Microsoft Power Platform update aims to put AI in reach of business users

Source: Microsoft more

Low code and no code are the latest industry buzzwords, but if vendors can truly abstract away the complexity of difficult tasks like building machine learning models, it could help mainstream technologies that are currently out of reach of most business users. That’s precisely what Microsoft is aiming to do with its latest Power Platform announcements today.

The company tried to bring that low code simplicity to building applications last year when it announced PowerApps. Now it believes by combining PowerApps with Microsoft Flow and its new AI Builder tool, it can allow folks building apps with PowerApps to add a layer of intelligence very quickly.

It starts with having access to data sources, and the Data Connector tool gives users access to over 250 data connectors. That includes Salesforce, Oracle and Adobe, as well as of course Microsoft services like Office 365 and Dynamics 365. Richard Riley, senior director for Power Platform marketing, says this is the foundation for pulling data into AI Builder.

“AI Builder is all about making it just as easy in a low code, no code way to go bring artificial intelligence and machine learning into your Power Apps, into Microsoft Flow, into the Common Data Service, into your data connectors, and so on,” Riley told TechCrunch.

Screenshot: Microsoft

Charles Lamanna, general manager at Microsoft says that Microsoft can do all the analysis and heavy lifting required to build a data model for you, removing a huge barrier to entry for business users. “The basic idea is that you can select any field in the Common Data Service and just say, ‘I want to predict this field.’  Then we’ll actually go look at historical records for that same table or entity to go predict [the results],” he explained. This could be used to predict if a customer will sign up for a credit card, if a customer is likely to churn, or if a loan would be approved, and so forth.

This announcement comes the same day that Salesforce announced it was buying Tableau for almost $16 billion, and days after Google bought Looker for $2.6 billion, and shows how powerful data can be in a business context, especially when providing a way to put that data to use, whether in the form of visualization or inside business applications.

While Microsoft admits AI Builder won’t be something everyone uses, they do see a kind of power user who might have been previously unable to approach this level of sophistication on their own, building apps and adding layers of intelligence without a heck of a lot of coding. If it works as advertised it will bring a level of simplicity to tasks that were previously well out of reach of business users without requiring a data scientist. Regardless, all of this activity shows data has become central to business, and vendors are going to build or buy to put it to work.


Microsoft Power Platform update aims to put AI in reach of business users

Vectra lands $100M Series E investment for AI-driven network security

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

Vectra, a seven-year old company that helps customers detect intrusions at the network level, whether in the cloud or on premises, announced a $100 million Series E funding round today led by TCV. Existing investors including Khosla Ventures and Accel also participated in the round, which brings the total raised to over $200 million, according to the company.

As company CEO Hitesh Sheth explained, there are two primary types of intrusion detection. The first is end point detection and the second is his company’s area of coverage, network detection and response or NDR.  He says that by adding a layer of artificial intelligence, it improves the overall results.

“One of the keys to our success has been applying AI to network traffic, the networking side of NDR, to look for the signal in the noise. And we can do this across the entire infrastructure, from the data center to the cloud all the way into end user traffic including IoT,” he explained.

He said that as companies move their data to the cloud, they are looking for ways to ensure the security of their most valuable data assets, and he says his company’s NDR solution can provide that. In fact, securing the cloud side of the equation is one of the primary investment focuses for this round.

Tim McAdam from lead investor TVC, says that the AI piece is a real differentiator for Vectra and one that attracted his firm to invest in the company. He said that while he realized that AI is an overused term these days, after talking to 30 customers he heard over and over again that Vectra’s AI-driven solution was a differentiator over competing products. “All of them have decided to standardize on the Vectra Cognito because to a person, they spoke of the efficacy and the reduction of their threat vectors as a result of standardizing on Vectra,” McAdam told TechCrunch.

The company was founded in 2012 and currently has 240. That is expected to double in the year to 18 months with this funding.


Vectra lands 0M Series E investment for AI-driven network security

Google continues to preach multi-cloud approach with Looker acquisition

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

When Google announced it was buying Looker yesterday morning for $2.6 billion, you couldn’t blame some of the company’s 1600 customers if they worried a bit if Looker would continue its multi-cloud approach, but Google Cloud chief Thomas Kurian made clear the company will continue to support an open approach to its latest purchase when it joins the fold later this year.

It’s consistent with the messaging from Google Next, the company’s cloud conference in April. It was looking to portray itself as the more open cloud. It was going to be friendlier to open source projects, running them directly on Google Cloud. It was going to provide a way to manage your workloads wherever they live with Anthos.

Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research says that in a multi-cloud world, Looker represented one of the best choices, and that could be why Google went after it. “Looker’s strengths include its centralized data-modeling and governance, which promotes consistency and reuse. It runs on top of modern cloud databases including Google BigQuery, AWS Redshift and Snowflake,” Wang told TechCrunch. He added, “They wanted to acquire a tool that is as easy to use as Microsoft Power BI and as deep as Tableau.”

Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, also see this deal as part of consistent multi-cloud message from Google. “I do think it is in alignment with its latest strategy outlined at Google Next. It has talked about rich analytics tools that could pull data from disparate sources,” he said.

Kurian pushing the multi-cloud message

Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian, who took over from Diane Greene at the end of last year, was careful to emphasize the company’s commitment to multi-cloud and multi-database support in comments to media and analysts yesterday. “We first want to reiterate, we’re very committed to maintaining local support for other clouds, as well as to serve data from multiple databases because customers want a single analytics foundation for their organization, and they want to be able to in the analytics foundation, look at data from multiple data sources. So we’re very committed to that,” Kurian said yesterday.

From a broader customer perspective, Kurian sees Looker providing customers with a single way to access and visualize data. “One of the things that is challenging for organizations in operationalizing business intelligence, that we feel that Looker has done really well, is it gives you a single place to model your data, define your data definitions — like what’s revenue, who’s a gold customer or how many servers tickets are open — and allows you then to blend data across individual data silos, so that as an organization, you’re working off a consistent set of metrics,” Kurian explained.

In a blog post announcing the deal, Looker CEO Frank Bien sought to ease concerns that the company might move away from the multi-cloud, multi-database support. “For customers and partners, it’s important to know that today’s announcement solidifies ours as well as Google Cloud’s commitment to multi-cloud. Looker customers can expect continuing support of all cloud databases like Amazon Redshift, Azure SQL, Snowflake, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, Teradata and more,” Bien wrote in the post.

No antitrust concerns

Kurian also emphasized that this deal shouldn’t attract the attention of antitrust regulators, who have been sniffing around the big tech companies like Google/Alphabet, Apple and Amazon as of late. “We’re not buying any data along with this transaction. So it does not introduce any concentration risk in terms of concentrating data. Secondly, there are a large number of analytic tools in the market. So by just acquiring Looker, we’re not further concentrating the market in any sense. And lastly, all the other cloud players also have their own analytic tools. So it represents a further strengthening of our competitive position relative to the other players in the market,” he explained. Not to mention its pledge to uphold the multi-cloud and multi-database support, which should show it is not doing this strictly to benefit Google or to draw customers specifically to GCP.

Just this week, the company announced a partnership with Snowflake, the cloud data warehouse startup that has raised almost a billion dollars, to run on Google Cloud Platform. It already runs AWS and Microsoft Azure. In fact, Wang suggested that Snowflake could be next on Google’s radar as it tries to build a multi-cloud soup-to-nuts analytics offering.

Regardless, with Looker the company has a data analytics tool to complement its data processing tools, and together the two companies should provide a fairly comprehensive data solution. If they truly keep it multi, cloud, that should keep current customers happy, especially those who work with tools outside of the Google Cloud ecosystem or simply want to maintain their flexibility.


Google continues to preach multi-cloud approach with Looker acquisition

Google to acquire analytics startup Looker for $2.6 billion

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

Google made a big splash this morning when it announced it’s going to acquire Looker, a hot analytics startup that’s raised over $280 million. It’s paying $2.6 billion for the privilege and adding the company to Google Cloud.

Thomas Kurian, the man who was handed the reigns to Google Cloud at the end of last year sees the crucial role data plays today for organizations, especially as they move to the cloud. “The combination of Google Cloud and Looker will enable customers to harness data in new ways to drive their digital transformation,” Kurian said in a statement.

Google Cloud has been mired in third place in the cloud infrastructure market, and grabbing Looker gives it an analytics company with a solid track record. The last time I spoke to Looker, it was announcing a hefty $103 million in funding on a $1.6 billion valuation. Today’s price is nice even billion over that.

As I wrote at the time, Looker’s CEO Frank Bien wasn’t all that interested in bragging about valuations though. He wanted to talk about what he considered more important numbers. “He reported that the company has 1,600 customers now and just crossed the $100 million revenue run rate, a significant milestone for any enterprise SaaS company. What’s more, Bien reports revenue is still growing 70 percent year over year, so there’s plenty of room to keep this going.”

Bien saw today’s deal as a chance to gain the scale of the Google cloud platform, and as successful as the company has been, it’s never going to have the reach of Google Cloud. “Together, we are reinventing what it means to solve business problems with data at an entirely different scale and value point,” he said in a statement.

He says that his company was really trying to disrupt the business intelligence and analytics market. “What we wanted to do was disrupt this pretty staid ecosystem of data visualization tools and and data prep tools that companies were being forced to build solutions. We thought it was time to rationalize, a new a new platform for data, a single place where we could really reconstitute a single view of information and make it available in the enterprise for business purposes,” he said in media briefing this morning.

Diagram: Google & Looker

Slide: Google & Looker

Perhaps, it’s not a coincidence that Google went after Looker as the two companies had a strong existing partnership and 350 common customers, according to Google.

Per usual this deal is going to be subject to regulatory approval, but the deal is expected to close later this year if all goes well.


Google to acquire analytics startup Looker for .6 billion

Yellowbrick Data raises $81M Series C for hybrid data warehouse

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

There’s lots of data in the world these days, and there are a number of companies vying to store that data in data warehouses or lakes or whatever they choose to call it. Old school companies have tended to be on prem, while new ones like Snowflake are strictly in the cloud. Yellowbrick Data wants to play the hybrid angle, and today it got a healthy $81 million Series C to continue its efforts.

The round was led by DFJ Growth with help from Next47, Third Point Ventures, Menlo Ventures, GV (formerly Google Ventures), Threshold Ventures and Samsung. New investors joining the round included IVP and BMW i Ventures. Today’s investment brings the total raised to a brisk $173 million.

Yellowbrick sees a world that many of the public cloud vendors like Microsoft and Google see, one where enterprise companies will be living in a hybrid world where some data and applications will stay on prem and some in the cloud. They believe this situation will be in place for the foreseeable future, so its product plays to that hybrid angle, where your data can be on prem or in the cloud.

The company did not want to discuss valuation in spite of the high amount of raised dollars. Neither did it want to discuss revenue growth rates, other than to say that it was growing at a healthy rate.

Randy Glein, partner at DFJ Growth, did say one of the things that attracted his company to invest in Yellowbrick was its momentum along with the technology, which in his view, provides a more modern way to build data warehouses. “Yellowbrick is quickly providing a new generation of ultra-high performance data warehouse capabilities for large enterprises. The technology is a step function improvement on every dimension compared to legacy solutions, helping modern enterprises digest and interpret massive data workloads in a fraction of the time at a fraction of the cost,” he said in a statement.

It’s interesting that a company with just 100 employees would require this kind of money, but as company COO Jason Snodgress told TechCrunch, it costs a lot of money to build out a data warehouse. He’s not wrong. Snowflake, a company that’s building a cloud data warehouse, has raised almost a billion dollars.


Yellowbrick Data raises M Series C for hybrid data warehouse

Aion Network introduces first blockchain virtual machine for Java developers

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

Aion Network, a non-profit dedicated to creating tools to promote blockchain technologies, announced a new virtual machine today that’s built on top of the popular Java Virtual Machine. Its ultimate goal is increasing the popularity of blockchain with developers.

Aion CEO Matthew Spoke says one of the barriers to more widespread blockchain adoption has been a lack of tooling for developers in a common language like Java. The company believed if they could build a virtual machine specifically for blockchain on top of the Java Virtual Machine (JVM), which has been in use for years, it could help promote more extensive use of blockchain.

Today, it’s announcing the Aion Virtual Machine (AVM), a virtual machine that sits on top of the JVM. AVM makes it possible for developers to use their familiar toolset while building in the blockchain bits like smart contracts in the AVM without having to alter the JVM at all.

“We didn’t want to modify the JVM. We wanted to build some sort of supplementary software layer that can interact with the JVM. Blockchains have a set of unique criteria. They need to be deterministic; the computing needs to happen across the distributed network of nodes; and the JVM was never designed with this in mind,” Spoke explained.

Aion set out to build a virtual machine for blockchain without reinventing the wheel. It recognized that Java remains one of the most popular programming languages around, and it didn’t want to mess with that. In fact, it wanted to take advantage of the popularity by building a kind of blockchain interpreter that would sit on top of the JVM without getting in the way of it.

“Rather than trying to convince people of the merits of a new system, can we just get the system they’re already familiar with on top of the blockchain? So we started engineering towards that solution. And we’ve been working on that since for about a year at this point, leading up to our release this week to prove that we can solve that problem,” Spoke told TechCrunch.

Up to this point, Aion has been focusing on the crypto community, but the company felt to really push the blockchain beyond the realm of the true believers, it needed to come up with a way for developers who weren’t immersed in this to take advantage of it.

“Our big focus now is how do we take this message of building blockchain apps and take it into a more traditional software industry audience. Instead of trying to compete for the attention of crypto developers, we want the blockchain to become almost a micro service layer to what normal software developers are solving on a day-to-day basis,” he said.

The company is hoping that by providing this way to access blockchain services, it can help popularize blockchain concepts with developers who might not otherwise have been familiar with them. It’s but one attempt to bring blockchain to more business-oriented use cases, but the company has given this a lot of thought and believes it will help them evangelize this approach with a wider audience of developers moving forward.


Aion Network introduces first blockchain virtual machine for Java developers

Zuora Central lets developers build connected workflows across services

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

Zuora has been known throughout its 12-year history as a company that helps manage subscription-based businesses. Today, at its Subscribed San Francisco customer conference, it announced that it’s adding a new twist to the platform with a new service called the Zuora Central developer platform.

The latest offering gives developers a workflow tool to build connections between systems that extend the given service using both Zuora’s service set and any external services that make sense. Tien Tzuo, founder and CEO at Zuora, sees this as a way for his customers to offer a set of integrated services that take advantage of the fact that these individual things are connected to the internet, whether that’s a car, an appliance, a garage door opener or a multi-million dollar medical device.

And this isn’t even necessarily about taking advantage of your smartphone, although it could include that. It’s about extending the device or service to automate a set of related tasks beyond the subscription service itself. “So you create a workflow diagram in Zuora Central, that’s going to convey all of the logic of this,” he said.

Zuora Central lets developers connect to both Zuora services and external services. Diagram: Zuora

As an example, Tzuo says imagine you are renting a car. You have reserved a Ford Focus, but when you get to the lot, you decide you want the Mustang convertible. You don’t have to pull out your phone. You simply walk up to the car and touch the handle. It understands who you are and begins to make a series of connections.There may be a call to unlock the car, a call to the music system to play your driving playlist on Spotify, a call to your car preferences that can set the seats and mirrors and so forth. All of this is possible because the car itself is connected to the internet.

Zuora workflow in action. Screenshot: Zuora

Under the hood, the workflow tool takes advantage of a number of different technologies to make all of this happen including a custom object model, an events and notifications system and a data query engine. All of these tools combine to let developers build these complex workflows and connect to a number of tasks, greatly enhancing the capabilities of the base Zuora platform.

As Tzuo sees it, it’s not unlike what happened when he was Chief Marketing Officer at Salesforce before starting Zuora when they launched Force.com and the AppExchange as a way to allow developers to extend the Salesforce product beyond its base capabilities.

Tzuo also sees this platform play as a logical move for any company that aspires to be a billion dollar revenue company. The company has a ways to go in that regard. In its most recent report at the end of May, it reported $64.1 million in revenue for the quarter. Whether this new capability will do for Zuora what extending the platform did for Salesforce remains to be seen, but this is certainly a big step for the company.


Zuora Central lets developers build connected workflows across services

Logz.io lands $52M to keep growing open source-based logging tools

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

Logz.io announced a $52 million Series D investment today. The round was led by General Catalyst.

Other investors participating in the round included OpenView Ventures, 83North, Giza Venture Capital, Vintage Investment Partners, Greenspring Associates and Next47. Today’s investment brings the total raised to nearly $100 million, according to Crunchbase data.

Logz.io is a company built on top of the open source tools Elasticsearch, Logstash, and Kibana (collectively known by the acronym ELK) and Grafana. It’s taking those tools in a typical open source business approach, packaging them up and offering them as a service. This approach enables large organizations to take advantage of these tools without having to deal with the raw open source projects.

The company’s solutions intelligently scan logs looking for anomalies. When it finds them, it surfaces the problem and informs IT or security, depending on the scenario, using a tool like PagerDuty. This area of the market has been dominated in recent years by vendors like Splunk and Sumo Logic, but company founder and CEO Tomer Levy saw a chance to disrupt that space by packaging a set of open source logging tools that were rapidly increasing in popularity. They believed could build on that growing popularity, while solving a pain point the founders had actually experienced in previous positions, which is always a good starting point for a startup idea.

Screenshot: Logz.io

“We saw that the majority of the market is actually using open source. So we said, we want to solve this problem, a problem we have faced in the past and didn’t have a solution. What we’re going to do is we’re going to provide you with an easy-to-use cloud service that is offering an open source compatible solution,” Levy explained. In other words, they wanted to build on that open source idea, but offer it in a form that was easier to consume.

Larry Bohn, who is leading the investment for General Catalyst, says that his firm liked the idea of a company building on top of open source because it provides a built-in community of developers to drive the startup’s growth — and it appears to be working. “The numbers here were staggering in terms of how quickly people were adopting this and how quickly it was growing. It was very clear to us that the company was enjoying great success without much of a commercial orientation,” Bohn explained.

In fact, Logz.io already has 700 customers including large names like Schneider Electric, The Economist and British Airways. The company has 175 employees today, but Levy says they expect to grow that 250 by the end of this year, as they use this money to accelerate their overall growth.


Logz.io lands M to keep growing open source-based logging tools

Equalum grabs $18M Series B to help companies ingest data faster

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

Equalum, an Israeli startup, which helps companies gather data from a variety of enterprise sources, announced an $18 million Series B investment today.

The round was led by Planven Investments . Other participants included United Ventures and prior investors Innovation Endeavors and GE Ventures along with a group of unnamed individuals. Today’s haul brings the total raised to $25 million, according to data provided by the company.

Equalum CEO and founder Nir Livneh says his company essentially acts as the data pipes to feed artificial intelligence, machine and more traditional business intelligence requirements. “Equalum is a real-time data ingestion platform. The idea of the platform is to be able to [gather] data coming from a bunch of enterprise system sources and be able to centralize that data and send it in real-time into analytic environments and feed those analytic environments,” Livneh explained.

He sees the money from this round as a way to continue to expand the original vision he had for the company. His approach in many ways is a classic Series B play. “I think the original thesis was validated. We have proven that we can go into Fortune 100 companies and get our solution adopted quickly,” he said. The next step is to expand beyond the original set of several dozen large customers and accelerate growth.

The company was founded in 2015 in Tel Aviv in Israel. It still maintains its R&D arm there today with sales, marketing and management in Silicon Valley. Interestingly, its first customer was GE, which was also an early investor via GE Ventures.

Livneh says that he sees lots of room to grow in this market, which he says is still dominated by legacy vendors. He believes he can swoop in and replace aging offerings by offering a more modern and streamlined approach to data collection. Time will tell if he is right.


Equalum grabs M Series B to help companies ingest data faster

FireEye snags security effectiveness testing startup Verodin for $250M

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

When FireEye reported its earnings last month, the outlook was a little light, so the security vendor decided to be proactive and make a big purchase. Today, the company announced it has acquired Verodin for $250 million. The deal closed today.

The startup had raised over $33 million since it opened its doors 5 years ago, according to Crunchbase data, and would appear to have given investors a decent return. With Verodin, FireEye gets a security validation vendor, that is, a company that can run a review against the existing security setup and find gaps in coverage.

That would seem to be a handy kind of tool to have in your security arsenal, and could possibly explain the price tag. Perhaps, it could also help set FireEye apart from the broader market, or fill in a gap in its own platform.

FireEye CEO Kevin Mandia certainly sees the potential of his latest purchase. “Verodin gives us the ability to automate security effectiveness testing using the sophisticated attacks we spend hundreds of thousands of hours responding to, and provides a systematic, quantifiable, and continuous approach to security program validation,” he said in a statement.

Chris Key, Verodin co-founder and chief executive officer, sees the purchase through the standard acquisition lens. “By joining FireEye, Verodin extends its ability to help customers take a proactive approach to understanding and mitigating the unique risks, inefficiencies and vulnerabilities in their environments,” he said in a statement. In other words, as part of a bigger company, we’ll do more faster.

While FireEye plans to incorporate Verodin into its on-prem and managed services, it will continue to sell the solution as a stand-alone product, as well.


FireEye snags security effectiveness testing startup Verodin for 0M