Microsoft to open first data center in New Zealand as cloud usage grows

In spite of being in the midst of a pandemic sowing economic uncertainty, one area that continues to thrive is cloud computing. Perhaps that explains why Microsoft, which saw Azure grow 59% in its most recent earnings report, announced plans to open a new data center in New Zealand once it receives approval from the Overseas Investment Office.

“This significant investment in New Zealand’s digital infrastructure is a testament to the remarkable spirit of New Zealand’s innovation and reflects how we’re pushing the boundaries of what is possible as a nation,” Vanessa Sorenson, general manager at Microsoft New Zealand said in a statement.

The company sees this project against the backdrop of accelerating digital transformation that we are seeing as the pandemic forces companies to move to the cloud more quickly with employees often spread out and unable to work in offices around the world.

As CEO Satya Nadella noted on Twitter, this should help companies in New Zealand that are in the midst of this transformation. “Now more than ever, we’re seeing the power of digital transformation, and today we’re announcing a new datacenter region in New Zealand to help every organization in the country build their own digital capability,” Nadella tweeted.

The company wants to do more than simply build a data center. It will make this part of a broader investment across the country, including skills training and reducing the environmental footprint of the data center.

Once New Zealand comes on board, the company will boast 60 regions covering 140 countries around the world. The new data center won’t just be about Azure, either. It will help fuel usage of Office 365 and the Dynamics 365 back-office products, as well.


By Ron Miller

Sleuth raises $3M Seed to bring order to continuous deployment

Sleuth, an early stage startup from three former Atlassian employees, wants to bring some much-needed order to the continuous delivery process. Today, the company announced it has raised a $3 million seed round.

CRV led the round with participation from angel investors from New Relic, Atlassian and LaunchDarkly.

“Sleuth is a deployment tracker built to solve the confusion that comes when companies have adopted continuous delivery,” says CEO and co-founder Dylan Etkin. The company’s founders recognized that more and more companies were making the move to continuous delivery deployment, and they wanted to make it easier to track those deployments and figure out where the bottle necks were.

He says that typically, on any given DevOps team, there are perhaps two or three people who know how the entire system works, and with more people spread out now, it’s more important than ever that everyone has that capability. Etkin says Sleuth lets everyone on the team understand the underlying complexity of the delivery system with the goal of helping them understand the impact of a given change they made.

“Sleuth is trying to make that better by targeting the developer and really giving them a communications platform, so that they can discuss the [tools] and understand what is changing and who has changed what. And then more importantly, what is the impact of my change,” he explained.

Image Credit: Sleuth

The company was founded by three former Atlassian alumni — Ektin along with Michael Knighten and Don Brown — all of whom were among the first 50 employees at the now tremendously successful development tools company.

That kind of pedigree tends to get the attention of investors like CRV, but it is also telling that three companies including their former employer saw enough potential here to invest in the company, and be using the product.

Etkin recognizes this is a tricky time to launch an early-stage startup. He said that when he first entered the lock down, his inclination was to hunker down, but they concluded that their tool would have even greater utility at the moment. “The founders took stock and we were always building a tool that was great for remote teams and collaboration in general, and that hasn’t changed… if anything, I think it’s becoming more important right now.”

The company plans to spend the next 6-9 months refining the product, adding a few folks to the five person team and finding product-market fit. There is never an ideal time to start a company, but Sleuth believes now is its moment. It may not be easy, but they are taking a shot.


By Ron Miller

Cockroach Labs scores $86.6M Series D as scalable database resonates

Cockroach Labs, the NYC enterprise database company, announced an $86.6 million Series D funding round today. The company was in no mood to talk valuations, but was happy to have a big chunk of money to help build on its recent success and ride out the current economic malaise.

Altimeter Capital and Bond co-led the round with participation from Benchmark, GV, Index Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, Sequoia Capital and Tiger Capital. Today’s funding comes on top of a $55 million Series C last August, and brings the total raised to $195 million, according to the company.

Cockroach has a tough job. It’s battling both traditional databases like Oracle and modern ones from the likes of Amazon, but investors see a company with a lot of potential market building an open source, on prem and cloud database product. In particular, the open source product provides a way to attract users and turn some percentage of those into potential customers, an approach investors tend to favor.

CEO and co-founder Spenser Kimball says that the company had been growing fast before the pandemic hit. “I think the biggest change between now and last year has just been our go to market which is seeing pretty explosive growth. By number of customers, we’ve grown by almost 300%,” Kimball told TechCrunch.

He says having that three-pronged approach of open source, cloud an on-prem products has really helped fuel that growth. The company launched the cloud service in 2018 and it has helped expand its market. Whereas the on-prem version was mostly aimed at larger customers, the managed service puts Cockroach in reach of individual developers and teams, who might not want to deal with all of the overhead of managing a complex database on their own.

Kimball says it’s really too soon to say what impact the pandemic will have on his business. He recognizes that certain verticals like travel, hospitality and some retail business are probably going to suffer, but other businesses that are accelerating in the crisis could make use of a highly scalable database like CockroachDB.

“Obviously it’s a new world right now. I think there are going to be some losers and some winners, but on balance I think [our] momentum will continue to grow for something that really does represent a best in class solution for businesses, whether they are startups or big enterprises, as they’re trying to figure out how to build for a cloud native future,” Kimball said.

The company intends to keep hiring through this, but is being careful and regularly evaluating what its needs are much more carefully than it might have done prior to this crisis with a much more open mind toward remote work.

Kimball certainly recognizes that it’s not an easy time to be raising this kind of cash and he is grateful to have the confidence of investors to keep growing his company, come what may.


By Ron Miller

IBM and Red Hat expand their telco, edge and AI enterprise offerings

At its Think Digital conference, IBM and Red Hat today announced a number of new services that all center around 5G edge and AI. The fact that the company is focusing on these two areas doesn’t come as a surprise, given that both edge and AI are two of the fastest-growing businesses in enterprise computing. Virtually every telecom company is now looking at how to best capitalize on the upcoming 5G rollouts, and most forward-looking enterprises are trying to figure out how to best plan around this for their own needs.

As IBM’s recently minted president Jim Whitehurst told me ahead of today’s announcement, he believes that IBM (in combination with Red Hat) is able to offer enterprises a very differentiated service because, unlike the large hyper clouds, IBM isn’t interested in locking these companies into a homogeneous cloud.

“Where IBM is competitively differentiated, is around how we think about helping clients on a journey to what we call hybrid cloud,” said Whitehurst, who hasn’t done a lot of media interviews since he took the new role, which still includes managing Red Hat. “Honestly, everybody has hybrid clouds. I wish we had a more differentiated term. One of the things that’s different is how we’re talking about how you think about an application portfolio that, by necessity, you’re going to have in multiple ways. If you’re a large enterprise, you probably have a mainframe running a set of transactional workloads that probably are going to stay there for a long time because there’s not a great alternative. And there’s going to be a set of applications you’re going to want to run in a distributed environment that need to access that data — all the way out to you running a factory floor and you want to make sure that the paint sprayer doesn’t have any defects while it’s painting a door.”

BARCELONA, CATALONIA, SPAIN – 2019/02/25: The IBM logo is seen during MWC 2019. (Photo by Paco Freire/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

He argues that IBM, at its core, is all about helping enterprises think about how to best run their workloads software, hardware and services perspective. “Public clouds are phenomenal, but they are exposing a set of services in a homogeneous way to enterprises,” he noted, while he argues that IBM is trying to weave all of these different pieces together.

Later in our discussion, he argued that the large public clouds essentially force enterprises to fit their workloads to those clouds’ service. “The public clouds do extraordinary things and they’re great partners of ours, but their primary business is creating these homogeneous services, at massive volumes, and saying ‘if your workloads fit into this, we can run it better, faster, cheaper etc.’ And they have obviously expanded out. They’ve added services. They are not saying we can put a box on-premise, but you’re still fitting into their model.”

On the news side, IBM is launching new services to automate business planning, budgeting and forecasting, for example, as well as new AI-driven tools for building and running automation apps that can handle routine tasks either autonomously or with the help of a human counterpart. The company is also launching new tools for call-center automation.

The most important AI announcement is surely Watson AIOps, though, which is meant to help enterprises detect, diagnose and respond to IT anomalies in order to reduce the effects of incidents and outages for a company.

On the telco side, IBM is launching new tools like the Edge Application Manager, for example, to make it easier to enable AI, analytics and IoT workloads on the edge, powered by IBM’s open-source Open Horizon edge computing project. The company is also launching a new Telco Network Cloud manager built on top of Red Hat OpenShift and the ability to also leverage the Red Hat OpenStack Platform (which remains to be an important platform for telcos and represents a growing business for IBM/Red Hat). In addition, IBM is launching a new dedicated IBM Services team for edge computing and telco cloud to help these customers build out their 5G and edge-enabled solutions.

Telcos are also betting big on a lot of different open-source technologies that often form the core of their 5G and edge deployments. Red Hat was already a major player in this space, but the acquisition has only accelerated this, Whitehurst argued. “Since the acquisition […] telcos have a lot more confidence in IBM’s capabilities to serve them long term and be able to serve them in mission-critical context. But importantly, IBM also has the capability to actually make it real now.”

A lot of the new telco edge and hybrid cloud deployments, he also noted, are built on Red Hat technologies but built by IBM, and neither IBM nor Red Hat could have really brought these to fruition in the same way. Red Hat never had the size, breadth and skills to pull off some of these projects, Whitehurst argued.

Whitehurst also argued that part of the Red Hat DNA that he’s bringing to the table now is helping IBM to think more in terms of ecosystems. “The DNA that I think matters a lot that Red Hat brings to the table with IBM — and I think IBM is adopting and we’re running with it — is the importance of ecosystems,” he said. “All of Red Hat’s software is open source. And so really, what you’re bringing to the table is ecosystems.”

It’s maybe no surprise then that the telco initiatives are backed by partners like Cisco, Dell Technologies, Juniper, Intel, Nvidia, Samsung, Packet, Equinix, Hazelcast, Sysdig, Turbonomics, Portworx, Humio, Indra Minsait, EuroTech, Arrow, ADLINK, Acromove, Geniatech, SmartCone, CloudHedge, Altiostar, Metaswitch, F5 Networks and ADVA.

In many ways, Red Hat pioneered the open-source business model and Whitehurst argued that having Red Hat as part of the IBM family means it’s now easier for the company to make the decision to invest even more in open source. “As we accelerate into this hybrid cloud world, we’re going to do our best to leverage open-source technologies to make them real,” he added.


By Frederic Lardinois

In spite of pandemic (or maybe because of it), cloud infrastructure revenue soars

It’s fair to say that even before the impact of COVID-19, companies had begun a steady march to the cloud. Maybe it wasn’t fast enough for AWS, as Andy Jassy made clear in his 2019 Re:invent keynote, but it was happening all the same and the steady revenue increases across the cloud infrastructure market bore that out.

As we look at the most recent quarter’s earnings reports for the main players in the market, it seems the pandemic and economic fall out has done little to slow that down. In fact, it may be contributing to its growth.

According to numbers supplied by Synergy Research, the cloud infrastructure market totaled $29 billion in revenue for Q12020.

Image Credit: Synergy Research

Synergy’s John Dinsdale, who has been watching this market for a long time, says that the pandemic could be contributing to some of that growth, at least modestly. In spite of the numbers, he doesn’t necessarily see these companies getting out of this unscathed either, but as companies shift operations from offices, it could be part of the reason for the increased demand we saw in the first quarter.

“For sure, the pandemic is causing some issues for cloud providers, but in uncertain times, the public cloud is providing flexibility and a safe haven for enterprises that are struggling to maintain normal operations. Cloud provider revenues continue to grow at truly impressive rates, with AWS and Azure in aggregate now having an annual revenue run rate of well over $60 billion,” Dinsdale said in a statement.

AWS led the way with a third of the market or more than $10 billion in quarterly revenue as it continues to hold a substantial lead in market share. Microsoft was in second, growing at a brisker 59% for 18% of the market. While Microsoft doesn’t break out its numbers, using Synergy’s numbers, that would work out to around $5.2 billion for Azure revenue. Meanwhile Google came in third with $2.78 billion.

If you’re keeping track of market share at home, it comes out to 32% for AWS, 18% for Microsoft and 8% for Google. This split has remained fairly steady, although Microsoft has managed to gain a few percentage points over the last several quarters as its overall growth rate outpaces Amazon.


By Ron Miller

AWS hits $10B for the quarter putting it on a $40B run rate

AWS, the cloud arm of Amazon would be a pretty successful business on its own. Today, the company announced it has passed $10 billion for the quarter, putting the cloud business on an impressive run rate of more than $40 billion.

It was a bright spot for the company in an earnings report that saw it report net income of $2.5 billion, down a $1 billion from a year ago.

Still, most companies would take that for the entire business, but AWS, which started off as kind of a side hustle for Amazon back in 2006 has grown into a powerful business all on its own. With a growth rate of 33%, it’s still growing briskly, even if it’s slowing down a bit as the law of large numbers begins to work against it.

Even though Microsoft has grown more quickly — in yesterday’s report Microsoft reported that Azure was growing at 59% clip — AWS had such a big head start and controls a big chunk of the market share.

To give you a sense of how quickly this business has grown, Bloomberg’s Jon Erlichman tweeted the Q1 numbers for AWS since 2014 and it’s pretty amazing growth:

In 2014, it was a $4 billion a year business. Today it is 9.1x that and still going strong. The good news for everyone involved is that this is a huge market, and while nobody could ever characterize the pandemic and it’s economic fall-out as good news for anyone, the fact is that is forcing companies to move to the cloud faster than they might have wanted to go.

That should bode well for all the cloud infrastructures vendors, even as the economy shrinks, the kinds of services these vendors offer should be in more demand than ever, and that means these numbers are could just going to keep growing for some time.


By Ron Miller

New Red Hat CEO Paul Cormier faces a slew of challenges in the midst of pandemic

When former Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst moved on to become president at parent company IBM earlier this month, the logical person to take his place was long-time executive Paul Cormier. As he takes over in the most turbulent of times, he still sees a company that is in the right place to help customers modernize their approach to development as they move more workloads to the cloud.

We spoke to Cormier yesterday via video conference, and he appeared to be a man comfortable in his new position. We talked about the changes his new role has brought him personally, how he his helping his company navigate the current situation and how his relationship with IBM works.

One thing he stressed was that even as part of the IBM family, his company is running completely independently, and that includes no special treatment for IBM. It’s just another customer, an approach he says is absolutely essential.

Taking over

He says that he felt fully prepared for the role having run the gamut of jobs over the years from engineering to business units to CTO. The big difference for him as CEO is that in all of his previous roles he could be the technical guy speaking a certain engineering language with his colleagues. As CEO, things have changed, especially during a time where communication has become paramount.

This has been an even bigger challenge in the midst of the pandemic. Instead of traveling to offices for meetings, chatting over informal coffees and having more serendipitous encounters, he has had to be much more deliberate in his communication to make sure his employees feel in the loop, even when they are out of the office.

“I have a company-wide meeting every two weeks. You can’t over communicate right now because it just doesn’t happen [naturally in the course of work]. I’ve got to consciously do it now, and that’s probably the biggest thing,” he said.

Go-to-market challenges

While Cormier sees little change on the engineering side, where many folks have been working remotely for some time, the go-to-market team could face more serious hurdles as they try to engage with customers.

“The go-to-market and sales side is going to be the challenge because we don’t know how our customers will come out of this. Everybody’s going to have different strategies on how they’re coming out of this, and that will drive a lot,” he said.

This week was Cormier’s first Red Hat Summit as CEO, one that like so many conferences had to pivot from a live event to virtual fairly quickly. Customers have been nervous, and this was the first chance to really reconnect with them since things have shut down. He says that he was pleasantly surprised how well it worked, even allowing more people to attend than might pay to travel to a live event.

Conferences are a place for the sales team to really shine and lay the groundwork for future sales. Not being there in person had to be a big change for them, but he says this week went better than he expected, and they learned a ton about running virtual events that they will carry forth into the future.

“We all miss the face-to-face for sure, but I think we’ve learned new things, and I think our team did an amazing job in pulling this off,” he said.

No favorites for IBM

As he navigates his role inside the IBM family, he says that new CEO Arvind Krishna has effectively become his board of directors, now that the company has gone private. When IBM paid $34 billion for Red Hat in 2018, it was looking for a way to modernize the company and to become a real player in the hybrid cloud market.

Hybrid involves finding a way to manage infrastructure that lives on premises as well as in the cloud without having to use two sets of tools. While IBM is all in on Red Hat, Cormier says it’s absolutely essential to their relationship with customers that they don’t show them any favoritism, and that includes no special pricing deals.

Not only that, he says that he has the freedom to run the company the way he sees fit. “IBM doesn’t set our product strategy. They don’t set our priorities. They know that over time our open source products could eat into what they are doing with their proprietary products, and they are okay with that. They understand that,” he said.

He says that doing it any other way could begin to erode the reason that IBM spent all that money in the first place, and it’s up to Cormier to make sure that they continue to do what they were doing and keep customers comfortable with that. So far, the company seems to be heading in the same upward trajectory it was on as a public company.

In the most recent earnings report in January, IBM reported Red Hat income of $1.07 billion, up from $863 million the previous year when it was still a private company. That’s a run rate of over $4 billion, putting it well within reach of the $5 billion goal Whitehurst set a few years ago.

Now it’s Cormier’s job to get them there and beyond. The pandemic certainly makes it more challenging, but he’s ready to lead the company to that next level, all while walking the line as the CEO of a company that lives under the IBM family umbrella and all that entails.


By Ron Miller

Okta COVID-19 app usage report finds it’s not just collaboration seeing a huge uptick

Okta released a special COVID-19 edition of its app usage report today, and you don’t need a Ph. D. in statistics to guess what they found. Indeed, Zoom surged 110% on the Okta network, leading the way in usage growth just as you would expect, but another whole class of tools besides collaboration also saw huge increases in usage.

As Okta wrote in the report, “We see growth in two major areas: collaboration tools, especially video conferencing apps, and network security tools such as VPNs that extend secure access to remote workers.”

These plumbing tools might not be as sexy as the collaboration tools or boast triple digit growth like Zoom did, but they are seeing a substantial increase in usage as company IT departments try to bring some order to a widely distributed workforce.

As Okta pointed out in the report, bad actors have been looking to take advantage of the situation, as they tend to do, and these folks do love to sew some chaos.

Image Credit: Okta

The biggest winners here beyond collaboration tools were VPN businesses with Palo Alto Networks GlobalProtect and Cisco AnyConnect coming in at 94% and 86% usage increases respectively. But they weren’t the only tools growing, as Okta reported the Citrix ADC load balancing tool and ProofPoint’s security training apps also showed strong gains.

It’s probably not surprising that these kinds of tools are seeing an increase in usage with so many employees working from home, but it is interesting to see which vendors are benefiting from the move.

It’s also worth noting that Okta can point to a clear demarcation date when usage began to tick up. It’s easy to forget now, but March 6th was the last day of “normal” app usage before we started to see usage of these tools start to surge.

Image Credit: Okta

While reports of this kind are somewhat limited because of the focus on a particular set of customers and the tools they use, it does give you a sense of general trends in technology involving 8,000 Okta customers and 6,500 app integrations.


By Ron Miller

Microsoft makes it easier to get started with Windows Virtual Desktops

Microsoft today announced a slew of updates to various parts of its Microsoft 365 ecosystem. A lot of these aren’t all that exciting (though that obviously depends on your level of enthusiasm for products like Microsoft Endpoint Manager), but the overall thrust behind this update is to make life easier for the IT admins that help provision and manage corporate Windows — and Mac — machines, something that’s even more important right now, given how many companies are trying to quickly adapt to this new work-from-home environment.

For them, the highlight of today’s set of announcements is surely an update to Windows Virtual Desktop, Microsoft’s service for giving employees access to a virtualized desktop environment on Azure and that allows IT departments to host multiple Windows 10 sessions on the same hardware. The company is launching a completely new management experience for this service that makes getting started significantly easier for admins.

Ahead of today’s announcement, Brad Anderson, Microsoft’s corporate VP for Microsoft 365, told me that it took a considerable amount of Azure expertise to get started with this service. With this update, you still need to know a bit about Azure, but the overall process of getting started is now significantly easier. And that, Anderson noted, is now more important than ever.

“Some organizations are telling me that they’re using on-prem [Virtual Desktop Infrastructure]. They had to go do work to basically free up capacity. In some cases, that means doing away with disaster recovery for some of their services in order to get the capacity,” Anderson said. “In some cases, I hear leaders say it’s going to take until the middle or the end of May to get the additional capacity to spin up the VDI sessions that are needed. In today’s world, that’s just unacceptable. Given what the cloud can do, people need to have the ability to spin up and spin down on demand. And that’s the unique thing that a Windows Virtual Desktop does relative to traditional VDI.”

Anderson also believes that remote work will remain much more common once things go back to normal — whenever that happens and whatever that will look like. “I think the usage of virtualization where you are virtualizing running an app in a data center in the cloud and then virtualizing it down will grow. This will introduce a secular trend and growth of cloud-based VDI,” he said.

In addition to making the management experience easier, Microsoft is now also making it possible to use Microsoft Teams for video meetings in these virtual desktop environments, using a feature called ‘A/V redirection’ that allows users to connect their local audio and video hardware and virtual machines with low latency. It’ll take another month or so for this feature to roll out, though.

Also new is the ability to keep service metadata about Windows Virtual Desktop usage within a certain Azure region for compliance and regulatory reasons.

For those of you interested in Microsoft Endpoint Manager, the big news here is better support for macOS-based machines. Using the new Intune MDM agent for macOS, admins can use the same tool for managing repetitive tasks on Windows 10 and macOS.

Productivity Score — a product only an enterprise manager would love — is also getting an update. You can now see how people in an organization are reading, authoring and collaborating around content in OneDrive and SharePoint, for example. And if they aren’t, you can write a memo and tell them they should collaborate more.

There are also new dashboards here for looking at how employees work across devices and how they communicate. It’s worth noting that this is aggregate data and not another way for corporate to look at what individual employees are doing.

The one feature here that does actually seem really useful, especially given the current situation, is a new Network Connectivity category that helps IT to figure out where there are networking challenges.


By Frederic Lardinois

Google is making Meet free for everyone

Google today announced that it is making Meet, its video meeting tool for businesses that directly competes with the likes of Zoom, available for free to everyone. Until now, you could participate in a Meet call without being a paying user, but you needed a paid G Suite account to start calls.

You won’t be able to schedule free Meet calls right away, though. Google is opening up access to Meet to free users gradually, starting next week. It may take a few weeks before everybody has access to it.

After September, free accounts will be limited to meetings that don’t run longer than 60 minutes, but until then, you can chat for as long as you want. The only other real limit is that meetings can’t have more than 100 participants. You still get screen sharing, real-time captions and the new tiled layout the company introduced only a few days ago.

Users will need a Google account to participate in meetings, though, which isn’t likely to be a major barrier for most people, but it does add more friction than simply clicking on a Zoom link.

Google argues that in return, you get a safer platform, not just because it’s hard to guess meeting codes for Meet (which makes “Meet-bombing” a non-starter), but also because Meet runs in the browser and is hence less vulnerable to security threats.

“With COVID, video conferencing is really becoming an essential service and we have seen video conferencing usage really go up,” Smita Hashim, the Director of Product Management at Google Cloud, told me. Because the need for these tools continues to increase, Google decided to bring Meet to individual users now, though Hashim noted that some of this had been on the company’s roadmap before.

“We are accelerating what we are doing, given the crisis and given the need for video conferencing at this point,” she said. “We still have the Google Hangouts product but Google Meet availability we are accelerating. This is a newer product designed to scale to many more participants and that has features like closed captioning and those kinds of things.”

So for the time being, Hangouts for consumers and also Google Duo aren’t going away. But at least for consumer Hangouts, which has been on life support for a long time, this move may accelerate its deprecation.

Clearly, Google saw that Zoom caught on among consumers and that Microsoft announced plans for a consumer edition of Teams. Without a free and easily accessible version of Meet, Google wasn’t able to fully capitalize on what has become a breakout time for video conferencing tools, so it makes sense for the company to make a push to get this new edition out of the door as fast as possible.

“From a leadership perspective, the message was really: how can Google be more and more helpful,” Hashim said when I asked her what the discussion about this move was like inside the company. “That was the direction we got. So from our side, video conferencing is the product which is really hugely accelerated usage and Google Meet in particular. So that’s why we first launched the advanced features, then we did the safety controls and then we said, okay, let’s accelerate some of these other features, but we kept seeing that need so it felt like a very natural next step for us to take and make it available to all our users.”

In addition to free access to Google Meet for everyone, Google is also launching a new edition of G Suite, dubbed G Suite Essentials. This new edition, which is meant for small teams and includes access to Google Drive, Docs, Sheet, Slides and, of course, Meet, will be available for free until September 30. After that, Google will start charging, but as Hashim told me, the company hasn’t decided on pricing yet.

For enterprise users, Google is also adding a few perks through September 30. These include free access to advanced Meet features for all G Suite customers, including the ability to live stream to up to 100,000 viewers within their domains, as well as free additional Meet licenses without the need for an amended contract, and free G Suite Essentials for enterprise customers.

Google also used today’s announcement to share a few new stats around Meet. As of last week, Meet’s daily meeting participants surpassed 100 million, for example, and with that, Meet now plays host to 3 billion minutes of video meetings. Daily peak usage is up 30x since January. That’s a lot of time spent in meetings.


By Frederic Lardinois

Rapid7 is acquiring DivvyCloud for $145M to beef up cloud security

Rapid7 announced today after the closing bell that it will be acquiring DivvyCloud, a cloud security and governance startup for $145 million in cash and stock.

With Divvy, the company moves more deeply into the cloud, something that Lee Weiner, chief innovation officer says the company has been working towards, even before the pandemic pushed that agenda.

Like any company looking at expanding its offering, it balanced building versus buying and decided that buying was the better way to go. “DivvyCloud has a fantastic platform that really allows companies the freedom to innovate as they move to the cloud in a way that manages their compliance and security,” Weiner told TechCrunch.

CEO Corey Thomas says it’s not possible to make a deal right now without looking at the economic conditions due to the pandemic, but he says this was a move they felt comfortable making.

“You have to actually think about everything that’s going on in the world. I think we’re in a fortunate position in that we have had the benefit of both growing in the past couple years but also getting the business more efficient,” Thomas said.

He said that this acquisition fits in perfectly with what he’s been hearing from customers about what they need right now. “One area of new projects that is actually going forward is how people are trying to figure out how to digitize their operations in a world where they aren’t sure how soon employees will be able to congregate and work together. And so from that context, focusing on the cloud and supporting our customers’ journey to the cloud has become an even more important priority for the organization,” he said.

Brian Johnson, CEO and co-founder at DivvyCloud says that is precisely what his company offers, and why it should fit in well with the Rapid7 family. “We help customers achieve rapid innovation in the cloud while ensuring they remain secure, well governed and compliant,” he said. That takes a different playbook than when customers were on prem, particularly requiring automation and real-time remediation.

With DivvyCloud, Rapid 7 is getting a 7-year old company with 70 employees and 54 customers. It raised $27.5 million on an $80 million post-money valuation, according to PitchBook data. All of the employees will become part of the Rapid7 organization when the deal closes, which is expected to happen some time this quarter.

The companies say that as they come together, they will continue to support existing Divvy customers, while working to integrate it more deeply into the Rapid7 platform.


By Ron Miller

In surprise choice, Zoom hitches wagon to Oracle for growing infrastructure needs

With the company growing in leaps and bounds, Zoom went shopping for a cloud infrastructure vendor to help it with its growing scale problem. In a surprising choice, the company went with Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.

Zoom has become the go-to video conferencing service as much of the world has shut down due to the pandemic, and life needs to go on somehow. It has gone on via video conferencing with Zoom growing from 200 million active users in February to 300 million in March. That kind of growth puts a wee bit of pressure on your infrastructure, and Zoom clearly needed to beef up its game.

What’s surprising is that it chose Oracle, a company whose infrastructure market share registers as a strong niche player in Synergy Research’s latest survey in February. It is well behind market leaders including Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and even IBM (and that’s saying something).

Brent Leary, who is founder at CRM Essentials, says he sees this as a move to show that Zoom can move beyond the SMB market to power enterprise customers, no matter what they demand.

“I think Zoom went with Oracle because they are proven in the enterprise in terms of mission critical apps built on Oracle databases running on Oracle hardware in the cloud. Zoom needs to prove to enterprises that they are able to handle scale and data security needed to beyond what SMBs typically require,” Leary told TechCrunch.

In addition, Leary speculated that Oracle might have given Zoom a good deal to get a hot company into the fold and beat rivals like Amazon and Microsoft.

Others have speculated that it might have to do with keeping business away from a potential rival given that Amazon with Chime, Google with Hangouts and Microsoft with Teams all have competing products. However, none of them have become synonymous with online meetings as Zoom has during this crisis.

Zoom went public last year and has become the darling of the video conference market since in spite of a set of security issues that have developed as the company scaled, which they have been working to address.

The stock market is apparently not impressed with the choice. As we went to publish, the stock was down 3.38% or $5.56.


By Ron Miller

Tecton.ai emerges from stealth with $20M Series A to build machine learning platform

Three former Uber engineers, who helped build the company’s Michelangelo machine learning platform, left the company last year to form Tecton.ai and build an operational machine learning platform for everyone else. Today the company announced a $20 million Series A from a couple of high-profile investors.

Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia Capital co-led the round with Martin Casado, general partner at a16z and Matt Miller, partner at Sequoia joining the company board under the terms of the agreement. Today’s investment combined with the seed they used to spend the last year building the product comes to $25 million. Not bad in today’s environment.

But when you have the pedigree of these three founders — CEO Mike Del Balso, CTO Kevin Stumpf and VP of Engineering Jeremy Hermann all helped build the Uber system —  investors will spend some money, especially when you are trying to solve a difficult problem around machine learning.

The Michelangelo system was the machine learning platform at Uber that looked at things like driver safety, estimated arrival time and fraud detection, among other things. The three founders wanted to take what they had learned at Uber and put it to work for companies struggling with machine learning.

“What Tecton is really about is helping organizations make it really easy to build production-level machine learning systems, and put them in production and operate them correctly. And we focus on the data layer of machine learning,” CEO Del Balso told TechCrunch.

Image Credit: Tecton.ai

Del Balso says part of the problem, even for companies that are machine learning-savvy, is building and reusing models across different use cases. In fact, he says the vast majority of machine learning projects out there are failing, and Tecton wanted to give these companies the tools to change that.

The company has come up with a solution to make it much easier to create a model and put it to work by connecting to data sources, making it easier to reuse the data and the models across related use cases. “We’re focused on the data tasks related to machine learning, and all the data pipelines that are related to power those models,” Del Balso said.

Certainly Martin Casado from a16z sees a problem in search of a solution and he likes the background of this team and its understanding of building a system like this at scale. “After tracking a number of deep engagements with top ML teams and their interest in what Tecton was building, we invested in Tecton’s A alongside Sequoia. We strongly believe that these systems will continue to increasingly rely on data and ML models, and an entirely new tool chain is needed to aid in developing them…,” he wrote in a blog post announcing the funding.

The company currently has 17 employees and is looking to hire, particularly data scientists and machine learning engineers, with a goal of 30 employees by the end of the year.

While Del Balso is certainly cognizant of the current economic situation, he believes he can still build this company because he’s solving a problem that people genuinely are looking for help with right now around machine learning.

“From the customers we’re talking to, they need to solve these problems, and so we don’t see things slowing down,” he said.


By Ron Miller

Checkly raises $2.25M seed round for its monitoring and testing platform

Checkly, a Berlin-based startup that is developing a monitoring and testing platform for DevOps teams, today announced that it has raised a $2.25 million seed round led by Accel. A number of angel investors, including Instana CEO Mirko Novakovic, Zeit CEO Guillermo Rauch and former Twilio CTO Ott Kaukver, also participated in this round.

The company’s SaaS platform allows developers to monitor their API endpoints and web apps — and it obviously alerts you when something goes awry. The transaction monitoring tool makes it easy to regularly test interactions with front-end websites without having to actually write any code. The test software is based on Google’s open-source Puppeteer framework and to build its commercial platform, Checkly also developed Puppeteer Recorder for creating these end-to-end testing scripts in a low-code tool that developers access through a Chrome extension.

The team believes that it’s the combination of end-to-end testing and active monitoring, as well as its focus on modern DevOps teams, that makes Checkly stand out in what is already a pretty crowded market for monitoring tools.

“As a customer in the monitoring market, I thought it had long been stuck in the 90s and I needed a tool that could support teams in JavaScript and work for all the different roles within a DevOps team. I set out to build it, quickly realizing that testing was equally important to address,” said Tim Nolet, who founded the company in 2018. “At Checkly, we’ve created a market-defining tool that our customers have been demanding, and we’ve already seen strong traction through word of mouth. We’re delighted to partner with Accel on building out our vision to become the active reliability platform for DevOps teams.”

Nolet’s co-founders are Hannes Lenke, who founded TestObject (which was later acquired by Sauce Labs), and Timo Euteneuer, who was previously Director Sales EMEA at Sauce Labs.

Tthe company says that it currently has about 125 paying customers who run about 1 million checks per day on its platform. Pricing for its services starts at $7 per month for individual developers, with plans for small teams starting at $29 per month.


By Frederic Lardinois

Seed investors take long view on promising enterprise startups

The job of an early-stage startup founder is challenging in good times, never mind a crash like the one we are experiencing today.

While most expect private investing to slow down, it’s clear that some investments are still happening in spite of the pandemic, if the stories we are writing on TechCrunch are any indication.

But the downturn is bound to have an impact on the types of deals that receive funding; any startup that offers a good or service requiring human interaction or installation will face an uphill battle, at least in the short term. That said, enterprise SaaS vendors, especially ones that solve hard problems, help with work-from-home or collaboration, or better yet, help increase efficiency and save money, are still very much in demand.

Nobody can do anything about the CIO who is hunkering down until things improve — but that’s not everyone. Companies might be thinking twice about where they spend money, but some are still helping drive the net-new, post-COVID-19 investments happening from seed to late stage across many sectors.

We looked at data and spoke to a couple of enterprise-focused, NYC-based seed investors to better understand their investing cadence. Nobody painted a rosy picture of today’s climate, but seed investors were never about immediate gratification, especially where enterprise startups are concerned. That means, if a seed-stage investor believes in the founders and their vision and the company can ride out today’s economic upset, there’s still money in the till — at least for now.

Seed investment generally in decline


By Ron Miller