Oct
09
2020
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How Roblox completely transformed its tech stack

Picture yourself in the role of CIO at Roblox in 2017.

At that point, the gaming platform and publishing system that launched in 2005 was growing fast, but its underlying technology was aging, consisting of a single data center in Chicago and a bunch of third-party partners, including AWS, all running bare metal (nonvirtualized) servers. At a time when users have precious little patience for outages, your uptime was just two nines, or less than 99% (five nines is considered optimal).

Unbelievably, Roblox was popular in spite of this, but the company’s leadership knew it couldn’t continue with performance like that, especially as it was rapidly gaining in popularity. The company needed to call in the technology cavalry, which is essentially what it did when it hired Dan Williams in 2017.

Williams has a history of solving these kinds of intractable infrastructure issues, with a background that includes a gig at Facebook between 2007 and 2011, where he worked on the technology to help the young social network scale to millions of users. Later, he worked at Dropbox, where he helped build a new internal network, leading the company’s move away from AWS, a major undertaking involving moving more than 500 petabytes of data.

When Roblox approached him in mid-2017, he jumped at the chance to take on another major infrastructure challenge. While they are still in the midst of the transition to a new modern tech stack today, we sat down with Williams to learn how he put the company on the road to a cloud-native, microservices-focused system with its own network of worldwide edge data centers.

Scoping the problem

Oct
08
2020
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IBM plans to spin off infrastructure services as a separate $19B business

IBM, a company that originally made its name out of its leadership in building myriad enterprise hardware (quite literally: its name is an abbreviation for International Business Machines), is taking one more step away from that legacy and deeper into the world of cloud services. The company today announced that it plans to spin off its managed infrastructure services unit as a separate public company, a $19 billion business in annual revenues, to help it focus more squarely on newer opportunities in hybrid cloud applications and artificial intelligence.

Infrastructure services include a range of managed services based around legacy infrastructure and digital transformation related to it. It includes things like testing and assembly, but also product engineering and lab services, among other things. A spokesperson confirmed to me that the deal will not include the company’s servers business, only infrastructure services.

IBM said it expects to complete the process — a tax-free spin-off for shareholders — by the end of 2021. It has not yet given a name to “NewCo” but it said that out of the gate the spun-off company will have 90,000 employees, 4,600 big enterprise clients in 115 countries, a backlog of $60 billion in business “and more than twice the scale of its nearest competitor” in the area of infrastructure services.

Others that compete against it include the likes of BMC and Microsoft. The remaining IBM business is about three times as big: it currently generates some $59 billion in annual revenues.

At the same time that IBM announced the news, it also gave some updated guidance for Q3, which it plans to report officially later this month. It said it expects revenues of $17.6 billion, with GAAP diluted earnings per share from continuing operations of $1.89, and operating (non-GAAP) earnings per share of $2.58. As a point of comparison, in Q3 2019 it reported revenues of $18 billion. And last quarter IBM reported revenues of $18.1 billion. Tellingly, the division that contains infrastructure services saw declines last quarter.

The market seems to like the news: IBM shares are trading up some 10% ahead of the market opening.

The move is a significant shift for the company and underscores a bigger sea change in how enterprise IT has evolved and looks to continue changing in the future.

IBM is betting that legacy infrastructure and the servicing of it, while continuing to net revenues, will not grow as it has in the past, and as companies continue with their modernization (or “digital transformation,” as consultants like to refer to it today), they will turn increasingly to outsourced infrastructure and using cloud services, both to run their businesses and to build the services that interface with consumers. IBM, meanwhile, is in a race competing against the likes of Microsoft and Google in cloud services, and so doubling down on that part of the business is another way to focus on it for growth.

But IBM, often referred to as “Big Blue”, is also using the announcement as the start of an effort to streamline its business to spur growth (maybe we’ll have to rename it “Medium Blue”).

“IBM is laser-focused on the $1 trillion hybrid cloud opportunity,” said Arvind Krishna, IBM CEO, in a statement. “Client buying needs for application and infrastructure services are diverging, while adoption of our hybrid cloud platform is accelerating. Now is the right time to create two market-leading companies focused on what they do best. IBM will focus on its open hybrid cloud platform and AI capabilities. NewCo will have greater agility to design, run and modernize the infrastructure of the world’s most important organizations. Both companies will be on an improved growth trajectory with greater ability to partner and capture new opportunities – creating value for clients and shareholders.”

Its $34 billion purchase of Red Hat in 2019 is perhaps its most notable investment in recent times in IBM’s own transformation.

“We have positioned IBM for the new era of hybrid cloud,” said Ginni Rometty, IBM Executive Chairman in a statement. “Our multi-year transformation created the foundation for the open hybrid cloud platform, which we then accelerated with the acquisition of Red Hat. At the same time, our managed infrastructure services business has established itself as the industry leader, with unrivaled expertise in complex and mission-critical infrastructure work. As two independent companies, IBM and NewCo will capitalize on their respective strengths. IBM will accelerate clients’ digital transformation journeys, and NewCo will accelerate clients’ infrastructure modernization efforts. This focus will result in greater value, increased innovation, and faster execution for our clients.”

More to come.

May
06
2020
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Equinix just recorded its 69th straight positive quarter

There’s something to be said for consistency through good times and bad, and one company that has had a staggeringly consistent track record is international data center vendor, Equinix. It just recorded its 69th straight positive quarter, according to the company.

That’s an astonishing record, and covers over 17 years of positive returns. That means this streak goes back to 2003. Not too shabby.

The company had a decent quarter, too. Even in the middle of an economic mess, it was still up 6% YoY to $1.445 billion and up 2% over last quarter. The company runs data centers where companies can rent space for their servers. Equinix handles all of the infrastructure providing racks, wiring and cooling — and customers can purchase as many racks as they need.

If you’re managing your own servers for even part of your workload, it can be much more cost-effective to rent space from a vendor like Equinix than trying to run a facility on your own.

Among its new customers this quarter are Zoom, which is buying capacity all over the place, having also announced a partnership with Oracle earlier this month, and TikTok. Both of those companies deal in video and require lots of different types of resources to keep things running.

This report comes against a backdrop of a huge increase in resource demand for certain sectors like streaming video and video conferencing, with millions of people working and studying at home or looking for distractions.

And if you’re wondering if they can keep it going, they believe they can. Their guidance calls for 2020 revenue of $5.877-$5.985 billion, a 6-8% increase over the previous year.

You could call them the anti-IBM. At one point Big Blue recorded 22 straight quarters of declining revenue in an ignominious streak that stretched from 2012 to 2018 before it found a way to stop the bleeding.

When you consider that Equnix’s streak includes the period of 2008-2010, the last time the economy hit the skids, it makes the record even more impressive, and certainly one worth pointing out.

May
30
2018
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Vulcan Cyber raises $4M for its vulnerability remediation platform

Vulcan Cyber, a Tel Aviv-based security startup that helps enterprises quickly detect and fix vulnerabilities in their software stack and code, is coming out of stealth today and announcing a $4 million seed round led by YL Ventures with participation from a number of other cybersecurity investors.

The general idea behind Vulcan Cyber is that as businesses continue to increase the pace at which they build and adopt new software, the risk of introducing vulnerabilities only increases. But at the same time, most companies don’t have the tools in place to automatically detect and mitigate these issues, meaning that it can often take weeks before a patch rolls out.

The company argues that its position in the cybersecurity space is somewhat unique because it doesn’t just focus on detecting vulnerabilities but also helps businesses remediate them. All users have to do is give Vulcan access to the APIs of their existing vulnerability, DevOps and IT tools and the service will simply take over from there. It then watches over both the infrastructure as well as the code that runs on it.

“It might sound more glamorous to talk about zero-day and next-generation threats, but vulnerability remediation is truly where the rubber meets the road,” said Yaniv Bar-Dayan, Vulcan Cyber’s CEO and co-founder. “The only way to deal with this continuous risk exposure is through continuous remediation, achieved with robust data collection, advanced analytics, automation, and closed-loop remediation planning, orchestration and validation. This is exactly what we are delivering to IT security teams with Vulcan Cyber.”

Vulcan cyber plays nicely with all o the major cloud platforms, as well as tools like Puppet, Chef and Ansible, as well as GitHub and Bitbucket. It also integrates with a number of major security testing tools and vulnerability scanners, including Black Duck, Nessus, Fortify, Tripwire, Checkmarx, Rapid7 and Veracode.

Dec
06
2017
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Inflect raises $3M seed round to make buying internet infrastructure easier

 Inflect, a startup that wants to make it easier for businesses to buy their own internet infrastructure, today announced that it has raised a $3 million seed funding round. The service, which is still in preview, provides business with the necessary data to make their purchasing decisions when they go out and look for their own data center space, networking services and exchange… Read More

Nov
05
2017
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OpenStack’s next mission: bridging the gaps between open source projects

 OpenStack, the massive open source project that provides large businesses with the software tools to run their data center infrastructure, is now almost eight years old. While it had its ups and downs, hundreds of enterprises now use it to run their private clouds and there are even over two dozen public clouds that use the project’s tools. Users now include the likes of AT&T,… Read More

Sep
15
2017
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Why Dropbox decided to drop AWS and build its own infrastructure and network

 There is always a tension inside companies about whether to build or to buy, whatever the need. A few years ago Dropbox decided it was going to move the majority of its infrastructure requirements from AWS into its own data centers. As you can imagine, it took a monumental effort, but the company believed that the advantages of controlling its own destiny would be worth all of the challenges… Read More

Aug
24
2017
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Inflect’s infrastructure marketplace adds 30 new service providers and 2,200 data center and peering locations

 Inflect, a San Francisco-based startup that wants to make it easier for businesses to find the right co-location facilities, network service and exchange providers, today announced that it has added over 30 service providers and information about 2,200 data centers and networking peering locations to its database since its launch two months ago. These new service providers include industry… Read More

Apr
24
2017
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Facebook launches telco infrastructure accelerator with Orange

 Back in February, the Facebook-led Telecom Infrastructure Project led a call to put $170 million into startups focusing on solutions to improve infrastructure: the switching technologies, engineering, cabling and other components that go into building networking for internet and other communications services. Today comes one more advance on that front: Facebook and the TIP are working… Read More

Apr
19
2017
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Mirantis launches its new OpenStack and Kubernetes cloud platform

 Mirantis, one of the earliest players in the OpenStack ecosystem, today announced that it will end-of-life Mirantis OpenStack support in September 2019. The Mirantis Cloud Platform, which combines OpenStack with the Kubernetes container platform (or which could even be used to run Kubernetes separately), is going to take its place. While Mirantis is obviously not getting out of the OpenStack… Read More

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