Microsoft Power Apps update includes new Common Data Service

Microsoft announced the spring update to its Power BI and Power Apps platform today with a significant enhancement, a new common data service that enables companies to build data-based applications from a variety of data sources.

This is part of a wider strategy that is designed to remove some of the complexity associated with gathering, processing and incorporating data into applications.

Microsoft is essentially giving customers access to the same set of tools and services it has used internally to build Dynamics 365, its enterprise suite of tools that includes CRM, marketing automation and field service along with enterprise resource planning tools (ERP).

While the company has been allowing third party developers to build application on the platform for about 18 months with its Power Apps tools, they haven’t been able to take advantage of the data under the hood without some heavy lifting. Microsoft aims to change that with the Common Data Service.

Diagram: Microsoft

“What that service means, practically speaking, is that it’s not only a place to store data, but a model (schema) that is stamped out there with everything you would need to build a business app around [elements] such as contacts, events, customers [and so forth], Ryan Cunningham, Microsoft program manager for Power Apps explained. This allows the programmer to take advantage of pre-built relationships and rules and how they should be enforced without having to code them from scratch.

Cunningham points out that they tried to make it fairly simple to build the apps, while still providing a level of customization and the ability to use Microsoft data or data from another source. That’s where the Common Data Store comes in.

He says that developers can take advantage of the 200 connectors that come pre-built out of the box and connect to all that data you’ve been collecting in the Microsoft products, but they aren’t limited to the Microsoft data. “You can still build custom applications on top of the platform, and get the benefit of the platform we’ve built our tools on,” he said.

The Common Data Store is part of a much broader set of announcements around the spring releases of Dynamics 365, Office 365 and Power BI platforms all announced today.

Salesforce is buying MuleSoft at enterprise value of $6.5 billion

Salesforce announced today that it intends to buy MuleSoft in a deal valued at a whopping $6.5 billion. That’s not necessarily the selling price, but the amount the company has been valued at based on stocks, bonds and cash on hand. The exact price was not available yet, but the company did indicate it was paying $44.89 per share for MuleSoft, a price that represents a 36 percent premium over yesterday’s closing price, according to Salesforce .

What’s more, the deal values each MuleSoft share at $36 in cash and 0.0711 shares of Salesforce common stock.

Rumors began swirling this morning after a story broke by Reuters that the CRM giant was interested in MuleSoft, which launched in 2006 and went public almost exactly a year ago. With 1,200 customers, it gives Salesforce a mature company to add to its arsenal. It also gives them an API integration engine that should help the company access data across organizations, regardless of where it lives.

This is particularly important for Salesforce, which tends to come in and work with a company across enterprise systems. As it builds out its artificial intelligence and machine learning layer, which it has branded as Einstein, it needs access to data across the company. A company like MuleSoft gives them that.

But of course Salesforce gets more than tech with this purchase, which it can integrate into its growing family of products. It also gets major customers like Coca-Cola, VMware, GE, Accenture, Airbus, AT&T and Cisco. While Salesforce may have a presence in some of these companies already, MuleSoft gives them entrée into areas they might not have had, and gives them the ability to expand that presence.

What’s more, the company has big revenue goals. Having reached $10 billion in revenue faster than any software company ever has, a point that chairman and co-founder Marc Benioff has been happy to make, they have actually set their sights on $60 billion by 2034. That’s a long way away, of course, but having a company like MuleSoft in the fold, which made almost $300 million in revenue in fiscal 2017, will certainly help.

Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research, says this about building a microservices future, “This is the heart of Salesforce’s M&A strategy. They have to integrate, orchestrate, and manage microservices in their future roadmap,” he said. “The AI-driven world ahead needs contextual microservices.”

Microservices are a way of building applications made up of small, distinct pieces, rather than the single, monolithic application we tended to build in the past. This makes changing and updating easier and more efficient.

Brent Leary, owner and principal at CRM Essentials, a CRM consulting firm, sees the deal through a customer prism. “Well, it shows just how crucial [Internet of Things] and [Artificial Intelligence] is to the future of Salesforce‘s ability to create the customer success platform of the future,” he said.

“It also reinforces that they feel investing deeper into customer success is a better ROI and growth play then extending to other enterprise app areas outside of their core focus,” Leary added.

As with all deals of this ilk, it needs to pass regulatory muster first, but if it does, it is expected to close at the end July.

Salesforce is buying MuleSoft at enterprise value of $6.5 billion

Salesforce today announced that it intends to buy MuleSoft in a deal valued at a whopping $6.5 billion. That’s not the selling price, but the amount the company has been valued at based on stocks, bonds and cash on hand. The exact price was not available yet, but the company did indicate it was paying 44.89 per share for Mulesoft, a price that represents 36 percent premium over yesterday’s closing price, according to Salesforce .

What’s more, the deal values each MuleSoft share at $36 in cash and 0.0711 shares of Salesforce common stock.

Rumors began swirling this morning after a story broke by Reuters that the CRM giant was interested in MuleSoft, which launched in 2006, and went public almost exactly a year ago.  It gives Salesforce a mature company to add to its arsenal with 1200 customers. It also gives them an API integration engine that should help the company access data across organizations regardless of where it lives.

This is particularly important for Salesforce, which tends to come in and work with a company across enterprise systems. As it builds out its artificial intelligence and machine learning layer, which it has branded as Einstein, it needs access to data across the company. A company like MuleSoft gives them that.

But of course, Salesforce gets more than tech with this purchase, which it can integrate into its growing family of products. It also gets major customers like Coca-Cola, VMware, GE, Accenture, Airbus, AT&T and Cisco. While Salesforce may have a presence already in some of these companies already, Mulesoft gives them entree into areas they might not have had and gives them the ability to expand that presence.

What’s more, the company has big revenue goals. Having reached $10 billion in revenue faster than any software company ever has, a point that Chairman and co-founder Marc Benioff has been happy to make, they have actually set their sites on $60 billion by 2034. That’s a long way away, of course, but having a company like MuleSoft in the fold, which made $300 million in revenue will certainly help.

This is a developing story.

Oracle’s cloud biz heading in the wrong direction right now

Oracle announced its quarterly earnings last night, detailing that its cloud business grew 32 percent to $1.6 billion in the quarter. That might sound good at first blush, but it’s part of three straight quarters of reduced growth — a fact that had investors jittery over night. It didn’t get better throughout the day today with Oracle’s stock plunging over 9 percent as of this writing.

When you consider that enterprise business is shifting rapidly to the cloud, and that the cloud business in general is growing quickly, Oracle’s cloud numbers could be reason for concern. While it’s hard to nail down what “cloud” means when it comes to technology companies’ earnings because it varies so much in how each one counts infrastructure, software, or platform; the general trend from Oracle seems contrary to the eye-popping growth numbers we have seen from other companies.

Oracle against the world

Oracle’s cloud revenue broke down as follows: SaaS, up 33 percent to $1.2 billion, and platform and infrastructure revenue combined up 28 percent to $415 million. To put those figures into context, consider that last quarter Alibaba reported overall cloud revenue of $533 million,which was up a whopping 104 percent year over year.

Looking purely at Infrastructure services, Canalys reported that in the third quarter of 2017, Microsoft grew at around 90 percent year over year, while Google grew around 75 percent YoY. Even market leader Amazon, which controls over 30 percent of the market, had around a 40 percent growth rate, fairly remarkable given its size.

All of that suggests that Oracle, which came to the cloud late, should be on a higher growth trajectory than it’s currently showing.That’s because it’s generally easier to grow from a small number than it is from a big number to bigger number (as Amazon has had to do).

The company’s on-prem software revenue continues to grow (which includes lucrative license and maintenance revenue from existing customers), and still accounts for the vast majority of its top line. However, at this point, you would think Oracle would want to see that revenue growth shifting away from on-prem and towards its cloud business.

What’s worse is that co-CEO Safra Catz predicted in the earnings call with analysts that the cloud growth could dive even further next quarter. “Cloud revenues including SaaS, PaaS and IaaS [all cloud business combined] are expected to grow 19% to 23% in USD, 17% to 21% in constant currency,” she told analysts this week.

Oracle co-CEO Safra Catz Photo: KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images

Looking for a brighter future

Chairman Larry Ellison tried to point to the fully automated cloud database product announced at Oracle OpenWorld last fall as a proof point of a brighter cloud future, but so far the numbers are not bearing that out. It’s worth noting that he did also indicate that more automated cloud products are on the way.

Oracle has spent the last several years putting a lot of cloud pieces together, and as Catz pointed out, they don’t have to invest further to handle additional capacity in their SaaS business, but with the numbers heading in the wrong direction that may not be the problem.

Oracle certainly has enterprise credibility, and that should bode well for its cloud business, but as a late comer to the market we should be seeing much brisker overall growth than this. Over time that may happen, but for now Wall Street was not happy with Oracle’s results and the firm probably has to show more from its cloud products before they can change investors’ minds.

Windows Server 2019 is now available in preview

Microsoft today announced the next version of Windows Server, which launches later this year under the not completely unexpected moniker of “Windows Server 2019.” Developers and operations teams that want to get access to the bits can now get the first preview build through Microsoft’s Insider Program.

This next version comes with plenty of new features, but it’s also worth noting that this is the next release in the Long-Term Servicing Channel for Windows Server, which means that customers will get five years of mainstream support and can get an extra five years of extended support. Users also can opt for a semi-annual channel that features — surprise — two releases per year for those teams that want to get faster access to new features. Microsoft recommends the long-term option for infrastructure scenarios like running SQL Server or SharePoint.

So what’s new in Windows Server 2019? Given Microsoft’s focus on hybrid cloud deployments, it’s no surprise that Windows Server also embraces these scenarios. Specifically, this means that Windows Server 2019 will be able to easily connect to Microsoft Azure and that users will be able to integrate Azure Backup, File Sync, disaster recover and other services into they Windows Server deployments.

Microsoft also added a number of new security features, which are mostly based on what the company has learned from running Azure and previous version of Windows. These include new shielded VMs for protecting Linux applications and support for Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection, one of Microsoft’s flagship security products that helps guard machines against attacks and zero-day exploits.

With this release, Microsoft is also bringing its container technologies from the semi-annual release channel to the long-term release channel. These include the ability to run Linux containers on Windows and the Windows Subsystem for Linux that enables this, as well as the ability to run Bash scripts on Windows. And for those of you who are really into containers, Microsoft also today noted that it will offer more container orchestration choices, including Kubernetes support, soon. These will first come to the semi-annual channel, though.

You can find a more detailed breakdown of what’s new in this release here.

Apple, IBM add machine learning to partnership with Watson-Core ML coupling

Apple and IBM may seem like an odd couple, but the two companies have been working closely together for several years now. That has involved IBM sharing its enterprise expertise with Apple and Apple sharing its design sense with IBM. The companies have actually built hundreds of enterprise apps running on iOS devices. Today, they took that friendship a step further when they announced they were providing a way to combine IBM Watson machine learning with Apple Core ML to make the business apps running on Apple devices all the more intelligent.

The way it works is a customer builds a machine learning model using Watson, taking advantage of data in an enterprise repository to train the model. For instance, a company may want to help field service techs point their iPhone camera at a machine and identify the make and model to order the correct parts. You could potentially train a model to recognize all the different machines using Watson’s image recognition capability.

The next step is to convert that model into Core ML and include it in your custom app. Apple introduced Core ML at the Worldwide Developers Conference last June as a way to make it easy for developers to move machine learning models from popular model building tools like TensorFlow, Caffe or IBM Watson to apps running on iOS devices.

After creating the model, you run it through the Core ML converter tools and insert it in your Apple app. The agreement with IBM makes it easier to do this using IBM Watson as the model building part of the equation. This allows the two partners to make the apps created under the partnership even smarter with machine learning.

“Apple developers need a way to quickly and easily build these apps and leverage the cloud where it’s delivered. [The partnership] lets developers take advantage of the Core ML integration,” Mahmoud Naghshineh, general manager for IBM Partnerships and Alliances explained.

To make it even easier, IBM also announced a cloud console to simplify the connection between the Watson model building process and inserting that model in the application running on the Apple device.

Over time, the app can share data back with Watson and improve the machine learning algorithm running on the edge device in a classic device-cloud partnership. “That’s the beauty of this combination. As you run the application, it’s real time and you don’t need to be connected to Watson, but as you classify different parts [on the device], that data gets collected and when you’re connected to Watson on a lower [bandwidth] interaction basis, you can feed it back to train your machine learning model and make it even better,” Naghshineh said.

The point of the partnership has always been to use data and analytics to build new business processes, by taking existing approaches and reengineering them for a touch screen.

“This adds a level of machine learning to that original goal moving it forward to take advantage of the latest tech. “We are taking this to the next level through machine learning. We are very much on that path and bringing improved accelerated capabilities and providing better insight to [give users] a much greater experience,” Naghshineh said.

Cloud security startup Zscaler closes at $33, up 106% on its first day of trading on Nasdaq

The first post-billion, big tech IPO of the year has opened with a bang. Zscaler, a security startup that confidentially filed for an IPO last year, closed out its first day of trading at $33/share, up 106% from its opening price of $16.

The enterprise cloud services company started trading this morning as ZS on Nasdaq at a price of $27.50/share,  a pop of 71.9  percent on its opening price, and its stock today reached a peak of $33.37. The activity on Zscaler could point to a bullish moment for security startups, and potentially public listings for tech companies in general — as well as some pent-up demand in a climate that has been somewhat dry for big tech IPOs after some notable flops.

That could bode well for Dropbox, Spotify and others that are planning or considering public listings in the coming weeks and months.

Zscaler, a cloud-services company, posted revenues of $125.7 million in 2017 with net losses of $35.5 million and said in its S-1 that it expected to “continue to incur net losses for the foreseeable future.” But it priced its IPO modestly, and the result was that there seemed to be more of an appetite for the company than expected.

Initially, Zscaler had expected to sell 10 million shares at a range between $10 and $12 per share, but interest led the company to expand that to 12 million shares at a $13-15 range, which then moved up to $16 and Zscaler last night raising $192 million giving it a valuation of over $1.9 billion — a sign of strong interest in the investor community that it’s now hoping will follow through in its debut and beyond.

Zscaler is a specialist in an area called software-defined perimeter (SDP) services, which allow enterprises and other organizations to better control how they allow employees to access apps and specific services within their IT networks: the idea is that rather than giving access to the full network, employees are authenticated just for the apps that they specifically need for their work.

SDP architectures have become increasingly popular in recent years as a way of better mitigating security threats in networks where employees are using a variety of devices, including their own private mobile phones, to access data and apps in corporate networks and in the cloud — both of which have become routes for malicious hackers to breach systems.

SDP services are being adopted by the likes of Google, and are being built by a number of other tech companies, both those that are looking to provide more value-added services around existing cloud or other IT offerings, and those that are already playing in the area of security, including Cisco, Check Point Software, EMC, Fortinet, Intel, Juniper Networks, Palo Alto Networks, Symantec (which has been involved in IP lawsuits with Zscaler) and more — which speaks both of the opportunity and challenge in the market for Zscaler. Estimates of the value of the market range from $7.8 billion to $11 billion by 2023.

Go here for more on the IPO, and hear from the CEO himself.

Cloud security startup Zscaler opens at $27.50, a pop of 72% on Nasdaq, raising $192M in its IPO

The first post-billion, big tech IPO of the year has opened with a bang. Zscaler, a security startup that confidentially filed for an IPO last year, started trading this morning as ZS on Nasdaq at a price of $27.50/share. This was a pop of 71.9  percent on its opening price of $16, and speaks to a bullish moment for security startups and potentially public listings for tech companies in general.

That could bode well for Dropbox, Spotify and others that are planning or considering public listings in the coming weeks and months.

In its first couple of hours of trading, the stock has held around that price, going as high as $28 and as low as $26.06. We’ll continue to monitor the price as the day continues to see how the stock does, and also hear from the company itself.

Initially, Zscaler had expected to sell 10 million shares at a range between $10 and $12 per share, but interest led the company to expand that to 12 million shares at a $13-15 range, which then moved up to $16 and Zscaler last night raising $192 million giving it a valuation of over $1.9 billion — a sign of strong interest in the investor community that it’s now hoping will follow through in its debut and beyond.

Zscaler is a specialist in an area called software-defined perimeter (SDP) services, which allow enterprises and other organizations to better control how they allow employees to access apps and specific services within their IT networks: the idea is that rather than giving access to the full network, employees are authenticated just for the apps that they specifically need for their work.

SDP architectures have become increasingly popular in recent years as a way of better mitigating security threats in networks where employees are using a variety of devices, including their own private mobile phones, to access data and apps in corporate networks and in the cloud — both of which have become routes for malicious hackers to breach systems.

SDP services are being adopted by the likes of Google, and are being built by a number of other tech companies, both those that are looking to provide more value-added services around existing cloud or other IT offerings, and those that are already playing in the area of security, including Cisco, Check Point Software, EMC, Fortinet, Intel, Juniper Networks, Palo Alto Networks, Symantec (which has been involved in IP lawsuits with Zscaler) and more — which speaks both of the opportunity and challenge in the market for Zscaler. Estimates of the value of the market range from $7.8 billion to $11 billion by 2023.

Google expands its Cloud Platform region in the Netherlands

Google today announced that it has expanded its recently launched Cloud Platform region in the Netherlands with an additional zone. The investment, which is worth a reported 500 million euros, expands the existing Netherlands region from two to three regions. With this, all the four central European Google Cloud Platform zones now feature three zones (which are akin to what AWS would call “availability zones”) that allow developers to build highly available services across multiple data centers.

Google typically aims to have a least three zones in every region, so today’s announcement to expand its region in the Dutch province of Groningen doesn’t come as a major surprise.

With this move, Google is also making Cloud SpannerCloud BigtableManaged Instance Groups, and Cloud SQL available in the region.

Over the course of the last two years, Google has worked hard to expand its global data center footprint. While it still can’t compete with the likes of AWS and Azure, which currently offers more regions than any of its competitors, the company now has enough of a presence to be competitive in most markets.

In the near future, Google also plans to open regions in Los Angeles, Finland, Osaka and Hong Kong. The major blank spots on its current map remain Africa, China (for rather obvious reasons) and Eastern Europe, including Russia.

Cloud security startup Zscaler opens at $27.50, a pop of 72% on Nasdaq, raising $192M in its IPO

The first big tech IPO of the year has opened with a bang. Zscaler, a security startup that confidentially filed for an IPO last year, started trading this morning as ZS on Nasdaq at a price of $27.50/share. This was a pop of 71.9  percent on its opening price of $16, and speaks to a bullish moment for security startups and potentially public listings for tech companies in general.

That could bode well for Dropbox, Spotify and others that are planning or considering public listings in the coming weeks and months.

We’ll continue to monitor the price as the day continues to see how the stock does, and also hear from the company itself.

Initially, Zscaler had expected to sell 10 million shares at a range between $10 and $12 per share, but interest led the company to expand that to 12 million shares at a $13-15 range, which then moved up to $16 and Zscaler last night raising $192 million giving it a valuation of over $1.9 billion — a sign of strong interest in the investor community that it’s now hoping will follow through in its debut and beyond.

Zscaler is a specialist in an area called software-defined perimeter (SDP) services, which allow enterprises and other organizations to better control how they allow employees to access apps and specific services within their IT networks: the idea is that rather than giving access to the full network, employees are authenticated just for the apps that they specifically need for their work.

SDP architectures have become increasingly popular in recent years as a way of better mitigating security threats in networks where employees are using a variety of devices, including their own private mobile phones, to access data and apps in corporate networks and in the cloud — both of which have become routes for malicious hackers to breach systems.

SDP services are being adopted by the likes of Google, and are being built by a number of other tech companies, both those that are looking to provide more value-added services around existing cloud or other IT offerings, and those that are already playing in the area of security, including Cisco, Check Point Software, EMC, Fortinet, Intel, Juniper Networks, Palo Alto Networks, Symantec (which has been involved in IP lawsuits with Zscaler) and more — which speaks both of the opportunity and challenge in the market for Zscaler. Estimates of the value of the market range from $7.8 billion to $11 billion by 2023.