Digital Ocean’s Kubernetes service is now generally available

Like any ambitious cloud infrastructure player, Digital Ocean also recently announced a solution for running Kubernetes clusters on its platform. At KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Europe in Barcelona, the company today announced that Digital Ocean Kubernetes is now generally available.

With this release, the company is also bringing the latest Kubernetes release (1.14) to the platform and developers who use the service will able to schedule automatic patch version upgrades, too.

Now that it’s generally available, Digital Ocean is also bringing the service to all of its data centers around the world and introducing a few new features, too. These include a new guided configuration experience, for example, which moves users from provisioning to deploying clusters. The company is also introducing new advanced health metrics so developers can see what’s happening in their clusters. These include data about pod deployment status, CPU and memory usage, and more.

It’s also launching new open APIs so that third-party tools can more easily integrate support for Digital Ocean Kubernetes into their own solutions.

Soon, the company will also launch a marketplace for 1-click apps for Kubernetes, that will make it far easier for its users to deploy applications into a Kubernetes cluster. This feature will be based on the open-source Helm project, which is already the de facto standard for Kubernetes package management.

Talk key takeaways from KubeCon 2019 with TechCrunch writers

The Linux Foundation’s annual KubeCon conference is going down at the Fira Gran Via exhibition center in Barcelona, Spain this week and TechCrunch is on the scene covering all the latest announcements.

The KubeCon/CloudNativeCon conference is the world’s largest gathering for the topics of Kubernetes, DevOps and cloud-native applications. TechCrunch’s Frederic Lardinois and Ron Miller will be on the ground at the event. Wednesday at 9:00 am PT, Frederic and Ron will be sharing with Extra Crunch members via a conference call what they saw and what it all means.

Tune in to dig into what happened onstage and off and ask Frederic and Ron any and all things Kubernetes, open-source development or dev tools.

To listen to this and all future conference calls, become a member of Extra Crunch. Learn more and try it for free.

Microsoft aims to train and certify 15,000 workers on A.I. skills by 2022

Microsoft is investing in certification and training for a range of A.I.-related skills in partnership with education provider General Assembly, the companies announced this morning. The goal is to train some 15,000 people by 2022 in order to increase the pool of A.I. talent around the world. The training will focus on A.I., machine learning, data science, cloud and data engineering and more.

In the new program’s first year, Microsoft will focus on training 2,000 workers to transition to a A.I. and machine learning role. And over the full three years, it will train an additional 13,000 workers with A.I.-related skills.

As part of this effort, Microsoft is joining General Assembly’s new A.I. Standards Board along with other companies. Over the next six months, the Board will help to define A.I. skills standards, develop assessments, design a career framework, and create credentials for A.I. skills.

The training developed will also focus on filing the A.I. jobs currently available where Microsoft technologies are involved. As Microsoft notes, many workers today are not skilled enough for roles involving the use of Azure in aerospace, manufacturing and elsewhere. The training, it says, will focus on serving the needs of its customers who are looking to employ A.I. talent.

This will also include the creation of an A.I. Talent Network that will source candidates for long-term employment as well as contract work. General Assembly will assist with this effort by connecting its 22 campuses and the broader Adecco ecosystem to this jobs pipeline. (GA sold to staffing firm Adecco last year for $413 million.)

Microsoft cited the potential for A.I.’s impact on job creation as a reason behind the program, noting that up to 133 million new roles may be created by 2022 as a result of the new technologies. Of course, it’s also very much about making sure its own software and cloud customers can find people who are capable of working with its products, like Azure.

“As a technology company committed to driving innovation, we have a responsibility to help workers access the AI training they need to ensure they thrive in the workplace of today and tomorrow,” said Jean-Philippe Courtois, executive vice president and president of Global Sales, Marketing and Operations at Microsoft, in a statement. “We are thrilled to combine our industry and technical expertise with General Assembly to help close the skills gap and ensure businesses can maximize their potential in our AI-driven economy.”

OpenFin raises $17 million for its OS for finance

OpenFin, the company looking to provide the operating system for the financial services industry, has raised $17 million in funding through a Series C round led by Wells Fargo, with participation from Barclays and existing investors including Bain Capital Ventures, J.P. Morgan and Pivot Investment Partners. Previous investors in OpenFin also include DRW Venture Capital, Euclid Opportunities and NYCA Partners.

Likening itself to “the OS of finance”, OpenFin seeks to be the operating layer on which applications used by financial services companies are built and launched, akin to iOS or Android for your smartphone.

OpenFin’s operating system provides three key solutions which, while present on your mobile phone, has previously been absent in the financial services industry: easier deployment of apps to end users, fast security assurances for applications, and interoperability.

Traders, analysts and other financial service employees often find themselves using several separate platforms simultaneously, as they try to source information and quickly execute multiple transactions. Yet historically, the desktop applications used by financial services firms — like trading platforms, data solutions, or risk analytics — haven’t communicated with one another, with functions performed in one application not recognized or reflected in external applications.

“On my phone, I can be in my calendar app and tap an address, which opens up Google Maps. From Google Maps, maybe I book an Uber . From Uber, I’ll share my real-time location on messages with my friends. That’s four different apps working together on my phone,” OpenFin CEO and co-founder Mazy Dar explained to TechCrunch. That cross-functionality has long been missing in financial services.

As a result, employees can find themselves losing precious time — which in the world of financial services can often mean losing money — as they juggle multiple screens and perform repetitive processes across different applications.

Additionally, major banks, institutional investors and other financial firms have traditionally deployed natively installed applications in lengthy processes that can often take months, going through long vendor packaging and security reviews that ultimately don’t prevent the software from actually accessing the local system.

OpenFin CEO and co-founder Mazy Dar. Image via OpenFin

As former analysts and traders at major financial institutions, Dar and his co-founder Chuck Doerr (now President & COO of OpenFin) recognized these major pain points and decided to build a common platform that would enable cross-functionality and instant deployment. And since apps on OpenFin are unable to access local file systems, banks can better ensure security and avoid prolonged yet ineffective security review processes.

And the value proposition offered by OpenFin seems to be quite compelling. Openfin boasts an impressive roster of customers using its platform, including over 1,500 major financial firms, almost 40 leading vendors, and 15 out of the world’s 20 largest banks.

Over 1,000 applications have been built on the OS, with OpenFin now deployed on more than 200,000 desktops — a noteworthy milestone given that the ever popular Bloomberg Terminal, which is ubiquitously used across financial institutions and investment firms, is deployed on roughly 300,000 desktops.

Since raising their Series B in February 2017, OpenFin’s deployments have more than doubled. The company’s headcount has also doubled and its European presence has tripled. Earlier this year, OpenFin also launched it’s OpenFin Cloud Services platform, which allows financial firms to launch their own private local app stores for employees and customers without writing a single line of code.

To date, OpenFin has raised a total of $40 million in venture funding and plans to use the capital from its latest round for additional hiring and to expand its footprint onto more desktops around the world. In the long run, OpenFin hopes to become the vital operating infrastructure upon which all developers of financial applications are innovating.

Apple and Google’s mobile operating systems and app stores have enabled more than a million apps that have fundamentally changed how we live,” said Dar. “OpenFin OS and our new app store services enable the next generation of desktop apps that are transforming how we work in financial services.”

VMware acquires Bitnami to deliver packaged applications anywhere

VMware announced today that it’s acquiring Bitnami, the package application company that was a member of the Y Combinator Winter 2013 class. The companies didn’t share the purchase price.

With Bitnami, the company can now deliver more than 130 popular software packages in a variety of formats such as Docker containers or virtual machine, an approach that should be attractive for VMware as it makes its transformation to be more of a cloud services company.

“Upon close, Bitnami will enable our customers to easily deploy application packages on any cloud — public or hybrid — and in the most optimal format — virtual machine (VM), containers and Kubernetes helm charts. Further, Bitnami will be able to augment our existing efforts to deliver a curated marketplace to VMware customers that offers a rich set of applications and development environments in addition to infrastructure software,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing the deal.

Per usual, Bitnami’s founders see the exit through the prism of being able to build out the platform faster with the help of a much larger company. “Joining forces with VMware means that we will be able to both double-down on the breadth and depth of our current offering and bring Bitnami to even more clouds as well as accelerating our push into the enterprise,” the founders wrote in a blog post on the company website.

The company has raised a modest $1.1 million since its founding in 2011 and says that it has been profitable since early days when it took the funding. In the blog post, the company states that nothing will change for customers from their perspective.

“In a way, nothing is changing. We will continue to develop and maintain our application catalog across all the platforms we support and even expand to additional ones. Additionally, if you are a company using Bitnami in production, a lot of new opportunities just opened up.”

Time will tell whether that is the case, but it is likely that Bitnami will be able to expand its offerings as part of a larger organization like VMware.

VMware is a member of the Dell federation of products and came over as part of the massive $67 billion EMC deal in 2016. The company operates independently, is sold as a separate company on the stock market and makes its own acquisitions.

Microsoft open-sources a crucial algorithm behind its Bing Search services

Microsoft today announced that it has open-sourced a key piece of what makes its Bing search services able to quickly return search results to its users. By making this technology open, the company hopes that developers will be able to build similar experiences for their users in other domains where users search through vast data troves, including in retail, though in this age of abundant data, chances are developers will find plenty of other enterprise and consumer use cases, too.

The piece of software the company open-sourced today is a library Microsoft developed to make better use of all the data it collected and AI models it built for Bing .

“Only a few years ago, web search was simple. Users typed a few words and waded through pages of results,” the company notes in today’s announcement. “Today, those same users may instead snap a picture on a phone and drop it into a search box or use an intelligent assistant to ask a question without physically touching a device at all. They may also type a question and expect an actual reply, not a list of pages with likely answers.”

With the Space Partition Tree and Graph (SPTAG) algorithm that is at the core of the open-sourced Python library, Microsoft is able to search through billions of pieces of information in milliseconds.

Vector search itself isn’t a new idea, of course. What Microsoft has done, though, is apply this concept to working with deep learning models. First, the team takes a pre-trained model and encodes that data into vectors, where every vector represents a word or pixel. Using the new SPTAG library, it then generates a vector index. As queries come in, the deep learning model translates that text or image into a vector and the library finds the most related vectors in that index.

“With Bing search, the vectorizing effort has extended to over 150 billion pieces of data indexed by the search engine to bring improvement over traditional keyword matching,” Microsoft says. “These include single words, characters, web page snippets, full queries and other media. Once a user searches, Bing can scan the indexed vectors and deliver the best match.”

The library is now available under the MIT license and provides all of the tools to build and search these distributed vector indexes. You can find more details about how to get started with using this library — as well as application samples — here.

Solo.io wants to bring order to service meshes with centralized management hub

As containers and microservices have proliferated, a new kind of tool called the service mesh has developed to help manage and understand interactions between services. While Kubernetes has emerged as the clear container orchestration tool of choice, there is much less certainty in the service mesh market. Solo.io announced a new open source tool called Service Mesh Hub today, designed to help companies manage multiple service meshes in a single interface.

It is early days for the service mesh concept, but there are already multiple offerings including Istio, Linkerd (pronounced Linker-Dee) and Convoy. While the market sorts itself it out, it requires a new set of tools, a management layer, so that developers and operations can monitor and understand what’s happening inside the various service meshes they are running.

Idit Levine, founder and CEO at Solo, say she formed the company because she saw an opportunity to develop a set of tooling for a nascent market. Since founding the company in 2017, it has developed several open source tools to fill that service mesh tool vacuum.

Levine says that she recognized that companies would be using multiple service meshes for multiple situations and that not every company would have the technical capabilities to manage this. That is where the idea for the Service Mesh Hub was born.

It’s a centralized place for companies to add the different service mesh tools they are using, understand the interactions happening within the mesh and add extensions to each one from a kind of extension app store. Solo wants to make adding these tools a simple matter of pointing and clicking. While it obviously still requires a certain level of knowledge about how these tools work, it removes some of the complexity around managing them.

Solo.io Service Mesh Hub

Solo.io Service Mesh Hub. Screenshot: Solo.io

“The reason we created this is because we believe service mesh is something big, and we want people to use it, and we feel it’s hard to adopt right now. We believe by creating that kind of framework or platform, it will make it easier for people to actually use it,” Levine told TechCrunch.

The vision is that eventually companies will be able to add extensions to the store for free, or even at some point for a fee, and it is through these paid extensions that the company will be able to make money. She recognized that some companies will be creating extensions for internal use only, and in those cases, they can add them to the hub and mark them as private and only that company can see them.

For every abstraction it seems, there is a new set of problems to solve. The service mesh is a response to the problem of managing multiple services. It solves three key issues, according to Levine. It allows a company to route the microservices, have visibility into them to see logs and metrics of the mesh and to provide security to manage which services can talk to each other.

Levine’s company is a response to the issues that have developed around understanding and managing the service meshes themselves. She says she doesn’t worry about a big company coming in and undermining her mission because she says that they are too focused on their own tools to create a set of uber-management tool like these (but that doesn’t mean the company wouldn’t be an attractive acquisition target).

So far, the company has taken over $13 million in funding, according to Crunchbase data.

Egnyte brings native G Suite file support to its platform

Egnyte announced today that customers can now store G Suite files inside its storage, security and governance platform. This builds on the support the company previously had for Office 365 documents.

Egnyte CEO and co-founder Vineet Jain says that while many enterprise customers have seen the value of a collaborative office suite like G Suite, they might have stayed away because of compliance concerns (whether that was warranted or not).

He said that Google has been working on an API for some time that allows companies like Egnyte to decouple G Suite documents from Google Drive. Previously, if you wanted to use G Suite, you no choice but to store the documents in Google Drive.

Jain acknowledges that the actual integration is pretty much the same as his competitors because Google determined the features. In fact, Box and Dropbox announced similar capabilities over the last year, but he believes his company has some differentiating features on its platform.

“I honestly would be hard pressed to tell you this is different than what Box or Dropbox is doing, but when you look at the overall context of what we’re doing…I think our advanced governance features are a game changer,” Jain told TechCrunch.

What that means is that G Suite customers can open a document and get the same editing experience as they would get were they inside Google Drive, while getting all the compliance capabilities built into Egnyte via Egnyte Protect. What’s more, they can store the files wherever they like, whether that’s in Egnyte itself, an on-premises file store or any cloud storage option that Egnyte supports, for that matter.

Egnyte storage and compliance platform

G Suite documents stored on the Egnyte platform.

Long before it was commonplace, Egnyte tried to differentiate itself from a crowded market by being a hybrid play where files can live on-premises or in the cloud. It’s a common way of looking at cloud strategy now, but it wasn’t always the case.

Jain has always emphasized a disciplined approach to growing the company, and it has grown to 15,000 customers and 600 employees over 11 years in business. He won’t share exact revenue, but says the company is generating “multi-millions in revenue” each month.

He has been talking about an IPO for some time, and that remains a goal for the company. In a recent letter to employees that Egnyte shared with TechCrunch, Jain put it this way. “Our leadership team, including our board members, have always looked forward to an IPO as an interim milestone — and that has not changed. However, we now believe this company has the ability to not only be a unicorn but to be a multi-billion dollar company in the long-term. This is a mindset that we all need to have moving forward,” he wrote.

Egnyte was founded in 2007 and has raised over $137 million, according to Crunchbase data.

Huawei launches AI-backed database to target enterprise customers

China’s Huawei is making a serious foray into the enterprise business market after it unveiled a new database management product on Wednesday, putting it in direct competition with entrenched vendors like IBM, Oracle and Microsoft.

The Shenzhen-based company, best known for making smartphones and telecom equipment, claims its newly minted database uses artificial intelligence capabilities to improve tuning performance, a process that traditionally involves human administrators, by over 60 percent.

Called the GaussDB, the database works both locally as well as on public and private clouds. When running on Huawei’s own cloud, GaussDB provides data warehouse services for customers across the board, from the financial, logistics, education to automotive industries.

The database launch was first reported by The Information on Tuesday citing sources saying it is designed by the company’s secretive database research group called Gauss and will initially focus on the Chinese market.

The announcement comes at a time when Huawei’s core telecom business is drawing scrutiny in the West over the company’s alleged ties to the Chinese government. That segment accounted for 40.8 percent of Huawei’s total revenues in 2018, according to financial details released by the privately-held firm.

Huawei’s consumer unit, which is driven by its fast-growing smartphone and device sales, made up almost a half of the company’s annual revenues. Enterprise businesses made up less than a quarter of earnings, but Huawei’s new push into database management is set to add new fuel to the segment.

Meanwhile, at Oracle, more than 900 employees, most of whom worked for its 1,600-staff research and development center in China, were recently let go amid a major company restructuring, multiple media outlets reported earlier this month.

Data provided to TechCrunch by Boss Zhipin offers clues to the layoff: The Chinese recruiting platform has recently seen a surge in newly registered users who work at Oracle China. But the door is still open for new candidates as the American giant is currently recruiting for more than 100 positions through Boss, including many related to cloud computing.

New Relic takes a measured approach to platform overhaul

New Relic, the SaaS applications performance management platform, announced a major update to that platform today. Instead of ripping off the Band-Aid all at once, the company has decided to take a more measured approach to change, giving customers a chance to ease into it.

The new platform, called New Relic One, has been designed to replace the original platform, which was developed over the previous decade. The company says that by moving slowly to the new platform, customers will be able to take advantage of new features that it couldn’t have built on the old platform without having to learn a new a way of working.

Jim Gochee, chief product officer at New Relic, says that all of the existing tooling and functionality will eventually be ported over or reimagined on top of New Relic One. “What it is under the covers for us is a new technology stack and a new platform for our offering. We are still running our existing technology stack with our existing products. So we’re [essentially] running two platforms in two stacks in parallel, but all of the new stuff is going to be built on New Relic One over time,” he explained.

By redesigning the existing platform from scratch, New Relic created a new, modern, more extensible model that will allow it to plug in new functionality more easily over time, and eventually even allow customers to do the same thing. For now, it’s about changing what’s happening under the hood and providing a new user experience in a redesigned user interface.

“New Relic One is very pluggable and extensible, which makes it easier for our own teams to build on, and to extend and expand, and also down the road we will eventually get to the point where partners and customers will be able to extend our UI themselves, which is something that we’re very excited about,” he said.

Among the new features is support for AWS Lambda, the company’s serverless offering. It also enables users to search across multiple accounts. It’s not unusual for customers to be monitoring multiple accounts and sub-accounts. With New Relic One, customers can now search across these accounts and find if issues have cascaded more easily.

In a blog post introducing the new platform, CEO Lew Cirne acknowledged the growing complexity of the monitoring landscape, something the new platform has been specifically designed to address.

“Unlike today’s fragmented tools that can deliver a bag of charts and metrics with a bunch of seemingly unrelated numbers, New Relic One is designed to cut through complexity, provide context, and let you see across artificial organizational boundaries so you can quickly find and fix problems,” Cirne wrote.

Nancy Gohring, a senior analyst at 451 Research, says this flexibility is a key strength of the new approach. “One of the most important updates here is the reworked data model which allows New Relic to offer customers more flexibility in how they can search the operations data they’re collecting and build dashboards. This kind of flexibility is more important in modern app environments that are more complex and dynamic than they used to be. Everyone’s environment is different and digging for the cause of a problem is more complicated than it used to be,” Gohring told TechCrunch. The new ability to search across accounts should help with that.

She concedes that having parallel platforms is not ideal, but sees why the company chose to go this route. “Having two UIs is never great. But the approach New Relic is taking lets them get something totally new out all at once, rather than spending time gradually introducing it. It will let customers try out the new stuff at their own pace,” she said.

New Relic One goes live tomorrow, and will be available at no additional cost to New Relic subscribers.