In venture capital, it’s still the age of the unicorn

This month marks the 5-year anniversary of Aileen Lee’s landmark article, “Welcome To The Unicorn Club”.

At the time, the piece defined a new breed of startup — the $1 billion privately held company. When Lee did her first count, there were 39 “unicorns”; an improbable, but not impossible number.. Today, the once-scarce unicorn has become a global herd with 376 companies on the roster and counting.

But the proliferation of unicorns begs raises certain questions. Is this new breed of unicorn artificially created? Could these magical companies see their valuations slip and fall out of the herd? Does this indicate an irrational exuberance where investors are engaging in wish fulfilment and creating magic where none actually existed?

List of “unicorn” companies worth more than $1 billion as of the third quarter of 2018

There’s a new “unicorn” born every four days

The first change has been to the geographic composition and private company requirement of the list. The original qualification for the unicorn study was “U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors.” The unicorn definition has changed and here is the popular and wiki page definition we all use today: “A unicorn is a privately held startup company with a current valuation of US$1 billion or more.”

Beyond the expansion of the definition of terms to include a slew of companies from all over the globe, there’s been a concurrent expansion in the number of startup technology companies to achieve unicorn status. There is a tenfold increase in annual unicorn production.

Indeed, while the unicorn is still rare but not as rare as before. Five years ago, roughly ten unicorns were being created a year, but we are approaching one hundred new unicorns a year in 2018.

As of November 8, we have seen eighty one newly minted unicorns this year, which means we have one new unicorn every four days.

There are unicorn-sized rounds every day

These unicorns are also finding their horns thanks to the newly popularized phenomena of mega rounds which raise $100 million or more. These deals are ten times more common now, than they were only five years ago.   

Back in 2013, there were only about four mega rounds a month, but now there are forty mega rounds a month based on Crunchbase data. In fact, starting from 2015, public market IPO has for the first time no longer been the major funding source for unicorn size companies.

Unicorns have been raising money from both traditional venture capital but also more from the non-traditional venture capital such as SoftBank, sovereign wealth funds, private equity funds, and mutual funds.

Investors are chasing the value creation opportunity.   Most people probably did not realize that Amazon, Microsoft, Cisco, and Oracle all debuted on public markets for less than a $1 billion market cap (in fact only Microsoft topped $500 million), but today they together are worth more than $2 trillion dollars  

It means tremendous value was created after those companies came to the public market.  Today, investors are realizing the future giant’s value creation has been moved to the “pre-IPO” unicorn stage and investors don’t want to miss out.

To put things in perspective, investors globally deployed $13 billion in almost 20,000 seed & angel deals, and SoftBank was able to deploy the same $13 billion amount in just 2 deals (Uber and WeWork).  The SoftBank type of non-traditional venture world literally redefined “pre-IPO” and created a new category for venture capital investment.

Unicorns are staying private longer

That means the current herd of unicorns are choosing to stay private longer. Thanks to the expansion of shareholders private companies can rack up under the JOBS Act of 2012; the massive amount of funding available in the private market; and the desire of founders to work with investors who understand their reluctance to be beholden to public markets.

Elon Musk was thinking about taking Tesla private because he was concerned about optimizing for quarterly earning reports and having to deal with the overhead, distractions, and shorts in the public market.  Even though it did not happen in the end, it reflects the mentality of many entrepreneurs of the unicorn club. That said, most unicorn CEOs know the public market is still the destiny, as the pressure from investors to go IPO will kick in sooner or later, and investors expect more governance and financial transparency in the longer run.

Unicorns are breeding outside of the U.S. too

Finally, the current herd of unicorns now have a strong global presence, with Chinese companies leading the charge along with US unicorns. A recent Crunchbase graph indicated about 40% of unicorns are from China,, 40% from US, and the rest from other parts of the world.

Back in 2013, the “unicorn” is primarily a concept for US companies only, and there were only 3 unicorn size startups in China (Xiaomi, DJI, Vancl) anyways.  Another change in the unicorn landscape is that, China contributed predominantly consumer-oriented unicorns, while the US unicorns have always maintained a good balance between enterprise-oriented and consumer-oriented companies.  One of the stunning indications that China has thriving consumer-oriented unicorns is that China leads US in mobile payment volume by hundredfold.

The fundamentals of entrepreneurship remain the same

Despite the dramatic change of the capital market, a lot of the insights in Lee’s 5-year old blog are still very relevant to early stage entrepreneurs today.

For example, in her study, most unicorns had co-founders rather than a single founder, and many of the co-founders had a history of working together in the past.

This type of pattern continues to hold true for unicorns in the U.S. and in China. For instance, the co-founders of Meituan (a $50 billion market cap company on its IPO day in September 2018) went to school together and had co-founded a company before

There have been other changes. In the past three months alone, four new US enterprise-oriented unicorns have emerged by selling directly to developers instead of to the traditional IT or business buyers; three China enterprise-oriented SaaS companies were able to raise mega rounds.  These numbers were unheard of five years ago and show some interesting hints for entrepreneurs curious about how to breed their own unicorn.

The new normal is reshaping venture capital 

Once in a while, we see eye-catching headlines like “bubble is larger than it was in 2000.”   The reality is companies funded by venture capital increased by more than 100,000 in the past five years too. So the unicorn is still as rare as one in one thousand in the venture backed community.

What’s changing behind the increasing number of unicorns is the new normal for both investors and entrepreneurs. Mega rounds are the new normal; staying private longer is the new normal; and the global composition of the unicorn club is the new normal. 

Just look at the evidence in the venture industry itself. Sequoia Capital, the bellwether of venture capital, raised a whopping $8 billion global growth mega fund earlier this year under pressure from SoftBank and its $100 billion mega-fund. And Greylock Partners, known for its focus and success in leading early stage investment, recently led a unicorn round for the first time in its 53-year history.  

It’s proof that just as venture capitalists have created a new breed of startups, the new startups and their demands are reshaping venture capital to continue to support the the companies they’ve created.

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An early test of the GDPR: taking on data brokers


SOPA Images via Getty Images

Major data brokers Acxiom and Oracle are among seven companies accused of violating GDPR laws on personal information privacy. Advocates hope the complaints will shed light on the opaque ways that personal data is traded through third parties online both in the EU and the US.

The General Data Protection Regulation is a sweeping personal data privacy law that came into force in late May in the EU. For the rest of the world, it’s viewed as a bellwether for whether Big Tech can be held in check when immense data leaks seem to happen with painful regularity.

Formal complaints to European regulators under the GDPR by UK non-profit Privacy International were also filed against ad-tech companies Criteo, Quantcast and Tapad as well as credit agencies Equifax (the subject of a massive breach just last year) and Experian.

“Our complaints target companies that, despite exploiting the data of millions of people, are not household names and therefore rarely have their practices challenged,” said Ailidh Callander, legal officer at Privacy International, in an email to Engadget. “These companies’ business models are premised on data exploitation.”

Data brokers aggregate personal information from other sources — for instance, websites you’ve visited or credit card records — to create a complex profile on who they think you are. That profile may include political leanings and income, and subsequently get sold to brands or social networks. Acxiom claims to have data on about 700 million people globally. Consumers often don’t hand data directly to these companies via their own websites — the way one would with, say, Facebook — which allows the data trading to operate in relative obscurity.

This alleged lack of consent is precisely what Privacy International is targeting. The non-profit also claims that these companies lack “legitimate interest” (in legal terms) for processing the personal data, which may infer political, ethnic and religious affiliations. The companies fail to comply, according to Privacy International, with the principles of “transparency, fairness, purpose limitation, data minimisation, accuracy and confidentiality and integrity” — in other words, nearly all of the new privacy law’s core foundations.

“The law has changed and these companies need to as well,” said Callander. “There is a gap between how [the] GDPR conceptualises data privacy and [how] these companies do and the onus is on them (if necessary, pushed by regulators) to close it.”

In public statements, Experian has said: “We have worked hard to ensure that we are compliant with GDPR and we continue to believe that our services meet its requirements.” Criteo has stated: “We have complete confidence in our privacy practices.”

Companies are still feeling out just how the law is going to be enforced, which is why test cases like this bear watching. Facebook and Google are among the other companies who have faced complaints so far. A spokesman from the Data Protection Commission in Ireland, where many American tech firms keep European headquarters, said the regulators have already received 2,500 breach notifications and 1,200 complaints related to the GDPR since May.

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The hybrid cloud market just got a heck of a lot more compelling

Let’s start with a basic premise that the vast majority of the world’s workloads remain in private data centers. Cloud infrastructure vendors are working hard to shift those workloads, but technology always moves a lot slower than we think. That is the lens through which many cloud companies operate.

The idea that you operate both on prem and in the cloud with multiple vendors is the whole idea behind the notion of the hybrid cloud. It’s where companies like Microsoft, IBM, Dell and Oracle are placing their bets. These died-in-the-wool enterprise companies see their large customers making a slower slog to the cloud than you would imagine, and they want to provide them with the tools and technologies to manage across both worlds, while helping them shift when they are ready.

Cloud-native computing developed in part to provide a single management fabric across on prem and cloud, freeing IT from having two sets of tools and trying somehow to bridge the gap between the two worlds.

What every cloud vendor wants

Red Hat — you know, that company that was sold to IBM for $34 billion this week — has operated in this world. While most people think of the company as the one responsible for bringing Linux to the enterprise, over the last several years, it has been helping customers manage this transition and build applications that could live partly on prem and partly in the cloud.

As an example, it has built OpenShift, its version of Kubernetes. As CEO Jim Whitehurst told me last year, “Our hottest product is OpenShift. People talk about containers and they forget it’s a feature of Linux,” he said. That is an operating system that Red Hat knows a thing or two about.

With Red Hat in the fold, IBM can contend that being open source; they can build modern applications on top of open source tools and run them on IBM’s cloud or any of their competitors, a real hybrid approach.

Microsoft has a huge advantage here, of course, because it has a massive presence in the enterprise already. Many companies out there could be described as Microsoft shops, and for those companies moving from on prem Microsoft to cloud Microsoft represents a less daunting challenge than starting from scratch.

Oracle brings similar value with its core database products. Companies using Oracle databases — just about everyone — might find it easier to move that valuable data to Oracle’s cloud, although the numbers don’t suggest that’s necessarily happening (and Oracle has stopped breaking out its cloud revenue).

Dell, which spent $67 billion for EMC, making the Red Hat purchase pale by comparison, has been trying to pull together a hybrid solution by combining VMware, Pivotal and Dell/EMC hardware.

Cloud vendors reporting

You could argue that hybrid is a temporary state, that at some point, the vast majority of workloads will eventually be running in the cloud and the hybrid business as we know it today will continually shrink over time. We are certainly seeing cloud infrastructure revenue skyrocketing with no signs of slowing down as more workloads move to the cloud.

In their latest earnings reports, those who break out such things, the successful ones, reported growth in their cloud business. It’s important to note that these companies define cloud revenue in different ways, but you can see the trend is definitely up:

  • AWS reported revenue of $6.7 billion in revenue for the quarter, up from $4.58 billion the previous year.
  • Microsoft Intelligent Cloud, which incorporates things like Azure and server products and enterprise services, was at $8.6 billion, up from $6.9 billion.
  • IBM Technology Services and Cloud Platforms, which includes infrastructure services, technical support services and integration software reported revenue of $8.6 billion, up from $8.5 billion the previous year.
  • Others like Oracle and Google didn’t break out their cloud revenue.

Show me the money

All of this is to say, there is a lot of money on the table here and companies are moving more workloads at an increasingly rapid pace.  You might also have noticed that IBM’s growth is flat compared to the others. Yesterday in a call with analysts and press, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty projected that revenue for the hybrid cloud (however you define that) could reach $1 trillion by 2020. Whether that number is exaggerated or not, there is clearly a significant amount of business here, and IBM might see it as a way out of its revenue problems, especially if they can leverage consulting/services along with it.

There is probably so much business that there is room for more than one winner, but if you asked before Sunday if IBM had a shot in this mix against its formidable competitors, especially those born in the cloud like AWS and Google, most probably wouldn’t have given them much chance.

When Red Hat eventually joins forces with IBM, it at least gives their sales teams a compelling argument, one that could get them into the conversation — and that is probably why they were willing to spend so much money to get it. It puts them back in the game, and after years of struggling, that is something. And in the process, it has stirred up the hybrid cloud market in a way we didn’t see coming last week before this deal.

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Oracle’s Larry Ellison keeps poking AWS because he has no choice

Larry Ellison gave his Oracle Openworld keynote on Monday and of course he took several shots sat AWS. In his view, his company’s cloud products were cheaper, better and faster than AWS, but then what would you expect him to say?

He rolled out a slide with all the facts and figures in case you doubted it. He wrapped it up in a neat little marketing package for the world to see. Oracle has an autonomous self-healing database. AWS? Nope. That much he’s right.

Slide: Oracle

He makes claims that his cloud products are faster and cheaper, claims that are hard to substantiate given how hard it is to nail down any vendor’s cloud prices and speeds. He says they have no disaster recovery, when they do. None of it matters.

This was about showmanship. It was about chest beating and it’s about going after the market leader because frankly, the man has little choice. By now, it’s well documented that Oracle was late to the cloud. Larry Ellison was never a fan and he made it clear over the years, but today as the world shifts to a cloud model, his company has had to move with it.

It hasn’t been an easy transition. It required substantial investment on the part of the company to build its infrastructure to support a cloud model. It took a big change in the way their sales people sell the product. The cloud is based on a subscription model, and it requires more of a partnership approach with customers. Oracle doesn’t exactly have a reputation for playing nicely.

To make matters worse, Oracle’s late start puts it well behind market leader AWS. Hence, Ellison shouting from the rooftops how much better his company’s solutions are and how insecure the competitors are. Synergy Research, which follows the cloud market closely, has pegged Amazon’s cloud market share at around 35 percent. It has Oracle in the single digits in the most recent data from last summer (and the market hasn’t shifted dramatically since it came out with this data).

At the time, Synergy identified the four biggest players as Amazon, Microsoft, Google and IBM with Alibaba coming up fast. Synergy chief analyst John Dinsdale says Oracle is falling behind. “We have seen Oracle losing market share over the last few quarters in IaaS, PaaS and managed private cloud,” he said. “In a market that is growing at 50 percent per year, Microsoft, Google and Alibaba are all gaining market share, while the share of market leader AWS is holding steady,” he added.

To its credit, the company has seen some gains via its SaaS business. “As Oracle works to convert its huge on-premise software client base to SaaS, Oracle grew its share of enterprise SaaS markets in 2016 and 2017. Its market share then held steady in the first half of 2018,” Dinsdale pointed out.

Yet the company stopped breaking out its cloud revenue last June. As I wrote at the time, that isn’t usually a good sign:

That Oracle chose not to break out cloud revenue this quarter can’t be seen as a good sign. To be fair, we haven’t really seen Google break out their cloud revenue either with one exception in February. But when the guys at the top of the market shout about their growth, and the guys further down don’t, you can draw your own conclusions.

Further Oracle has been quite vocal about protesting the Pentagon’s $10 billion JEDI contract, believing that it has been written to favor Amazon over other vendors, a charge the Pentagon has denied. It hasn’t stopped Oracle from filing protests or even bringing their case directly to the president.

At least Ellison might have had some good news yesterday. CNBC reported that the big Amazon Prime outage in July might have been related to a transition away from Oracle databases that Amazon is currently undertaking.

Regardless, Oracle finds itself in an unfamiliar position. After years of domination, it is stuck behind in the pack. When you find yourself in such a position, you need to have a strong bark and Ellison is going after AWS hard. As the clear market leader, he has few other options right now.

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Oracle delves deeper into blockchain with four new applications

Oracle is a traditional tech company that has been struggling to gain traction in the cloud, but it could see blockchain as a way to differentiate itself. At Oracle OpenWorld today it announced the Oracle Blockchain Applications Cloud, a series of four applications designed for transactions-based processing scenarios using Internet of Things as a data source.

“Customers struggle with how exactly to go from concepts like smart contracts, distributed ledger and cryptography to solving specific business problems,” Atul Mahamuni, VP of IoT and Blockchain at Oracle told TechCrunch.

The company actually introduced a more generalized blockchain as a service offering at OpenWorld last year, but this year they have decided to focus more on specific use cases, announcing four new applications. The blockchain comes into account because of its nature as an irrefutable and immutable record.

In cases where there is a dispute over the accuracy of a particular piece of data, the blockchain can provide incontrovertible proof. As for the Internet of Things, that provides data points you can use to provide that proof. Your sensor feeds the data and it (or some reference to it) gets added to the blockchain, leaving no room for doubt.

The four applications involve supply chain-transaction data including a track and trace capability to follow a product through its delivery from inception to market, proof of provenance for valuables like drugs, intelligent temperature tracking (what they are calling Intelligent Cold Chain) and warranty and usage tracking. Intelligent Cold chain ensures that a product that is supposed to be kept cold didn’t get exposed to higher than recommended temperatures, while warranty tracking ensures that a product was being used in a proscribed fashion and should be subject to warranty claims.

Each of these plays to the some of Oracle’s strengths as a company that builds databases and ERP software. It can draw on the information it tends to collect any way as part of the nature of its business processes and add it to a blockchain and other applications when it makes sense.

“So what we do is we we get events and insights from IoT systems, as well as from supply chain ERP data, and we get those insights and translation from all of this and then put them into the blockchain and then do the correlations and artificial intelligence machine learning algorithms on top of those transactions,” Mahamuni explained.

This year perhaps even more so than the last couple, Oracle is trying to differentiate itself from the rest of the cloud pack, as it tries to right its cloud business. By building applications on top of base technologies like blockchain, IoT and artificial intelligence, while taking advantage of their domain knowledge around databases and ERP, they are hoping to show customers they can offer something their cloud competitors can’t.

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Oracle acquires DataFox, a developer of ‘predictive intelligence as a service’ across millions of company records

Oracle today announced that it has made another acquisition, this time to enhance both the kind of data that it can provide to its business customers, and its artificial intelligence capabilities: it is buying DataFox, a startup that has amassed a huge company database — currently covering 2.8 million public and private businesses, adding 1.2 million each year — and uses AI to analyse that to make larger business predictions. The business intelligence resulting from that service can in turn be used for a range of CRM-related services: prioritising sales accounts, finding leads, and so on.

“The combination of Oracle and DataFox will enhance Oracle Cloud Applications with an extensive set of AI-derived company-level data and signals, enabling customers to reach even better decisions and business outcomes,” noted Steve Miranda, EVP of applications development at Oracle, in a note to DataFox customers announcing the deal. He said that DataFox will sit among Oracle’s existing portfolio of business planning services like ERP, CX, HCM and SCM. “Together, Oracle and DataFox will enrich cloud applications with AI-driven company-level data, powering recommendations to elevate business performance across the enterprise.”

Terms of the deal do not appear to have been disclosed but we are trying to find out. DataFox — which launched in 2014 as a contender in the TC Battlefield at Disrupt — had raised just under $19 million and was last valued at $33 million back in January 2017, according to PitchBook. Investors in the company included Slack, GV, Howard Linzon, and strategic investor Goldman Sachs among others.

Oracle said that it is not committing to a specific product roadmap for DataFox longer term, but for now it will be keeping the product going as is for those who are already customers. The startup counted Goldman Sachs, Bain & Company and Twilio among those using its services. 

The deal is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it shows that larger platform providers are on the hunt for more AI-driven tools to provide an increasingly sophisticated level of service to customers. Second, in this case, it’s a sign of how content remains a compelling proposition, when it is presented and able to be manipulated for specific ends. Many customer databases can get old and out of date, so the idea of constantly trawling information sources in order to create the most accurate record of businesses possible is a very compelling idea to anyone who has faced the alternative, and that goes even more so in sales environments when people are trying to look their sharpest.

It also shows that, although both companies have evolved quite a lot, and there are many other alternatives on the market, Oracle remains in hot competition with Salesforce for customers and are hoping to woo and keep more of them with the better, integrated innovations. That also points to Oracle potentially cross and up-selling people who come to them by way of DataFox, which is an SaaS that pitches itself very much as something anyone can subscribe to online.

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Why the Pentagon’s $10 billion JEDI deal has cloud companies going nuts

By now you’ve probably heard of the Defense Department’s massive winner-take-all $10 billion cloud contract dubbed the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (or JEDI for short).
Star Wars references aside, this contract is huge, even by government standards.The Pentagon would like a single cloud vendor to build out its enterprise cloud, believing rightly or wrongly that this is the best approach to maintain focus and control of their cloud strategy.

Department of Defense (DOD) spokesperson Heather Babb tells TechCrunch the department sees a lot of upside by going this route. “Single award is advantageous because, among other things, it improves security, improves data accessibility and simplifies the Department’s ability to adopt and use cloud services,” she said.

Whatever company they choose to fill this contract, this is about modernizing their computing infrastructure and their combat forces for a world of IoT, artificial intelligence and big data analysis, while consolidating some of their older infrastructure. “The DOD Cloud Initiative is part of a much larger effort to modernize the Department’s information technology enterprise. The foundation of this effort is rationalizing the number of networks, data centers and clouds that currently exist in the Department,” Babb said.

Setting the stage

It’s possible that whoever wins this DOD contract could have a leg up on other similar projects in the government. After all it’s not easy to pass muster around security and reliability with the military and if one company can prove that they are capable in this regard, they could be set up well beyond this one deal.

As Babb explains it though, it’s really about figuring out the cloud long-term. “JEDI Cloud is a pathfinder effort to help DOD learn how to put in place an enterprise cloud solution and a critical first step that enables data-driven decision making and allows DOD to take full advantage of applications and data resources,” she said.

Photo: Mischa Keijser for Getty Images

The single vendor component, however, could explain why the various cloud vendors who are bidding, have lost their minds a bit over it — everyone except Amazon, that is, which has been mostly silent, happy apparently to let the process play out.

The belief amongst the various other players, is that Amazon is in the driver’s seat for this bid, possibly because they delivered a $600 million cloud contract for the government in 2013, standing up a private cloud for the CIA. It was a big deal back in the day on a couple of levels. First of all, it was the first large-scale example of an intelligence agency using a public cloud provider. And of course the amount of money was pretty impressive for the time, not $10 billion impressive, but a nice contract.

For what it’s worth, Babb dismisses such talk, saying that the process is open and no vendor has an advantage. “The JEDI Cloud final RFP reflects the unique and critical needs of DOD, employing the best practices of competitive pricing and security. No vendors have been pre-selected,” she said.

Complaining loudly

As the Pentagon moves toward selecting its primary cloud vendor for the next decade, Oracle in particular has been complaining to anyone who will listen that Amazon has an unfair advantage in the deal, going so far as to file a formal complaint last month, even before bids were in and long before the Pentagon made its choice.

Photo: mrdoomits for Getty Images (cropped)

Somewhat ironically, given their own past business model, Oracle complained among other things that the deal would lock the department into a single platform over the long term. They also questioned whether the bidding process adhered to procurement regulations for this kind of deal, according to a report in the Washington Post. In April, Bloomberg reported that co-CEO Safra Catz complained directly to the president that the deal was tailor made for Amazon.

Microsoft hasn’t been happy about the one-vendor idea either, pointing out that by limiting itself to a single vendor, the Pentagon could be missing out on innovation from the other companies in the back and forth world of the cloud market, especially when we’re talking about a contract that stretches out for so long.

As Microsoft’s Leigh Madden told TechCrunch in April, the company is prepared to compete, but doesn’t necessarily see a single vendor approach as the best way to go. “If the DOD goes with a single award path, we are in it to win, but having said that, it’s counter to what we are seeing across the globe where 80 percent of customers are adopting a multi-cloud solution,” he said at the time.

He has a valid point, but the Pentagon seems hell bent on going forward with the single vendor idea, even though the cloud offers much greater interoperability than proprietary stacks of the 1990s (for which Oracle and Microsoft were prime examples at the time).

Microsoft has its own large DOD contract in place for almost a billion dollars, although this deal from 2016 was for Windows 10 and related hardware for DOD employees, rather than a pure cloud contract like Amazon has with the CIA.

It also recently released Azure Stack for government, a product that lets government customers install a private version of Azure with all the same tools and technologies you find in the public version, and could prove attractive as part of its JEDI bid.

Cloud market dynamics

It’s also possible that the fact that Amazon controls the largest chunk of the cloud infrastructure market, might play here at some level. While Microsoft has been coming fast, it’s still about a third of Amazon in terms of market size, as Synergy Research’s Q42017 data clearly shows.

The market hasn’t shifted dramatically since this data came out. While market share alone wouldn’t be a deciding factor, Amazon came to market first and it is much bigger in terms of market than the next four combined, according to Synergy. That could explain why the other players are lobbying so hard and seeing Amazon as the biggest threat here, because it’s probably the biggest threat in almost every deal where they come up against each other, due to its sheer size.

Consider also that Oracle, which seems to be complaining the loudest, was rather late to the cloud after years of dismissing it. They could see JEDI as a chance to establish a foothold in government that they could use to build out their cloud business in the private sector too.

10 years might not be 10 years

It’s worth pointing out that the actual deal has the complexity and opt-out clauses of a sports contract with just an initial two-year deal guaranteed. A couple of three-year options follow, with a final two-year option closing things out. The idea being, that if this turns out to be a bad idea, the Pentagon has various points where they can back out.

Photo: Henrik Sorensen for Getty Images (cropped)

In spite of the winner-take-all approach of JEDI, Babb indicated that the agency will continue to work with multiple cloud vendors no matter what happens. “DOD has and will continue to operate multiple clouds and the JEDI Cloud will be a key component of the department’s overall cloud strategy. The scale of our missions will require DOD to have multiple clouds from multiple vendors,” she said.

The DOD accepted final bids in August, then extended the deadline for Requests for Proposal to October 9th. Unless the deadline gets extended again, we’re probably going to finally hear who the lucky company is sometime in the coming weeks, and chances are there is going to be lot of whining and continued maneuvering from the losers when that happens.

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Google steps back from running the Kubernetes infrastructure

Google today announced that it is providing the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) with $9 million in Google Cloud credits to help further its work on the Kubernetes container orchestrator and that it is handing over operational control of the project to the community. These credits will be split over three years and are meant to cover the infrastructure costs of building, testing and distributing the Kubernetes software.

Why does this matter? Until now, Google hosted virtually all the cloud resources that supported the project like its CI/CD testing infrastructure, container downloads and DNS services on its cloud. But Google is now taking a step back. With the Kubernetes community reaching a state of maturity, Google is transferring all of this to the community.

Between the testing infrastructure and hosting container downloads, the Kubernetes project regularly runs over 150,000 containers on 5,000 virtual machines, so the cost of running these systems quickly adds up. The Kubernetes container registry served almost 130 million downloads since the launch of the project.

It’s also worth noting that the CNCF now includes a wide range of members that typically compete with each other. We’re talking Alibaba Cloud, AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, IBM Cloud, Oracle, SAP and VMware, for example. All of these profit from the work of the CNCF and the Kubernetes community. Google doesn’t say so outright, but it’s fair to assume that it wanted others to shoulder some of the burdens of running the Kubernetes infrastructure, too. Similarly, some of the members of the community surely didn’t want to be so closely tied to Google’s infrastructure either.

“By sharing the operational responsibilities for Kubernetes with contributors to the project, we look forward to seeing the new ideas and efficiencies that all Kubernetes contributors bring to the project operations,” Google Kubernetes Engine product manager William Deniss writes in today’s announcement. He also notes that a number of Google’s will still be involved in running the Kubernetes infrastructure.

“Google’s significant financial donation to the Kubernetes community will help ensure that the project’s constant pace of innovation and broad adoption continue unabated,” said Dan Kohn, the executive director of the CNCF. “We’re thrilled to see Google Cloud transfer management of the Kubernetes testing and infrastructure projects into contributors’ hands – making the project not just open source, but openly managed, by an open community.”

It’s unclear whether the project plans to take some of the Google-hosted infrastructure and move it to another cloud, but it could definitely do so — and other cloud providers could step up and offer similar credits, too.

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VMware pulls AWS’s Relational Database Service into the data center

Here’s some unusual news: AWS, Amazon’s cloud computing arm, today announced that it plans to bring its Relational Database Service (RDS) to VMware, no matter whether that’s VMware Cloud on AWS or a privately hosted VMware deployment in a corporate data center.

While some of AWS’s competitors have long focused on these kinds of hybrid cloud deployments, AWS never really put the same kind of emphasis on this. Clearly, though, that’s starting to change — maybe in part because Microsoft and others are doing quite well in this space.

“Managing the administrative and operational muck of databases is hard work, error-prone, and resource intensive,” said AWS CEO Andy Jassy . “It’s why hundreds of thousands of customers trust Amazon RDS to manage their databases at scale. We’re excited to bring this same operationally battle-tested service to VMware customers’ on-premises and hybrid environments, which will not only make database management much easier for enterprises, but also make it simpler for these databases to transition to the cloud.”

With Amazon RDS on VMware, enterprises will be able to use AWS’s technology to run and manage Microsft SQL Server, Oracle, PostgreSQL, MySQL and MariaDB databases in their own data centers. The idea here, AWS says, is to make it easy for enterprises to set up and manage their databases wherever they want to host their data — and to then migrate it to AWS when they choose to do so.

This new service is currently in private preview, so we don’t know all that much about how this will work in practice or what it will cost. AWS promises, however, that the experience will pretty much be the same as in the cloud and that RDS on VMware will handle all the updates and patches automatically.

Today’s announcement comes about two years after the launch of VMware Cloud on AWS, which was pretty much the reverse of today’s announcement. With VMware Cloud on AWS, enterprises can take their existing VMware deployments and take them to AWS.

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