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

Jun
05
2019
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Yellowbrick Data raises $81M Series C for hybrid data warehouse

There’s lots of data in the world these days, and there are a number of companies vying to store that data in data warehouses or lakes or whatever they choose to call it. Old-school companies have tended to be on prem, while new ones like Snowflake are strictly in the cloud. Yellowbrick Data wants to play the hybrid angle, and today it got a healthy $81 million Series C to continue its efforts.

The round was led by DFJ Growth with help from Next47, Third Point Ventures, Menlo Ventures, GV (formerly Google Ventures), Threshold Ventures and Samsung. New investors joining the round included IVP and BMW i Ventures. Today’s investment brings the total raised to a brisk $173 million.

Yellowbrick sees a world that many of the public cloud vendors like Microsoft and Google see, one where enterprise companies will be living in a hybrid world where some data and applications will stay on prem and some in the cloud. They believe this situation will be in place for the foreseeable future, so its product plays to that hybrid angle, where your data can be on prem or in the cloud.

The company did not want to discuss valuation in spite of the high amount of raised dollars. Neither did it want to discuss revenue growth rates, other than to say that it was growing at a healthy rate.

Randy Glein, partner at DFJ Growth, did say one of the things that attracted his company to invest in Yellowbrick was its momentum along with the technology, which in his view provides a more modern way to build data warehouses. “Yellowbrick is quickly providing a new generation of ultra-high performance data warehouse capabilities for large enterprises. The technology is a step function improvement on every dimension compared to legacy solutions, helping modern enterprises digest and interpret massive data workloads in a fraction of the time at a fraction of the cost,” he said in a statement.

It’s interesting that a company with just 100 employees would require this kind of money, but as company COO Jason Snodgress told TechCrunch, it costs a lot of money to build out a data warehouse. He’s not wrong. Snowflake, a company that’s building a cloud data warehouse, has raised almost a billion dollars.

May
09
2019
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AWS remains in firm control of the cloud infrastructure market

It has to be a bit depressing to be in the cloud infrastructure business if your name isn’t Amazon. Sure, there’s a huge, growing market, and the companies behind Amazon are growing even faster. Yet it seems no matter how fast they grow, Amazon remains a dot on the horizon.

It seems inconceivable that AWS can continue to hold sway over such a large market for so long, but as we’ve pointed out before, it has been able to maintain its position through true first-mover advantage. The other players didn’t even show up until several years after Amazon launched its first service in 2006, and they are paying the price for their failure to see the way computing would change the way Amazon did.

They certainly see it now, whether it’s IBM, Microsoft or Google, or Tencent and Alibaba, both of which are growing fast in the China/Asia markets. All of these companies are trying to find the formula to help differentiate themselves from AWS and give them some additional market traction.

Cloud market growth

Interestingly, even though companies have begun to move with increasing urgency to the cloud, the pace of growth slowed a bit in the first quarter to a 42 percent rate, according to data from Synergy Research, but that doesn’t mean the end of this growth cycle is anywhere close.

May
07
2019
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Red Hat and Microsoft are cozying up some more with Azure Red Hat OpenShift

It won’t be long before Red Hat becomes part of IBM, the result of the $34 billion acquisition last year that is still making its way to completion. For now, Red Hat continues as a stand-alone company, and is if to flex its independence muscles, it announced its second agreement in two days with Microsoft Azure, Redmond’s public cloud infrastructure offering. This one involving running Red Hat OpenShift on Azure.

OpenShift is RedHat’s Kubernetes offering. The thinking is that you can start with OpenShift in your data center, then as you begin to shift to the cloud, you can move to Azure Red Hat OpenShift — such a catchy name — without any fuss, as you have the same management tools you have been used to using.

As Red Hat becomes part of IBM, it sees that it’s more important than ever to maintain its sense of autonomy in the eyes of developers and operations customers, as it holds its final customer conference as an independent company. Red Hat executive vice president and president, of products and technologies certainly sees it that way. “I think [the partnership] is a testament to, even with moving to IBM at some point soon, that we are going to be  separate and really keep our Switzerland status and give the same experience for developers and operators across anyone’s cloud,” he told TechCrunch.

It’s essential to see this announcement in the context of both IBM’s and Microsoft’s increasing focus on the hybrid cloud, and also in the continuing requirement for cloud companies to find ways to work together, even when it doesn’t always seem to make sense, because as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has said, customers will demand it. Red Hat has a big enterprise customer presence and so does Microsoft. If you put them together, it could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Scott Guthrie, executive vice president for the cloud and AI group at Microsoft understands that. “Microsoft and Red Hat share a common goal of empowering enterprises to create a hybrid cloud environment that meets their current and future business needs. Azure Red Hat OpenShift combines the enterprise leadership of Azure with the power of Red Hat OpenShift to simplify container management on Kubernetes and help customers innovate on their cloud journeys,” he said in a statement.

This news comes on the heels of yesterday’s announcement, also involving Kubernetes. TechCrunch’s own Frederic Lardinois described it this way:

What’s most interesting here, however, is KEDA, a new open-source collaboration between Red Hat and Microsoft that helps developers deploy serverless, event-driven containers. Kubernetes-based event-driven autoscaling, or KEDA, as the tool is called, allows users to build their own event-driven applications on top of Kubernetes. KEDA handles the triggers to respond to events that happen in other services and scales workloads as needed.

Azure Red Hat OpenShift is available now on Azure. The companies are working on some other integrations too including Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) running on Azure and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 support in Microsoft SQL Server 2019.

Apr
09
2019
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Apigee jumps on hybrid bandwagon with new API for hybrid environments

This year at Google Cloud Next, the theme is all about supporting hybrid environments, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Apigee, the API company it bought in 2016 for $265 million, is also getting into the act. Today, Apigee announced the Beta of Apigee Hybrid, a new product designed for hybrid environments.

Amit Zavery, who recently joined Google Cloud after many years at Oracle, and Nandan Sridhar, describe the new product in a joint blog post as “a new deployment option for the Apigee API management platform that lets you host your runtime anywhere—in your data center or the public cloud of your choice.”

As with Anthos, the company’s approach to hybrid management announced earlier today, the idea is to have a single way to manage your APIs no matter where you choose to run them.

“With Apigee hybrid, you get a single, full-featured API management solution across all your environments, while giving you control over your APIs and the data they expose and ensuring a unified strategy across all APIs in your enterprise,” Zavery and Sridhar wrote in the blog post announcing the new approach.

The announcement is part of an overall strategy by the company to support a customer’s approach to computing across a range environments, often referred to as hybrid cloud. In the Cloud Native world, the idea is to present a single fabric to manage your deployments, regardless of location.

This appears to be an extension of that idea, which makes sense given that Google was the first company to develop and open source Kubernetes, which is at the forefront of containerization and Cloud Native computing. While this isn’t pure Cloud Native computing, it is keeping true to its ethos and it fits in the scope of Google Cloud’s approach to computing in general, especially as it is being defined at this year’s conference.

Apr
09
2019
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Google’s hybrid cloud platform is coming to AWS and Azure

Google’s Cloud Services Platform for managing hybrid clouds that span on-premise data centers and the Google cloud is coming out of beta today. The company is also changing the product’s name to Anthos, a name that either refers to a lost Greek tragedy, the name of an obscure god in the Marvel universe or rosemary. That by itself would be interesting, but minor news. What makes this interesting is that Google also today announced that Anthos will run on third-party clouds, as well, including AWS and Azure.

“We will support Anthos and AWS and Azure as well, so people get one way to manage their application and that one way works across their on-premise environments and all other clouds,” Google’s senior VP for its technical infrastructure, Urs Hölzle, explained in a press conference ahead of today’s announcement.

So with Anthos, Google will offer a single managed service that will let you manage and deploy workloads across clouds, all without having to worry about the different environments and APIs. That’s a big deal and one that clearly delineates Google’s approach from its competitors’. This is Google, after all, managing your applications for you on AWS and Azure.

“You can use one consistent approach — one open-source based approach — across all environments,” Hölzle said. “I can’t really stress how big a change that is in the industry, because this is really the stack for the next 20 years, meaning that it’s not really about the three different clouds that are all randomly different in small ways. This is the way that makes these three cloud — and actually on-premise environments, too — look the same.”

Anthos/Google Cloud Services Platform is based on the Google Kubernetes Engine, as well as other open-source projects like the Istio service mesh. It’s also hardware agnostic, meaning that users can take their current hardware and run the service on top of that without having to immediately invest in new servers.

Why is Google doing this? “We hear from our customers that multi-cloud and hybrid is really an acute pain point,” Hölzle said. He noted that containers are the enabling technology for this but that few enterprises have developed a unifying strategy to manage these deployments and that it takes expertise in all major clouds to get the most out of them.

Enterprises already have major investments in their infrastructure and created relationships with their vendors, though, so it’s no surprise that Google is launching Anthos with more than 30 major hardware and software partners that range from Cisco to Dell EMC, HPE and VMware, as well as application vendors like Confluent, Datastax, Elastic, Portworx, Tigera, Splunk, GitLab, MongoDB and others.

Robin.io, a data management service that offers a hyper-converged storage platform based on Kubernetes, also tells me that it worked closely with Google to develop the Anthos Storage API. “Robin Storage offers bare metal performance, powerful data management capabilities and Kubernetes-native management to support running enterprise applications on Google Cloud’s Anthos across on-premises data centers and the cloud,” said Premal Buch, CEO of Robin.io.

Anthos is a subscription-based service, with the list prices starting at $10,000/month per 100 vCPU block. Enterprise prices will then be up for negotiation, though, so many customers will likely pay less.

It’s one thing to use a service like this for new applications, but many enterprises already have plenty of line-of-business tools that they would like to bring to the cloud as well. For them, Google is launching the first beta of Anthos Migrate today. This service will auto-migrate VMs from on-premises or other clouds into containers in the Google Kubernetes Engine. The promise here is that this is essentially an automatic process and once the container is on Google’s platform, you’ll be able to use all of the other features that come with the Anthos platform, too.

Google’s Hölzle noted that the emphasis here was on making this migration as easy as possible. “There’s no manual effort there,” he said.

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