Jul
07
2020
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Zoom announces new Hardware as a Service offering to run on ServiceNow

Zoom announced a new Hardware as a Service offering today that will run on the ServiceNow platform. At the same time, the company announced a deal with ServiceNow to standardize on Zoom and Zoom Phone for its 11,000 employees in another case of SaaS cooperation.

For starters, the new Hardware as a Service offering allows customers, who use the Zoom Phone and Zoom Rooms software, to acquire related hardware from the company for a fixed monthly cost. The company announced that initial solutions providers will include DTEN, Neat, Poly and Yealink.

The new service allows companies to access low-cost hardware and pay for the software and hardware on a single invoice. This could result in lower up-front costs, while simplifying the bookkeeping associated with a customer’s online communications options.

Companies can start small if they wish, then add additional hardware over time as needs change, and they can also opt for a fully managed service, where a third party can deal with installation and management of the hardware if that’s what a customer requires.

Zoom will run the new service on ServiceNow’s Now platform, which provides a way to manage the service requests as they come in. And in a case of one SaaS hand washing the other, ServiceNow has standardized on the Zoom platform for its internal communications tool, which has become increasingly important as the pandemic has moved employees to work from home. The company also plans to replace its current phone system with Zoom Phones.

One of the defining characteristics of SaaS companies, and a major difference from previous generations of tech companies, has been the willingness of these organizations to work together to string together sets of services when it makes sense. These kinds of partnerships not only benefit the companies involved, they tend to be a win for customers too.

Brent Leary, founder at CRM Essentials, sees this as a deal between two rising SaaS stars, and one that benefits both companies. “Everyone and their mother is announcing partnerships with Zoom, focusing on integrating video communications into core focus areas. But this partnership looks to be much more substantial than most, with ServiceNow not only partnering with Zoom for tighter video communication capabilities, but also displacing its current phone system with Zoom Phone,” Leary told TechCrunch.

Jun
05
2020
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Slack’s new integration deal with AWS could also be about tweaking Microsoft

Slack and Amazon announced a big integration late yesterday afternoon. As part of the deal, Slack will use Amazon Chime for its call feature, while reiterating its commitment to use AWS as its preferred cloud provider to run its infrastructure. At the same time, Amazon has agreed to offer Slack as an option for all internal communications.

“Some parts of Amazon had licensed Slack before, but this is the first time it will be offered as an option to all employees,” an Amazon spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Make no mistake, this is a big deal as the SaaS communications tool increases its ties with AWS, but this agreement could also be about slighting Microsoft and its rival Teams product by making a deal with a cloud rival. In the past, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield has had choice words for Microsoft saying the Redmond technology giant sees his company as an “existential threat.”

Whether that’s true  — Teams is but one piece of a huge technology company — it’s impossible not to look at the deal in this context. Aligning more deeply with AWS sends a message to Microsoft, whose Azure infrastructure services compete with AWS.

Butterfield didn’t say that of course. He talked about how synergistic the deal was. “Strategically partnering with AWS allows both companies to scale to meet demand and deliver enterprise-grade offerings to our customers. By integrating AWS services with Slack’s channel-based messaging platform, we’re helping teams easily and seamlessly manage their cloud infrastructure projects and launch cloud-based services without ever leaving Slack,” he said in a statement.

The deal also includes several other elements including integrating AWS Key Management Service with Slack Enterprise Key Management (EKM) for encryption key management, deeper alignment with AWS’s chatbot service and direct integration with AWS AppFlow to enable secure transfer of data between Slack and Amazon S3 storage and the Amazon Redshift data warehouse.

AWS CEO Andy Jassy saw it as a pure integration play. “Together, AWS and Slack are giving developer teams the ability to collaborate and innovate faster on the front end with applications, while giving them the ability to efficiently manage their backend cloud infrastructure,” Jassy said in a statement.

Like any good deal, it’s good for both sides. Slack gets a big customer in AWS and AWS now has Slack directly integrating more of its services. One of the reasons enterprise users are so enamored with Slack is the ability to get work done in a single place without constantly having to change focus and move between interfaces.

This deal will provide more of that for common customers, while tweaking a common rival. That’s what you call win-win.

Feb
25
2020
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CircleCI-AWS GovCloud partnership aims to bring modern development to US government

Much like private businesses, the United States government is in the process of moving workloads to the cloud, and facing a similar set of challenges. Today, CircleCI, the continuous delivery developer service, announced a partnership with AWS GovCloud to help federal government entities using AWS’s government platform to modernize their applications development workflows.

“What this means is that it allows us to run our server offering, which is our on-prem offering, and our government customers can run that on dedicated pure cloud resource [on AWS GovCloud],” CircleCI CEO Jim Rose told TechCrunch.

GovCloud is a dedicated, single tenant cloud platform that lets government entities build FedRAMP-compliant secure cloud solutions (other cloud vendors have similar offerings). FedRAMP is a set of government cloud security standards every cloud vendor has to meet to work with the federal government

CircleCI builds modern continuous delivery/continuous integration (CI/CD) pipelines for development teams pushing changes to the application in a rapid change cycle.

“What GovCloud allows us to do is now provide that same level of security and service for government customers that wanted us to do so in an on prem environment in a dedicated single tenant environment [in the cloud],” Rose explained.

While there are a number of steps involved in building cloud applications, Rose said they are sticking to their core strength around building continuous delivery pipelines. As he says, if you have a legacy mainframe application that changes once every year or two, using CircleCI wouldn’t make sense, but as you begin to modernize, that’s where his company could help.

“[CircleCi comes into play] when you get into more modern cloud applications that are changing in some cases hundreds of times a day, and the sources of change for those applications is getting really diverse and managing that is becoming more complex,” Rose said.

This partnership could involve working directly with an agency, as it has done with the Small Business Administration (SBA), or it might involve a systems integrator, or even AWS, inviting them to be part of a larger RFP.

Rose says he realizes that working with the government can sometimes be controversial. Companies from Chef to Salesforce to Google have run afoul with employees who don’t want to work with certain agencies like DoD or ICE. He says his company has tended to focus on areas where agencies are looking to improve citizen interactions and steered away from other areas.

“From our perspective, given that we’re not super involved in a lot of those areas, but we want to get in front of it, both commercially, as well as on the government side, and determine what falls within the fence line and what’s outside of it,” he said.

Dec
10
2019
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D-Wave partners with NEC to build hybrid HPC and quantum apps

D-Wave Systems announced a partnership with Japanese industrial giant NEC today to build what they call “hybrid apps and services” that work on a combination of NEC high-performance computers and D-Wave’s quantum systems.

The two companies also announced that NEC will be investing $10 million in D-Wave, which has raised $204 million prior to this, according to Crunchbase data.

D-Wave’s chief product officer and EVP of R&D, Alan Baratz, whom the company announced this week will be taking over as CEO effective January 1st, says the company has been able to do a lot of business in Japan, and the size of this deal could help push the technology further. “Our collaboration with global pioneer NEC is a major milestone in the pursuit of fully commercial quantum applications,” he said in a statement.

The company says it is one of the earliest deals between a quantum vendor and a multinational IT company with the size and scale of NEC. The deal involves three key elements. First of all, NEC and D-Wave will come together to develop hybrid services that combine NEC’s supercomputers and other classical systems with D-Wave’s quantum technology. The hope is that by combining the classical and quantum systems, they can create better performance for lower cost than you could get if you tried to do similar computing on a strictly classical system.

The two companies will also work together with NEC customers to build applications that will take advantage of this hybrid approach. Also, NEC will be an authorized reseller of D-Wave cloud services.

For NEC, which claims to have demonstrated the world’s first quantum bit device way back in 1999, it is about finding ways to keep advancing commercial quantum computing. “Quantum computing development is critical for the future of every industry tasked with solving today’s most complex problems. Hybrid applications and greater access to quantum systems is what will allow us to achieve truly commercial-grade quantum solutions,” Motoo Nishihara, executive vice president and CTO at NEC Corporation, said in a statement.

This deal should help move the companies toward that goal.

Nov
19
2019
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Salesforce, AWS expand partnership to bring Amazon Connect to Service Cloud

Salesforce and AWS announced an expansion of their on-going partnership that actually goes back to a $400 million 2016 infrastructure services agreement, and expanded last year to include data integration between the two companies. This year, Salesforce announced it will be offering AWS telephony and call transcription services with Amazon Connect as part of its Service Cloud call center solution.

“We have a strategic partnership with Amazon Web Services, which will allow customers to purchase Amazon Connect from us, and then it will be pre-integrated and out of the box to provide a full transcription of the call, and of course that’s alongside of an actual call recording of the call,” Patrick Beyries, VP of product management for Service Cloud. explained.

It’s worth noting that the company will be partnering with other telephony vendors as well, so that customers can choose the Amazon solution or another from Cisco, Avaya or Genesys, Beyries said.

These telephony partnerships fill in a gap in the Service Cloud call center offering, and give Salesforce direct access to the call itself. The telephony vendors will handle call transcription and hand that off to Salesforce, which can then use its intelligence layer called Einstein to “read” the transcript and offer the CSR next best actions in real time, something the company has been able to do with interactions from chat and other channels, but couldn’t do with voice.

“As this conversation evolves, the consumer is explaining what their problem is, and Einstein is [monitoring] that conversation. As the conversation gets to a critical mass, Einstein begins to understand what the content is about and suggests a specific solution to the agent,” Beyries said.

Salesforce will begin piloting this new Service Cloud capability in the spring with general availability expected next summer.

Only last week, Salesforce announced a major partnership with Microsoft to move Salesforce Marketing Cloud to Azure. These announcements show Salesforce will continue to use multiple cloud partners when it makes sense for the business. Today, it’s Amazon’s turn.

Nov
18
2019
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Salesforce, Apple partnership begins to come to life

Last year at Dreamforce, Salesforce’s enormous annual customer conference, Apple and Salesforce announced the beginnings of a partnership where the two organizations would work together to enhance Salesforce products running on Apple devices. Today, as this year’s Dreamforce conference begins, the companies announced the fruits of that labor with general availability of two new tools that were first announced at last year’s event.

For starters, Apple has been working with Salesforce to redesign the Salesforce Mobile app to build in Apple iOS features into the app like being able to use Siri shortcuts to get work done faster, using your voice instead of typing, something that’s sometimes awkward to do on a mobile device.

Hey Siri example in Salesforce Mobile app.

Photo: Salesforce

For instance, you could say, “Hey Siri, next sales meeting,” and Siri can interact with Salesforce CRM to tell you who your meeting is with, the name of his or her company, when you last met and what the Einstein opportunity score is to help you predict how likely it is that you could make a sale today (or eventually).

In addition, the Mobile App takes advantage of Apple’s Handoff feature to reflect changes across devices immediately, and Apple’s Face ID for easy log on to the app.

Salesforce also announced a pilot of Einstein Voice on Salesforce Mobile, allowing reps to enter notes, add tasks and update the CRM database using voice. Einstein is Salesforce’s general artificial intelligence layer, and the voice feature uses natural language understanding to interpret what the rep asks.

The company reports that over 1000 companies participated in piloting the updated app, which constitutes the largest pilot in the history of the organization.

Salesforce also announced its new mobile development platform SDK, built specifically for iOS and iPadOS using the Swift language. The idea is to provide a tool to give Salesforce developers with the ability to build apps for iPad and iPhone, then package them up with a new tool called Swift UI and Package Manager.

Trailhead Go

Photo: Salesforce

Trailhead Go is the mobile version of the company’s online learning platform designed specifically for iPad and iPhone. It was built using the new Mobile SDK, and allows users to access the same courses they can on the web in a mobile context. The new mobile tool includes the ability to Handoff between devices along with support for picture-in-picture and split view for multi-tasking when it makes sense.

Salesforce Mobile and Trailhead Go are available starting today for free in the iOS App Store. The Salesforce Mobile SDK will be available later this year.

As this partnership continues to develop, both companies should benefit. Salesforce gets direct access to Apple features, and can work with Apple to implement them in an optimized way. Apple gets deeper access to the enterprise with help from Salesforce, one of the biggest enterprise software vendors around.

Nov
15
2019
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Why Salesforce is moving Marketing Cloud to Microsoft Azure

When Salesforce announced this week that it was moving Marketing Cloud to Microsoft Azure, it was easy to see this as another case of wacky enterprise partnerships. But there had to be sound business reasons why the partnership came together, rather than going with AWS or Google Cloud Platform, both of which are also Salesforce partners in other contexts.

If you ask Salesforce, it says it was ultimately because of compatibility with Microsoft SQL.

“Salesforce chose Azure because it is a trusted platform with a global footprint, multi-layered security approach, robust disaster recovery strategy with auto failover, automatic updates and more,” a Salesforce spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Marketing Cloud also has a long standing relationship with Microsoft SQL which makes the transition to SQL on Azure a natural decision.”

Except for the SQL part, Microsoft’s chief rivals at AWS and Google Cloud Platform also provide those benefits. In fact, each of those reasons cited by the spokesperson — with the exception of SQL — are all part of the general cloud infrastructure value proposition that all the major cloud vendors provide.

There’s probably more to it than simply compatibility. There is also a long-standing rivalry between the two companies, and why in spite of their competition, they continue to make deals like this in the spirit of co-opetition. We spoke to a few industry experts to get their take on the deal to find out why these two seeming rivals decided to come together.

Retailer’s dilemma

Tony Byrne, founder and principal analyst at Real Story Group, thinks it could be related to the fact it’s a marketing tool and some customers may be wary about hosting their businesses on AWS while competing with Amazon on the retail side. This is a common argument for why retail customers in particular are more likely to go with Microsoft or Google over AWS.

“Salesforce Marketing Cloud tends to target B2C enterprises, so the choice of Azure makes sense in one context where some B2C firms are wary of Amazon for competitive reasons. But I’d also imagine there’s more to the decision than that,” Byrne said.

Oct
22
2019
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Early-stage privacy startup DataGrail gets boost from Okta partnership

When Okta launched its $50 million Okta Ventures investment fund in April, one of its investments was in an early-stage privacy startup called DataGrail. Today, the companies announced a partnership that they hope will help boost DataGrail, while providing Okta customers with a privacy tool option.

DataGrail CEO and co-founder Daniel Barber says that with the increase in privacy legislation, from GDPR to the upcoming California Consumer Protection Act (and many other proposed bills in various states of progress), companies need tools to help them comply and protect user privacy. “We are a privacy platform focused on delivering continuous compliance for businesses,” Barber says.

They do this in a way that fits nicely with Okta’s approach to identity. Whereas Okta provides a place to access all of your cloud applications from a single place with one logon, DataGrail connects to your applications with connectors to provide a way to monitor privacy across the organization from a single view.

It currently has 180 connectors to common enterprise applications like Salesforce, HubSpot, Marketo and Oracle. It then collects this data and presents it to the company in a central interface to help ensure privacy. “Our key differentiator is that we’re able to deliver a live data map of the customer data that exists within an organization,” Barber explained.

The company just launched last year, but Barber sees similarities in their approaches. “We see clear alignment on our go-to-market approach. The product that we built aligns very similarly to the way Okta is deployed, and we’re a true partner with the industry leader in identity management,” he said.

Monty Gray, SVP and head of corporate development at Okta, says that the company is always looking for innovative companies that fit well with Okta. The company liked DataGrail enough to contribute to the startup’s $5.2 million Series A investment in July.

Gray says that while DataGrail isn’t the only privacy company it’s partnering with, he likes how DataGrail is helping with privacy compliance in large organizations. “We saw how DataGrail was thinking about [privacy] in a modern fashion. They enable these technology companies to become not only compliant, but do it in a way where they were not directly in the flow, that they would get out of the way,” Gray explained.

Barber says having the help of Okta could help drive sales, and for a company that’s just getting off the ground, having a public company in your corner as an investor, as well as a partner, could help push the company forward. That’s all that any early startup can hope for.

Jul
18
2019
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Intel announces deep, multi-year partnership with SAP

Intel announced a deep partnership with SAP today around using advanced Intel technology to optimize SAP software tools. Specifically, the company plans to tune its Intel Xeon Scalable processors and Intel Optane DC persistent memory for SAP’s suite of applications.

The multi-year partnership includes giving SAP early access to emerging Intel technologies and building a Center of Excellence. “We’re announcing a multi-year technology partnership that’s focused on optimizing Intel’s platform innovations… across the entire portfolio of SAP’s end-to-end enterprise software applications including SAP S/4HANA,” Rajeeb Hazra, corporate vice president of Intel’s Enterprise and Government Business, told TechCrunch.

He says that this will cover broad areas of Intel technology, including CPU, accelerators, data center, persistent memory and software infrastructure. “We’re taking all of that data-centric portfolio to move data faster, store data more efficiently and process all kinds of data for all kinds of workloads,” he explained.

The idea is to work closely together to help customers understand and use the two sets of technologies in tandem in a more efficient manner. “The goal here is [to expose] a broad portfolio of Intel technologies for the data-centric era, close collaboration with SAP to accelerate the pace of innovation of SAP’s entire broad suite of enterprise class applications, while making it easier for customers to see, test and deploy this technology,” he said.

Irfan Khan, president of Platform and Technologies at SAP, says this partnership should help deliver better performance across the SAP suite of products including SAP S/4HANA, its in-memory database product. “Our expanded partnership with Intel will accelerate our customers’ move to SAP S/4HANA by allowing organizations to unlock the value of data assets with greater ease and operate with increased visibility, focus and agility,” Khan said in a statement.

Hazra says that this is part of a broader enterprise strategy the company has been undertaking for many years, but it is focusing specifically on SAP for this agreement because of its position in the enterprise software ecosystem. He believes that by partnering with SAP at this level, the two companies can gain further insight that could help customers as they use advanced technologies like AI and machine learning.

“This partnership is [significant for us] given SAP’s focus and position in the markets that they serve with enterprise class applications, and the importance of what they’re doing for our core enterprise customers in those areas of the enterprise. This includes the emerging areas of machine learning and AI. With their suite [of products], it gives those customers the ability to accelerate innovation in their businesses by being able to see, touch, feel and consume this innovation much more efficiently,” he said.

Nov
15
2018
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Docker inks partnership with MuleSoft as Salesforce takes a strategic stake

Docker and MuleSoft have announced a broad deal to sell products together and integrate their platforms. As part of it, Docker is getting an investment from Salesforce, the CRM giant that acquired MuleSoft for $6.5 billion last spring.

Salesforce is not disclosing the size of the stake it’s taking in Docker, but it is strategic: it will see its new MuleSoft working with Docker to connect containerized applications to multiple data sources across an organization. Putting the two companies together, you can connect these containerized applications to multiple data sources in a modern way, even with legacy applications.

The partnership is happening on multiple levels and includes technical integration to help customers more easily use the two toolsets together. It also includes a sales agreement to invite each company’s sales team when it makes sense, and to work with systems integrators and ISVs, who help companies put these kind of complex solutions to work inside large organizations.

Docker chief product officer Scott Johnston said it was really about bringing together two companies whose missions were aligned with what they were hearing from customers. That involves tapping into some broad trends around getting more out of their legacy applications and a growing desire to take an API-driven approach to developer productivity, while getting additional value out of their existing data sources. “Both companies have been working separately on these challenges for the last several years, and it just made sense as we listen to the market and listen to customers that we joined forces,” Johnston told TechCrunch.

Uri Sarid, MuleSoft’s CTO, agrees that customers have been using both products and it called for a more formal arrangement. “We have joint customers and the partnership will be fortifying that. So that’s a great motion, but we believe in acceleration. And so if there are things that we can do, and we now have plans for what we will do to make that even faster, to make that even more natural and built-in, we can accelerate the motion to this. Before, you had to think about these two concerns separately, and we are working on interoperability that makes you not have to think about them separately,” he explained.

This announcement comes at a time of massive consolidation in the enterprise. In the last couple of weeks, we have seen IBM buying Red Hat for $34 billion, SAP acquiring Qualtrics for $8 billion and Vista Equity Partners scooping up Apptio for $1.94 billion. Salesforce acquired MuleSoft earlier this year in its own mega deal in an effort to bridge the gap between data in the cloud and on-prem.

The final piece of today’s announcement is that investment from Salesforce Ventures. Johnston would not say how much the investment was for, but did say it was about aligning the two partners.

Docker had raised almost $273 million before today’s announcement. It’s possible it could be looking for a way to exit, and with the trend toward enterprise consolidation, Salesforce’s investment may be a way to test the waters for just that. If it seems like an odd match, remember that Salesforce bought Heroku in 2010 for $212 million.

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