Nov
12
2018
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The Ceph storage project gets a dedicated open-source foundation

Ceph is an open source technology for distributed storage that gets very little public attention but that provides the underlying storage services for many of the world’s largest container and OpenStack deployments. It’s used by financial institutions like Bloomberg and Fidelity, cloud service providers like Rackspace and Linode, telcos like Deutsche Telekom, car manufacturers like BMW and software firms like SAP and Salesforce.

These days, you can’t have a successful open source project without setting up a foundation that manages the many diverging interests of the community and so it’s maybe no surprise that Ceph is now getting its own foundation. Like so many other projects, the Ceph Foundation will be hosted by the Linux Foundation.

“While early public cloud providers popularized self-service storage infrastructure, Ceph brings the same set of capabilities to service providers, enterprises, and individuals alike, with the power of a robust development and user community to drive future innovation in the storage space,” writes Sage Weil, Ceph co-creator, project leader, and chief architect at Red Hat for Ceph. “Today’s launch of the Ceph Foundation is a testament to the strength of a diverse open source community coming together to address the explosive growth in data storage and services.”

Given its broad adoption, it’s also no surprise that there’s a wide-ranging list of founding members. These include Amihan Global, Canonical, CERN, China Mobile, Digital Ocean, Intel, ProphetStor Data Service, OVH Hosting Red Hat, SoftIron, SUSE, Western Digital, XSKY Data Technology and ZTE. It’s worth noting that many of these founding members were already part of the slightly less formal Ceph Community Advisory Board.

“Ceph has a long track record of success what it comes to helping organizations with effectively managing high growth and expand data storage demands,” said Jim Zemlin, the executive director of the Linux Foundation. “Under the Linux Foundation, the Ceph Foundation will be able to harness investments from a much broader group to help support the infrastructure needed to continue the success and stability of the Ceph ecosystem.”

cepha and linux foundation logo

Ceph is an important building block for vendors who build both OpenStack- and container-based platforms. Indeed, two-thirds of OpenStack users rely on Ceph and it’s a core part of Rook, a Cloud Native Computing Foundation project that makes it easier to build storage services for Kubernetes-based applications. As such, Ceph straddles many different worlds and it makes sense for the project to gets its own neutral foundation now, though I can’t help but think that the OpenStack Foundation would’ve also liked to host the project.

Today’s announcement comes only days after the Linux Foundation also announced that it is now hosting the GraphQL Foundation.

Nov
08
2018
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Google Cloud wants to make it easier for data scientists to share models

Today, Google Cloud announced Kubeflow pipelines and AI Hub, two tools designed to help data scientists put to work across their organizations the models they create.

Rajen Sheth, director of product management for Google Cloud’s AI and ML products, says that the company recognized that data scientists too often build models that never get used. He says that if machine learning is really a team sport, as Google believes, models must get passed from data scientists to data engineers and developers who can build applications based on them.

To help fix that, Google is announcing Kubeflow pipelines, which are an extension of Kubeflow, an open-source framework built on top of Kubernetes designed specifically for machine learning. Pipelines are essentially containerized building blocks that people in the machine learning ecosystem can string together to build and manage machine learning workflows.

By placing the model in a container, data scientists can simply adjust the underlying model as needed and relaunch in a continuous delivery kind of approach. Sheth says this opens up even more possibilities for model usage in a company.

“[Kubeflow pipelines] also give users a way to experiment with different pipeline variants to identify which ones produce the best outcomes in a reliable and reproducible environment,” Sheth wrote in a blog post announcing the new machine learning features.

The company is also announcing AI Hub, which, as the name implies, is a central place where data scientists can go to find different kinds of ML content, including Kubeflow pipelines, Jupyter notebooks, TensorFlow modules and so forth. This will be a public repository seeded with resources developed by Google Cloud AI, Google Research and other teams across Google, allowing data scientists to take advantage of Google’s own research and development expertise.

But Google wanted the hub to be more than a public library — it also sees it as a place where teams can share information privately inside their organizations, giving it a dual purpose. This should provide another way to extend model usage by making essential building blocks available in a central repository.

AI Hub will be available in Alpha starting today with some initial components from Google, as well as tools for sharing some internal resources, but the plan is to keep expanding the offerings and capabilities over time.

Google believes if it provides easier ways to share model building blocks across an organization, the more likely they will be put to work. These tools are a step toward achieving that.

Nov
07
2018
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CircleCI launches Orbs, a package manager for software delivery automation

DevOps platform CircleCI today announced a new partner program that will open up its platform and allow third-party tools to integrate with it. In addition, the company is launching Orbs, which it describes as “the world’s first package manager designed specifically for configuration of software delivery automation.”

Fresh off its $31 million funding round earlier this year, CircleCI is clearly on a mission to firmly plant its stake in the increasingly competitive continuous integration and delivery space. Its launch partners today include the likes of Cypress, JFrog, Pulumi, Sauce Labs, Sonatype and WhiteSource.

That partner program, though, mostly sets the stage for Orbs. The idea behind Orbs is to give the company’s users the ability to share their preferred CI/CD configuration across teams and projects by allowing them to package their commands, executors and jobs into a few lines of code. It’s basically a way to allow teams to automate more of their build/test/deploy workflow and share their best practices for configuring their software pipelines. For new users, these Orbs will also make it easier to get started without having to write a lot of boilerplate code.

CircleCI will offer its own set of certified Orbs, as well as those written by its partners. Currently, there are Orbs for working with Heroku and Amazon’s S3 and CodeDeploy, for example, as well as the obligatory Slack notification Orb. In total, CircleCI is launching 25 packages today.

“CircleCI Orbs are the most exciting thing in the CI world since Docker containers,” said Gleb Bahmutov, VP of Engineering at Cypress and an early-access orbs customer and contributor. “From a developer’s standpoint, orbs are a much-needed improvement from the regular ‘read the docs, copy/paste example, tweak for 30 minutes until CI passes’ — an outdated workflow. It’s an absolutely incredible experience.”

Nov
01
2018
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HashiCorp scores $100M investment on $1.9 billion valuation

HashiCorp, the company that has made hay developing open-source tools for managing cloud infrastructure, obviously has a pretty hefty commercial business going too. Today the company announced an enormous $100 million round on a unicorn valuation of $1.9 billion.

The round was led by IVP, whose investments include AppDynamics, Slack and Snap. Newcomer Bessemer Venture Partners joined existing investors GGV Capital, Mayfield, Redpoint Ventures and True Ventures in the round. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $179 million.

The company’s open-source tools have been downloaded 45 million times, according to data provided by the company. It has used that open-source base to fuel the business (as many have done before).

“Because practitioners choose technologies in the cloud era, we’ve taken an open source-first approach and partnered with the cloud providers to enable a common workflow for cloud adoption. Commercially, we view our responsibility as a strategic partner to the Global 2000 as they adopt hybrid and multi-cloud. This round of funding will help us accelerate our efforts,” company CEO Dave McJannet said in a statement.

To keep growing, it needs to build out its worldwide operations and that requires big bucks. In addition, as the company scales that means adding staff to beef up customer success, support and training teams. The company plans on making investments in these areas with the new funding.

HashiCorp launched in 2012. It was the brainchild of two college students, Mitchell Hashimoto and Armon Dadgar, who came up with the idea of what would become HashiCorp while they were still at the University of Washington. As I wrote in 2014 on the occasion of their $10 million Series A round:

After graduating and getting jobs, Hashimoto and Dadgar reunited in 2012 and launched HashiCorp. They decided to break their big problem down into smaller, more manageable pieces and eventually built the five open source tools currently on offer. In fact, they found as they developed each one, the community let them know about adjacent problems and they layered on each new tool to address a different need.

HashiCorp has continued to build on that early vision, layering on new tools over the years. It is not alone in building a business on top of open source and getting rewarded for their efforts. Just this morning, Neo4j, a company that built a business on top of its open-source graph database project, announced an $80 million Series E investment.

Nov
01
2018
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Rockset launches out of stealth with $21.5 M investment

Rockset, a startup that came out of stealth today, announced $21.5M in previous funding and the launch of its new data platform that is designed to simplify much of the processing to get to querying and application building faster.

As for the funding, it includes $3 million in seed money they got when they started the company, and a more recent $18.5 million Series A, which was led by Sequoia and Greylock.

Jerry Chen, who is a partner at Greylock sees a team that understands the needs of modern developers and data scientists, one that was born in the cloud and can handle a lot of the activities that data scientists have traditionally had to handle manually. “Rockset can ingest any data from anywhere and let developers and data scientists query it using standard SQL. No pipelines. No glue. Just real time operational apps,” he said.

Company co-founder and CEO Venkat Venkataramani is a former Facebook engineer where he learned a bit about processing data at scale. He wanted to start a company that would help data scientists get to insights more quickly.

Data typically requires a lot of massaging before data scientists and developers can make use of it and Rockset has been designed to bypass much of that hard work that can take days, weeks or even months to complete.

“We’re building out our service with innovative architecture and unique capabilities that allows full-featured fast SQL directly on raw data. And we’re offering this as a service. So developers and data scientists can go from useful data in any shape, any form to useful applications in a matter of minutes. And it would take months today,” Venkataramani explained.

To do this you simply connect your data set wherever it lives to Rockset and it deals with the data ingestion, building the schema, cleaning the data, everything. It also makes sure you have the right amount of infrastructure to manage the level of data you are working with. In other words, it can potentially simplify highly complex data processing tasks to start working with the raw data almost immediately using SQL queries.

To achieve the speed, Venkataramani says they use a number of indexing techniques. “Our indexing technology essentially tries to bring the best of search engines and columnar databases into one. When we index the data, we build more than one type of index behind the scenes so that a wide spectrum of pre-processing can be automatically fast out of the box,” he said. That takes the burden of processing and building data pipelines off of the user.

The company was founded in 2016. Chen and Sequoia partners Mike Vernal joined the Rockset board under the terms of the Series A funding, which closed last August.

Oct
30
2018
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Cockroach Labs launches CockroachDB as managed service

Cockroach Lab’s open source SQL database, CockroachDB, has been making inroads since it launched last year, but as any open source technology matures, in order to move deeper into markets it has to move beyond technical early adopters to a more generalized audience. To help achieve that, the company announced a new CockroachDB managed service today.

The service has been designed to be cloud-agnostic, and for starters it’s going to be available on Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform. Cockroach, which launched in 2015, has always positioned itself as modern cloud alternative to the likes of Oracle or even Amazon’s Aurora database.

As company co-founder and CEO Spencer Kimball told me in an interview in May, those companies involve too much vendor lock-in for his taste. His company launched as open alternative to all of that. “You can migrate a Cockroach cluster from one cloud to another with no down time,” Kimball told TechCrunch in May.

He believes having that kind of flexibility is a huge advantage over what other vendors are offering, and today’s announcement carries that a step further. Instead of doing all the heavy lifting of setting up and managing a database and the related infrastructure, Cockroach is now offering CockroachDB as a service to handle all of that for you.

Kimball certainly recognizes that by offering his company’s product in this format, it will help grow his market. “We’ve been seeing significant migration activity away from Oracle, AWS Aurora, and Cassandra, and we’re now able to get our customers to market faster with Managed CockroachDB,” Kimball said in a statement.

The database itself offers the advantage of being ultra-resilient, meaning it stays up and running under most circumstances and that’s a huge value proposition for any database product. It achieves up time through replication, so if one version of itself goes down, the next can take over.

As an open source tool, it has been making money up until now by offering an enterprise version, which includes backup, support and other premium pieces. With today’s announcement, the company can get a more direct revenue stream from customers subscribing to the database service.

A year ago, the company announced version 1.0 of CockroachDB and $27 million in Series B financing, which was led by Redpoint with participation from Benchmark, GV, Index Ventures and FirstMark. They’ve obviously been putting that money to good use developing this new managed service.

Oct
29
2018
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Google beefs up Firebase platform for the enterprise

Today at the Firebase Summit in Prague, Google announced a number of updates to its Firebase app development platform designed to help it shift from an environment for individuals or small teams into a full-blown enterprise development tool.

Google acquired Firebase 4 years ago to help developers connect to key cloud tools like a database or storage via a set of software development kits (SDKs). Over time, it has layered on sophisticated functionality like monitoring to fix performance issues and access to analytics to see how users are engaging with the app, among other things. But the toolkit hasn’t necessarily been geared towards larger organizations until now.

“[Today’s announcements] are going to be around a set of features and updates that are catered more towards enterprises and sophisticated app teams that are looking to build and grow their mobile apps,” Francis Ma, head of product at Firebase told TechCrunch.

Perhaps the biggest piece of news was that they were adding corporate support. While the company boasts 1.5 million apps per month running on Firebase, in order to move deeper into the enterprise, it needed to have a place corporate IT could call when they run into issues. That is coming with the company expected to announce various support packages in Beta by the end of the year. These will be tied to broader Google Cloud Platform support.

“With this launch, if you already have a paid GCP Support package, you will be able to get your Firebase questions answered through the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) Support Console. Once the change is fully launched, Firebase support will be included at no additional charge with paid GCP Support packages, which includes target response times, a dedicated technical account manager (if you are enrolled in Enterprise Support) and more,” Ma explained in a blog post.

In addition, larger teams and organizations need more management tools and the company announced the Firebase Management API. This allows programmatic access to manage project workflows from IDE to Firebase. Ma says this includes direct integration with StackBlitz and Glitch, two web-based IDEs. “Their platforms will now automatically detect when you are creating a Firebase app and allow you to deploy to Firebase Hosting with the click of a button, without ever leaving their platforms,” Ma wrote.

There were a bushel of other announcements including access to better facial recognition tools in the Google ML kit announced last spring. There were also improvements to Crashlytics performance monitoring, which includes integration with PagerDuty now, and Firebase Predictions, its analytics tool, which is now generally available after graduating from Beta.

All of these announcements and more, are part of a maturation of the Firebase platform as Google aims to move it from a tool aimed directly at developers to one that can be integrated at the enterprise level.

Oct
26
2018
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Microsoft closes its $7.5B purchase of code-sharing platform GitHub

After getting EU approval a week ago, today Microsoft’s acquisition of GitHub, the Git-based code sharing and collaboration service with 31 million developers, has officially closed. The Redmond, WA-based software behemoth first said it would acquire GitHub for $7.5 billion in stock in June of this year, and after the acquisition closed it would continue to run it as an independent platform and business.

The acquisition is yet another sign of how Microsoft has been doubling down on courting developers and presenting itself as a neutral partner to help them with their projects.

That is because, despite its own very profitable proprietary software business, Microsoft also has a number of other businesses — for example, Azure, which competes with AWS and Google Cloud — that rely heavily on it being unbiased towards one platform or another. And GitHub, Microsoft hopes, will be another signal to the community of that position.

In that regard, it will be an interesting credibility test for the companies.

As previously announced, Nat Friedman, who had been the CEO of Xamarin (another developer-focused startup acquired by Microsoft, in 2016), will be CEO of the company, while GitHub founder and former CEO Chris Wanstrath will become a Microsoft technical fellow to work on strategic software initiatives. (Wanstrath had come back to his CEO role after his co-founder Tom Preston-Werner resigned following a harassment investigation in 2014.)

Friedman, in a short note, said that he will be taking over on Monday, and he also repeated what Microsoft said at the time of the deal: GitHub will be run as an independent platform and business.

This is a key point because there has been a lot of developer backlash over the deal, with many asking if GitHub would become partial or focused more around Microsoft-based projects  or products.

“We will always support developers in their choice of any language, license, tool, platform, or cloud,” he writes, noting that there will be more tools to come. “We will continue to build tasteful, snappy, polished tools that developers love,” he added.

One of those, he noted, will be further development and investment in Paper Cuts, a project it launched in August that it hopes will help address some of the gripes that its developer-users might have with how GitHub works that the company itself hadn’t been planning to address in bigger product upgrades. The idea here is that GitHub can either help find workarounds, or this will become a feedback forum of its own to help figure out what it should be upgrading next on the site.

Of course, the need to remain neutral is not just to keep hold of its 31 million developers (up by 3 million since the deal was first announced), but to keep them from jumping to GitHub competitors, which include GitLab and Bitbucket.

Oct
22
2018
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Pulumi raises $15M for its infrastructure as code platform

Pulumi, a Seattle-based startup that lets developers specify and manage their cloud infrastructure using the programming language they already know, today announced that it has raised a $15 million Series A funding round led by Madrona Venture Group. Tola Capital also participated in this round and Tola managing director Sheila Gulati will get a seat on the Pulumi board, where she’ll join former Microsoft exec and Madrona managing director S. Somasegar.

In addition to announcing its raise, the company also today launched its commercial platform, which builds upon Pulumi’s open-source work.

“Since launch, we’ve had a lot of inbound interest, both on the community side — so you’re seeing a lot of open source contributions, and they’re really impactful contributions, including, for example, community-led support for VMware and OpenStack,” Pulumi co-founder and CEO Eric Rudder told me. “So we’re actually seeing a lot of vibrancy in the open-source community. And at the same time, we have a lot of inbound interest on the commercial side of things. That is, teams wanting to operationalize Pulumi and put it into production and wanting to purchase the product.”

So to meet that opportunity, the team decided to raise a new round to scale out both its team and product. And now, that product includes a commercial offering of Pulumi with the company’s new ‘team edition.’ This new enterprise version includes support for unlimited users, integrations with third-party tools like GitHub and Slack, as well as role-based access controls and onboarding and 12×5 support. Like the free, single-user community edition, the team edition is delivered as a SaaS product and supports deployments to all of the major public and private cloud platforms.

“We’re all seeing the same things — the cloud is a foregone conclusion,” Tola’s Gulati told me when I asked her why she was investing in Pulumi. “Enterprises have a lot of complexity as they come over the cloud. And so dealing with VMs, containers and serverless is a reality for these enterprises. And the ability to do that in a way that there’s a single toolset, letting developers use real programming languages, letting them exist where they have skills today, but then allows them to bring the best of cloud into their organization. Frankly, Pulumi really has thought through the existing complexity, the developer reality, the IT and develop a relationship from both a runtime and deployment perspective. And they are the best that we’ve seen.”

Pulumi will, of course, continue to develop its open source tools, too. Indeed, the company noted that it would invest heavily in building out the community around its tools. The team told me that it is already seeing a lot of momentum but with the new funding, it’ll re-double its efforts.

With the new funding, the company will also work on making the onboarding process much easier, up to the point where it will become a full self-serve experience. But that doesn’t work for most large organizations, so Pulumi will also invest heavily in its pre- and post-sales organization. Right now, like most companies at this stage, the team is mostly composed of engineers.

Oct
18
2018
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Twilio launches a new SIM card and narrowband dev kit for IoT developers

Twilio is hosting its Signal developer conference in San Francisco this week. Yesterday was all about bots and taking payments over the phone; today is all about IoT. The company is launching two new (but related) products today that will make it easier for IoT developers to connect their devices. The first is the Global Super SIM that offers global connectivity management through the networks of Twilio’s partners. The second is Twilio Narrowband, which, in cooperation with T-Mobile, offers a full software and hardware kit for building low-bandwidth IoT solutions and the narrowband network to connect them.

Twilio also announced that it is expanding its wireless network partnerships with the addition of Singtel, Telefonica and Three Group. Unsurprisingly, those are also the partners that make the company’s Super SIM project possible.

The Super SIM, which is currently in private preview and will launch in public beta in the spring of 2019, provides developers with a global network that lets them deploy and manage their IoT devices anywhere (assuming there is a cell connection or other internet connectivity, of course). The Super SIM gives developers the ability to choose the network they want to use or to let Twilio pick the defaults based on the local networks.

Twilio Narrowband is a slightly different solution. Its focus right now is on the U.S., where T-Mobile rolled out its Narrowband IoT network earlier this year. As the name implies, this is about connecting low-bandwidth devices that only need to send out small data packets like timestamps, GPS coordinates or status updates. Twilio Narrowband sits on top of this, using Twilio’s Programmable Wireless and SIM card. It then adds an IoT developer kit with an Arduino-based development board and the standard Grove sensors on top of that, as well as a T-Mobile-certified hardware module for connecting to the narrowband network. To program that all, Twilio is launching an SDK for handling network registrations and optimizing the communication between the devices and the cloud.

The narrowband service will launch as a beta in early 2019 and offer three pricing plans: a developer plan for $2/month, an annual production plan for $10/year or $5/year at scale, and a five-year plan for $8/year or $4/year at scale.

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