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.

Oct
11
2018
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Zuora partners with Amazon Pay to expand subscription billing options

Zuora, the SaaS company helping organizations manage payments for subscription businesses, announced today that it had been selected as a Premier Partner in the Amazon Pay Global Partner Program. 

The “Premier Partner” distinction means businesses using Zuora’s billing platform can now easily integrate Amazon’s digital payment system as an option during checkout or recurring payment processes. 

The strategic rationale for Zuora is clear, as the partnership expands the company’s product offering to prospective and existing customers.  The ability to support a wide array of payment methodologies is a key value proposition for subscription businesses that enables them to service a larger customer base and provide a more seamless customer experience.

It also doesn’t hurt to have a deep-pocketed ally like Amazon in a fairly early-stage industry.  With omnipotent tech titans waging war over digital payment dominance, Amazon has reportedly doubled down on efforts to spread Amazon Pay usage, cutting into its own margins and offering incentives to retailers.

As adoption of Amazon Pay spreads, subscription businesses will be compelled to offer the service as an available payment option and Zuora should benefit from supporting early billing integration.

For Amazon Pay, teaming up with Zuora provides direct access to Zuora’s customer base, which caters to tens of millions of subscribers. 

With Zuora minimizing the complexity of adding additional payment options, which can often disrupt an otherwise unobtrusive subscription purchase experience, the partnership with Zuora should help spur Amazon Pay adoption and reduce potential friction.

“By extending the trust and convenience of the Amazon experience to Zuora, merchants around the world can now streamline the subscription checkout experience for their customers,” said Vice President of Amazon Pay, Patrick Gauthier.  “We are excited to be working with Zuora to accelerate the Amazon Pay integration process for their merchants and provide a fast, simple and secure payment solution that helps grow their business.”

The world subscribed

The collaboration with Amazon Pay represents another milestone for Zuora, which completed its IPO in April of this year and is now looking to further differentiate its offering from competing in-house systems or large incumbents in the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) space, such as Oracle or SAP.   

Going forward, Zuora hopes to play a central role in ushering a broader shift towards a subscription-based economy. 

Tien Tzuo, founder and CEO of Zuora, told TechCrunch he wants the company to help businesses first realize they should be in the subscription economy and then provide them with the resources necessary to flourish within it.

“Our vision is the world subscribed.”  said Tzuo. “We want to be the leading company that has the right technology platform to get companies to be successful in the subscription economy.”

The partnership will launch with publishers “The Seattle Times” and “The Telegraph”, with both now offering Amazon Pay as a payment method while running on the Zuora platform.

Sep
25
2018
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Salesforce, AWS expand partnership with secure data sharing between platforms

Salesforce and Amazon’s cloud arm, AWS, have had a pretty close relationship for some time, signing a $400 million deal for infrastructure cloud services in 2016, but today at Dreamforce, Salesforce’s massive customer conference taking place this week in San Francisco, they took it to another level. The two companies announced they were offering a new set of data integration services between the two cloud platforms for common customers.

Matt Garman, vice president of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, says customers looking to transform digitally are still primarily concerned about security when moving data between cloud vendors, More specifically, they were asking for a way to move data more securely between the Salesforce and Amazon platforms. “Customers talked to us about sensitive data in Salesforce and using deep analytics and data processing on AWS and moving them back and forth in secure way,” he said. Today’s announcements let them do that.

In practice, Salesforce customers can set up a direct connection using AWS Private Link to connect directly to private Salesforce APIs and move data from Salesforce to an Amazon service such as Redshift, the company’s data warehouse product, without ever exposing the data to the open internet.

Further, Salesforce customers can set up Lambda functions so that when certain conditions are met in Salesforce, it triggers an action such as moving data (or vice versa). This is commonly known as serverless computing and developers are increasingly using event triggers to drive business processes.

Finally, the two companies are integrating more directly with Amazon Connect, the Amazon contact center software it launched in 2017. This is where it gets more interesting because of course Salesforce offers its own contact center services with Salesforce Service Cloud. The two companies found a way to help common customers work together here to build what they are calling AI-driven self-service applications using Amazon Connect on the Salesforce mobile Lightning development platform.

This could involve among other things, building mobile applications that take advantage of Amazon Lex, AWS’s bot building application and Salesforce Einstein, Salesforce’s artificial intelligence platform. Common customers can download the Amazon Connect CTI Adapter on the Salesforce AppExchange.

Make no mistake, this is a significant announcement in that it involves two of the most successful cloud companies on the planet working directly together to offer products and services that benefit their common customers. This was not lost on Bret Taylor, president and chief product officer at Salesforce. “We’re enabling something that wouldn’t have been possible. It’s really exciting because it’s something unique in the marketplace,” he said.

What’s more, it comes on the heels of yesterday’s partnership news with Apple, giving Salesforce two powerful partners to work with moving forward.

While the level of today’s news is unprecedented between the two companies, they  have been working together for some time. As Garman points out, Heroku, which Salesforce bought in 2010 and Quip, which it bought last year were both built on AWS from the get-go. Salesforce, which mostly runs its own data centers in the U.S. runs most of its public cloud on AWS, especially outside the U.S. Conversely, Amazon uses Salesforce tools internally.

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