May
23
2019
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Takeaways from KubeCon; the latest on Kubernetes and cloud native development

Extra Crunch offers members the opportunity to tune into conference calls led and moderated by the TechCrunch writers you read every day. This week, TechCrunch’s Frederic Lardinois and Ron Miller discuss major announcements that came out of the Linux Foundation’s European KubeCon/CloudNativeCon conference and discuss the future of Kubernetes and cloud-native technologies.

Nearly doubling in size year-over-year, this year’s KubeCon conference brought big news and big players, with major announcements coming from some of the world’s largest software vendors including Google, AWS, Microsoft, Red Hat, and more. Frederic and Ron discuss how the Kubernetes project grew to such significant scale and which new initiatives in cloud-native development show the most promise from both a developer and enterprise perspective.

“This ecosystem starts sprawling, and we’ve got everything from security companies to service mesh companies to storage companies. Everybody is here. The whole hall is full of them. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between them because there are so many competing start-ups at this point.

I’m pretty sure we’re going to see a consolidation in the next six months or so where some of the bigger players, maybe Oracle, maybe VMware, will start buying some of these smaller companies. And I’m sure the show floor will look quite different about a year from now. All the big guys are here because they’re all trying to figure out what’s next.”

Frederic and Ron also dive deeper into the startup ecosystem rapidly developing around Kubernetes and other cloud-native technologies and offer their take on what areas of opportunity may prove to be most promising for new startups and founders down the road.

For access to the full transcription and the call audio, and for the opportunity to participate in future conference calls, become a member of Extra Crunch. Learn more and try it for free. 

May
22
2019
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Zendesk acquires Smooch, doubles down on support via messaging apps like WhatsApp

One of the bigger developments in customer services has been the impact of social media — both as a place to vent frustration or praise (mostly frustration) and — especially over messaging apps — as a place for businesses to connect with their users.

Now, customer support specialist Zendesk has made an acquisition so that it can make a bigger move into how it works within social media platforms, and specifically messaging apps: it has acquired Smooch, a startup that describes itself as an “omnichannel messaging platform,” which companies’ customer care teams can use to interact with people over messaging platforms like WhatsApp, WeChat, Line and Messenger, as well as SMS and email.

Smooch was in fact one of the first partners for the WhatsApp Business API, alongside VoiceSage, Nexmo, Infobip, Twilio, MessageBird and others already advertising their services in this area.

It had also been a longtime partner of Zendesk’s, powering the company’s own WhatsApp Business integration and other features. The two already have some customers in common, including Uber. Other Smooch customers include Four Seasons, SXSW, Betterment, Clarabridge, Harry’s, LVMH, Delivery Hero and BarkBox.

Terms of the deal are not being disclosed, but Zendesk SVP  class=”il”>Shawna Wolverton said in an interview that the startup’s entire team of 48, led by co-founder and CEO Warren Levitan, are being offered positions with Zendesk. Smooch is based out of Montreal, Canada — so this represents an expansion for Zendesk into building an office in Canada.

Its backers included iNovia, TA Associates and Real Ventures, who collectively had backed it with less than $10 million (when you leave the inflated hills surrounding Silicon Valley, numbers magically decline). As Zendesk is publicly traded, we may get more of a picture of the price in future quarterly reports. This is the company’s fifth acquisition to date.

The deal underscores the big impact that messaging apps are making in customer service. While phone and internet are massive points of contact, messaging apps is one of the most-requested features Zendesk’s customers are requesting, “because they want to be where their customers are,” with WhatsApp — now at 1.5 billion users — currently at the top of the pile, Wolverton said. (More than half of Zendesk’s revenues are from outside the U.S., which speaks to why WhatsApp — which is bigger outside the U..S than it is in it — is a popular request.)

That’s partly a by-product of how popular messaging apps are full-stop, with more than 75% of all smartphone users having at least one messaging app in use on their devices.

“We live in a messaging-centric world, and customers expect the convenience and interactivity of messaging to be part of their experiences,” said Mikkel Svane, Zendesk founder, CEO and chairman, in a statement. “As long-time partners with Smooch, we know first hand how much they have advanced the conversational experience to bring together all forms of messaging and create a continuous conversation between customers and businesses.”

While the two companies were already working together, the acquisition will mean a closer integration.

That will be in multiple areas. Last year, Zendesk launched a new CRM play called Sunshine, going head to head with the likes of Salesforce in helping businesses better organise and make use of customer data. Smooch will build on that strategy to bring in data to Sunshine from messaging apps and the interactions that take place on them. Also last year, Zendesk launched an omnichannel play, a platform called The Suite, which it says “has become one of our most successful products ever,” with a 400% rise in its customers taking an omnichannel approach. Smooch already forms a key part of that, and it will be even more tightly so.

On the outbound side, for now, there will be two areas where Smooch will be used, Wolverton said. First will be on the basic level of giving Zendesk users the ability to see and create messaging app discussions within a dashboard where they are able to monitor and handle all customer relationship contacts: a conversation that was initiated now on, say, Twitter, can be easily moved into WhatsApp or whatever more direct channel someone wants to use.

Second, Wolverton said that customer care workers can use Smooch to send on “micro apps” to users to handle routine service enquiries, for example sending them links to make or change seat assignments on a flight.

Over time, the plan will be to bring more automated options into the experience, which opens the door for using more AI and potentially bots down the line.

May
17
2019
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HPE is buying Cray for $1.3 billion

HPE announced it was buying Cray for $1.3 billion, giving it access to the company’s high-performance computing portfolio, and perhaps a foothold into quantum computing in the future.

The purchase price was $35 a share, a $5.19 premium over yesterday’s close of $29.81 a share. Cray was founded in the 1970s and for a time represented the cutting edge of super computing in the United States, but times have changed, and as the market has shifted, a deal like this makes sense.

Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research, says this is about consolidation at the high end of the market. “This is a smart acquisition for HPE. Cray has been losing money for some time but had a great portfolio of IP and patents that is key for the quantum era,” he told TechCrunch.

While HPE’s president and CEO Antonio Neri didn’t see it in those terms, he did see an opportunity in combining the two organizations. “By combining our world-class teams and technology, we will have the opportunity to drive the next generation of high performance computing and play an important part in advancing the way people live and work,” he said in a statement.

Cray CEO and president Peter Ungaro agreed. “We believe that the combination of Cray and HPE creates an industry leader in the fast-growing High-Performance Computing (HPC) and AI markets and creates a number of opportunities that neither company would likely be able to capture on their own,” he wrote in a blog post announcing the deal.

Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy says HPC is one of the fastest growing markets and HPE has indicated it wants to stake a claim there. “I’m not surprised by the deal. Its degree of success will be determined by the integration of the two companies. HPE brings increased scale and some unique consumption models and Cray brings expertise and unique connectivity IP,” Moorhead explained.

While it’s not clear how this will work over time, this type of consolidation usually involves some job loss on the operations side of the house as the two companies become one. It is also unclear how this will affect Cray’s customers as it moves to become part of HPE, but HPE has plans to create a high-performance computing product family using its new assets in combination with the new Cray products.

HPE was formed when HP split into two companies in 2014. HP Inc. is the printer division, while HPE is the enterprise side.

The deal is subject to the typical regulatory oversight, but if all goes well, it is expected to close in HPE’s fiscal Q1 2020.

May
16
2019
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SugarCRM moves into marketing automation with Salesfusion acquisition

SugarCRM announced today that it has acquired Atlanta-based Salesfusion to help build out the marketing automation side of its business. The deal closed last Friday. The companies did not share the purchase price.

CEO Craig Charlton, who joined the company in February, says he recognized that marketing automation was an area of the platform that badly needed enhancing. Faced with a build or buy decision, he decided it would be faster to buy a company and began looking for an acquisition target.

“We spent the last three or four months doing a fairly intensive market scan and dealing with a number of the possible opportunities, and we decided that Salesfusion was head and shoulders above the rest for a variety of reasons,” he told TechCrunch.

Among those was the fact the company was still growing and some of the targets Sugar looked at were actually shrinking in size. The real attraction for him was Salesfusion’s customer focus. “They have a very differentiated on-boarding process, which I hadn’t seen before. I think that’s one of the reasons why they get such a quick time to value for the customers is because they literally hold their hand for 12 weeks until they graduate from the on-boarding process. And when they graduate, they’re actually live with the product,” he said.

Brent Leary, principal at CRM Essentials, who is also based in Atlanta, thinks this firm could help Sugar by giving it a marketing automation story all its own. “Salesfusion gives Sugar a marketing automation piece they can fully bring into their fold and not have to be at the whims of marketing automation vendors, who end up not being the best fit as partners, whether it’s due to acquisition or instability of leadership at chosen partners,” Leary told TechCrunch.

It has been a period of transition for SugarCRM, which has had a hard time keeping up with giants in the industry, particularly Salesforce. The company dipped into the private equity market last summer and took a substantial investment from Accel-KKR, which several reports pegged as a nine-figure deal, and PitchBook characterized as a leveraged buyout.

As part of that investment, the company replaced long-time CEO Larry Augustin with Charlton and began creating a plan to spend some of that money. In March, it bought email integration firm Collabspot, and Charlton says they aren’t finished yet, with possibly two or three more acquisitions on target for this quarter alone.

“We’re looking to make some waves and grow very aggressively and to drive home some really compelling differentiation that we have, and that will be building over the next 12 to 24 months,” he said.

Salesfusion was founded in 2007 and raised $16 million, according to the company. It will continue to operate out of its offices in Atlanta. The company’s 50 employees are now part of Sugar.

May
15
2019
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VMware acquires Bitnami to deliver packaged applications anywhere

VMware announced today that it’s acquiring Bitnami, the package application company that was a member of the Y Combinator Winter 2013 class. The companies didn’t share the purchase price.

With Bitnami, the company can now deliver more than 130 popular software packages in a variety of formats, such as Docker containers or virtual machine, an approach that should be attractive for VMware as it makes its transformation to be more of a cloud services company.

“Upon close, Bitnami will enable our customers to easily deploy application packages on any cloud — public or hybrid — and in the most optimal format — virtual machine (VM), containers and Kubernetes helm charts. Further, Bitnami will be able to augment our existing efforts to deliver a curated marketplace to VMware customers that offers a rich set of applications and development environments in addition to infrastructure software,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing the deal.

Per usual, Bitnami’s founders see the exit through the prism of being able to build out the platform faster with the help of a much larger company. “Joining forces with VMware means that we will be able to both double-down on the breadth and depth of our current offering and bring Bitnami to even more clouds as well as accelerating our push into the enterprise,” the founders wrote in a blog post on the company website.

Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research says the deal fits well with VMware’s overall strategy. “Enterprises want easy, fast ways to deploy packaged applications and providers like Bitnami take the complexity out of this process. So this is a key investment for VMware that wants to position itselfy not only as the trusted vendor for virtualizaton across the hybrid cloud, but also as a trusted application delivery vendor,” he said.

The company has raised a modest $1.1 million since its founding in 2011 and says that it has been profitable since early days when it took the funding. In the blog post, the company states that nothing will change for customers from their perspective.

“In a way, nothing is changing. We will continue to develop and maintain our application catalog across all the platforms we support and even expand to additional ones. Additionally, if you are a company using Bitnami in production, a lot of new opportunities just opened up.”

Time will tell whether that is the case, but it is likely that Bitnami will be able to expand its offerings as part of a larger organization like VMware. The deal is expected to close by the end of this quarter (which is fiscal Q2 2020 for VMware).

VMware is a member of the Dell federation of products and came over as part of the massive $67 billion EMC deal in 2016. The company operates independently, is sold as a separate company on the stock market and makes its own acquisitions.

May
14
2019
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Sisense acquires Periscope Data to build integrated data science and analytics solution

Sisense announced today that it has acquired Periscope Data to create what it is calling a complete data science and analytics platform for customers. The companies did not disclose the purchase price.

The two companies’ CEOs met about 18 months ago at a conference, and running similar kinds of companies, hit it off. They began talking and, after a time, realized it might make sense to combine the two startups because each one was attacking the data problem from a different angle.

Sisense, which has raised $174 million, tends to serve business intelligence requirements either for internal use or externally with customers. Periscope, which has raised more than $34 million, looks at the data science end of the business.

Both CEOs say they could have eventually built these capabilities into their respective platforms, but after meeting they decided to bring the two companies together instead, and they made a deal.

Harry Glasser from Periscope Data and Amir Orad of Sisense.

Harry Glaser from Periscope Data and Amir Orad of Sisense

“I realized over the last 18 months [as we spoke] that we’re actually building leadership positions into two unique areas of the market that will slowly become one as industries and technologies evolve,” Sisense CEO Amir Orad told TechCrunch.

Periscope CEO Harry Glaser says that as his company built a company around advanced analytics and predictive modeling, he saw a growing opportunity around operationalizing these insights across an organization, something he could do much more quickly in combination with Sisense.

“[We have been] pulled into this broader business intelligence conversation, and it has put us in a place where as we do this merger, we are able to instantly leapfrog the three years it would have taken us to deliver that to our customers, and deliver operationalized insights on integration day on day one,” Glaser explained.

The two executives say this is part of a larger trend about companies becoming more data-driven, a phrase that seems trite by now, but as a recent Harvard Business School study found, it’s still a big challenge for companies to achieve.

Orad says that you can debate the pace of change, but that overall, companies are going to operate better when they use data to drive decisions. “I think it’s an interesting intellectual debate, but the direction is one direction. People who deploy this technology will provide better care, better service, hire better, promote employees and grow them better, have better marketing, better sales and be more cost effective,” he said.

Orad and Glaser recognize that many acquisitions don’t succeed, but they believe they are bringing together two like-minded companies that will have a combined ARR of $100 million and 700 employees.

“That’s the icing on the cake, knowing that the cultures are so compatible, knowing that they work so well together, but it starts from a conviction that this advanced analytics can be operationalized throughout enterprises and [with] their customers. This is going to drive transformation inside our customers that’s really great for them and turns them into data-driven companies,” Glaser said.

Apr
18
2019
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Microsoft delves deeper into IoT with Express Logic acquisition

Microsoft has never been shy about being acquisitive, and today it announced it’s buying Express Logic, a San Diego company that has developed a real-time operating system (RTOS) aimed at controlling the growing number of IoT devices in the world.

The companies did not share the purchase price.

Express Logic is not some wide-eyed, pie-in-the-sky startup. It has been around for 23 years, building (in its own words) “industrial-grade RTOS and middleware software solutions for embedded and IoT developers.” The company boasts some 6.2 billion (yes, billion) devices running its systems. That number did not escape Sam George, director of Azure IoT at Microsoft, but as he wrote in a blog post announcing the deal, there is a reason for this popularity.

“This widespread popularity is driven by demand for technology to support resource constrained environments, especially those that require safety and security,” George wrote.

Holger Mueller, an analyst with Constellation Research, says that market share also gives Microsoft instant platform credibility. “This is a key acquisition for Microsoft: on the strategy side Microsoft is showing it is serious with investing heavily into IoT, and on the product side it’s a key step to get into the operating system code of the popular RTOS,” Mueller told TechCrunch.

The beauty of Express Logic’s approach is that it can work in low-power and low-resource environments and offers a proven solution for a range or products. “Manufacturers building products across a range of categories — from low-capacity sensors like lightbulbs and temperature gauges to air conditioners, medical devices and network appliances — leverage the size, safety and security benefits of Express Logic solutions to achieve faster time to market,” George wrote.

Writing in a blog post to his customers announcing the deal, Express Logic CEO William E. Lamie, expressed optimism that the company can grow even further as part of the Microsoft family. “Effective immediately, our ThreadX RTOS and supporting software technology, as well as our talented engineering staff join Microsoft. This complements Microsoft’s existing premier security offering in the microcontroller space,” he wrote.

Microsoft is getting an established company with a proven product that can help it scale its Azure IoT business. The acquisition is part of a $5 billion investment in IoT the company announced last April that includes a number of Azure pieces, such as Azure Sphere, Azure Digital Twins, Azure IoT Edge, Azure Maps and Azure IoT Central.

“With this acquisition, we will unlock access to billions of new connected endpoints, grow the number of devices that can seamlessly connect to Azure and enable new intelligent capabilities. Express Logic’s ThreadX RTOS joins Microsoft’s growing support for IoT devices and is complementary with Azure Sphere, our premier security offering in the microcontroller space,” George wrote.

Apr
18
2019
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CloudBees acquires Electric Cloud to build out its software delivery management platform

CloudBees, the enterprise continuous integration and delivery service (and the biggest contributor to the Jenkins open-source automation server), today announced that it has acquired Electric Cloud, a continuous delivery and automation platform that first launched all the way back in 2002.

The two companies did not disclose the price of the acquisition, but CloudBees has raised a total of $113.2 million while Electric Cloud raised $64.6 million from the likes of Rembrandt Venture Partners, U.S. Venture Partners, RRE Ventures and Next47.

CloudBees plans to integrate Electric Cloud’s application release automation platform into its offerings. Electric Flow’s 110 employees will join CloudBees.

“As of today, we provide customers with best-of-breed CI/CD software from a single vendor, establishing CloudBees as a continuous delivery powerhouse,” said Sacha Labourey, the CEO and co-founder of CloudBees, in today’s announcement. “By combining the strength of CloudBees, Electric Cloud, Jenkins and Jenkins X, CloudBees offers the best CI/CD solution for any application, from classic to Kubernetes, on-premise to cloud, self-managed to self-service.”

Electric Cloud offers its users a number of tools for automating their release pipelines and managing the application life cycle afterward.

“We are looking forward to joining CloudBees and executing on our shared goal of helping customers build software that matters,” said Carmine Napolitano, CEO, Electric Cloud. “The combination of CloudBees’ industry-leading continuous integration and continuous delivery platform, along with Electric Cloud’s industry-leading application release orchestration solution, gives our customers the best foundation for releasing apps at any speed the business demands.”

As CloudBees CPO Christina Noren noted during her keynote at CloudBees’ developer conference today, the company’s customers are getting more sophisticated in their DevOps platforms, but they are starting to run into new problems now that they’ve reached this point.

“What we’re seeing is that these customers have disconnected and fragmented islands of information,” she said. “There’s the view that each development team has […] and there’s not a common language, there’s not a common data model, and there’s not an end-to-end process that unites from left to right, top to bottom.” This kind of integrated system is what CloudBees is building toward (and that competitors like GitLab would argue they already offer). Today’s announcement marks a first step into this direction toward building a full software delivery management platform, though others are likely to follow.

During his company’s developer conference, Labourey also today noted that CloudBees will profit from Electric Cloud’s longstanding expertise in continuous delivery and that the acquisition will turn CloudBees into a “DevOps powerhouse.”

Today’s announcement follows CloudBees’ acquisition of CI/CD tool CodeShip last year. As of now, CodeShip remains a standalone product in the company’s lineup. It’ll be interesting to see how CloudBees will integrate Electric Cloud’s products to build a more integrated system.

Apr
17
2019
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Spotinst, the startup enabling companies to purchase and manage excess cloud capacity, acquires StratCloud

Spotinst, the cloud automation and optimization startup founded in Tel Aviv but now with offices in San Francisco, New York and London, has acquired AWS partner StratCloud. Terms of the deal remain undisclosed, although I’m hearing it combines both cash and stock and was somewhere in the region of $5 million.

As part of the acquisition, StratCloud’s team of 15 people will be joining Spotinst, including founder Patrick Gartlan, who will become VP, Cloud Services at Spotinst. StratCloud hadn’t raised any venture capital but instead was bootstrapped by Gartlan, who was the former CTO of cloud optimization company CloudCheckr.

Founded in 2015, Spotinst enables enterprises to optimize their cloud infrastructure usage by automating the process of using excess — and therefore cheaper — capacity from leading cloud providers.

As TechCrunch’s Ron Miller previously explained, cloud platforms like AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform, all of which Spotinst supports, have to maintain more resources than they need at any given time. All three companies offer steep discounts to customers who want to access these resources, but they come with a strict condition that the platforms can take those resources back whenever they need them — which is where Spotinst (and today’s acquisition of StratCloud) comes in.

Spotinst’s platform manages the process of acquiring spare capacity, powered by predictive AI, and seamlessly switches providers before it’s withdrawn. This ensures that cloud computing “workloads” keep functioning, while the customer still receives the best possible price.

Meanwhile, StratCloud tech is described as an “optimization platform” that buys, sells and converts reserved capacity, therefore maximizing savings for on-demand infrastructure. “This leads to lower compute payments, without engineers having to change anything in the applications and infrastructure they manage,” explains Spotinst.

Related to this, Spotinst will migrate StratCloud’s several dozen customers to the Spotinst platform, where they’ll continue to receive all of the current functionality.

Overall, the acquisition means Spotinst can now offer a complete solution for cloud users, including offering reserved instances and unused computer power so that enterprises can run any workload and support large-scale migrations on any cloud provider. In addition, Spotinst says the combined technologies give Managed Service Providers (MSPs) a comprehensive tool to optimize cloud workloads for all of their managed customers.

Spotinst claims more than 1,500 enterprise customers in 52 countries, including Samsung, N26, Duolingo, Ticketmaster and Wix. The company currently employs approximately 150 staff across its four offices and has raised $52 million in VC funding to date.

Apr
17
2019
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Salesforce is buying MapAnything, a startup that raised over $84 million

Salesforce announced today it’s buying another company built on its platform. This time it’s MapAnything, which as the name implies, helps companies build location-based workflows, something that could come in handy for sales or service calls.

The companies did not reveal the selling price, and Salesforce didn’t have anything to add beyond a brief press release announcing the deal.

“The addition of MapAnything to Salesforce will help the world’s leading brands accurately plan: how many people they need, where to put them, how to make them as productive as possible, how to track what’s being done in real time and what they can learn to improve going forward,” Salesforce wrote in the statement announcing the deal.

It was a logical acquisition on many levels. In addition to being built on the Salesforce platform, the product was sold through the Salesforce AppExchange, and over the years MapAnything has been a Salesforce SI Partner, an ISV Premier Partner, according the company.

“Salesforce’s pending acquisition of MapAnything comes at a critical time for brands. Customer Experience is rapidly overtaking price as the leading reason companies win in the market. Leading companies like MillerCoors, Michelin, Unilever, Synchrony Financial and Mohawk Industries have all seen how location-enabled field sales and service professionals can focus on the right activities against the right customers, improving their productivity, and allowing them to provide value in every interaction,” company co-founder and CEO John Stewart wrote in a blog post announcing the deal.

MapAnything boasts 1900 customers in total, and that is likely to grow substantially once it officially becomes part of the Salesforce family later this year.

MapAnything was founded in 2009, so it’s been around long enough to raise over $84 million, according to Crunchbase. Last year, we covered the company’s $33.1 million Series B round, which was led by Columbus Nova.

At the time of the funding CEO John Stewart told me that his company’s products present location data more logically on a map instead of in a table. ‘“Our Core product helps users (most often field-based sales or service workers) visualize their data on a map, interact with it to drive productivity, and then use geolocation services like our mobile app or complex routing to determine the right cadence to meet them,” Stewart told me last year.

It raised an additional $42.5 million last November. Investors included General Motors Ventures and (unsurprisingly) Salesforce Ventures.

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