Daily Crunch: Salesforce launches vertical clouds

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1. Salesforce doubles down on verticals, launches Manufacturing and Consumer Goods Clouds

Salesforce unveiled two new business units today as part of its strategy to build specialized solutions for specific industries.

For example, with its Manufacturing Cloud, Salesforce says it has built a way for sales agreements to link up with a company’s ERP and forecasting software, allowing for improved demand prediction.

2. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S6 combines creative flexibility with great design

Darrell Etherington says the new Galaxy Tab S6 (with pricing starting at $649.99) expands the definition of what a tablet can be.

3. Facebook rolls out new video tools, plus Instagram and IGTV scheduling feature

The highlights include better ways to prep for and simulcast live broadcasts, ways to take better advantage of Watch Party events, new metrics to track video performance and a much-anticipated option to schedule Instagram/IGTV content for up to six months in advance.

4. Hear how to build a billion-dollar SaaS company at TechCrunch Disrupt

This year we’ll welcome three people to the Extra Crunch stage who know first-hand what it takes to join the billion-dollar club: Battery Ventures partner Neeraj Agrawal, HelloSign COO Whitney Bouck and Harness CEO Jyoti Bansal.

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5. Beekeeper raises $45M Series B to become the ‘Slack for non-desk employees’

Beekeeper has built a mobile-first communications platform for employers who need to communicate with blue-collar and service-oriented workers.

6. How to get people to open your emails

We tackle the obvious stuff that can help with low open rates, as well as bigger challenges: Let’s say 60% of your audience opens your email — how can you get the remaining 40% to open and read it too? (Extra Crunch membership required.)

7. This week’s TechCrunch podcasts

The Equity team has some thoughts on the latest WeWork drama, and how it shows that valuations are essentially meaningless. And on Original Content, we review the Netflix documentary series “The Family.”

Ten years after Adobe bought Omniture, the deal comes into clearer focus

Ten years ago this week, Adobe acquired Omniture for $1.8 billion. At the time, Adobe was a software company selling boxed software like Dreamweaver, Flash and Photoshop to creatives. Many people were baffled by the move, not realizing that purchasing a web analytics company was really the first volley in a full company transformation to the cloud and a shift in focus from consumer to enterprise.

It would take many years for the full vision to unfold, so you can forgive people for not recognizing the implications of the acquisition at the time, but CEO Shantanu Narayen seemed to give an inkling of what he had in mind. “This is a game-changer for both Adobe and our customers. We will enable advertisers, media companies and e-tailers to realize the full value of their digital assets,” he said in a statement after the acquisition became public.

While most people thought that perhaps this move involved some sort of link between design and data, it would turn out to be more complex than that. Tony Byrne, founder and principal analyst at Real Story Group, tried to figure out the thinking behind the deal in an EContent column published a couple of months after it was announced.

“Going forward, I think the real action will continue to revolve around integrating management and metrics, less so than integrating design and metrics. And that’s why I also think that Adobe isn’t done acquiring yet,” It was pure speculation on Byrne’s part, but it proved prescient.

There’s something happening here

Walt Disney Studios partners with Microsoft Azure on cloud innovation lab

Seems like everything is going to the cloud these days, so why should moving-making be left out? Today, Walt Disney Studios announced a five-year partnership with Microsoft around an innovation lab to find ways to shift content production to the Azure cloud.

The project involves the Walt Disney StudioLab, an innovation work space where Disney personnel can experiment with moving different workflows to the cloud. The movie production software company, Avid is also involved.

The hope is that by working together, the three parties can come up with creative, cloud-based workflows that can accelerate the innovation cycle at the prestigious movie maker. Every big company is looking for ways to innovate, regardless of their core business, and Disney is no different.

As movie making involves ever greater amounts of computing resources, the cloud is a perfect model for it, allowing them to scale up and down resources as needed, whether rendering scenes or adding special effects. As Disney’s CTO Jamie Voris sees it, this could make these processes more efficient, which could help lower cost and time to production.

“Through this innovation partnership with Microsoft, we’re able to streamline many of our processes so our talented filmmakers can focus on what they do best,” Voris said in a statement. It’s the same kind of cloud value proposition that many large organizations are seeking. They want to speed time to market, while letting technology handle some of the more mundane tasks.

The partnership builds on an existing one that Microsoft already had with Avid where the two companies have been working together to build cloud-based workflows for the film industry using Avid software solutions on Azure. Disney will add its unique requirements to the mix, and over the five years of the partnership, hopes to streamline some of its workflows in a more modern cloud context.

Plaid announces strategic investment from Mastercard and Visa

When Plaid announced its $250 million Series C investment, last year, it left out a couple of key investors. Today it revealed that Mastercard and Visa had also quietly participated in the round.

For a company like Plaid, which builds APIs to enable customers to access their bank accounts inside applications in a seamless way, having the blessing of two of the major credit companies in the world is a big deal. It could signal that the startup intends to move more broadly into payments, although it didn’t make any specific assertion it was doing that in the announcement.

CEO and co-founder Zach Perret, writing in a blog post this morning, addressed the broad implications of having these companies on board. “We’re particularly excited about what this means for our customers and consumers. As an industry when we come together with a shared vision for an ecosystem that is open, secure and encouraging of innovation the possibilities are limitless,” he wrote.

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Plaid tools

Plaid helps developers connect to financial services in a similar way that Stripe helps them to connect to payments or Trello to communications tools. By having access to a set of tools from Plaid, developers can build access to bank information and other financial data into their applications without having to have knowledge about how to connect to thousands of different banking systems.

Former CTO and co-founder William Hockey explained to TechCrunch what this meant in an announcement earlier this year:

“Everybody in the U.S. can actually use this product now. And some of those [connections] are super quick and instant, and some of those maybe take a day to verify, but what we’re doing is we’re wrapping all of that in the product. And so you as a developer, you don’t have to worry about all of the different authentication methods at some of these banks,” Hockey explained.

Plaid has raised over $310 million since it launched, and that Series C investment last year carried with it a fat $2.65 billion valuation. Strategic investments of this sort show that the industry as a whole is behind a startup, and having Mastercard and Visa involved, gives the company additional credibility in the marketplace.

The mainframe business is alive and well, as IBM announces new Z15

It’s easy to think about mainframes as some technology dinosaur, but the fact is these machines remain a key component of many large organization’s computing strategies. Today, IBM announced the latest in their line of mainframe computers, the Z15.

For starters, as you would probably expect, these are big and powerful machines capable of handling enormous workloads. For example, this baby can process up to 1 trillion web transactions a day and handle 2.4 million Docker containers, while offering unparalleled security to go with that performance. This includes the ability to encrypt data once, and it stays encrypted, even when it leaves the system, a huge advantage for companies with a hybrid strategy.

Speaking of which, you may recall that IBM bought Red Hat last year for $34 billion. That deal closed in July and the companies have been working to incorporate Red Hat technology across the IBM business including the z line of mainframes.

IBM announced last month that it was making OpenShift, Red Hat’s Kubernetes-based cloud-native tools, available on the mainframe running Linux. This should enable developers, who have been working on OpenShift on other systems to move seamlessly to the mainframe without special training.

IBM sees the mainframe as a bridge for hybrid computing environments, offering a highly secure place for data that when combined with Red Hat’s tools, can enable companies to have a single control plane for applications and data wherever it lives.

While it could be tough to justify the cost of these machines in the age of cloud computing, Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research, says it could be more cost-effective than the cloud for certain customers. “If you are a new customer, and currently in the cloud and develop on Linux, then in the long run the economics are there to be cheaper than public cloud if you have a lot of IO, and need to get to a high degree of encryption and security” he said.

He added, “The main point is that if you are worried about being held hostage by public cloud vendors on pricing, in the long run the Z is a cost-effective and secure option for owning compute power and working in a multi-cloud, hybrid cloud world.”

Companies like airlines and financial services companies continue to use mainframes, and while they need the power these massive machines provide, they need to do so in a more modern context. The z15 is designed to provide that link to the future, while giving these companies the power they need.

IBM brings Cloud Foundry and Red Hat OpenShift together

At the Cloud Foundry Summit in The Hague, IBM today showcased its Cloud Foundry Enterprise Environment on Red Hat’s OpenShift container platform.

For the longest time, the open-source Cloud Foundry Platform-as-a-Service ecosystem and Red Hat’s Kubernetes-centric OpenShift were mostly seen as competitors, with both tools vying for enterprise customers who want to modernize their application development and delivery platforms. But a lot of things have changed in recent times. On the technical side, Cloud Foundry started adopting Kubernetes as an option for application deployments and as a way of containerizing and running Cloud Foundry itself.

On the business side, IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat has brought along some change, too. IBM long backed Cloud Foundry as a top-level foundation member, while Red Hat bet on its own platform instead. Now that the acquisition has closed, it’s maybe no surprise that IBM is working on bringing Cloud Foundry to Red Hat’s platform.

For now, this work is still officially still a technology experiment, but our understanding is that IBM plans to turn this into a fully supported project that will give Cloud Foundry users the option to deploy their application right to OpenShift, while OpenShift customers will be able to offer their developers the Cloud Foundry experience.

“It’s another proof point that these things really work well together,” Cloud Foundry Foundation CTO Chip Childers told me ahead of today’s announcement. “That’s the developer experience that the CF community brings and in the case of IBM, that’s a great commercialization story for them.”

While Cloud Foundry isn’t seeing the same hype as in some of its earlier years, it remains one of the most widely used development platforms in large enterprises. According to the Cloud Foundry Foundation’s latest user survey, the companies that are already using it continue to move more of their development work onto the platform and the according to the code analysis from source{d}, the project continues to see over 50,000 commits per month.

“As businesses navigate digital transformation and developers drive innovation across cloud native environments, one thing is very clear: they are turning to Cloud Foundry as a proven, agile, and flexible platform — not to mention fast — for building into the future,” said Abby Kearns, executive director at the Cloud Foundry Foundation. “The survey also underscores the anchor Cloud Foundry provides across the enterprise, enabling developers to build, support, and maximize emerging technologies.”image024

Also at this week’s Summit, Pivotal (which is in the process of being acquired by VMware) is launching the alpha version of the Pivotal Application Service (PAS) on Kubernetes, while Swisscom, an early Cloud Foundry backer, is launching a major update to its Cloud Foundry-based Application Cloud.

Kubernetes co-founder Craig McLuckie is as tired of talking about Kubernetes as you are

“I’m so tired of talking about Kubernetes . I want to talk about something else,” joked Kubernetes co-founder and VP of R&D at VMware Craig McLuckie during a keynote interview at this week’s Cloud Foundry Summit in The Hague. “I feel like that 80s band that had like one hit song — Cherry Pie.”

He doesn’t quite mean it that way, of course (though it makes for a good headline, see above), but the underlying theme of the conversation he had with Cloud Foundry executive director Abby Kearns was that infrastructure should be boring and fade into the background, while enabling developers to do their best work. “We still have a lot of work to do as an industry to make the infrastructure technology fade into the background and bring forwards the technologies that developers interface with, that enable them to develop the code that drives the business, etc. […] Let’s make that infrastructure technology really, really boring. ”

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What McLuckie wants to talk about is developer experience and with VMware’s intend to acquire Pivotal, it’s placing a strong bet on Cloud Foundry as one of the premiere development platforms for cloud native applications. For the longest time, the Cloud Foundry and Kubernetes ecosystem, which both share an organizational parent in the Linux Foundation, have been getting closer, but that move has accelerated in recent months as the Cloud Foundry ecosystem has finished work on some of its Kubernetes integrations.

McLuckie argues that the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, the home of Kubernetes and other cloud-native open-source projects, was always meant to be a kind of open-ended organization that focuses on driving innovation. And that created a large set of technologies that vendors can choose from. “But when you start to assemble that, I tend to think about you building up this cake which is your development stack, you discover that some of those layers of the cake, like Kubernetes, have a really good bake. They are done to perfection,” said McLuckie, who is clearly a fan of the Great British Baking show. “And other layers, you look at it and you think, wow, that could use a little more bake, it’s not quite ready yet. […] And we haven’t done a great job of pulling it all together and providing a recipe that delivers an entirely consumable experience for everyday developers.”

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He argues that Cloud Foundry, on the other hand, has always focused on building that highly opinionated, consistent developer experience. “Bringing those two communities together, I think, is going to have incredibly powerful results for both communities as we start to bring these technologies together,” he said.

With the Pivotal acquisition still in the works, McLuckie didn’t really comment on what exactly this means for the path forward for Cloud Foundry and Kubernetes (which he still talked about with a lot of energy, despite being tired of it), but it’s clear that he’s looking to Cloud Foundry to enable that developer experience on top of Kubernetes that abstracts all of the infrastructure away for developers and makes deploying an application a matter of a single CLI command.

Bonus: Cherry Pie.

Explorium reveals $19.1M in total funding for machine learning data discovery platform

Explorium, a data discovery platform for machine learning models, received a couple of unannounced funding rounds over the last year — a $3.6 million seed round last September and a $15.5 million Series A round in March. Today, it made both of these rounds public.

The seed round was led by Emerge with participation of F2 Capital. The Series A was led by Zeev Ventures with participation from the seed investors. The total raised is $19.1 million.

The company founders, who have a data science background, found that it was problematic to find the right data to build a machine learning model. Like most good startup founders confronted with a problem, they decided to solve it themselves by building a data discovery platform for data scientists.

CEO and co-founder, Maor Shlomo says that the company wanted to focus on the quality of the data because not much work has been done there. “A lot of work has been invested on the algorithmic part of machine learning, but the algorithms themselves have very much become commodities. The challenge now is really finding the right data to feed into those algorithms,” Sholmo told TechCrunch.

It’s a hard problem to solve, so they built a kind of search engine that can go out and find the best data wherever it happens to live, whether it’s internally or in an open data set, public data or premium databases. The company has partnered with thousands of data sources, according to Schlomo, to help data scientist customers find the best data for their particular model.

“We developed a new type of search engine that’s capable of looking at the customers data, connecting and enriching it with literally thousands of data sources, while automatically selecting what are the best pieces of data, and what are the best variables or features, which could actually generate the best performing machine learning model,” he explained.

Shlomo sees a big role for partnerships, whether that involves data sources or consulting firms, who can help push Explorium into more companies.

Explorium has 63 employees spread across offices in Tel Aviv, Kiev and San Francisco. It’s still early days, but Sholmo reports “tens of customers.” As more customers try to bring data science to their companies, especially with a shortage of data scientists, having a tool like Explorium could help fill that gap.

HashiCorp expands Terraform free version, adds paid tier for SMBs

HashiCorp has had a free tier for its Terraform product in the past, but it was basically for a single user. Today, the company announced it was expanding that free tier to allow up to five users, while also increasing the range of functions that are available before you have to pay.

“We’re announcing a pretty large expansion of the Terraform Cloud free tier. So many of the capabilities that used to be exclusively in our Terraform enterprise product, we’re now bringing down into the Terraform free tier. It allows you to do central actual execution of Terraform and apply the full lifecycle as part of the free tier,” HashiCorp co-founder and CTO Armon Dadgar explained.

In addition, the company announced a middle tier aimed at SMBs. Dadgar says the new pricing tier helped address some obvious gaps in the pricing catalogue for a large sets of users, who outgrew the free product, yet weren’t ready for the enterprise version.

“We were seeing was a lot of friction with our SMB customers trying to figure out how to go from one-user Terraform to a team of five people or a team of 20 people. And I think the challenge was that we had the enterprise product, which in terms of deployment and pricing, is really geared toward Global 2000 kinds of companies,” Dadgar told TechCrunch.

He said, this left a huge gap for smaller teams of between five and 100 user teams, which forced those teams to kludge together solutions to fit their requirements. The company thought it would make more sense to have a paid tier specifically geared for this group that would create a logical path for all users on the platform, while solving a known problem.

“It’s a logical path, but it also just answers the constant questions on forums and mailing lists regarding how to collaborate [with smaller teams]. Before, we didn’t have a prescriptive answer, and so there was a lot of DIY, and this is our attempt at a prescriptive answer of how you should do this,” he said.

Terraform is the company’s tool for defining, deploying and managing infrastructure as code. There is an open source product, an on prem version and a SaaS version.

Latest Adobe tool helps marketers work directly with customer journey data

Adobe has a lot going on with Analytics and the Customer Experience Platform, a place to gather data to understand customers better. Today, it announced a new analytics tool that enables employees to work directly with customer journey data to help deliver a better customer experience.

The customer journey involves a lot of different systems from a company data lake to CRM to point of sale. This tool pulls all of that data together from across multiple systems and various channels and brings it into the data analysis workspace, announced in July.

Nate Smith, group manager for product marketing for Adobe Analytics, says the idea is to give access to this data in a standard way across the organization, whether it’s a data scientist, an analyst with SQL skills or a marketing pro simply looking for insight.

“When you think about organizations that are trying to do omni-channel analysis or trying to get that next channel of data in, they now have the platform to do that, where the data can come in and we standardize it on an academic model,” he said. They then layer this ability to continuously query the data in a visual way to get additional insight they might not have seen.

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Screenshot: Adobe

Adobe is trying to be as flexible as possible in every step of the process, and openness was a guiding principle here, Smith said. That means that data can come from any source, and users can visualize it using Adobe tools or an external tool like Tableau or Looker. What’s more, they can get data in or out as needed, or even use your their own models, Smith said.

“We recognize that as much as we’d love to have everyone go all in on the Adobe stack, we understand that there is existing significant investment in other tech and that integration and interoperability really needs to happen, as well,” he said.

Ultimately this is about giving marketers access to a full picture of the customer data to deliver the best experience possible based on what you know about them. “Being able to have insight and engagement points to help with the moments that matter and provide great experience is really what we’re aiming to do with this,” he said.

This product will be generally available next month.