The blockchain begins finding its way in the enterprise

The blockchain is in the middle of a major hype cycle at the moment, and that makes it hard for many people to take it seriously, but if you look at the core digital ledger technology, there is tremendous potential to change the way we think about trust in business. Yet these are still extremely early days and there are a number of missing pieces that need to be in place for the blockchain to really take off in the enterprise. Suffice it to say that it has caught the fancy of major enterprise vendors with the likes of SAP, IBM, Oracle, Microsoft and Amazon all looking at providing some level of Blockchain as a service for customers. While the level of interest in blockchain remains fluid, a July 2017 survey of 400 large companies by UK firm Juniper Research found 6 in 10 respondents were “either actively considering, or
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Microsoft caps off a fine fiscal year seemingly without any major missteps in its last quarter

Microsoft is capping off a rather impressive year without any major missteps in its final report for its performance in its 2018 fiscal year, posting a quarter that seems to have been largely non-offensive to Wall Street. In the past year, Microsoft’s stock has gone up more than 40%. In the past two years, it’s nearly doubled. All of this came after something around a decade of that price not really doing anything as Microsoft initially missed major trends like the shift to mobile and the cloud. But since then, new CEO Satya Nadella has turned that around and increased the company’s focused on both, and Azure is now one of the company’s biggest highlights. Microsoft is now an $800 billion company, which while still considerably behind Apple, Amazon and Google, is a considerable high considering the past decade. In addition, Microsoft passed $100 billion in revenue for a fiscal
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How Facebook configures its millions of servers every day

When you’re a company the size of Facebook with more than two billion users on millions of servers, running thousands of configuration changes every day involving trillions of configuration checks, as you can imagine, configuration is kind of a big deal. As with most things with Facebook, they face scale problems few companies have to deal and often reach the limits of mere mortal tools. To solve their unique issues, the company developed a new configuration delivery process called Location Aware Delivery or LAD for short. Before developing LAD, the company had been using an open source tool called Zoo Keeper to distribute configuration data, and while that tool worked, it had some fairly substantial limitations for a company the size of Facebook. Perhaps the largest of those was being limited to 5 MB distributions with configurations limited to 2500 subscribers at a time. To give you a sense of
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CloudHealth adds support for Google Cloud amidst growing demand

CloudHealth, a startup that enables customers to manage a multi-cloud environment, announced today it was adding support for Google Cloud Platform. With today’s addition, CloudHealth now supports AWS, Azure, VMware and Google, giving customers a fairly comprehensive view of their cloud usage. Company co-founder and CTO Joe Kinsella says the company has been seeing inbound interest for Google Cloud support dating back to 2014, but up until now there hasn’t been enough interest to warrant a startup investing the resources necessary to support another platform. He says that has changed over the last 12-18 months as they’ve seen an increase in requests and decided to take the plunge.

Google Cloud cost summary page in CloudHealth. Screenshot: CloudHealth

“I think a lot of the initiatives that have been driven since Diane Greene joined Google [at the end of 2015] and began really driving towards the enterprise are bearing fruit. And
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Okta nabs ScaleFT to build out ‘Zero Trust’ security framework

Okta, the cloud identity management company, announced today it has purchased a startup called ScaleFT to bring the Zero Trust concept to the Okta platform. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. While Zero Trust isn’t exactly new to a cloud identity management company like Okta, acquiring ScaleFT gives them a solid cloud-based Zero Trust foundation on which to continue to develop the concept internally. “To help our customers increase security while also meeting the demands of the modern workforce, we’re acquiring ScaleFT to further our contextual access management vision — and ensure the right people get access to the right resources for the shortest amount of time,” Okta co-founder and COO Frederic Kerrest said in a statement. Zero Trust is a security framework that acknowledges work no longer happens behind the friendly confines of a firewall. In the old days before mobile and cloud, you could be pretty
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Swim.ai raises $11M to bring real-time analytics to the edge

Once upon a time, it looked like cloud-based serviced would become the central hub for analyzing all IoT data. But it didn’t quite turn out that way because most IoT solutions simply generate too much data to do this effectively and the round-trip to the data center doesn’t work for applications that have to react in real time. Hence the advent of edge computing, which is spawing its own ecosystem of startups. Among those is Swim.ai, which today announced that it has raised an $11 million Series B funding round let by Cambridge Innovation Capital, with participation from Silver Creek Ventures and Harris Barton Asset Management. The round also included a strategic investment from Arm, the chip design firm you may still remember as ARM (but don’t write it like that or their PR department will promptly email you). This brings the company’s total funding to about $18 million. Swim.
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Google’s new ‘Grab and Go’ project helps business loan Chromebooks to their employees

At Google, the company offers a ‘Grab and Go’ program that allows employees to use self-service stations to quickly borrow and return Chromebooks without having to go through a lengthy IT approval process. Now, it’s bringing this same idea to other businesses. Chromebooks have found their place in education and a number of larger enterprise companies are also getting on board with the idea of a centrally managed device that mostly focuses on the browser. That’s maybe no surprise, given that both schools and enterprises are pretty much looking for the same thing from these devices. At Google, the system has seen more than 30,000 users that have completed more than 100,000 loans so far. While Google wants others to run similar programs (and use more Chromebooks in the process) it’s worth noting that this is a limited preview program and that Google isn’t building and selling racks or
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Walmart enlists Microsoft cloud in battle against Amazon

Once a seemingly unstoppable retail juggernaut, Walmart’s been scrambling to define its digitally in this Amazon-defined era. This morning, the company announced that it’s struck a five-year deal with Microsoft, Amazon’s chief cloud competitor.

These sorts of partnerships are a regular occurrence for AWS — in fact, it announced one with Fortnite maker Epic Games, just this morning. The companies involved tend to put on a big show, in return for a discount on services, but Walmart and Microsoft are happily playing into the concept of teaming up to take on Amazon.

Microsoft’s certainly not making any bones about the competition. In an interview, Satya Nadella told The Wall Street Journal that the fight against Amazon “is absolutely core to this,” adding, “How do we get more leverage as two organizations that have depth and breadth and investment to be able to outrun our respective competition?”

Of course,

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Standard Cognition raises another $5.5M to create a cashier-less checkout experience

As Amazon looks to increasingly expand its cashier-less grocery stories — called Amazon Go – across different regions, there’s at least one startup hoping to end up everywhere else beyond Amazon’s empire. Standard Cognition aims to help businesses create that kind of checkout experience based on machine vision, using image recognition to figure out that a specific person is picking up and walking out the door with a bag of Cheetos. The company said it’s raised an additional $5.5 million in a round in what the company is calling a seed round extension from CRV. The play here is, like many startups, to create something that a massive company is going after — like image recognition for cashier-less checkouts — for the long tail businesses rather than locking them into a single ecosystem. Standard Cognition works with security cameras that have a bit more power than typical cameras to
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Certify acquires real-time expense management startup and YC alum Abacus

Expense management software provider Certify is beefing up its artillery against rival Concur with the acquisition of Abacus, which enables companies to deal with expenses in real time. The deal’s financial terms were not disclosed. The addition of Abacus will help Certify, which includes other expense management solutions like Nexonia and ExpenseWatch under one umbrella, become a stronger rival to SAP-owned Concur by reaching new customer segments. Founded by Omar Qari, Josh Halickman and Ted Power, Abacus says it was the first real-time expense reporting solution on the market when it launched in 2013. The Y Combinator alum, whose investors included General Catalyst, Bessemer Venture Partners, Google Ventures and Salesforce Ventures, currently counts 1,000 customers. Its team will join Certify and the Abacus product will continue to be independent. Expenses are a bane for everyone involved: the employees who need to turn in receipts, the managers who have to
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Dialpad dials up $50M Series D led by Iconiq

Dialpad announced a $50 million Series D investment today, giving the company plenty of capital to keep expanding its business communications platform. The round was led by Iconiq Capital with help from existing investors Andreessen Horowitz, Amasia, Scale Ventures, Section 32 and Work-Bench. With today’s round, the company has now raised $120 million. As technology like artificial intelligence and internet of things advances, it’s giving the company an opportunity to expand its platform. Dialpad products include UberConference conferencing software and VoiceAI for voice transcription applications. The company is competing in a crowded market that includes giants like Google and Cisco and a host of smaller companies like GoToMeeting (owned by LogMeIn), Zoom and BlueJeans. All of these companies are working to provide cloud-based meeting and communications services. Increasingly, that involves artificial intelligence like natural language processing (NLP) to provide on the fly transcription services. While none of these services is
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Fastly raises another $40 million before an IPO

Last round before the IPO. That’s how Fastly frames its new $40 million Series F round. It means that the company has raised $219 million over the past few years. The funding round was led by Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners with participation from Sozo Ventures, Swisscom Ventures, and existing investors. Fastly operates a content delivery network to speed up web requests. Let’s say you type nytimes.com in your browser. In the early days of the internet, your computer would send a request to one of The New York Times’ servers in a data center. The server would receive the request and send back the page to the reader. But the web has grown immensely, and this kind of architecture is no longer sustainable. The New York Times use Fastly to cache its homepage, media and articles on Fastly’s servers. This way, when somebody types nytimes.com, Fastly already has
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Chad Rigetti to talk quantum computing at Disrupt SF

Even for the long-standing giants of the tech industry, quantum computing is one of the most complicated subjects to tackle. So how does a five-year old startup compete? Chad Rigetti, the namesake founder of Rigetti Computing, will join us at Disrupt SF 2018 to help us break it all down. Rigetti’s approach to quantum computing is two-fold: on one front, the company is working on the design and fabrication of its own quantum chips; on the other, the company is opening up access to its early quantum computers for researchers and developers by way of its cloud computing platform, Forest. Rigetti Computing has raised nearly $70 million to date according to Crunchbase, with investment from some of the biggest names around. Meanwhile, labs around the country are already using Forest to explore the possibilities ahead. What’s the current state of quantum computing? How do we separate hype from reality?
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Facebook is using machine learning to self-tune its myriad of services

Regardless of what you may think of Facebook as a platform, they run a massive operation and when you reach their level of scale you have to get more creative in how you handle every aspect of your computing environment. Engineers quickly reach the limits of human ability to track information to the point that checking logs and analytics becomes impractical and unwieldy on a system running thousands of services. This is a perfect scenario to implement machine learning and that is precisely what Facebook has done. The company published a blog post today about a self-tuning system they have dubbed Sprial. This is pretty nifty and what it does is essentially flip the idea of system tuning on its head. Instead of looking at some data and coding what you want the system to do, you teach the system the right way to do it and it does it
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Microsoft launches two new Azure regions in China

Microsoft today launched two new Azure regions in China. These new regions, China North 2 in Beijing and China East 2 in Shanghai, are now generally available and will complement the existing two regions Microsoft operates in the country (with the help of its local partner, 21Vianet). As the first international cloud provider in China when it launched its first region there in 2014, Microsoft has seen rapid growth in the region and there is clearly demand for its services there. Unsurprisingly, many of Microsoft’s customers in China are other multinationals that are already betting on Azure for their cloud strategy. These include the likes of Adobe, Coke, Costco, Daimler, Ford, Nuance, P&G, Toyota and BMW. In addition to the new China regions, Microsoft also today launched a new availability zone for its region in the Netherlands. While availability zones have long been standard among the big cloud providers, Azure
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Intermix.io looks to help data engineers find their worst bottlenecks

For any company built on top of machine learning operations, the more data it has, the better it is off — as long as it can keep it all under control. But as more and more information pours in from disparate sources, gets logged in obscure databases and is generally hard (or slow) to query, the process of getting that all into one neat place where a data scientist can actually start running the statistics is quickly running into one of machine learning’s biggest bottlenecks. That’s a problem Intermix.io and its founders, Paul Lappas and Lars Kamp, hope to solve. Engineers get a granular look at all of the different nuances behind what’s happening with some specific function, from the query all the way through all of the paths it’s taking to get to its end result. The end product is one that helps data engineers monitor the flow of
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CloudBees raises $62M for its devops platform

CloudBees, the Jenkins-based devops platform that recently acquired Codeship, today announced that it has raised a $62 million funding round. The round consists of a traditional $37 million equity round led by Delta-v Capital and $25 million of growth financing from Golub Capital’s Late Stage Lending. Existing investors, including Matrix Partners, Lightspeed Ventures, Unusual Ventures and Verizon Ventures, also participated. With this round, CloudBees has now raised a total of over $100 million since it was founded back in 2010. In a fast-growing and competitive business like devops, that’s the kind of funding you need to be able to buy up smaller players and expand quickly to gain the kind of market share you need to compete with the other large players in this business. “Today, virtually every company is using software to continuously improve its products and business,” said Matt Parson, CloudBees’ chief financial officer. “The DevOps market
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IQ Capital is raising £125M to invest in deep tech startups in the UK

The rapid pace of technology innovation and applications in recent decades — you could argue that just about every kind of business is a “tech” business these days — has spawned a sea of tech startups and larger businesses that are focused on serving that market, and equally demanding consumers, on a daily basis. Today, a venture capital firm in the UK is announcing a fund aimed at helping to grow the technologies that will underpin a lot of those daily applications.

Cambridge-based IQ Capital is raising £125 million ($165 million) that it will use specifically to back UK startups that are building “deep tech” — the layer of research and development, and potentially commercialised technology, that is considered foundational to how a lot of technology will work in the years and decades to come. So far, some £92 million has been secured, and partner Kerry Baldwin said that the

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With Cloud Filestore, the Google Cloud gets a new storage option

Google is giving developers a new storage option in its cloud. Cloud Filestore, which will launch into beta next month, essentially offers a fully managed network attached storage (NAS) service in the cloud. This means that companies can now easily run applications that need a traditional file system interface on the Google Cloud Platform. Traditionally, developers who wanted access to a standard file system over the kind of object storage and database options that Google already offered had to rig up a file server with a persistent disk. Filestore does away with all of this and simply allows Google Cloud users to spin up storage as needed. The promise of Filestore is that it offers high throughput, low latency and high IOPS. The service will come in two tiers: premium and standard. The premium tier will cost $0.30 per GB and month and promises a throughput speed
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YC grad ZenProspect rebrands as Apollo, lands $7 M Series A

ZenProspect, a startup that emerged from the Y Combinator Winter 2016 class to help companies use data and intelligence to increase sales, announced today that it was rebranding as Apollo. It also announced a $7 million Series A investment. The round was led by Nexus Venture Partners. Social Capital and Y Combinator also participated. Apparently Y Combinator liked what they saw enough to continue to invest in the company. Apollo helps customers connect their sales people with the right person at the right time. That is typically a customer that is most likely to buy the product. It does this by combining a number of tools including a rules engine to automate prospect routing, a lead scoring tool and analytics to measure results at a granular level, among others. The company also uses data they have collected from 200 million contacts at 10 million companies to match sellers to
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