Jul
01
2020
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Vendia raises $5.1M for its multicloud serverless platform

When the inventor of AWS Lambda, Tim Wagner, and the former head of blockchain at AWS, Shruthi Rao, co-found a startup, it’s probably worth paying attention. Vendia, as the new venture is called, combines the best of serverless and blockchain to help build a truly multicloud serverless platform for better data and code sharing.

Today, the Vendia team announced that it has raised a $5.1 million seed funding round, led by Neotribe’s Swaroop ‘Kittu’ Kolluri. Correlation Ventures, WestWave Capital, HWVP, Firebolt Ventures, Floodgate and Future\Perfect Ventures also participated in this oversubscribed round.

Image Credits: Vendia

Seeing Wagner at the helm of a blockchain-centric startup isn’t exactly a surprise. After building Lambda at AWS, he spent some time as VP of engineering at Coinbase, where he left about a year ago to build Vendia.

“One day, Coinbase approached me and said, ‘Hey, maybe we could do for the financial system what you’ve been doing over there for the cloud system,’” he told me. “And so I got interested in that. We had some conversations. I ended up going to Coinbase and spent a little over a year there as the VP of Engineering, helping them to set the stage for some of that platform work and tripling the size of the team.” He noted that Coinbase may be one of the few companies where distributed ledgers are actually mission-critical to their business, yet even Coinbase had a hard time scaling its Ethereum fleet, for example, and there was no cloud-based service available to help it do so.

Tim Wagner, Vendia co-founder and CEO. Image Credits: Vendia

“The thing that came to me as I was working there was why don’t we bring these two things together? Nobody’s thinking about how would you build a distributed ledger or blockchain as if it were a cloud service, with all the things that we’ve learned over the course of the last 10 years building out the public cloud and learning how to do it at scale,” he said.

Wagner then joined forces with Rao, who spent a lot of time in her role at AWS talking to blockchain customers. One thing she noticed was that while it makes a lot of sense to use blockchain to establish trust in a public setting, that’s really not an issue for enterprise.

“After the 500th customer, it started to make sense,” she said. “These customers had made quite a bit of investment in IoT and edge devices. They were gathering massive amounts of data. They also made investments on the other side, with AI and ML and analytics. And they said, ‘Well, there’s a lot of data and I want to push all of this data through these intelligent systems. I need a mechanism to get this data.’” But the majority of that data often comes from third-party services. At the same time, most blockchain proof of concepts weren’t moving into any real production usage because the process was often far too complex, especially enterprises that maybe wanted to connect their systems to those of their partners.

Shruthi Rao, Vendia co-founder and CBO. Image Credits: Vendia

“We are asking these partners to spin up Kubernetes clusters and install blockchain nodes. Why is that? That’s because for blockchain to bring trust into a system to ensure trust, you have to own your own data. And to own your own data, you need your own node. So we’re solving fundamentally the wrong problem,” she explained.

The first product Vendia is bringing to market is Vendia Share, a way for businesses to share data with partners (and across clouds) in real-time, all without giving up control over that data. As Wagner noted, businesses often want to share large data sets but they also want to ensure they can control who has access to that data. For those users, Vendia is essentially a virtual data lake with provenance tracking and tamper-proofing built in.

The company, which mostly raised this round after the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the U.S., is already working with a couple of design partners in multiple industries to test out its ideas, and plans to use the new funding to expand its engineering team to build out its tools.

“At Neotribe Ventures, we invest in breakthrough technologies that stretch the imagination and partner with companies that have category creation potential built upon a deep-tech platform,” said Neotribe founder and managing director Kolluri. “When we heard the Vendia story, it was a no-brainer for us. The size of the market for multiparty, multicloud data and code aggregation is enormous and only grows larger as companies capture every last bit of data. Vendia’s serverless-based technology offers benefits such as ease of experimentation, no operational heavy lifting and a pay-as-you-go pricing model, making it both very consumable and highly disruptive. Given both Tim and Shruthi’s backgrounds, we know we’ve found an ideal ‘Founder fit’ to solve this problem! We are very excited to be the lead investors and be a part of their journey.”

Jun
22
2020
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Hasura launches managed cloud service for its open-source GraphQL API platform

Hasura is an open-source engine that can connect to PostgreSQL databases and microservices across hybrid- and multi-cloud environments and then automatically build a GraphQL API backend for them, making it easier for developers to then build their own data-driven applications on top of this unified API . For a while now, the San Francisco-based startup has offered a paid version (Hasura Pro) with enterprise-ready reliability and security tools, in addition to its free open-source version. Today, the company launched Hasura Cloud, which takes the existing Pro version, adds a number of cloud-specific features like dynamic caching, auto-scaling and consumption-based pricing, and brings those together in a fully managed service.

Image Credits: Hasura

At its core, Hasura’s service promises businesses the ability to bring together data from their various siloed databases and allow their developers to extract value from them through its GraphQL APIs. While GraphQL is still relatively new, the Facebook-incubated technology has quickly become extremely popular among many development teams.

Before founding the company and launching it in 2018, Hasura CEO and co-founder Tanmai Gopal worked for a consulting firm — and like with so many founders, that’s where he got the inspiration for the service.

“One of the key things that we noticed was that in the entire landscape, computing is becoming better, there are better frameworks, it is easier to deploy code, databases are becoming better and they kind of work everywhere,” he said. “But this kind of piece in the middle that is still a bottleneck and that there isn’t really a good solution for is this data access piece.” Almost by default, most companies host data in various SaaS services and databases — and now they were trying to figure out how to develop apps based on this for both internal and external consumers, noted Gopal. “This data distribution problem was this bottleneck where everybody would just spend massive amounts of time and money. And we invented a way of kind of automating that,” he explained.

The choice of GraphQL was also pretty straightforward, especially because GraphQL services are an easy way for developers to consume data (even though, as Gopal noted, it’s not always fun to build the GraphQL service itself). One thing that’s unusual and worth noting about the core Hasura engine itself is that it is written in Haskell, which is a rather unusual choice.

Image Credits: Hasura

The team tells me that Hasura is now nearing 50 million downloads for its free version and the company is seeing large and small users from across various industries relying on its products, which is probably no surprise, given that the company is trying to solve a pretty universal problem around data access and consumption.

Over the last few quarters, the team worked on launching its cloud service. “We’ve been thinking of the cloud in a very different way,” Gopal said. “It’s not your usual, take the open-source solution and host it, like a MongoDB Atlas or Confluent. What we’ve done is we’ve said, we’re going to re-engineer the open-source solution to be entirely multi-tenant and be completely pay-per pricing.”

Given this philosophy, it’s no surprise that Hasura’s pricing is purely based on how much data a user moves through the service. “It’s much closer to our value proposition,” Hasura co-founder and COO Rajoshi Ghosh said. “The value proposition is about data access. The big part of it is the fact that you’re getting this data from your databases. But the very interesting part is that this data can actually come from anywhere. This data could be in your third-party services, part of your data could be living in Stripe and it could be living in Salesforce, and it could be living in other services. […] We’re the data access infrastructure in that sense. And this pricing also — from a mental model perspective — makes it much clearer that that’s the value that we’re adding.”

Now, there are obviously plenty of other data-centric API services on the market, but Gopal argues that Hasura has an advantage because of its advanced caching for dynamic data, for example.

Jun
22
2020
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4 enterprise developer trends that will shape 2021

Technology has dramatically changed over the last decade, and so has how we build and deliver enterprise software.

Ten years ago, “modern computing” was to rely on teams of network admins managing data centers, running one application per server, deploying monolithic services, through waterfall, manual releases managed by QA and release managers.

Today, we have multi and hybrid clouds, serverless services, in continuous integration, running infrastructure-as-code.

SaaS has grown from a nascent 2% of the $450B enterprise software market in 2009, to 23% in 2020 and crossed $100B in revenue. PaaS and IaaS revenue represent another $50B in revenue, expecting to double to $100B by 2022.

With 77% of the enterprise software market — over $350B in annual revenue — still on legacy and on-premise systems, modern SaaS, PaaS and IaaS eating at the legacy market alone can grow the market 3x-4x over the next decade.

As the shift to cloud accelerates across the platform and infrastructure layers, here are four trends starting to emerge that will change how we develop and deliver enterprise software for the next decade.

1. The move to “everything as code”

Companies are building more dynamic, multiplatform, complex infrastructures than ever. We see the “-aaS” of the application, data, runtime and virtualization layers. Modern architectures are forcing extensibility to work with any number of mixed and matched services.

Jun
17
2020
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‘One day we were in the office and the next we were working from home’

Ryan Easter couldn’t believe he was being asked to run a pandemic business continuity test.

It was late October, 2019 and Easter, IT Director and a principal at Johnson Investment Counsel, was being asked by regulators to ensure that their employees could work from home with the same capabilities they had in the office. In addition, the company needed to evaluate situations where up to 50% of personnel were impacted by a virus and unable to work, forcing others to pick up their internal functions and workload.

“I honestly thought that it was going to be a waste of time,” said Easter. “I never imagined that we would have had to put our pandemic plan into action. But because we had a tested strategy already in place, we didn’t miss a beat when COVID-19 struck.”

In the months leading up to the initial test, Johnson Investment Counsel developed a work anywhere blueprint with their technology partner Evolve IP. The plan covered a wide variety of integrated technologies including voice services, collaboration, virtual desktops, disaster recovery and remote office connectivity.

“Having a strategy where our work anywhere services were integrated together was one of the keys to our success,” said Easter. “We manage about $13 billion in assets for clients across the United States and provide comprehensive wealth and investment management to individual and institutional investors. We have our own line of mutual funds, a state-chartered trust company, a proprietary charitable gift fund, with research analysts and traders covering both equity and fixed income markets. Duct taping one-off solutions wasn’t going to cut it.”

Easter continued, “It was imperative that our advisors could communicate with clients, collaborate with each other and operate the business seamlessly. That included ensuring we could make real-time trades and provide all of our other client services.”

Five months later, the novel coronavirus hit the United States and Johnson Investment Counsel’s blueprint test got real.

Jun
16
2020
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Google Cloud launches Filestore High Scale, a new storage tier for high-performance computing workloads

Google Cloud today announced the launch of Filestore High Scale, a new storage option — and tier of Google’s existing Filestore service — for workloads that can benefit from access to a distributed high-performance storage option.

With Filestore High Scale, which is based on technology Google acquired when it bought Elastifile in 2019, users can deploy shared file systems with hundreds of thousands of IOPS, 10s of GB/s of throughput and at a scale of 100s of TBs.

“Virtual screening allows us to computationally screen billions of small molecules against a target protein in order to discover potential treatments and therapies much faster than traditional experimental testing methods,” says Christoph Gorgulla, a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard Medical School’s Wagner Lab., which already put the new service through its paces. “As researchers, we hardly have the time to invest in learning how to set up and manage a needlessly complicated file system cluster, or to constantly monitor the health of our storage system. We needed a file system that could handle the load generated concurrently by thousands of clients, which have hundreds of thousands of vCPUs.”

The standard Google Cloud Filestore service already supports some of these use cases, but the company notes that it specifically built Filestore High Scale for high-performance computing (HPC) workloads. In today’s announcement, the company specifically focuses on biotech use cases around COVID-19. Filestore High Scale is meant to support tens of thousands of concurrent clients, which isn’t necessarily a standard use case, but developers who need this kind of power can now get it in Google Cloud.

In addition to High Scale, Google also today announced that all Filestore tiers now offer beta support for NFS IP-based access controls, an important new feature for those companies that have advanced security requirements on top of their need for a high-performance, fully managed file storage service.

Jun
11
2020
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OpenStack adds the StarlingX edge computing stack to its top-level projects

The OpenStack Foundation today announced that StarlingX, a container-based system for running edge deployments, is now a top-level project. With this, it joins the main OpenStack private and public cloud infrastructure project, the Airship lifecycle management system, Kata Containers and the Zuul CI/CD platform.

What makes StarlingX a bit different from some of these other projects is that it is a full stack for edge deployments — and in that respect, it’s maybe more akin to OpenStack than the other projects in the foundation’s stable. It uses open-source components from the Ceph storage platform, the KVM virtualization solution, Kubernetes and, of course, OpenStack and Linux. The promise here is that StarlingX can provide users with an easy way to deploy container and VM workloads to the edge, all while being scalable, lightweight and providing low-latency access to the services hosted on the platform.

Early StarlingX adopters include China UnionPay, China Unicom and T-Systems. The original codebase was contributed to the foundation by Intel and Wind River System in 2018. Since then, the project has seen 7,108 commits from 211 authors.

“The StarlingX community has made great progress in the last two years, not only in building great open source software but also in building a productive and diverse community of contributors,” said Ildiko Vancsa, ecosystem technical lead at the OpenStack Foundation. “The core platform for low-latency and high-performance applications has been enhanced with a container-based, distributed cloud architecture, secure booting, TPM device enablement, certificate management and container isolation. StarlingX 4.0, slated for release later this year, will feature enhancements such as support for Kata Containers as a container runtime, integration of the Ussuri version of OpenStack, and containerization of the remaining platform services.”

It’s worth remembering that the OpenStack Foundation has gone through a few changes in recent years. The most important of these is that it is now taking on other open-source infrastructure projects that are not part of the core OpenStack project but are strategically aligned with the organization’s mission. The first of these to graduate out of the pilot project phase and become top-level projects were Kata Containers and Zuul in April 2019, with Airship joining them in October.

Currently, the only pilot project for the OpenStack Foundation is its OpenInfra Labs project, a community of commercial vendors and academic institutions, including the likes of Boston University, Harvard, MIT, Intel and Red Hat, that are looking at how to better test open-source code in production-like environments.

 

Jun
09
2020
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IBM Cloud suffers prolonged outage

The IBM Cloud is currently suffering a major outage, and with that, multiple services that are hosted on the platform are also down, including everybody’s favorite tech news aggregator, Techmeme.

It looks like the problems started around 2:30pm PT and spread from there. Best we can tell, this is a worldwide problem and involves a networking issue, but IBM’s own status page isn’t actually loading anymore and returns an internal server error, so we don’t quite know the extent of the outage or what triggered it. IBM Cloud’s Twitter account has also remained silent, though we found a status page for IBM Aspera hosted on a third-party server, which seems to confirm that this is likely a worldwide networking issue.

IBM Cloud, which published a paper about ensuring zero downtime in April, also suffered a minor outage in its Dallas data center in March.

We’ve reached out to IBM’s PR team and will update this post once we get more information.

May
29
2020
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How startups can leverage elastic services for cost optimization

Due to COVID-19, business continuity has been put to the test for many companies in the manufacturing, agriculture, transport, hospitality, energy and retail sectors. Cost reduction is the primary focus of companies in these sectors due to massive losses in revenue caused by this pandemic. The other side of the crisis is, however, significantly different.

Companies in industries such as medical, government and financial services, as well as cloud-native tech startups that are providing essential services, have experienced a considerable increase in their operational demands — leading to rising operational costs. Irrespective of the industry your company belongs to, and whether your company is experiencing reduced or increased operations, cost optimization is a reality for all companies to ensure a sustained existence.

One of the most reliable measures for cost optimization at this stage is to leverage elastic services designed to grow or shrink according to demand, such as cloud and managed services. A modern product with a cloud-native architecture can auto-scale cloud consumption to mitigate lost operational demand. What may not have been obvious to startup leaders is a strategy often employed by incumbent, mature enterprises — achieving cost optimization by leveraging managed services providers (MSPs). MSPs enable organizations to repurpose full-time staff members from impacted operations to more strategic product lines or initiatives.

Why companies need cost optimization in the long run

May
20
2020
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BetterCloud scores $75M Series F as SaaS management needs grow

BetterCloud gives IT visibility into its SaaS tools providing the means to discover, manage and secure those tools. In the middle of a crisis that has forced most companies to move workers home, being able to manage SaaS usage in this way is growing increasingly significant.

Today the company announced a $75 million Series F. Warburg Pincus led the way with participation from existing investors Bain Capital Ventures, Accel, Greycroft Partners, Flybridge Capital Partners, New Amsterdam Growth Capital and e.ventures. Today’s round brings the total raised to $187 million, according to the company.

While CEO David Politis acknowledges the gravity of the current situation, he also recognizes that giving companies a way to manage their SaaS usage is more pertinent than ever. “What has happened in the last two months has been terrible for the world, but in some crazy way it has just made what we do a lot more relevant,” Politis told TechCrunch .

He says the pandemic has really accelerated the market opportunity because of the reliance on cloud services and the services his company provides.

Those services began as an operational layer on top of G Suite. Later it added support for Office 365 and in 2016 it moved to more general SaaS management. It now offers direct integrations into multiple SaaS apps including Box, Dropbox, Salesforce, Zendesk and more. The set of tools in Bettercloud gives IT control over security, configuration, spend optimization and auditability across SaaS applications.

In normal times after a large Series F round, we might be talking about this being the last round before an IPO, but Politis isn’t ready to commit to that just yet, especially in this economy. He does say, however, that he’s in it for the long haul and sees an opportunity to build a long-term, sustainable company.

“The last couple of months I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and when you take a $75 million round at the stage you’re not doing that because you want to sell the business. You’re doing that because you want to build something and build something really special,” he said.

May
19
2020
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Microsoft launches industry-specific cloud solutions, starting with healthcare

Microsoft today announced the launch of the Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare, an industry-specific cloud solution for healthcare providers. This is the first in what is likely going to be a set of cloud offerings that target specific verticals and extends a trend we’ve seen among large cloud providers (especially Google) that tailor specific offerings to the needs of individual industries.

“More than ever, being connected is critical to create an individualized patient experience,” writes Tom McGuinness, corporate vice president, Worldwide Health at Microsoft, and Dr. Greg Moore, corporate vice president, Microsoft Health, in today’s announcement. “The Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare helps healthcare organizations to engage in more proactive ways with their patients, allows caregivers to improve the efficiency of their workflows and streamline interactions with Classified as Microsoft Confidential patients with more actionable results.”

Like similar Microsoft-branded offerings from the company, Cloud for Healthcare is about bringing together a set of capabilities that already exist inside of Microsoft. In this case, that includes Microsoft 365, Dynamics, Power Platform and Azure, including Azure IoT for monitoring patients. The solution sits on top of a common data model that makes it easier to share data between applications and analyze the data they gather.

“By providing the right information at the right time, the Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare will help hospitals and care providers better manage the needs of patients and staff and make resource deployments more efficient,” Microsoft says in its press materials. “This solution also improves end-to-end security compliance and accessibility of data, driving better operational outcomes.”

Since Microsoft never passes up a chance to talk up Teams, the company also notes that its communications service will allow healthcare workers to more efficiently communicate with each other, but it also notes that Teams now includes a Bookings app to help its users — including healthcare providers — schedule, manage and conduct virtual visits in Teams. Some of the healthcare systems that are already using Teams include St. Luke’s University Health Network, Stony Brook Medicine, Confluent Health and Calderdale & Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust in the U.K.

In addition to Microsoft’s own tools, the company is also working with its large partner ecosystem to provide healthcare providers with specialized services. These include the likes of Epic, Allscripts, GE Healthcare, Adaptive Biotechnologies and Nuance.

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