May
14
2018
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AWS introduces 1-click Lambda functions app for IoT

When Amazon introduced AWS Lambda in 2015, the notion of serverless computing was relatively unknown. It enables developers to deliver software without having to manage a server to do it. Instead, Amazon manages it all and the underlying infrastructure only comes into play when an event triggers a requirement. Today, the company released an app in the iOS App Store called AWS IoT 1-Click to bring that notion a step further.

The 1-click part of the name may be a bit optimistic, but the app is designed to give developers even quicker access to Lambda event triggers. These are designed specifically for simple single-purpose devices like a badge reader or a button. When you press the button, you could be connected to customer service or maintenance or whatever makes sense for the given scenario.

One particularly good example from Amazon is the Dash Button. These are simple buttons that users push to reorder goods like laundry detergent or toilet paper. Pushing the button connects to the device to the internet via the home or business’s WiFi and sends a signal to the vendor to order the product in the pre-configured amount. AWS IoT 1-Click extends this capability to any developers, so long as it is on a supported device.

To use the new feature, you need to enter your existing account information. You configure your WiFi and you can choose from a pre-configured list of devices and Lambda functions for the given device. Supported devices in this early release include AWS IoT Enterprise Button, a commercialized version of the Dash button and the AT&T LTE-M Button.

Once you select a device, you define the project to trigger a Lambda function, or send an SMS or email, as you prefer. Choose Lambda for an event trigger, then touch Next to move to the configuration screen where you configure the trigger action. For instance, if pushing the button triggers a call to IT from the conference room, the trigger would send a page to IT that there was a call for help in the given conference room.

Finally, choose the appropriate Lambda function, which should work correctly based on your configuration information.

All of this obviously requires more than one click and probably involves some testing and reconfiguring to make sure you’ve entered everything correctly, but the idea of having an app to create simple Lambda functions could help people with non-programming background configure buttons with simple functions with some training on the configuration process.

It’s worth noting that the service is still in Preview, so you can download the app today, but you have to apply to participate at this time.

May
14
2018
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Xage introduces fingerprinting to protect industrial IoT devices

As old-school industries like oil and gas increasingly network entities like oil platforms, they become more vulnerable to hacking attacks that were impossible when they were stand-alone. That requires a new approach to security and Xage (pronounced Zage), a security startup that launched last year thinks it has the answer with a concept called ‘fingerprinting’ combined with the blockchain.

“Each individual fingerprint tries to reflect as much information as possible about a device or controller,” Duncan Greatwood, Xage’s CEO explained. They do this by storing configuration data from each device and controller on the network. That includes the hardware type, the software that’s installed on it, the CPU ID, the storage ID and so forth.

If someone were to try to inject malware into one of these controllers, the fingerprint identification would notice a change and shut it down until human technicians could figure out if it’s a legitimate change or not.

Whither blockchain?

You may be wondering where the blockchain comes into this, but imagine a honey pot of these fingerprints were stored in a conventional database. If that database were compromised, it would mean hackers could have access to a company’s entire store of fingerprints, completely neutering that idea. That’s where the blockchain comes in.

Greatwood says it serves multiple purposes to prevent such a scenario from happening. For starters, it takes away that centralized honey pot. It also provides a means of authentication making it impossible to insert a fake fingerprint without explicit permission to do so.

But he says that Xage takes one more precaution unrelated to the blockchain to allow for legitimate updates to the controller. “We have a digital replica (twin) of the system we keep in the cloud, so if someone is changing the software or plans to change it on a device or controller, we will pre-calculate what the new fingerprint will be before we update the controller,” he said. That will allow them to understand when there is a sanctioned update happening and not an external threat agent trying to mimic one.

Checks and balances

In this way they check the validity of every fingerprint and have checks and balances every step of the way. If the updated fingerprint matches the cloud replica, they can be reasonably assured that it’s authentic. If it doesn’t, he says they assume the fingerprint might have been hacked and shut it down for further investigation by the customer.

While this sounds like a complex way of protecting this infrastructure, Greatwood points out that these devices and controllers tend to be fairly simple in terms of their configuration, not like the complexities involved in managing security on a network of workstations with many possible access points for hackers.

The irony here is that these companies are networking their devices to simplify maintenance, but in doing so they have created a new set of issues. “It’s a very interesting problem. They are adopting IoT, so they don’t have to do [so many] truck rolls. They want that network capability, but then the risk of hacking is greater because it only takes one hack to get access to thousands of controllers,” he explained.

In case you are thinking they may be overstating the actual problem of oil rigs and other industrial targets getting hacked, a Department of Homeland Security report released in March suggests that the energy sector has been an area of interest for nation-state hackers in recent years.

May
14
2018
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Talking Drupal #171 – Drupal Interview

In episode #171 we talk share tips regarding Drupal Interviews. www.talkingdrupal.com/171

Agenda

Typical Questions

  • What are your 5 goto modules, D7 and/or D8?
  • What benefits have you seen from Drupal 8 and what has frustrated you about Drupal 8?
  • What criteria do you use when selecting a Drupal contributed module?
  • When do you use custom code?
  • What is your process for updating a module to the latest release?
  • What’s the site you’re most proud of?
  • What’s the site you wish you could redo and why?
  • Are you familiar with OOP coding style in Drupal 8
  • Are you familiar with the symphony framework
  • How do you keep up with the industry and learn new skills techniques

Tips

  • Bring your laptop and make sure it works
  • Show up early
  • Have questions for the company or interviewer
  • Ask for an interview with a friend – practice
  • Appropriate dress

Hosts

Stephen Cross – www.ParallaxInfoTech.com @stephencross

John Picozzi – www.oomphinc.com @johnpicozzi

Nic Laflin – www.nLighteneddevelopment.com @nicxvan

 

May
12
2018
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Adobe CTO leads company’s broad AI bet

There isn’t a software company out there worth its salt that doesn’t have some kind of artificial intelligence initiative in progress right now. These organizations understand that AI is going to be a game-changer, even if they might not have a full understanding of how that’s going to work just yet.

In March at the Adobe Summit, I sat down with Adobe executive vice president and CTO Abhay Parasnis, and talked about a range of subjects with him including the company’s goal to build a cloud platform for the next decade — and how AI is a big part of that.

Parasnis told me that he has a broad set of responsibilities starting with the typical CTO role of setting the tone for the company’s technology strategy, but it doesn’t stop there by any means. He also is in charge of operational execution for the core cloud platform and all the engineering building out the platform — including AI and Sensei. That includes managing a multi-thousand person engineering team. Finally, he’s in charge of all the digital infrastructure and the IT organization — just a bit on his plate.

Ten years down the road

The company’s transition from selling boxed software to a subscription-based cloud company began in 2013, long before Parasnis came on board. It has been a highly successful one, but Adobe knew it would take more than simply shedding boxed software to survive long-term. When Parasnis arrived, the next step was to rearchitect the base platform in a way that was flexible enough to last for at least a decade — yes, a decade.

“When we first started thinking about the next generation platform, we had to think about what do we want to build for. It’s a massive lift and we have to architect to last a decade,” he said. There’s a huge challenge because so much can change over time, especially right now when technology is shifting so rapidly.

That meant that they had to build in flexibility to allow for these kinds of changes over time, maybe even ones they can’t anticipate just yet. The company certainly sees immersive technology like AR and VR, as well as voice as something they need to start thinking about as a future bet — and their base platform had to be adaptable enough to support that.

Making Sensei of it all

But Adobe also needed to get its ducks in a row around AI. That’s why around 18 months ago, the company made another strategic decision to develop AI as a core part of the new  platform. They saw a lot of companies looking at a more general AI for developers, but they had a different vision, one tightly focussed on Adobe’s core functionality. Parasnis sees this as the key part of the company’s cloud platform strategy. “AI will be the single most transformational force in technology,” he said, adding that Sensei is by far the thing he is spending the most time on.”

Photo: Ron Miller

The company began thinking about the new cloud platform with the larger artificial intelligence goal in mind, building AI-fueled algorithms to handle core platform functionality. Once they refined them for use in-house, the next step was to open up these algorithms to third-party developers to build their own applications using Adobe’s AI tools.

It’s actually a classic software platform play, whether the service involves AI or not. Every cloud company from Box to Salesforce has been exposing their services for years, letting developers take advantage of their expertise so they can concentrate on their core knowledge. They don’t have to worry about building something like storage or security from scratch because they can grab those features from a platform that has built-in expertise  and provides a way to easily incorporate it into applications.

The difference here is that it involves Adobe’s core functions, so it may be intelligent auto cropping and smart tagging in Adobe Experience Manager or AI-fueled visual stock search in Creative Cloud. These are features that are essential to the Adobe software experience, which the company is packaging as an API and delivering to developers to use in their own software.

Whether or not Sensei can be the technology that drives the Adobe cloud platform for the next 10 years, Parasnis and the company at large are very much committed to that vision. We should see more announcements from Adobe in the coming months and years as they build more AI-powered algorithms into the platform and expose them to developers for use in their own software.

Parasnis certainly recognizes this as an ongoing process. “We still have a lot of work to do, but we are off in an extremely good architectural direction, and AI will be a crucial part,” he said.

May
11
2018
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HubSpot adds customer service tools to its marketing platform

HubSpot is expanding beyond sales and marketing with the official launch of its Service Hub for managing customer service.

The product was first announced last fall, but now it’s moved out of beta testing.

HubSpot President and COO JD Sherman said this was a logical next step for the company. He argued that the Internet has “democratized” the ability of businesses to attract customers by creating their own content (using tools like HubSpot’s, natch), and while “that opportunity still exists, frankly, it’s getting harder due to the sheer volume of what’s going on.”

“It makes sense to take care of your customer,” Sherman said — both to keep them loyal and also to turn them into an advocate who might help you attract new customers.

Service Hub General Manager Michael Redbord and Go To Market Leader David Barron gave me a quick tour of the Service Hub. It includes an universal inbox for all your customer communications, a bot-builder to automate some of those customer interactions, tools for building a company knowledge base (which can then be fed into the bot-builder, which Redbord described as a more “customer-centric” way to present your content), tools for creating surveys and a dashboard to track how your service team is doing.

ServiceHub dashboard

Redbord said he previously worked on HubSpot’s own service and support team, so every feature in ServiceHub has “a one-to-one relationship” with an issue that HubSpot has faced, or that he personally has faced, while trying to support customers.

Barron added that ServiceHub benefits from being integrated with HubSpot’s existing products, allowing businesses to track their interactions with a customer across sales, marketing and support.

“We’re a platform company,” he said. “When any of these conversations happens, whether it’s a chat with a human or a chat with a bot, that’s all logged on [a single record] in HubSpot, so there’s no data leakage between different teams.”

May
11
2018
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This Week in Data with Colin Charles 39: a valuable time spent at rootconf.in

Colin Charles

Colin CharlesJoin Percona Chief Evangelist Colin Charles as he covers happenings, gives pointers and provides musings on the open source database community.

rootconf.in 2018 just ended, and it was very enjoyable to be in Bangalore for the conference. The audience was large, the conversations were great, and overall I think this is a rather important conference if you’re into the “DevOps” movement (or are a sysadmin!). From the data store world, Oracle MySQL was a sponsor, as was MyDBOPS (blog), and Elastic. There were plenty more, including Digital Ocean/GoJek/Walmart Labs — many MySQL users.

I took a handful of pictures with people, and here are some of the MyDBOPS team and myself.  They have over 20 employees, and serve the Indian market at rates that would be more palatable than straight up USD rates. Traveling through Asia, many businesses always do find local partners and offer local pricing; this really becomes more complex in the SaaS space (everyone pays the same rate generally) and also the services space.

Colin at Rootconf with Oracle
Some of the Oracle MySQL team who were exhibiting were very happy they got a good amount of traffic to the booth based on stuff discussed at the talk and BOF.

From a talk standpoint, I did a keynote for an hour and also a BoF session for another hour (great discussion, lots of blog post ideas from there), and we had a Q&A session for about 15 minutes. There were plenty of good conversations in the hallway track.

A quick observation that I notice happens everywhere: many people don’t realize features that have existed in MySQL since 5.6/5.7.  So they are truly surprised with stuff in 8.0 as well. It is clear there is a huge market that would thrive around education. Not just around feature checklists, but also around how to use features. Sometimes, this feels like the MySQL of the mid-2000’s — getting apps to also use new features, would be a great thing.

Releases

This seems to have been a quiet week on the releases front.

Are you a user of Amazon Aurora MySQL? There is now the Amazon Aurora Backtrack feature, which allows you to go back in time. It is described to work as:

Aurora uses a distributed, log-structured storage system (read Design Considerations for High Throughput Cloud-Native Relational Databases to learn a lot more); each change to your database generates a new log record, identified by a Log Sequence Number (LSN). Enabling the backtrack feature provisions a FIFO buffer in the cluster for storage of LSNs. This allows for quick access and recovery times measured in seconds.

Link List

Upcoming appearances

Feedback

I look forward to feedback/tips via e-mail at colin.charles@percona.com or on Twitter @bytebot.

 

The post This Week in Data with Colin Charles 39: a valuable time spent at rootconf.in appeared first on Percona Database Performance Blog.

May
10
2018
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Dropbox beats expectations for its first quarterly check-in with Wall Street

Dropbox made its debut as a public company earlier this year and today passed through its first milestone of reporting its results to public investors, and it more or less beat expectations set for Wall Street on the top and bottom line.

The company reported more revenue and beat expectations for earnings that Wall Street set, bringing in $316.3 million in revenue and appearing to pick up momentum among its paying user base. It also said it had 11.5 million paying users, a jump from last year. However, the stock was largely flat in extended trading. One small negative signal — and it definitely appears to be a small one — was that its GAAP gross margin slipped slightly to 61.9% from 62.3% a year earlier. Dropbox is a software company that’s supposed to have great margins as it begins to ramp up its own hardware, but that slipping margin may end up being something that investors will zero in on going forward. Still, as the company continues to ramp up the enterprise component of its business, the calculus of its business may change over time.

This is a pretty important moment for the company, as it was a darling in Silicon Valley and rocketed to a $10 billion valuation in the early phases of the Web 2.0 era but began to face a ton of criticism as to whether it could be a robust business as larger companies started to offer cloud storage as a perk and not a business. Dropbox then found itself going up against companies like Box and Microsoft as it worked to create an enterprise business, but all this was behind closed doors — and it wasn’t clear if it was able to successfully maneuver its way into a second big business. Now the company is beholden to public shareholders and has to show all this in the open, and it serves as a good barometer of not just storage and collaboration businesses, but also some companies that are looking to drastically simplify workflow processes and convert that into a real business (like Slack, for example).

Here’s the final scorecard for the company:

  • Q1 revenue: $316.3 million, compared to Wall Street estimates of $308.7 million (up 28% year over year.)
  • Q1 earnings: 8 cents per share adjusted, compared to Wall Street estimates of 5 cents per share adjusted.
  • Paying users: 11.5 million, up from 9.3 million in the same period last year.
  • GAAP gross margin: 61.9%, down from 62.3% last year in the same period last year.
  • Non-GAAP gross margin: 74.2%, up from 63.5% in the same period last year.
  • Free cash flow: $51.9 million, down from $56.5 million in the same period last year.

(The GAAP and non-GAAP comparison is typically related to share-based compensation, which is a key component of employee compensation and retention.)

Dropbox was largely considered to be a successful IPO, rising more than 40% in its trading debut. That does mean that it may have left some money on the table, but its operating losses have been largely stable, even as it looks to woo larger enterprise customers as it — which is a bit of a taller order than its typical growth amid consumers that’s heavily driven by organic growth. Those larger enterprise customers offer more stable, and larger, revenue streams than a consumer base that faces a variety of options as many companies start to offer free storage. The company is now worth well over that original $10 billion valuation as a public company. Dropbox says it has more than 500 million users.

Since going public, the stock has had its ups and downs, but for the most part hasn’t dipped below that significant jump it saw from day one. Keeping that number propped up — and growing — is an important part of growing a business as a public company as it waves off more intense scrutiny and pressure for change from public shareholders, as well as offering competitive compensation packages for incoming employees in order to attract the best talent. It’s also good for morale as it offers a kind of grade for how the company is doing in the eyes of the public, though CEOs of companies often say they are committed toward long-term goals. The company’s shares are up around 11% since going public.

While there have been a wave of enterprise IPOs this year, including zScalar and Pluralsight’s upcoming IPO, Dropbox was largely considered to be a potential gauge of whether the IPO window was still open this year because of its hybrid nature. Dropbox started off as a consumer company based around a dead-simple approach of hosting and sharing files online, and used that to build a massive user base even as the cost of cloud storage was rapidly commoditized. But it also is building a robust enterprise-focus business, and continues to roll out a variety of tools to woo those businesses with consistent updates to products like its document tool Paper. Last month, the company started rolling out templates, as it looked to make traditional workflow processes easier and easier for companies in order to capture their interest much in the same way it captured the interest of consumers at large.

May
10
2018
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Why We’ve Deprecated MongoRocks in Percona Server for MongoDB 3.6

MongoRocks

MongoRocksIn this blog post, we’ll look at why we deprecated MongoRocks in Percona Server for MongoDB 3.6, and provide some guidance on switching from MongoRocks to WiredTiger.

On April 24, 2018, Percona announced the availability of Percona Server for MongoDB 3.6. If you read the blog post announcing the release, you probably saw the following note:

“MongoRocks is deprecated in Percona Server for MongoDB 3.6 and it will be fully removed in the next major version of Percona Server for MongoDB.”

Why did we make this decision, and what should you do if you’re using MongoRocks?

There are two significant factors that contributed to our decision to deprecate MongoRocks in Percona Server for MongoDB 3.6:

  1. We’ve seen little commercial interest in MongoRocks over the past two years, and
  2. MongoDB’s deep integration with WiredTiger makes supporting alternative storage engines increasingly difficult.

Little Commercial Interest

We haven’t seen strong demand for MongoRocks from our customers. Whenever we talk to Percona customers and Percona Server for MongoDB users, we receive pretty consistent feedback about some new features they would like to see, but nobody ever mentions storage engines. When we ask specifically which storage engine they use, it’s almost always WiredTiger. MongoRocks rarely comes up.

Deep WiredTiger Integration Makes Alternative Storage Engine Support Increasingly Difficult

MongoDB 3.6 introduced a number of exciting new features, including sessions, retryable writes and causal consistency (both of which are based on the sessions work). And, as was formally announced in February, MongoDB 4.0 will bring multi-document transactions for replica sets. All of these important new features work properly in large part because of significant changes MongoDB, Inc. made to the storage layer of WiredTiger. Additionally, given that the MongoDB server team is planning on deprecating MMAPv1 in MongoDB 4.0, we expect MongoDB, Inc. will continue making fundamental changes to WiredTiger to create new features in MongoDB.

Rearchitecting RocksDB (the storage layer of MongoRocks) to allow it to work properly with the new features in MongoDB 3.6 and with multi-document transactions in MongoDB 4.0 would be a massive undertaking, and we believe more users will be more positively affected if our engineering resources instead work on frequently-requested features for Percona Server for MongoDB.

For those of you who are using MongoRocks with Percona Server for MongoDB, we know this situation isn’t ideal; but we want to make sure you have a database that’s highly performant and reliable and using all of the latest and greatest features, including sessions (and soon, transactions). The best way to achieve that is to migrate from MongoRocks to WiredTiger and upgrade to Percona Server for MongoDB 3.6.

How to Switch to WiredTiger and then Upgrade

If you are using MongoRocks with an earlier version of Percona Server for MongoDB, and you wish to upgrade to Percona Server for MongoDB 3.6, we strongly encourage you to first switch to WiredTiger, then upgrade. For detailed instructions on how to change MongoDB storage engines without downtime, please see this blog post, appropriately titled, “How to Change MongoDB Storage Engines Without Downtime.” You can then follow the steps from the Upgrading to 3.6 section of the Percona Server for MongoDB 3.6 documentation.

We suspect sessions and transactions are just the tip of the iceberg of great new functionality that MongoDB will be able to implement by building deep integrations between the database and WiredTiger. We look forward to seeing what comes next!

The post Why We’ve Deprecated MongoRocks in Percona Server for MongoDB 3.6 appeared first on Percona Database Performance Blog.

May
10
2018
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For ScopeAR, the market is finally catching up with the technology

ScopeAR, a graduate of the Y Combinator Summer 2015 class, came to the augmented reality game very early, launching in 2011 when there was very little hardware and most people didn’t understand the technology. But it has managed to hang around long enough for the market and the hardware to finally catch with the founders’ vision of using AR as an advanced training tool in the enterprise.

Today, the company offers a pair of tools. First of all, there is RemoteAR, which CEO and company co-founder Scott Montgomerie describes as “Facetime with AR on top of it.” It allows a technician to virtually look over the shoulder at what a local person is seeing and provide directions and feedback in real time remotely. For example, the expert could circle the cover the technician needs to remove and point to the screws with two virtual arrows.

This could have great utility in any situation where you have an experienced person in the office, who doesn’t want to go on the road on anymore, but can still provide detailed instructions to a novice, acting as a trainer and helper. This is an actual problem in many industries with aging workforces.

Technician working with RemoteAR. Photo: ScopeAR

The second product, called WorkLink, lets you import a 3D CAD model, then associate that model with real equipment. When you put on hardware like Microsoft Hololens, you can see the 3D representation of the equipment and follow along with instructions on how to repair it. It also works with iOS, Android and Windows devices.

One big change since the company was established in 2011 is the variety of platforms you can use for augmented reality. “Last year was the thing where AR took off. Apple got into it with ARKit and Google with ARCore and awareness happened and people saw it was viable,” Montgomerie said.

By creating enterprise use cases like remote assistance and work instructions, the company has been gaining momentum over the last year, and reports tripling its revenue in 2017. Although they aren’t sharing a specific number, it’s fair to say they are growing quickly.

They developed an augmented reality training product early on that resonated with a mining company, and that along with consulting working with the likes of NASA, Boeing and Toyota, helped them stay afloat until things began to really click around AR in recent years, Montgomerie explained.

They also took some time to be part of the Y Combinator Summer 2015 class, and even scored a spot on TechCrunch’s list of favorite Demo Day 2 startups. During the YC experience, they developed the first version of RemoteAR. WorkLink followed a year later.

So far the company has taken on a fairly modest amount of investment with Montgomerie reporting three seed rounds including $2 million right after Y Combinator, $1.7 million last May and another $2 million this past December. If the company continues to grow at this rate, it’s a good bet they will be looking for a Series A at some point to help scale the company further.

May
09
2018
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Google to acquire cloud migration startup Velostrata

Google announced today it was going to acquire Israeli cloud migration startup, Velostrata. The companies did not share the purchase price.

Velostrata helps companies migrate from on-premises datacenters to the cloud, a common requirement today as companies try to shift more workloads to the cloud. It’s not always a simple matter though to transfer those legacy applications, and that’s where Velostrata could help Google Cloud customers.

As I wrote in 2014 about their debut, the startup figured out a way to decouple storage and compute and that had wide usage and appeal. “The company has a sophisticated hybrid cloud solution that decouples storage from compute resources, leaving the storage in place on-premises while running a virtual machine in the cloud,” I wrote at the time.

But more than that, in a hybrid world where customer applications and data can live in the public cloud or on prem (or a combination), Velostrata gives them control to move and adapt the workloads as needed and prepare it for delivery on cloud virtual machines.

“This means [customers] can easily and quickly migrate virtual machine-based workloads like large databases, enterprise applications, DevOps, and large batch processing to and from the cloud,” Eyal Manor VP of engineering at Google Cloud wrote in the blog post announcing the acquisition.

This of course takes Velostrata from being a general purpose cloud migration tool to one tuned specifically for Google Cloud in the future, but one that gives Google a valuable tool in its battle to gain cloud marketshare.

In the past, Google Cloud head Diane Greene has talked about the business opportunities they have seen in simply “lifting and shifting” data loads to the cloud. This acquisition gives them a key service to help customers who want to do that with the Google Cloud.

Velostrata was founded in 2014. It has raised over $31 million from investors including Intel Capital and Norwest Venture partners.

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