May
13
2019
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Announcing TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise this September in San Francisco

Of the many categories in the tech world, none is more ferociously competitive than enterprise. For decades, SAP, Oracle, Adobe, Microsoft, IBM and Salesforce, to name a few of the giants, have battled to deliver the tools businesses want to become more productive and competitive. That market is closing in on $500 billion in sales per year, which explains why hundreds of new enterprise startups launch every year and dozens are acquired by the big incumbents trying to maintain their edge.

Last year alone, the top 10 enterprise acquisitions were worth $87 billion and included IBM’s acquiring Red Hat for $34 billion, SAP paying $8 billion for Qualtrics, Microsoft landing GitHub for $7.5 billion, Salesforce acquiring MuleSoft for $6.5 billion and Adobe grabbing Marketo for $4.75 billion. No startup category has made more VCs and founders wildly wealthy, and none has seen more mighty companies rise faster or fall harder. That technology and business thrill ride makes enterprise a category TechCrunch has long wanted to tackle head on.

TC Sessions: Enterprise (September 5 at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center) will take on the big challenges and promise facing enterprise companies today. TechCrunch’s editors, notably Frederic Lardinois, Ron Miller and Connie Loizos, will bring to the stage founders and leaders from established and emerging companies to address rising questions like the promised revolution from machine learning and AI, intelligent marketing automation and the inevitability of the cloud, as well as the outer reaches of technology, like quantum and blockchain.

We’ll enlist proven enterprise-focused VCs to reveal where they are directing their early, middle and late-stage investments. And we’ll ask the most proven serial entrepreneurs to tell us what it really took to build that company, and which company they would like to create next. All throughout the show, TechCrunch’s editors will zero in on emerging enterprise technologies to sort the hype from the reality. Whether you are a founder, an investor, enterprise-minded engineer or a corporate CTO / CIO, TC Sessions: Enterprise will provide a valuable day of new insights and great networking.

Tickets are now available for purchase on our website at the early-bird rate of $395. Want to bring a group of people from your company? Get an automatic 15% savings when you purchase four or more tickets at once. Are you an early-stage startup? We have a limited number of Startup Demo Packages available for $2,000, which includes four tickets to attend the event. Students are invited to apply for a reduced-price student ticket at just $245. Additionally, for each ticket purchased for TC Sessions: Enterprise, you will also be registered for a complimentary Expo Only pass to TechCrunch Disrupt SF on October 2-4.

Interested in sponsoring TC Sessions: Enterprise? Fill out this form and a member of our sales team will contact you.

Apr
02
2019
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Cloud Foundry ? Kubernetes

Cloud Foundry, the open-source platform-as-a-service project that more than half of the Fortune 500 companies use to help them build, test and deploy their applications, launched well before Kubernetes existed. Because of this, the team ended up building Diego, its own container management service. Unsurprisingly, given the popularity of Kubernetes, which has become somewhat of the de facto standard for container orchestration, a number of companies in the Cloud Foundry ecosystem starting looking into how they could use Kubernetes to replace Diego.

The result of this is Project Eirini, which was first proposed by IBM. As the Cloud Foundry Foundation announced today, Project Eirini now passes the core functional tests the team runs to validate the software releases of its application runtime, the core Cloud Foundry service that deploys and manages applications (if that’s a bit confusing, don’t even think about the fact that there’s also a Cloud Foundry Container Runtime, which already uses Kubernetes, but which is mostly meant to give enterprise a single platform for running their own applications and pre-built containers from third-party vendors).

a foundry for clouds“That’s a pretty big milestone,” Cloud Foundry Foundation CTO Chip Childers told me. “The project team now gets to shift to a mode where they’re focused on hardening the solution and making it a bit more production-ready. But at this point, early adopters are also starting to deploy that [new] architecture.”

Childers stressed that while the project was incubated by IBM, which has been a long-time backer of the overall Cloud Foundry project, Google, Pivotal and others are now also contributing and have dedicated full-time engineers working on the project. In addition, SUSE, SAP and IBM are also active in developing Eirini.

Eirini started as an incubation project, and while few doubted that this would be a successful project, there was a bit of confusion around how Cloud Foundry would move forward now that it essentially had two container engines for running its core service. At the time, there was even some concern that the project could fork. “I pushed back at the time and said: no, this is the natural exploration process that open-source communities need to go through,” Childers said. “What we’re seeing now is that with Pivotal and Google stepping in, that’s a very clear sign that this is going to be the go-forward architecture for the future of the Cloud Foundry Application Runtime.”

A few months ago, by the way, Kubernetes was still missing a few crucial pieces the Cloud Foundry ecosystem needed to make this move. Childers specifically noted that Windows support — something the project’s enterprise users really need — was still problematic and lacked some important features. In recent releases, though, the Kubernetes team fixed most of these issues and improved its Windows support, rendering those issues moot.

What does all of this mean for Diego? Childers noted that the community isn’t at a point where it’ll hold developing that tool. At some point, though, it seems likely that the community will decide that it’s time to start the transition period and make the move to Kubernetes official.

It’s worth noting that IBM today announced its own preview of Eirini in its Cloud Foundry Enterprise Environment and that the latest version of SUSE’s Cloud Foundry-based Application Platform includes a similar preview as well.

In addition, the Cloud Foundry Foundation, which is hosting its semi-annual developer conference in Philadelphia this week, also announced that it has certified it first to systems integrators, Accenture and HCL as part of its recently launched certification program for companies that work in the Cloud Foundry ecosystem and have at least 10 certified developers on their teams.

Mar
28
2019
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Microsoft gives 500 patents to startups

Microsoft today announced a major expansion of its Azure IP Advantage program, which provides its Azure users with protection against patent trolls. This program now also provides customers who are building IoT solutions that connect to Azure with access to 10,000 patents to defend themselves against intellectual property lawsuits.

What’s maybe most interesting here, though, is that Microsoft is also donating 500 patents to startups in the LOT Network. This organization, which counts companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, SAP, Epic Games, Ford, GM, Lyft and Uber among its close to 400 members, is designed to protect companies against patent trolls by giving them access to a wide library of patents from its member companies and other sources.

“The LOT Network is really committed to helping address the proliferation of intellectual property lawsuits, especially ones that are brought by non-practicing entities, or so-called trolls,” Microsoft  CVP and Deputy General Counsel Erich Andersen told me. 

This new program goes well beyond basic protection from patent trolls, though. Qualified startups who join the LOT Network can acquire Microsoft patents as part of their free membership and as Andersen stressed, the startups will own them outright. The LOT network will be able to provide its startup members with up to three patents from this collection.

There’s one additional requirement here, though: To qualify for getting the patents, these startups also have to meet a $1,000 per month Azure spend. As Andersen told me, though, they don’t have to make any kind of forward pledge. The company will simply look at a startup’s last three monthly Azure bills.

“We want to help the LOT Network grow its network of startups,” Andersen said. “To provide an incentive, we are going to provide these patents to them.” He noted that startups are obviously interested in getting access to patents as a foundation of their companies, but also to raise capital and to defend themselves against trolls.

The patents we’re talking about here cover a wide range of technologies as well as geographies. Andersen noted that we’re talking about U.S. patents as well as European and Chinese patents, for example.

“The idea is that these startups come from a diverse set of industry sectors,” he said. “The hope we have is that when they approach LOT, they’ll find patents among those 500 that are going to be interesting to basically almost any company that might want a foundational set of patents for their business.”

As for the extended Azure IP Advantage program, it’s worth noting that every Azure customer who spends more than $1,000 per month over the past three months and hasn’t filed a patent infringement lawsuit against another Azure customer in the last two years can automatically pick one of the patents in the program’s portfolio to protect itself against frivolous patent lawsuits from trolls (and that’s a different library of patents from the one Microsoft is donating to the LOT Network as part of the startup program).

As Andersen noted, the team looked at how it could enhance the IP program by focusing on a number of specific areas. Microsoft is obviously investing a lot into IoT, so extending the program to this area makes sense. “What we’re basically saying is that if the customer is using IoT technology — regardless of whether it’s Microsoft technology or not — and it’s connected to Azure, then we’re going to provide this patent pick right to help customers defend themselves against patent suits,” Andersen said.

In addition, for those who do choose to use Microsoft IoT technology across the board, Microsoft will provide indemnification, too.

Patent trolls have lately started acquiring IoT patents, so chances are they are getting ready to make use of them and that we’ll see quite a bit of patent litigation in this space in the future. “The early signs we’re seeing indicate that this is something that customers are going to care about in the future,” said Andersen.

Mar
27
2019
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Microsoft, Adobe and SAP prepare to expand their Open Data Initiative

At last year’s Microsoft Ignite conference, the CEOs of Microsoft, Adobe and SAP took the stage to announce the launch of the Open Data Initiative. The idea behind this effort was to make it easier for their customers to move data between each others’ services by standardizing on a common data format and helping them move their data out of their respective silos and into a single customer-chosen data lake. At this week’s Adobe Summit, the three companies today announced how they plan to expand this program as they look to bring in additional partners.

“The intent of the companies joining forces was really to solve a common customer problem that we hear time and time again, which is that there are high-value business data tends to be very siloed in a variety of different applications,” Alysa Taylor, Microsoft’s corporate vice president, Business Applications & Global Industry, told me. “Being able to extract that data, reason over that data, garner intelligence from that data, is very cost-prohibitive and it’s very manual and time-consuming.”

The core principle of the alliance is that the customers own their data and they should be able to get as much value out of it as they can. Ideally, having this common data schema means that the customer doesn’t have to figure out ways to transform the data from these vendors and can simply flow all of it into a single data lake that then in turn feeds the various analytics services, machine learning systems and other tools that these companies offer.

At the Adobe Summit today, the three companies showed their first customer use case based on how Unilever is making use of this common data standard. More importantly, though, they also stressed that the Open Data Initiative is indeed open to others. As a first step, the three companies today announced the formation of a partner advisory council.

“What this basically means is that we’ve extended it out to key participants in the ecosystem to come and join us as part of this ODI effort,” Adobe’s VP of Ecosystem Development Amit Ahuja told me. “What we’re starting with is really a focus around two big groups of partners. Number one is, who are the other really interesting ISVs who have a lot of this core data that we want to make sure we can bring into this kind of single unified view. And the second piece is who are the major players out there that are trying to help these customers around their enterprise architecture.”

The first 12 partners that are joining this new council include Accenture, Amadeus, Capgemini, Change Healthcare, Cognizant, EY, Finastra, Genesys, Hootsuite, Inmobi, Sprinklr and WPP . This is very much a first step, though. Over time, the group expects to expand far beyond this first set of partners and include a much larger group of stakeholders.

“We really want to make this really broad in a way that we can quickly make progress and demonstrate that what we’re talking about from a conceptual process has really hard customer benefits attached to it,” Abhay Kumar, SAP’s global vice president, Global Business Development & Ecosystem, noted. The use cases the alliance has identified focus on market intelligence, sales intelligence and services intelligence, he added.

Today, as enterprises often pull in data from dozens of disparate systems, making sense of all that information is hard enough, but to even get to this point, enterprises first have to transform it and make it usable. To do so, they then have to deploy another set of applications that massages the data. “I don’t want to go and buy another 15 or 20 applications to make that work,” Ahuja said. “I want to realize the investment and the ROI of the applications that I’ve already bought.”

All three stressed that this is very much a collaborative effort that spans the engineering, sales and product marketing groups.

Jan
29
2019
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SAP job cuts prove harsh realities of enterprise transformation

As traditional enterprise companies like IBM, Oracle and SAP try to transform into more modern cloud companies, they are finding that making that transition, while absolutely necessary, could require difficult adjustments along the way. Just this morning, SAP announced that it was restructuring in order to save between €750 million and €800 million (between approximately $856 million and $914 million).

While the company tried to put as positive a spin on the announcement as possible, it could involve up to 4,000 job cuts as SAP shifts into more modern technologies. “We are going to move our people and our focus to the areas where the new economy needs SAP the most: artificial intelligence, deep machine learning, IoT, blockchain and quantum computing,” CEO Bill McDermott told a post-earnings press conference.

If that sounds familiar, it should. It is precisely the areas on which IBM has been trying to concentrate its transformation over the last several years. IBM has struggled to make this change and has also framed workforce reduction as moving to modern skill sets. It’s worth pointing out that SAP’s financial picture has been more positive than IBM’s.

CFO Luka Mucic tried to stress this was not about cost-cutting, so much as ensuring the long-term health of the company, but did admit it did involve job cuts. These could include early retirement and other incentives to leave the company voluntarily. “We still expect that there will be a number probably slightly higher than what we saw in the 2015 program, where we had around 3,000 employees leave the company, where at the end of this process will leave SAP,” he said.

The company believes that in spite of these cuts, it will actually have more employees by this time next year than it has now, but they will be shifted to these new technology areas. “This is a growth company move, not a cost-cutting move; every dollar that we gain from a restructuring initiative will be invested back into headcount and more jobs,” McDermott said. SAP kept stressing that cloud revenue will reach $35 billion in revenue by 2023.

Holger Mueller, an analyst who watches enterprise companies like SAP for Constellation Research, says the company is doing what it has to do in terms of transformation. “SAP is in the midst of upgrading its product portfolio to the 21st century demands of its customer base,” Mueller told TechCrunch. He added that this is not easy to pull off, and it requires new skill sets to build, operate and sell the new technologies.

McDermott stressed that the company would be offering a generous severance package to any employee leaving the company as a result of today’s announcement.

Today’s announcement comes after the company made two multi-billion-dollar acquisitions to help in this transition in 2018, paying $8 billion for Qualtrics and $2.4 billion for CallidusCloud.

Nov
12
2018
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Analysts weighing in on $8B SAP-Qualtrics deal don’t see a game changer

SAP CEO Bill McDermott was jacked up today about his company’s $8 billion Qualtrics acquisition over the weekend. You would expect no less for such a big deal. McDermott believes the data Qualtrics provides could bridge the gap between his company’s operational data and customer, data wherever that resides.

The idea behind Qualtrics is to understand customer sentiment as it happens. McDermott sees this as a key piece to the company’s customer management puzzle, one that could propel it into being not only a big player in customer experience, but also drive the company’s underlying cloud business. That’s because it provides a means of constant feedback from the customer, one that is hard to ascertain otherwise.

In that context, he saw the deal as transformative. “By combining this experience data with operations, we can combine this through Qualtrics and SAP in a way that the world has never done before, and I fundamentally believe it will change this world as we know it today,” McDermott told TechCrunch on Monday.

Others who follow the industry closely were not so convinced. While they liked the deal and saw the potential of combining these types of data, it might not be the game changer that McDermott is hoping for after spending his company’s $8 billion.

Paul Greenberg, who is managing principal at The 56 Group and author of the seminal CRM book, CRM at the Speed of Light, says it’s definitely a big acquisition for the company, but he says it takes more than an acquisition or two to challenge the market leaders. “This will be a beneficial acquisition for SAP’s desire to continue to pivot the company to the customer-facing side, but it isn’t a decisive one by any means,” Greenberg told TechCrunch.

Customer experience is a broad term that involves understanding your customer at a granular level, anticipating what they want, understanding who they are, what they have bought and what they are looking for right now. These are harder problems to solve than you might imagine, especially since they involve gathering data across systems from a variety of vendors that deal with different pieces of the puzzle.

Companies like Adobe and Salesforce have made this their primary business focus. SAP is at its heart an ERP company, which gathers data by managing key internal operational systems like finance, procurement and HR.

Tony Byrne, founder and principal analyst at Real Story Group, says he likes what Qualtrics brings to SAP, but he is not sure it’s quite as big a deal as McDermott suggests. “Qualtrics enables you to do more sophisticated forms of research which marketers certainly want, but the double benefit is that — unlike SurveyMonkey and others — Qualtrics has experience on the digital workplace side, which could complement some of SAP’s HR tooling.” But he adds that it’s not really the central CEM piece, and that his company’s research has found that SAP still has holes, particularly when it comes to marketing tools and technologies (MarTech).

Brent Leary, who is founder at CRM Essentials, agrees that SAP got a nice company, especially when combined with the $2.4 billion CallidusCloud purchase from earlier this year, but it has a ways to go to catch up with Salesforce and Adobe. “Qualtrics does provide a more broad perspective of customers because of operational data from back and front office systems. The Callidus acquisition helps to turn insights into certain B2B-focused customer experiences. But I think more pieces may be needed in terms of B2C experience creation tools that companies like Adobe and Salesforce are focusing on with the marketing/experience clouds,” he explained.

Whether this is an actual game changer as McDermott suggested remains to be seen, but the industry experts we spoke to believe it will be more of an incremental piece that helps move the company’s customer experience initiative forward. If they’re right, McDermott might not be finished shopping just yet.

Aug
29
2018
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Google takes a step back from running the Kubernetes development infrastructure

Google today announced that it is providing the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) with $9 million in Google Cloud credits to help further its work on the Kubernetes container orchestrator and that it is handing over operational control of the project to the community. These credits will be split over three years and are meant to cover the infrastructure costs of building, testing and distributing the Kubernetes software.

Why does this matter? Until now, Google hosted virtually all the cloud resources that supported the project, like its CI/CD testing infrastructure, container downloads and DNS services on its cloud. But Google is now taking a step back. With the Kubernetes community reaching a state of maturity, Google is transferring all of this to the community.

Between the testing infrastructure and hosting container downloads, the Kubernetes project regularly runs more than 150,000 containers on 5,000 virtual machines, so the cost of running these systems quickly adds up. The Kubernetes container registry has served almost 130 million downloads since the launch of the project.

It’s also worth noting that the CNCF now includes a wide range of members that typically compete with each other. We’re talking Alibaba Cloud, AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, IBM Cloud, Oracle, SAP and VMware, for example. All of these profit from the work of the CNCF and the Kubernetes community. Google doesn’t say so outright, but it’s fair to assume that it wanted others to shoulder some of the burdens of running the Kubernetes infrastructure, too. Similarly, some of the members of the community surely didn’t want to be so closely tied to Google’s infrastructure, either.

“By sharing the operational responsibilities for Kubernetes with contributors to the project, we look forward to seeing the new ideas and efficiencies that all Kubernetes contributors bring to the project operations,” Google Kubernetes Engine product manager William Deniss writes in today’s announcement. He also notes that a number of Google’s will still be involved in running the Kubernetes infrastructure.

“Google’s significant financial donation to the Kubernetes community will help ensure that the project’s constant pace of innovation and broad adoption continue unabated,” said Dan Kohn, the executive director of the CNCF. “We’re thrilled to see Google Cloud transfer management of the Kubernetes testing and infrastructure projects into contributors’ hands — making the project not just open source, but openly managed, by an open community.”

It’s unclear whether the project plans to take some of the Google-hosted infrastructure and move it to another cloud, but it could definitely do so — and other cloud providers could step up and offer similar credits, too.

Jun
06
2018
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SAP latest enterprise player to offer cloud blockchain service

SAP announced today at its Sapphire customer conference it was making the SAP Leonardo Blockchain service generally available. The latter is a cloud service to help companies build applications based on digital ledger-style technology.

Gil Perez, senior vice president for product and innovation and head of digital customer initiatives at SAP, says most of the customers he talks to are still very early in the proof of concept stage, but not so early that SAP doesn’t want to provide a service to help move them along the maturity curve.

“We are announcing the general availability of the SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain Services.” This is a generalized service on top of which customers can begin building their blockchain projects. He says SAP is taking an agnostic approach to the underlying ledger technology whether it’s the open source Hyperledger project, where SAP is a platinum sponsor, MultiChain or any additional blockchain or decentralized distributed ledger technologies.

Perez said part of the reason for this flexibility is that blockchain technology is really still being defined and SAP doesn’t want to commit to any underlying ledger approach until the market decides which way to go. He says this should allow them to minimize the impact on customers as the technology evolves.

They join other enterprise companies like Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and Amazon who have previously released blockchains services for their customers. For SAP, which many companies use for the back-office management of everything from finance to logistics, the blockchain could present some interesting use cases for its customers such as supply chain management.

In this case, the blockchain could help reduce paperwork, bring products to market more quickly and provide an easy audit trail. Instead of requesting a scanned copy of a signed document, you could simply click on a node on the blockchain and see the approval (or denial) and follow the products through the shipping process to the marketplace.

But Perez stresses that just because it’s early doesn’t mean they aren’t working on some pretty substantial projects. He cited one with a pharmaceutical company to ensure the provenance of drugs that involved over a billion transactions already.

SAP is simply trying to keep up with what customers want. Prior to the GA announced today, the company conducted a survey of 250 customers and found, that although it was early days, there is enterprise interest in exploring blockchain technology. Whether this initiative can expand into a broader business is hard to say, but SAP sees blockchain as logical adjacent technology to their core offerings.

Jun
05
2018
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SAP gives CRM another shot with with new cloud-based suite

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a mature market with a clear market leader in Salesforce. It has a bunch other enterprise players like Microsoft, Oracle and SAP vying for position. SAP decided to take another shot today when it released a new business products suite called SAP C/4HANA. (Ya, catchy I know.)

SAP C/4HANA pulls together several acquisitions from the last several years. It started in 2013 when it bought Hybris for around a billion dollars. That gave them a logistics tracking piece. Then last year it got Gigya for $350 million, giving them a way to track customer identity. This year it bought the final piece when it paid $2.4 billion for CallidusCloud for a configure, price quote (CPQ) piece.

SAP has taken these three pieces and packaged them together into a customer relationship management package. They see this term much more broadly than simply tracking a database of names and vital information on customers. They hope with these products to give their customers a way to provide consumer data protection, marketing, commerce, sales and customer service.

They see this approach as different, but it’s really more of what the other players are doing by packaging sales, service and marketing into a single platform. “The legacy CRM systems are all about sales; SAP C/4HANA is all about the consumer. We recognize that every part of a business needs to be focused on a single view of the consumer. When you connect all SAP applications together in an intelligent cloud suite, the demand chain directly fuels the behaviors of the supply chain,” CEO Bill McDermott said in a statement.

It’s interesting that McDermott goes after legacy CRM tools because his company has offered its share of them over the years, but its market share has been headed in the wrong direction. This new cloud-based package is designed to change that. If you can’t build it, you can buy it, and that’s what SAP has done here.

Brent Leary, owner at CRM Essentials, who has been watching this market for many years says that while SAP has a big back-office customer base in ERP, it’s going to be tough to pull customers back to SAP as a CRM provider. “I think their huge base of ERP customers provides them with an opportunity to begin making inroads, but it will be tough as mindshare for CRM/Customer Engagement has moved away from SAP,” he told TechCrunch.

He says that it will be important with this new product to find its niche in a defined market. “It will be imperative going forward for SAP find spots to “own” in the minds of corporate buyers in order to optimize their chances of success against their main competitors,” he said.

It’s obviously not going to be easy, but SAP has used its cash to buy some companies and give it another shot. Time will tell if it was money well spent.

Jan
30
2018
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SAP snags CallidusCloud for $2.4 billion

 SAP, the German enterprise software giant, announced it acquired CallidusCloud last night for $2.4 billion or $36 per share. Callidus provides configure price quote (CPQ) and sales performance management tools delivered as a cloud service. The share price is a nice bump for shareholders, representing a 21 percent premium over the 30-day volume weighted average share price, according to SAP.… Read More

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