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Main article: AWS

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Amazon wants to depose president and Secretary of Defense as part of JEDI protest

19:47 | 10 February

Today, AWS made public its Motion to Supplement the Record in its protest of the JEDI contract decision. As part of that process, the company has announced it wants to depose President Trump and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

When Amazon announced at the end of last year, that it was protesting the DoD’s decision to award the $10 billion, decade long JEDI contract to Microsoft, the company made clear that it was not happy with the decision. The company believes that the president steered the contract away from Amazon because of personal political differences with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post.

“President Trump has repeatedly demonstrated his willingness to use his position as President and Commander in Chief to interfere with government functions – including federal procurements – to advance his personal agenda. The preservation of public confidence in the nation’s procurement process requires discovery and supplementation of the administrative record, particularly in light of President Trump’s order to ‘screw Amazon.’ The question is whether the President of the United States should be allowed to use the budget of the DoD to pursue his own personal and political ends.” an AWS spokesperson said in a statement.

This is consistent with public statements the company has been making since the DoD made the surprise decision in November to go with Microsoft. It had been widely believed that Amazon would win the contract, and there was much wrangling and complaining throughout the procurement process that the contract had been designed to favor Amazon, something that the DoD repeatedly denied.

At AWS re:Invent at the end last year, AWS CEO Andy Jassy made it clear he was unhappy with the decision and that he believed the president showed bias. “I think that we ended up with a situation where there was political interference. When you have a sitting president, who has shared openly his disdain for a company, and the leader of that company, it makes it really difficult for government agencies, including the DoD, to make objective decisions without fear of reprisal,” Jassy said last year.

More to come

 


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Alphabet earnings show Google Cloud on $10B run rate

01:10 | 4 February

Today after the bell, Alphabet reported its fourth-quarter and full-year financial results. The company’s revenue grew from $39.3 billion in 2018 to $46.1 billion in 2019. The firm’s net income also expanded from $8.9 billion to $10.7 billion over the same time frame.

The figures, when compared to expectations, were mixed. Alphabet beat analyst estimates on profit, but missed on revenue. Shares of the company are off around 4% in after-hours trading, following its disclosure.

Why do we care?

The company’s reported Q4 and full-year 2019 results are notable for several reasons. First, Alphabet broke out the value of YouTube’s advertising empire. And, the company disclosed discrete “Google Cloud” revenues. Both are new.

YouTube’s advertising heft was made clear today, with the video platform bringing in $15.1 billion in 2019 revenue, up from $11.2 billion in 2018.

The firm’s new “Google Cloud” line item appears to include all of the company’s cloud computing efforts. YouTube’s advertising haul will grab the most headlines, but the cloud revenue figure is what we’d like to drill into.

Cloud, Google-style

Google announced an impressive $2.6 billion round for all cloud revenue, which includes G Suite, the enterprise version of GMail/Docs/Drive/Hangouts, and Google’s cloud infrastructure revenue. At $2.61 billion, that puts it on run rate over $10 billion. In the year-ago Q4, the company’s Cloud revenue came to just $1.71 billion, a run rate of $6.84 billion.

Google’s Cloud run-rate, then, grew by 53.6% in the last year.

In February of 2018, then-Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene was happy to report $1 billion quarterly revenue for the group. Last July the company’s Cloud revenue crossed $2 billion for that quarter, putting on an $8 billion run rate, double the previous report.

Former Oracle executive Thomas Kurian took over after Greene stepped down last year, and he brought on a number of industry veterans from Oracle and SAP to help sell Google Cloud to the enterprise. So far the results are certainly encouraging in a short amount of time.

In comparison

While Google is making some gains in the cloud, its chief competitors have been doing well at the same time.

To pick one example, Amazon’s cloud revenue totaled just under $10 billion in the same calendar quarter. In a direct comparison Google is far smaller, but the search giant is working to make up ground and the results appear encouraging. It’s worth noting that Amazon’s comparable cloud figures are more focused on infrastructure than Google’s, which includes SaaS revenue as well.

Turning to Microsoft, it reported a combined cloud revenue, which includes SaaS (Office 365, Dynamics, etc.) and cloud computing (Azure), of $12.5 billion for the quarter. All of this shows that while Google still has a long way to grow to match its rivals for scale, it’s at least picking up the pace.

 


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Even as Microsoft Azure revenue grows, AWS’s market share lead stays strong

19:12 | 31 January

When analyzing the cloud market, there are many ways to look at the numbers; revenue, year-over-year or quarter-over-quarter growth — or lack of it — or market share. Each of these numbers tells a story, but in the cloud market, where aggregate growth remains high and Azure’s healthy expansions continues, it’s still struggling to gain meaningful ground on AWS’s lead.

This has to be frustrating to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who has managed to take his company from cloud wannabe to a strong second place in the IaaS/PaaS market, yet still finds his company miles behind the cloud leader. He’s done everything right to get his company to this point, but sometimes the math just isn’t in your favor.

Numbers don’t lie

John Dinsdale, chief analyst at Synergy Research, says Microsoft’s growth rate is higher overall than Amazon’s, but AWS still has a big lead in market share. “In absolute dollar terms, it usually has larger increments in revenue numbers and that makes Amazon hard to catch,” he says, adding “what I can say is that this is a very tough gap to close and mathematically it could not happen any time soon, whatever the quarterly performance of Microsoft and AWS.”

The thing to remember with the cloud market is that it’s not even close to being a fixed pie. In fact, it’s growing rapidly and there’s still plenty of market share left to win. As of today, before Amazon has reported, it has a substantial lead, no matter how you choose to measure it.

 


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AWS partners with sports leagues to change how we watch games

21:05 | 30 January

Since the inception of professional sports, fans have sought statistics about how their favorite teams and players are performing. Until recently, these stats were generated from basic counting, like batting averages, home runs or touchdowns.

Today, sports leagues are looking to learn more about players and find a competitive edge through more advanced stats. Beyond that, they want to engage fans more with tools like AWS NFL’s Next Gen Stats and MLB’s Statcast, software that uses compelling visuals to illustrate statistics like the probability of receiving a catch in the end zone or a runner’s speed between home and first base.

AWS counts Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the German Bundesliga soccer league, NASCAR, Formula 1 racing and Six Countries Rugby among its customers. How, exactly, are advanced cloud technology and machine learning helping change how we watch live sports?

Building on Moneyball

 


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Techstars Detroit accelerator is shutting down

19:16 | 30 January

Techstars Detroit, the accelerator that has funded 54 startups in the past five years, is shutting down, TechCrunch has learned.

In an email to supporters, Techstars Detroit managing director Ted Serbinski said the accelerator was not able to secure enough funding for 2020.

“It’s clear the entire automotive mobility industry is tightening as sales slump and we hit the trough of disillusionment with autonomy,” Serbinski wrote in the email. The sales and business development piece of the accelerator is working to build a new program in Detroit if “great corporates can be found,” he added.

Techstars isn’t disappearing from Detroit altogether. The company has a presence through events like Startup Week and Startup Weekends. Serbinski will continue to support the 54 startups that have come out of the program. A number of these startups are working on Series A rounds.

Serbinski will continue to work at Techstars, this time running an accelerator program focused on “quality of life” startups.

An excerpt from Serbinksi’s email:

An experiment for Techstars, Detroit showed you could build a world-class program in an emerging market, in a hyper-competitive industry, that was going through a transformational change.

More importantly, the program proved that wonderful and talented mentors from around the region and globe would graciously support the founders. Truly, an incredible community formed around this program and region. It’s wonderful to see all the new activity as Detroit continues to grow in startup and VC activity.

Techstars Detroit began in 2015 as Techstars Mobility, a mentorship-driven accelerator program that was supported by numerous corporate and auto-focused backers including Ford, Honda, Lear and Nationwide as well as global partners such as Amazon’s AWS, Silicon Valley Bank and Microsoft for Startups. The intent was to bring attention and business into Detroit, a strategy that Serbinksi told TechCrunch was successful.

“The Detroit program was an experiment from the start,” Serbinski said in an interview Wednesday. “The experiment was could TechStars run an accelerator with multiple corporate partners in an emerging market that had a lot of potential, but a significant amount of unknowns? Over the last five years, it became clear that you can work with multiple corporates, you can be in a hyper competitive auto industry, Detroit has momentum and Silicon Valley isn’t waiting anymore. A lot of that proved out.”

Serbinksi’s portfolio is diverse and global. For instance, the startups in the portfolio are from 11 different countries and 40% have female founders. Of the 54 startups Techstars Detroit invested in, just one is from Detroit and two are from Michigan. Serbinksi added that he was not tied to a single thesis that “autonomy is going to take over today” and instead focused on what would work “today and tomorrow.” In other words, he didn’t heavily weight the portfolio with startups focused autonomous vehicle technology, which could take 10 to 15 years to turn into a product.

The portfolio has had success with less than 10% of startups shutting down. Some of the successful accelerator graduates include Cargo, Acerta and Wise.

In 2019, Serbinski announced the name was changing to Techstars Detroit to diversify even more. The new broader aim was to look for startups “transforming the intersection of the physical and digital worlds that can leverage the strengths of Detroit to succeed.” It could be more than just mobility.

“The word mobility was becoming too limiting,” Serbinksi wrote in a blog post at the time. “We knew we needed to reach a broader audience of entrepreneurs who may not label themselves as mobility but are great candidates for the program.”

Even as the accelerator diversified, Serbinski said, it was becoming more difficult to attract investments from the automotive industry.

“We were talking to a healthy amount of new partners for this year and all of those conversations went to zero,” he said. “I’m seeing a tightening of innovation budgets around automotive and mobility  because we’re entering that trough of disillusionment for autonomy. And so, with less accessible money, it made it a lot harder for us to fill in that gap.”

 


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OpsRamp raises $37.5M for its hybrid IT operations platform

17:32 | 30 January

OpsRamp, a service that helps IT teams discover, monitor, manage and — maybe most importantly — automate their hybrid environments, today announced that it has closed a $37.5 million funding round led by Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital, with participation from existing investor Sapphire Ventures and new investor Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

OpsRamp last raised funding in 2017, when Sapphire led its $20 million Series A round.

At the core of OpsRamp’s services is its AIOps platform. Using machine learning and other techniques, this service aims to help IT teams manage increasingly complex infrastructure deployments, provide intelligent alerting, and eventually automate more of their tasks. The company’s overall product portfolio also includes tools for cloud monitoring and incident management.

The company says its annual recurrent revenue increased by 300 percent in 2019 (though we obviously don’t know what number it started 2019 with). In total, OpsRamp says it now has 1,400 customers on its platform and alliances with AWS, ServiceNow, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure.

OpsRamp co-founder and CEO Varma Kunaparaju

According to OpsRamp co-founder and CEO Varma Kunaparaju, most of the company’s customers are mid to large enterprises. “These IT teams have large, complex, hybrid IT environments and need help to simplify and consolidate an incredibly fragmented, distributed and overwhelming technology and infrastructure stack,” he said. “The company is also seeing success in the ability of our partners to help us reach global enterprises and Fortune 5000 customers.”

Kunaparaju told me that the company plans to use the new funding to expand its go-to-market efforts and product offerings. “The company will be using the money in a few different areas, including expanding our go-to-market motion and new pursuits in EMEA and APAC, in addition to expanding our North American presence,” he said. “We’ll also be doubling-down on product development on a variety of fronts.”

Given that hybrid clouds only increase the workload for IT organizations and introduce additional tools, it’s maybe no surprise that investors are now interested in companies that offer services that rein in this complexity. If anything, we’ll likely see more deals like this one in the coming months.

“As more of our customers transition to hybrid infrastructure, we find the OpsRamp platform to be a differentiated IT operations management offering that aligns well with the core strategies of HPE,” said Paul Glaser, Vice President and Head of Hewlett Packard Pathfinder. “With OpsRamp’s product vision and customer traction, we felt it was the right time to invest in the growth and scale of their business.”

 


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German football league Bundesliga teams with AWS to improve fan experience

21:21 | 24 January

Germany’s top soccer (football) league, Bundesliga, announced today it is partnering with AWS to use artificial intelligence to enhance the fan experience during games.

Andreas Heyden, executive vice president for digital sports at the Deutsche Fußball Liga, the entity that runs The Bundesliga, says that this could take many forms, depending on whether the fan is watching a broadcast of the game or interacting online.

“We try to use technology in a way to excite a fan more, to engage a fan more, to really take the fan experience to the next level, to show relevant stats at the relevant time through broadcasting, in apps and on the web to personalize the customer experience,” Heyden said.

This could involve delivering personalized content. “In times like this when attention spans are shrinking, when a user when a user opens up the app the first message should be the most relevant message in that context in that time for the specific user,” he said.

It can also help provide advanced statistics to fans in real time, even going so far as to predict the probability of a goal being scored at any particular moment in a game that would have an impact on your team. Heyden thinks of it as telling a story with numbers, rather than reporting what happened after the fact.

“We want to, with the help of technology, tell stories that could not have been told without the technology. There’s no chance that a reporter could come up with a number of what the probability of a shot [scoring in a given moment]. AWS can,” he said.

Werner Vogels, CTO at Amazon, says this about using machine learning and other technologies on the AWS platform to add to the experience of watching the game, which should help attract younger fans, regardless of the sport. “All of these kind of augmented customer fan experiences are crucial in engaging a whole new generation of fans,” Vogels told TechCrunch.

He adds that this kind of experience simply wasn’t possible until recently because the technology didn’t exist. “These things were impossible five or 10 years ago, mostly because now with all the machine learning software, as well as how the [pace of technology] has accelerated at such a [rate] at AWS, we’re now able to do these things in real time for sports fans.”

Bundesliga is not just any football league. It is the second biggest in the world in terms of revenue and boasts the highest stadium attendance of all football teams worldwide. Today’s announcement is an extension of an ongoing relationship between DFL and AWS, which started in 2015 when Heyden helped move the league’s operations to the cloud on AWS.

Heyden says that it’s not a coincidence he ended up using AWS instead of another cloud company. He has known Vogels (who also happens to be a huge soccer fan) for many years, and has been using AWS for more than a decade, even well before he joined the DFL. Today’s announcement is an extension of that long-term relationship.

 


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Google takes on AWS and Azure in India with Airtel cloud deal

13:00 | 20 January

Google has inked a deal with India’s third-largest telecom operator as the American giant looks to grow its cloud customer base in the key overseas market that is increasingly emerging as a new cloud battleground for AWS and Microsoft .

Google Cloud announced on Monday that the new partnership, effective starting today, enables Airtel to offer G Suite to small and medium-sized businesses as part of the telco’s ICT portfolio.

Airtel, which has amassed over 325 million subscribers in India, said it currently serves 2,500 large businesses and over 500,000 small and medium-sized businesses and startups in the country. The companies did not share details of their financial arrangement.

In a statement, Thomas Kurian, chief executive of Google Cloud, said, “the combination of G Suite’s collaboration and productivity tools with Airtel’s digital business offerings will help accelerate digital innovations for thousands of Indian businesses.”

The move follows Reliance Jio, India’s largest telecom operator, striking a similar deal with Microsoft to sell cloud services to small businesses. The two announced a 10-year partnership to “serve millions of customers.”

AWS, which leads the cloud market, interestingly does not maintain any similar deals with a telecom operator — though it did in the past. Deals with carriers, which were very common a decade ago as tech giants looked to acquire new users in India, illustrates the phase of the cloud adoption in the nation.

Nearly half a billion people in India came online last decade. And slowly, small businesses and merchants are also beginning to use digital tools, storage services, and accept online payments. According to a report by lobby group Nasscom, India’s cloud market is estimated to be worth more than $7 billion in three years.

Like in many other markets, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google are locked in an intense battle to win cloud customers in India. All of them offer near identical features and are often willing to pay out a potential client’s remainder credit to the rival to convince them to switch, industry executives have told TechCrunch.

The three companies have also launched a range of tools and conducted training in India in recent years to help mom-and-pop stores easily build presence on the web. Last week, Amazon announced it was investing $1 billion into its India operations to help about 10 million merchants come online.

 


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Google Cloud launches new solutions for retailers

19:00 | 13 January

It’s no secret that the Google Cloud management team has decided to focus its efforts on a select number of enterprise verticals like healthcare, manufacturing, financial services, energy and life sciences. Retail, too, has long been a growth market for the company, especially as Amazon’s competitors are looking to run their services on clouds that are not AWS. Current customers include the likes of Kohl’s, Lowe’s and France’s Carrefour. It’s maybe no surprise then that Google today used NRF 2020, one of the largest retail events, to launch a number of updates to its services for retailers.

Some of the announcements today focus on specific vertical editions of existing services, including Google Cloud API Management for Retail, powered by Apigee, or Google Cloud Anthos for Retail, which specifically targets retailers that want to modernize their store operations and infrastructure. There is also Google Cloud Search for Retail, powered by Google Search, which promises to bring better product search results to a retailer’s applications.

In addition, Google is also expanding programs like its Retail Acceleration Program to more customers and making its white-glove Customer Reliability Engineering service, which helps retailers better plan for and manage their peak shopping days, available to more customers.

What’s maybe more interesting, though, is new services like Google Cloud 1:1 Engagement for Retail, “a blueprint and best-practice guide on how to build these types of data-driven solutions effectively and with less up-front cost.” The idea here is to help retailers make use of Google’s big data platform to build personalization and recommendation models to better understand and engage their customers.

Also new is a buy optimization and demand forecasting service that aims to help retailers better plan their logistics operations.

We’ll likely see Google use a similar playbook for more verticals over time. We know that Google Cloud has ambitions to become the #2 cloud within a few years and to do so, it needs to get large enterprises — and especially those that are still trying to figure out their cloud strategies — to opt for its services.

 


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Identifying opportunities in today’s saturated cybersecurity market

19:36 | 12 January

Yoav Leitersdorf is the founder of YL Ventures, a 12-year-old, Mill Valley, California.-based seed-stage venture firm that invests narrowly in Israeli cybersecurity startups and closed its fourth fund with $120 million in capital commitments last summer — a vehicle that brings the capital it now manages to $260 million.

The outfit takes a concentrated approach to investing that has seemingly been paying off. YL Ventures was the biggest shareholder in the container security startup Twistlock, for example, which sold to Palo Alto Networks last year for $410 million after raising $63 million altogether. (YL Ventures had plugged $12 million into the company over four years.) It was also the biggest outside shareholder in Hexadite, an Israeli startup that used AI to identify and protect against attacks and that sold in 2017 to Microsoft for a reported $100 million.

Still, the firm sees a lot of cybersecurity startups. It also has an advisory board that’s comprised of more than 50 security pros from heavyweight companies. For insight into what they’re shopping for this year — and how startups might grab their attention — we reached out to Leitersdorf last week to ask what he’s hearing.

 


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