
Cisco purchased two companies last week and announced a strategic partnership with Google. Since I haven’t covered Cisco much on the blog and podcast, I deep dive into what the company has been doing and what they plan to do in the future.
Photo: Anthony de Kroon
Cisco is all over the news this week: they spent at least $2B on two companies (terms were not disclosed on the Perspica deal) and they entered into a partnership with Google on cloud and network services.
Companies looking to expand their AI programs are finding an unexpected barrier… a complete lack of available talent. Due to this shortage, those people in the AI field are commanding massive salaries.
Softbank is advancing their goal of buying all the things.
Flatiron School is a coding education platform that offers both online and offline classes to folks who want a career in the world of tech. The coding academy was launched in 2012 and has raised more than $14 million since inception, according to Crunchbase.
The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
One of the reasons it was attracted to Perspica is because of the company’s ability to monitor data in real-time, Cisco says. Being able to process data as it’s created or very soon afterwards can speed the time that end users are able to gain insights from the data, the company says. “Perspica is known for its stream-based processing with the unique ability to apply machine learning to data as it comes in instead of waiting until it’s neatly stored,” says Bhaskar Sunkara, VP of Engineering at AppDynamics.
The purchase gives Cisco a new way to sell its communications tools as it shifts its focus from a pure networking hardware company to one focused on software and services delivered in the cloud. Today’s announcement comes on the heels of an announcement last week that it intended to purchase Perspica and fold the engineering team into AppDynamics, a company it purchased earlier this year for $3.7 billion. If you’re thinking, this is an acquisitive company, you’re right. It just purchased its 200th company.
In comments to Nikkei, Son did set out his expectations for the funds’ size and likely investment reach over the next decade.
“We are creating a mechanism to increase our funding ability from 10 trillion yen to 20 trillion yen to 100 trillion yen,” he said, adding that, all told, the funds “will probably have invested in at least 1,000 companies within 10 years”.
According to Nikkei, all the Vision Funds are expected to chiefly target unicorns — aka tech startups that haven’t gone public yet but have an estimated valuation above $1BN.
The average scale of investment by the funds is likely to reach about $888 million, it said.
Tech’s biggest companies are placing huge bets on artificial intelligence, banking on things ranging from face-scanning smartphones and conversational coffee-table gadgets to computerized health care and autonomous vehicles. As they chase this future, they are doling out salaries that are startling even in an industry that has never been shy about lavishing a fortune on its top talent.
Typical A.I. specialists, including both Ph.D.s fresh out of school and people with less education and just a few years of experience, can be paid from $300,000 to $500,000 a year or more in salary and company stock, according to nine people who work for major tech companies or have entertained job offers from them. All of them requested anonymity because they did not want to damage their professional prospects.
Well-known names in the A.I. field have received compensation in salary and shares in a company’s stock that total single- or double-digit millions over a four- or five-year period. And at some point they renew or negotiate a new contract, much like a professional athlete.
Amazon Web Services reported $4.6 billion in revenue for the quarter. AWS has already brought in $12.3 billion in 2017 so far, with a quarter left to go.
With sales growing quickly and projected to jump again next quarter, AWS is expected to hit $18 billion in revenue for the full year. As a bonus, it’s already the single most profitable part of Amazon’s business.
Microsoft doesn’t disclose the revenue it generates from Azure, its product that competes directly with AWS. However, it did say Azure’s sales grew 90% from the same period last year.
Google Cloud is the biggest cipher of the three, in terms of financial performance. Instead of breaking out the amount of revenue it generates from its cloud business, Google lumps together its cloud sales with the revenue it generates from the Google Play app store and from its hardware business. That combined category posted $3.4 billion in revenue last quarter.
Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., is contributing cloud-development expertise and tools that run on the Google Cloud Platform, a suite of services for the cloud including computing, storage, databases and analytics. Cisco is bringing networking, security and infrastructure technologies to the mix. Both companies are using open-source technologies to give customers more flexibility.
“It really does help companies avoid lock-in,” Cisco Chief Executive Chuck Robbins said in an interview.
Mr. Robbins is counting on new cloud services to help turn around Cisco by moving further away from its legacy hardware. Cisco’s customers are increasingly using cloud services instead of investing in hardware for their own data centers.
Hewlett-Packard Enterprise is getting out of the cloud server business. That means it will no longer sell low-end “commodity” servers to large cloud computing customers like Microsoft.
It has proven to be an exceedingly tough business for traditional hardware makers because while they may sell huge volumes of cloud servers, profits are slim to none. The target customers are companies like Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, or Google, each of which can (and do) negotiate huge discounts. Insult to injury, most of these cloud companies go directly to contract manufacturers in Taiwan or China to have servers built to their specifications at low cost. They don’t need or want to pay for name-brand servers
This data center is in Loudoun County, Virginia. Buddy Rizer, the county’s head of business development, helped turn Loudoun County into the largest concentration of data centers in the world — 10 million square feet in 70 enormous buildings.
According to Rizer, 70 percent of all web traffic from the world, on a daily basis, passes through a Loudoun County data center.
AWS is growing at 40 percent a year, and Loudoun County can’t build data centers fast enough. Buddy Rizer says that seven new ones are under construction right now. A new RagingWire data center will add another two million square feet of data center space.
And even though it will be nearly two years until construction is completed, the space is already 100 percent leased. “It’s not getting ahead; we’re just barely keeping up,” Rizer said. “There’s no empty space in our data centers. By and large they are all 100% filled.”
“Overall it was not a good quarter,” said Andrew Bartels, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc. “The growth was not as strong as in previous quarters,” particularly in North America.
One culprit was the source of strong growth in previous quarters: its business network group, which includes acquired businesses such as Ariba Inc., Concur Technologies Inc., Fieldglass Inc. and SuccessFactors Inc. Bartels noted that SAP had been depending on that growth to the extent that “success may have bred some complacency” in applications such as Ariba, which is said is “not really best-in-class in its category anymore.” That may have allowed competitors to gain some ground, he said.
On Oct. 19, MongoDB Inc. (MDB) joined the ranks of fast-growing, money-losing, enterprise software names to see a strong 2017 debut. After pricing its 8 million-share offering at $24 (above an elevated $20 to $22 range), shares opened at $33 and as of the Oct. 20 close are at $30.68, up 28%. That leaves the company valued at $1.85 billion after accounting for outstanding stock options and warrants, or about 15 times trailing sales.
MongoDB sells on-premise and cloud versions of a popular open-source database under the same name, while leading the community responsible for developing the database. Thanks partly to its popularity among developers, startups and big-name Internet companies, it’s arguably the most popular NoSQL database on the market.
Many other companies, including Cisco, SAP, Verizon, Adobe and Intuit, have embraced MongoDB, which it should be noted is often run on major third-party cloud platforms. The company claimed 4,300 clients as of the end of July, including over half the Fortune 100. With the help of 1,100 customer adds, revenue (mostly from software subscriptions) rose 51% annually to $68 million during the 6 months ending in July. Net loss — the result of big sales and R&D investments — rose fractionally to $45.8 million, or $36.4 million excluding stock expenses.
Oracle’s Blockchain Cloud Service is a new solution that will be included in the platform-as-a-service (PaaS) family of offerings. The service is claimed to be based on a comprehensive distributed ledger platform which will create opportunities for businesses to enhance their processes by several means.
First of all, the solution will support deploying and running smart contracts. A smart contract is an automated contract which does not require a middleman, and where the terms and conditions are written as a code. This type of technology is being increasingly adopted by the financial sector, especially in securities trading, where smart contracts can cut costs and save time and money. For instance, Bank of America (BAC) revealed earlier this year a new platform based on Etherium for automating the process of creating a standby letter of credit.
The malware, dubbed Bad Rabbit, has hit three Russian media outlets, including the news agency Interfax, according to Russian security firm Group-IB. Once it infects a computer, Bad Rabbit displays a message in red letters on a black background, an aesthetic used in the massive NotPetya ransomware outbreak.
The ransom message asks victims to log into a Tor hidden service website to make the payment of 0.05 Bitcoin, valued at around $282 at the time of writing. The site also displays a countdown of a little bit over 40 hours before the price of decryption goes up.
A researcher from Proofpoint said that Bad Rabbit spread via a fake Adobe Flash Player installer. Researchers from Kaspersky Lab confirmed this, and added that the malware dropper—the file that launches the malware—was distributed via booby-trapped legitimate sites, “all of which were news or media website.”
We became best buds. I was given complete and unaccompanied access to the facility where I stayed for several hours.
I gained network access and stole several thousands of dollars in physical primitives by picking my way through cheap locks (credit to Deviant Ollam for the rad lockpicking animations.)
Opening a second, equal headquarters is believed by management experts to be an unprecedented move by an American corporation, and it presents unique cultural challenges for the company.
While Amazon continues to grow in Seattle, experts say it would be difficult for the company to essentially double its footprint there. In addition, hiring thousands more software developers will almost certainly be cheaper and easier in a different city, they say.
The cryptocurrency hit an all-time high of $6,147.07 just a day after pushing through the $6,000 mark, according to data from industry website CoinDesk.
Much of the rise can be attributed to another upcoming split in bitcoin known as a “fork”. This will lead to the creation of a new cryptocurrency called bitcoin gold. Holders of bitcoin will get some bitcoin gold when it is issued, essentially giving them free money.
But Alex Sunnarborg, founding partner of cryptocurrency fund Tetras Capital, told CNBC on Friday that bitcoin investors were betting on bitcoin holding its status despite the split. Bitcoin already underwent a fork in August when a new cryptocurrency called bitcoin cash was created. Despite this, bitcoin has continued to perform strongly.
Aside from the fact that it works best with Microsoft’s own services and doesn’t support others, Cortana’s biggest limitation is that it can only support one account at this time. Calendar information, reminders, and to-dos will all be pulled from the account the Invoke was set up with, which makes it difficult to use as a shared device for those functions. Both Alexa and Google’s Assistant have added features that attempt to identify the person making the voice request and serve up personalized information to them. And while the Invoke does sound good on its own, it can’t be paired in stereo or be used in a multi-room system, like Google, Amazon, or Sonos speakers can.
The cuts were expected, but still cast a pall over the enterprise IT giant. In June, we revealed the existence of the HPE Next project: a radical three-year plan to overhaul HPE’s processes and investments, and optimize its people and overheads to make itself relevant again.
And by optimize, it means it will cut or move positions to low-wage places to save the biz a pretty penny. In September, it emerged the axe was being sharpened for 5,000 of its 50,000 workforce, or one in ten.
Photo: Nicolas Picard
Google is showing the world that crafting hardware is a major ambition for them with the purchase of phone maker HTC’s research division. Google seems to be developing a pattern of buying phone companies for intellectual property (see Motorola), but at least they didn’t buy the entire company this time.
Larry Ellison doing what he does best… making sound-bytes. Larry talked about AWS pricing, the Equifax hack, and Oracle’s new autonomous database product. While I like to poke fun at Larry’s bombastic ways on the podcast, I agree with most of his statements this week.
Oh… and there are rumors of a Sprint and T-Mobile merger for the 1,000,000th time.
With the acquisition, Google may get deeper access to HTC’s research and development, as well as sales and distribution channels, analysts said. That could help Google as it seeks to make a bigger splash in the increasingly competitive smartphone market as it prepares to launch an updated version of the Pixel this fall.
The deal shows “Google is very serious about building its own hardware,” said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research.
So why did they sell Motorola again (they took a big loss on that sale)?
Both companies and their parents, Deutsche Telekom and Softbank, have been in frequent conversations about a stock-for-stock merger in which T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom would emerge as the majority owner.
People close to the situation stress that negotiators are still weeks away from finalizing a deal and believe the chances of reaching an agreement are not assured. The two sides have not yet set an exchange ratio for a deal, but are currently engaged in talks to hammer out a term sheet.
The company said on Sunday it has just closed on a $250 million funding round led by the Japanese telecommunications and Internet giant, which saw the participation of Accel Partners and other investors. The announcement confirms a rumor that first surfaced in July that said Softbank was looking to invest in the company.
The new round means that Slack is now valued at $5.1 billion, up from its previous $3.8 billion valuation, Bloomberg reported. However, that figure remains well below the reported $9 billion takeover price that was bandied about when rumors emerged that cloud computing giant Amazon Web Services Inc. was interested in acquiring the company.
Now, computer engineers are fashioning more complex systems. Rather than funneling all tasks through one beefy chip made by Intel, newer machines are dividing work into tiny pieces and spreading them among vast farms of simpler, specialized chips that consume less power.
Changes inside Google’s giant data centers are a harbinger of what is to come for the rest of the industry. Inside most of Google’s servers, there is still a central processor. But enormous banks of custom-built chips work alongside them, running the computer algorithms that drive speech recognition and other forms of artificial intelligence.
The company also needs to share the architecture of its AI products because Google wants to avoid biases as much as possible. “We have been spending a lot of time looking at machine learning fairness,” Giannandrea said. “If your data is biased, then you build biased systems. We have many efforts at Google and research collaboration around this question of fairness in machine learning and unbiased data.”
And finally, the term artificial intelligence itself might not be the right one. According to Giannandrea, artificial intelligence doesn’t mean much. “I almost try to shy away from this term artificial intelligence — it’s kind of like big data,” he said. “It’s such a broad term, it’s really not well defined. I’ve been trying to use the term machine intelligence.”
The move is historically significant. Since AWS became available in 2006, it has charged by the hour. Then, in 2013, Alphabet’s Google, which had introduced its direct competitor to AWS a year earlier, said it would start charging by the minute, after a 10-minute minimum. Microsoft’s Azure followed suit shortly thereafter.
Now Amazon is hitting back by becoming even more granular when it comes to making people pay only for the computing resources they use, with a one-minute minimum.
The price change is only applicable for Linux virtual machines, AWS’ chief evangelist, Jeff Barr, wrote in a blog post.
Earlier this week, the DoD granted Amazon a provisional authorization to host its Impact Level 5 workloads, which are the Pentagon’s and U.S. military’s most classified information. Only two other tech companies are allowed to store this data: Microsoft MSFT and IBM IBM .
“This further bolsters AWS as an industry leader in helping support the DoD’s critical mission in protecting our security,” said Amazon in a statement . “The AWS services support a variety of DoD workloads, including workloads contained sensitive controlled unclassified information and National Security Systems information.”
Actually, Ellison claimed that Oracle’s infrastructure runs faster and therefore ends up costing less, but it’s clear that the company is focusing more on its traditional strengths one tier up from the infrastructure: so-called platform as a service offerings such as the Oracle Database. So today, Oracle said it will allow customers to move their existing licenses for databases, middleware and analytics to Oracle’s platform services, just as they’ve allowed them to bring licenses to its infrastructure before.
“The way we want to compete is to deliver a high degree of automation to our customers,” Ellison told press, customers and Oracle employees at the event. And the biggest payback, he said, will be in eliminating human error. “If you don’t patch the database at Equifax, thatoraclecloudpricing could be expensive,” he said pointedly.
Warning that the world is in the midst of “a cyber war that’s going to be going on for a long, long time,” Ellison said the challenge for not only Oracle but the tech industry overall is to dramatically enhance its cybersecurity capabilities across two very different types of environments: the data centers many big customers currently operate, and the cloud-computing data centers to which many businesses are turning for their computing, applications, and storage needs.
And the key technology in this counteroffensive, Ellison said, is machine learning—and specifically how it can enhance cybersecurity via extensive analysis of log data.
“Based on machine learning, this new version of Oracle Database is a totally automated and self-driving system that does not require a human being either to manage the database or tune the database (emphasis mine),” Ellison said.
“Using artificial intelligence to eliminate most sources of human error enables Oracle to deliver unprecedented reliability in the Cloud.”
Now, a court filing in Waymo’s epic and ongoing lawsuit against Uber has accidentally revealed just how big a bet Google placed on autonomous vehicles. Between Project Chauffeur’s inception in 2009 and the end of 2015, Google spent $1.1 billion on developing its self-driving software and hardware, according to a recent deposition of Shawn Bananzadeh, a financial analyst at Waymo.
Bananzadeh was testifying as part of the lawsuit, in which Uber stands accused misappropriating trade secrets and violating patents from Waymo, Google’s self-driving-car offshoot. Because Waymo has yet to commercialize any of its technology in a meaningful way, the company thinks any damages in the case should be calculated on the basis of how much it spent building the technology in question.
Mr. Chambers, who has been executive chairman for two years and chairman since 2006, notified board members of his decision in an email last Wednesday.
“It is time for Cisco to move on to its next generation of leadership,” he said in the letter. “It is also time for me to move on to the next chapter of my life, on both a personal and business level.”
Cisco plans to appoint Chief Executive Chuck Robbins, 51 years old, to fill the role.
Mr. Chambers, 68, was Cisco’s CEO for more than 20 years ending in 2015, when Mr. Robbins took over. Neither Mr. Chambers nor Cisco shared details about his next plans.
The federal probes add a serious challenge to Equifax as lawmakers, state attorneys general and regulators scrutinize the breach that may have compromised the privacy of 143 million U.S. consumers. Equifax shares were little changed. The shares have fallen 35 percent since the breach was disclosed after market close in New York on Sept. 7.
Investigators are looking at the stock sales by Equifax’s chief financial officer, John Gamble; its president of U.S. information solutions, Joseph Loughran; and its president of workforce solutions, Rodolfo Ploder, said two of the people, who asked not to be named because the probe is confidential.
Photo: ANGELA FRANKLIN