Nov
25
2020
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As IBM shifts to hybrid cloud, reports have them laying off 10,000 in EU

As IBM makes a broad shift in strategy, Bloomberg reported this morning that the company would be cutting around 10,000 jobs in Europe. This comes on the heels of last month’s announcement that the organization will be spinning out its infrastructure services business next year. While IBM wouldn’t confirm the layoffs, a spokesperson suggested there were broad structural changes ahead for the company as it concentrates fully on a hybrid cloud approach.

IBM had this to say in response to a request for comment on the Bloomberg report: “Our staffing decisions are made to provide the best support to our customers in adopting an open hybrid cloud platform and AI capabilities. We also continue to make significant investments in training and skills development for IBMers to best meet the needs of our customers.”

Unfortunately, that means basically if you don’t have the currently required skill set, chances are you might not fit with the new version of IBM. IBM CEO Arvind Krishna alluded to the changing environment in an interview with Jon Fortt at the CNBC Evolve Summit earlier this month when he said:

The Red Hat acquisition gave us the technology base on which to build a hybrid cloud technology platform based on open-source, and based on giving choice to our clients as they embark on this journey. With the success of that acquisition now giving us the fuel, we can then take the next step, and the larger step, of taking the managed infrastructure services out. So the rest of the company can be absolutely focused on hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence.

The story has always been the same around IBM layoffs, that as they make the transition to a new model, it requires eliminating positions that don’t fit into the new vision, and today’s report is apparently no different, says Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research.

“IBM is in the biggest transformation of the company’s history as it moves from services to software and specialized hardware with Quantum. That requires a different mix of skills in its employee base and the repercussions of that manifest itself in the layoffs that IBM has been doing, mostly quietly, for the last 5+ years,” he said.

None of this is easy for the people involved. It’s never a good time to lose your job, but the timing of this one feels worse. In the middle of a recession brought on by COVID, and as a second wave of the virus sweeps over Europe, it’s particularly difficult.

We have reported on a number of IBM layoffs over the last five years. In May, it confirmed layoffs, but wouldn’t confirm numbers. In 2015, we reported on a 12,000 employee layoff.

Nov
18
2020
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CloudBolt announces $35M Series B debt/equity investment to help manage hybrid cloud

CloudBolt, a Bethesda, Maryland startup that helps companies manage hybrid cloud environments, announced a $35 million Series B investment today. It was split between $15 million in equity investment and $20 million in debt.

Insight Partners provided the equity side of the equation, while Hercules Capital and Bridge Bank supplied the venture debt. The company has now raised more than $61 million in equity and debt, according to Crunchbase data.

CEO Jeff Kukowski says that his company helps customers with cloud and DevOps management including cost control, compliance and security. “We help [our customers] take advantage of the fact that most organizations are already hybrid cloud, multi cloud and/or multi tool. So you have all of this innovation happening in the world, and we make it easier for them to take advantage of it,” he said.

As he sees it, the move to cloud and DevOps, which was supposed to simplify everything, has actually created new complexity, and the tools his company sells are designed to help companies reduce some of that added complexity. What they do is provide a way to automate, secure and optimize their workloads, regardless of the tools or approach to infrastructure they are using.

The company closed the funding round at the end of last quarter and put it to work with a couple of acquisitions — Kumolus and SovLabs — to help accelerate and fill in the road map. Kumolus, which was founded in 2011 and raised $1.7 million, according to Crunchbase, really helps CloudBolt extend its vision from managing on premises to the public cloud.

SovLabs was an early-stage startup working on a very specific problem creating a framework for extending VMware automation.

CloudBolt currently has 170 employees. While Kukowski didn’t want to get specific about the number of additional employees he might be adding to that in the next 12 months, he says that as he does, he thinks about diversity in three ways.

“One is just pure education. So we as a company regularly meet and educate on issues around inclusion, social justice and diversity. We also recruit with those ideas in mind. And then we also have a standing committee within the company that continues to look at issues not only for discussion, but quite frankly for investment in terms of time and fundraising,” he said.

Kukowski says that going remote because of COVID has allowed the company to hire from anywhere, but he still looks forward to a time when he can meet face-to-face with his employees and customers, and sees that as always being part of his company’s culture.

CloudBolt was founded in 2012 and has around 200 customers. Kukowski says that the company is growing between 40% and 50% year over year, although he wouldn’t share specific revenue numbers.

Nov
10
2020
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IBM CEO Arvind Krishna wants to completely transform his organization

When IBM announced it was spinning out its infrastructure services business last month, it was surely a sign that the company was going all in on hybrid cloud. Today in an interview with Jon Fortt at the CNBC Evolve summit, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna made it clear that his whole focus is going to be on transforming his organization into a hybrid cloud management vendor moving forward.

That means that instead of trying to primarily sell its own infrastructure or software services — although it will continue to do that — it will concentrate on leveraging Red Hat, the company it bought for $34 billion in 2018, to help customers manage their hybrid environments regardless of location. That could be on prem or it could be with any of the public cloud providers or anything in between.

Krishna sees this acquisition as a key part of the transition strategy to capture what he estimates is a trillion dollar opportunity in the hybrid cloud management market, and he believes his company is well-positioned to grab a piece of that. “The Red Hat acquisition gave us the technology base on which to build a hybrid cloud technology platform based on open-source, and based on giving choice to our clients as they embark on this journey. With the success of that acquisition now giving us the fuel, we can then take the next step, and the larger step, of taking the managed infrastructure services out. So the rest of the company can be absolutely focused on hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence,” Krishna told CNBC.

While he recognizes that Microsoft and Amazon are powerful players in the public cloud, he doesn’t see them as competitors, so much as partners in this new approach. In fact, mixing in a broad variety of third party partners is a big part of this.

“I look at both Microsoft and Amazon as likely partners in this journey, not as being the one and two [in market share]. In the hybrid world the question is where does the client want to decide where the workload runs? They could run it on Amazon. They can run on Microsoft. They can run it on IBM or they can run it on premises,” he said.

He believes that Red Hat can be the glue to hold this environment together and let customers have a single way of managing this complexity. The key question for IBM is whether customers see IBM and by extension Red Hat, as the key vendor for this role.

He recognizes that this isn’t just about adding and subtracting technology pieces. When it comes to transforming the way you do business in this way, it requires a massive cultural shift, one we saw Satya Nadella pull off when he took over as CEO at Microsoft in 2014. Much like Nadella, Krishna was promoted from within. He understands how things operate and that he needs to change the way things have traditionally been done at Big Blue if he’s going to succeed.

“I’ve talked a lot internally about a growth mindset, and about being much more entrepreneurial. And we can be entrepreneurs, even within large companies. But it comes from having extreme focus. So when we provide the focus of being focused on hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence, which I believe are the two fundamental forces, then you say how do you unlock everybody being able to go after that,” he said.

That’s going to be the big key for him moving forward as transforming a company the size of IBM is going to be a tremendous challenge for him as a leader. As Fortt pointed out, IBM salespeople are used to focusing on IBM products. This approach means they have to look at the market much more broadly, and that requires a new mindset. It will be up to Krishna to lead the way and make sure that his employees are on the same page about this. The success of this approach depends on that.

Oct
08
2020
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As IBM spins out legacy infrastructure management biz, CEO goes all in on the cloud

When IBM announced this morning that it was spinning out its legacy infrastructure services business, it was a clear signal that new CEO Arvind Krishna, who took the reins in April, was ready to fully commit his company to the cloud.

The move was a continuation of the strategy the company began to put in place when it bought Red Hat in 2018 for the princely sum of $34 billion. That purchase signaled a shift to a hybrid-cloud vision, where some of your infrastructure lives on-premises and some in the cloud — with Red Hat helping to manage it all.

Even as IBM moved deeper into the hybrid cloud strategy, Krishna saw the financial results like everyone else and recognized the need to focus more keenly on that approach. In its most recent earnings report overall IBM revenue was $18.1 billion, down 5.4% compared to the year-ago period. But if you broke out just IBM’s cloud and Red Hat revenue, you saw some more promising results: cloud revenue was up 30 percent to $6.3 billion, while Red Hat-derived revenue was up 17%.

Even more, cloud revenue for the trailing 12 months was $23.5 billion, up 20%.

You don’t need to be a financial genius to see where the company is headed. Krishna clearly saw that it was time to start moving on from the legacy side of IBM’s business, even if there would be some short-term pain involved in doing so. So the executive put his resources into (as they say) where the puck is going. Today’s news is a continuation of that effort.

The managed infrastructure services segment of IBM is a substantial business in its own right, generating $19 billion annually, according to the company, but Krishna was promoted to CEO to clean house, taking over from Ginni Rometti to make hard decisions like this.

While its cloud business is growing, Synergy Research data has IBM public cloud market share mired in single digits with perhaps 4 or 5%. In fact, Alibaba has passed its market share, though both are small compared to the market leaders Amazon, Microsoft and Google.

Like Oracle, another legacy company trying to shift more to the cloud infrastructure business, IBM has a ways to go in its cloud evolution.

As with Oracle, IBM has been chasing the market leaders — Google at 9%, Microsoft 18% and AWS with 33% share of public cloud revenue (according to Synergy) — for years now without much change in its market share. What’s more, IBM competes directly with Microsoft and Google, which are also going after that hybrid cloud business with more success.

While IBM’s cloud revenue is growing, its market share needle is stuck and Krishna understands the need to focus. So, rather than continue to pour resources into the legacy side of IBM’s business, he has decided to spin out that part of the company, allowing more attention for the favored child, the hybrid cloud business.

It’s a sound strategy on paper, but it remains to be seen if it will have a material impact on IBM’s growth profile in the long run. He is betting that it will, but then what choice does he have?

Jul
16
2020
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Qumulo scores $125M Series E on $1.2B valuation as storage biz accelerates

Qumulo, a Seattle storage startup helping companies store vast amounts of data, announced a $125 million Series E investment today on a $1.2 billion valuation.

BlackRock led the round with help from Highland Capital Partners, Madrona Venture Group, Kleiner Perkins and new investor Amity Ventures. The company reports it has now raised $351 million.

CEO Bill Richter says the valuation is more than 2x its most recent round, a $93 million Series D in 2018. While the valuation puts his company in the unicorn club, he says that it’s more important than simple bragging rights. “It puts us in the category of raising at a billion-plus dollar level during a very complicated environment in the world. Actually, that’s probably the more meaningful news,” he told TechCrunch.

It typically hasn’t been easy raising money during the pandemic, but Richter reports the company started getting inbound interest in March just before things started shutting down nationally. What’s more, as the company’s quarter closed at the end of April, they had grown almost 100% year over year, and beaten their pre-COVID revenue estimate. He says they saw that as a signal to take additional investment.

“When you’re putting up nearly 100% year over year growth in an environment like this, I think it really draws a lot of attention in a positive way,” he said. And that attention came in the form of a huge round that closed this week.

What’s driving that growth is that the amount of unstructured data, which plays to the company’s storage strength, is accelerating during the pandemic as companies move more of their activities online. He says that when you combine that with a shift to the public cloud, he believes that Qumulo is well positioned.

Today the company has 400 customers and more than 300 employees, with plans to add another 100 before year’s end. As he adds those employees, he says that part of the company’s core principles includes building a diverse workforce. “We took the time as an organization to write out a detailed set of hiring practices that are designed to root out bias in the process,” he said.

One of the keys to that is looking at a broad set of candidates, not just the ones you’ve known from previous jobs. “The reason for that is that when you force people to go through hiring practices, you open up the position to a broader, more diverse set of candidates and you stop the cycle of continuously creating what I call ‘club memberships’, where if you were a member of the club before you’re a member in the future,” he says.

The company has been around since 2012 and spent the first couple of years conducting market research before building its first product. In 2014 it released a storage appliance, but over time it has shifted more toward hybrid solutions.

May
22
2020
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IBM confirms layoffs are happening, but won’t provide details

IBM confirmed reports from overnight that it is conducting layoffs, but wouldn’t provide details related to location, departments or number of employees involved. The company framed it in terms of replacing people with more needed skills as it tries to regroup under new CEO Arvind Krishna.

IBM’s work in a highly competitive marketplace requires flexibility to constantly remix to high-value skills, and our workforce decisions are made in the long-term interests of our business,” an IBM spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, says he’s hearing the layoffs are hitting across the business. “I’m hearing it’s a balancing act between business units. IBM is moving as many resources as it can to the cloud. Essentially, you lay off some of the people without the skills you need and who can’t be re-educated and you bring in people with certain skill sets. So not a net reduction in headcount,” Moorhead said.

It’s worth noting that IBM used a similar argument back in 2015 when it reportedly had layoffs. While there is no official number, Bloomberg is reporting that today’s number is in the thousands.

Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research, says that IBM is in a tough spot. “The bets of the past have not paid off. IBM Cloud as IaaS is gone, Watson did not deliver and Blockchain is too slow to keep thousands of consultants occupied,” he said.

Mueller adds that the company could also be feeling the impact of having workers at home instead of in the field. “Enterprises do not know and have not learnt how to do large software projects remotely. […] And for now enterprises are slowing down on projects as they are busy with reopening plans,” he said.

The news comes against the backdrop of companies large and small laying off large numbers of employees as the pandemic takes its toll on the workforce. IBM was probably due for a workforce reduction, regardless of the current macro situation, as Krishna tries to right the financial ship.

The company has struggled in recent years, and with the acquisition of Red Hat for $34 billion in 2018, it is hoping to find its way as a more open hybrid cloud option. It apparently wants to focus on skills that can help them get there.

The company indicated that it would continue to subsidize medical expenses for laid off employees through June 2021, so there is that.

Apr
10
2020
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Incoming IBM CEO Arvind Krishna faces monumental challenges on multiple fronts

Arvind Krishna is not the only CEO to step into a new job this week, but he is the only one charged with helping turn around one of the world’s most iconic companies. Adding to the degree of difficulty, he took the role in the midst of a global pandemic and economic crisis. No pressure or anything.

IBM has struggled in recent years to find its identity as technology has evolved rapidly. While Krishna’s predecessor Ginni Rometty left a complex legacy as she worked to bring IBM into the modern age, she presided over a dreadful string of 22 straight quarters of declining revenue, a record Krishna surely hopes to avoid.

Strong headwinds

To her credit, under Rometty the company tried hard to pivot to more modern customer requirements, like cloud, artificial intelligence, blockchain and security. While the results weren’t always there, Krishna acknowledged in an email employees received on his first day that she left something to build on.

“IBM has already built enduring platforms in mainframe, services and middleware. All three continue to serve our clients. I believe now is the time to build a fourth platform in hybrid cloud. An essential, ubiquitous hybrid cloud platform our clients will rely on to do their most critical work in this century. A platform that can last even longer than the others,” he wrote.

But Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research, says the market headwinds the company faces are real, and it’s going to take some strong leadership to get customers to choose IBM over its primary cloud infrastructure competitors.

“His top challenge is to restore the trust of clients that IBM has the latest technology and solutions and is reinvesting enough in innovation that clients want to see. He has to show that IBM has the same level of innovation and engineering talent as the hyper scalers Google, Microsoft and Amazon,” Wang explained.

Cultural transformation

Feb
12
2020
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Model9 gets $9M Series A to move data between mainframes and cloud

Model9, an Israeli startup launched by mainframe vets, has come up with a way to transfer data between mainframe computers and the cloud, and today the company announced a $9 million Series A.

Intel Capital led the round with help from existing investors, including StageOne, North First Ventures and Glenrock Israel. The company reports it has now raised almost $13 million.

You may not realize it, but the largest companies in the world, like big banks, insurance companies, airlines and retailers, still use mainframes. These companies require the massive transaction processing capabilities of these stalwart machines, but find it’s difficult to get the valuable data out for more modern analytics capabilities. This is the hard problem that Model9 is attempting to solve.

Gil Peleg, CEO and co-founder at Model9, says that his company’s technology is focused on helping mainframe users get their data to the cloud or other on-prem storage. “Mainframe data is locked behind proprietary storage that is inaccessible to anything that’s happening in the evolving, fast-moving technology world in the cloud. And this is where we come in with patented technology that enables mainframes to read and write data directly to the cloud or any non-mainframe distributed storage system,” Peleg explained.

This has several important use cases. For starters, it can act as a disaster recovery system, eliminating the need to maintain expensive tape backups. It also can move this data to the cloud where customers can apply modern analytics to data that was previously inaccessible.

The company’s solution works with AWS, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure and IBM’s cloud solution. It also works with other on-prem storage solutions like EMC, Nutanix, NetApp and Hitatchi. He says the idea is to give customers true hybrid cloud options, whether a private cloud or a public cloud provider.

“Ideally our customers will deploy a hybrid cloud topology and benefit from both worlds. The mainframe keeps doing what it should do as a reliable, secure, trusted [machine], and the cloud can manage the scale and the rapidly growing amount of data and provide the new modern technologies for disaster recovery, data management and analytics,” he said.

The company was founded in 2016 and took a couple of years to develop the solution. Today, the company is working with a number  of large organizations using mainframes. Peleg says he wants to use the money to expand the sales and marketing operation to grow the market for this solution.

Nov
04
2019
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Volterra announces $50M investment to manage apps in hybrid environment

Volterra is an early-stage startup that has been quietly working on a comprehensive solution to help companies manage applications in hybrid environments. The company emerged from stealth today with a $50 million investment and a set of products.

Investors include Khosla Ventures and Mayfield, along with strategic investors M12 (Microsoft’s venture arm), Itochu Technology Ventures and Samsung NEXT. The company, which was founded in 2017, already has 100 employees and more than 30 customers.

What attracted these investors and customers is a full-stack solution that includes both hardware and software to manage applications in the cloud or on-prem. Volterra founder and CEO Ankur Singla says when he was at his previous company, Contrail Systems, which was acquired by Juniper Networks in 2012 for $176 million, he saw first-hand how large companies were struggling with the transition to hybrid.

“The big problem we saw was in building and operating applications that scale is a really hard problem. They were adopting multiple hybrid cloud strategies, and none of them solved the problem of unifying the application and the infrastructure layer, so that the application developers and DevOps teams don’t have to worry about that,” Singla explained.

He says the Volterra solution includes three main products — VoltStack?, VoltMesh and VoltConsole — to help solve this scaling and management problem. As Volterra describes the total solution, “Volterra has innovated a consistent, cloud-native environment that can be deployed across multiple public clouds and edge sites — a distributed cloud platform. Within this SaaS-based offering, Volterra integrates a broad range of services that have normally been siloed across many point products and network or cloud providers.” This includes not only the single management plane, but security, management and operations components.

Diagram: Volterra

The money has come over a couple of rounds, helping to build the solution to this point, and it required a complex combination of hardware and software to do it. They are hoping organizations that have been looking for a cloud-native approach to large-scale applications, such as industrial automation, will adopt this approach.

Jul
12
2019
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With $34B Red Hat deal closed, IBM needs to execute now

In a summer surprise this week, IBM announced it had closed its $34 billion blockbuster deal to acquire Red Hat. The deal, which was announced in October, was expected to take a year to clear all of the regulatory hurdles, but U.S. and EU regulators moved surprisingly quickly. For IBM, the future starts now, and it needs to find a way to ensure that this works.

There are always going to be layers of complexity in a deal of this scope, as IBM moves to incorporate Red Hat into its product family quickly and get the company moving. It’s never easy combining two large organizations, but with IBM mired in single-digit cloud market share and years of sluggish growth, it is hoping that Red Hat will give it a strong hybrid cloud story that can help begin to alter its recent fortunes.

As Box CEO (and IBM partner) Aaron Levie tweeted at the time the deal was announced, “Transformation requires big bets, and this is a good one.” While the deal is very much about transformation, we won’t know for some time if it’s a good one.

Transformation blues

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