Data startup Axiom secures $4M from Crane Venture Partners, emerges from stealth

Axiom, a startup that helps companies deal with their internal data, has secured a new $4m seed round led by UK-based Crane Venture Partners, with participation from LocalGlobe, Fly VC and Mango Capital. Notable angel investors include former Xamarin founder and current GitHub CEO Nat Friedman and Heroku co-founder Adam Wiggins. The company is also emerging from a relative stealth mode to reveal that is has now raised $7m in funding since it was founded in 2017.

The company says it is also launching with an enterprise-grade solution to manage and analyze machine data “at any scale, across any type of infrastructure”. Axiom gives DevOps teams a cloud-native, enterprise-grade solution to store and query their data all the time in one interface – without the overhead of maintaining and scaling data infrastructure.

DevOps teams have spent a great deal of time and money managing their infrastructure, but often without being able to own and analyze their machine data. Despite all the tools at hand, managing and analyzing critical data has been difficult, slow and resource-intensive, taking up far too much money and time for organizations. This is what Axiom is addressing with its platform to manage machine data and surface insights, more cheaply, they say, that other solutions.

Co-founder and CEO Neil Jagdish Patel told TechCrunch: “DevOps teams are stuck under the pressure of that, because it’s up to them to deliver a solution to that problem. And the solutions that existed are quite, well, they’re very complex. They’re very expensive to run and time-consuming. So with Axiom, our goal is to try and reduce the time to solve data problems, but also allow businesses to store more data to query at whenever they want.”

Why did they work with Crane? “We needed to figure out how enterprise sales work and how to take this product to market in a way that makes sense for the people who need it. We spoke to different investors, but when I sat down with Crane they just understood where we were. They have this razor-sharp focus on how they get you to market and how you make sure your sales process and marketing is a success. It’s been beneficial to us as were three engineers, so you need that,” said Jagdish.

Commenting, Scott Sage, Founder and  Partner at Crane Venture Partners added: “Neil, Seif and Gord are a proven team that have created successful products that millions of developers use. We are proud to invest in Axiom to allow them to build a business helping DevOps teams turn logging challenges from a resource-intense problem to a business advantage.”

Axiom co-founders Neil Jagdish Patel, Seif Lotfy and Gord Allott, previously created Xamarin Insights that enabled developers to monitor and analyse mobile app performance in real-time for Xamarin, the open-source cross-platform app development framework. Xamarin was acquired by Microsoft for between $400 and $500 million in 2016. Before working at Xamarin, the co-founders also worked together at Canonical, the private commercial company behind the Ubuntu Project.

Canonical’s Anbox Cloud puts Android in the cloud

Canonical, the company behind the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution, today announced the launch of Anbox Cloud, a new platform that allows enterprises to run Android in the cloud.

On Anbox Cloud, Android becomes the guest operating system that runs containerized applications. This opens up a range of use cases, ranging from bespoke enterprise app to cloud gaming solutions.

The result is similar to what Google does with Android apps on Chrome OS, though the implementation is quite different and is based on the LXD container manager, as well as a number of Canonical projects like Juju and MAAS for provisioning the containers and automating the deployment. “LXD containers are lightweight, resulting in at least twice the container density compared to Android emulation in virtual machines – depending on streaming quality and/or workload complexity,” the company points out in its announcements.

Anbox itself, it’s worth noting, is an open-source project that came out of Canonical and the wider Ubuntu ecosystem. Launched by Canonical engineer Simon Fels in 2017, Anbox runs the full Android system in a container, which in turn allows you to run Android application on any Linux-based platform.

What’s the point of all of this? Canonical argues that it allows enterprises to offload mobile workloads to the cloud and then stream those applications to their employees’ mobile devices. But Canonical is also betting on 5G to enable more use cases, less because of the available bandwidth but more because of the low latencies it enables.

“Driven by emerging 5G networks and edge computing, millions of users will benefit from access to ultra-rich, on-demand Android applications on a platform of their choice,” said Stephan Fabel, Director of Product at Canonical, in today’s announcement. “Enterprises are now empowered to deliver high performance, high density computing to any device remotely, with reduced power consumption and in an economical manner.”

Outside of the enterprise, one of the use cases that Canonical seems to be focusing on is gaming and game streaming. A server in the cloud is generally more powerful than a smartphone, after all, though that gap is closing.

Canonical also cites app testing as another use case, given that the platform would allow developers to test apps on thousands of Android devices in parallel. Most developers, though, prefer to test their apps in real — not emulated — devices, given the fragmentation of the Android ecosystem.

Anbox Cloud can run in the public cloud, though Canonical is specifically partnering with edge computing specialist Packet to host it on the edge or on-premise. Silicon partners for the project are Ampere and Intel .

Canonical’s Mark Shuttleworth on dueling open-source foundations

At the Open Infrastructure Summit, which was previously known as the OpenStack Summit, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth used his keynote to talk about the state of open-source foundations — and what often feels like the increasing competition between them. “I know for a fact that nobody asked to replace dueling vendors with dueling foundations,” he said. “Nobody asked for that.”

He then put a point on this, saying, “what’s the difference between a vendor that only promotes the ideas that are in its own interest and a foundation that does the same thing. Or worse, a foundation that will only represent projects that it’s paid to represent.”

Somewhat uncharacteristically, Shuttleworth didn’t say which foundations he was talking about, but since there are really only two foundations that fit the bill here, it’s pretty clear that he was talking about the OpenStack Foundation and the Linux Foundation — and maybe more precisely the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, the home of the incredibly popular Kubernetes project.

It turns out, that’s only part of his misgivings about the current state of open-source foundations, though. I sat down with Shuttleworth after his keynote to discuss his comments, as well as Canonical’s announcements around open infrastructure.

One thing that’s worth noting at the outset is that the OpenStack Foundation is using this event to highlight that fact that it has now brought in more new open infrastructure projects outside of the core OpenStack software, with two of them graduating from their pilot phase. Shuttleworth, who has made big bets on OpenStack in the past and is seeing a lot of interest from customers, is not a fan. Canonical, it’s worth noting, is also a major sponsor of the OpenStack Foundation. He, however, believes, the foundation should focus on the core OpenStack project.

“We’re busy deploying 27 OpenStack clouds — that’s more than double the run rate last year,” he said. “OpenStack is important. It’s very complicated and hard. And a lot of our focus has been on making it simpler and cleaner, despite the efforts of those around us in this community. But I believe in it. I think that if you need large-scale, multi-tenant virtualization infrastructure, it’s the best game in town. But it has problems. It needs focus. I’m super committed to that. And I worry about people losing their focus because something newer and shinier has shown up.”

To clarify that, I asked him if he essentially believes that the OpenStack Foundation is making a mistake by trying to be all things infrastructure. “Yes, absolutely,” he said. “At the end of the day, I think there are some projects that this community is famous for. They need focus, they need attention, right? It’s very hard to argue that they will get focus and attention when you’re launching a ton of other things that nobody’s ever heard of, right? Why are you launching those things? Who is behind those decisions? Is it a money question as well? Those are all fair questions to ask.”

He doesn’t believe all of the blame should fall on the Foundation leadership, though. “I think these guys are trying really hard. I think the common characterization that it was hapless isn’t helpful and isn’t accurate. We’re trying to figure stuff out.” Shuttleworth indeed doesn’t believe the leadership is hapless, something he stressed, but he clearly isn’t all that happy with the current path the OpenStack Foundation is on either.

The Foundation, of course, doesn’t agree. As OpenStack Foundation COO Mark Collier told me, the organization remains as committed to OpenStack as ever. “The Foundation, the board, the community, the staff — we’ve never been more committed to OpenStack,” he said. “If you look at the state of OpenStack, it’s one of the top-three most active open-source projects in the world right now […] There’s no wavering in our commitment to OpenStack.” He also noted that the other projects that are now part of the foundation are the kind of software that is helpful to OpenStack users. “These are efforts which are good for OpenStack,” he said. In addition, he stressed that the process of opening up the Foundation has been going on for more than two years, with the vast majority of the community (roughly 97 percent) voting in favor.

OpenStack board member Allison Randal echoed this. “Over the past few years, and a long series of strategic conversations, we realized that OpenStack doesn’t exist in a vacuum. OpenStack’s success depends on the success of a whole network of other open-source projects, including Linux distributions and dependencies like Python and hypervisors, but also on the success of other open infrastructure projects which our users are deploying together. The OpenStack community has learned a few things about successful open collaboration over the years, and we hope that sharing those lessons and offering a little support can help other open infrastructure projects succeed too. The rising tide of open source lifts all boats.”

As far as open-source foundations in general, he surely also doesn’t believe that it’s a good thing to have numerous foundations compete over projects. He argues that we’re still trying to figure out the role of open-source foundations and that we’re currently in a slightly awkward position because we’re still trying to determine how to best organize these foundations. “Open source in society is really interesting. And how we organize that in society is really interesting,” he said. “How we lead that, how we organize that is really interesting and there will be steps forward and steps backward. Foundations tweeting angrily at each other is not very presidential.”

He also challenged the notion that if you just put a project into a foundation, “everything gets better.” That’s too simplistic, he argues, because so much depends on the leadership of the foundation and how they define being open. “When you see foundations as nonprofit entities effectively arguing over who controls the more important toys, I don’t think that’s serving users.”

When I asked him whether he thinks some foundations are doing a better job than others, he essentially declined to comment. But he did say that he thinks the Linux Foundation is doing a good job with Linux, in large parts because it employs Linus Torvalds . “I think the technical leadership of a complex project that serves the needs of many organizations is best served that way and something that the OpenStack Foundation could learn from the Linux Foundation. I’d be much happier with my membership fees actually paying for thoughtful, independent leadership of the complexity of OpenStack rather than the sort of bizarre bun fights and stuffed ballots that we see today. For all the kumbaya, it flatly doesn’t work.” He believes that projects should have independent leaders who can make long-term plans. “Linus’ finger is a damn useful tool and it’s hard when everybody tries to get reelected. It’s easy to get outraged at Linus, but he’s doing a fucking good job, right?”

OpenStack, he believes, often lacks that kind of decisiveness because it tries to please everybody and attract more sponsors. “That’s perhaps the root cause,” he said, and it leads to too much “behind-the-scenes puppet mastering.”

In addition to our talk about foundations, Shuttleworth also noted that he believes the company is still on the path to an IPO. He’s obviously not committing to a time frame, but after a year of resetting in 2018, he argues that Canonical’s business is looking up. “We want to be north of $200 million in revenue and a decent growth rate and the right set of stories around the data center, around public cloud and IoT.” First, though, Canonical will do a growth equity round.

AWS launches Arm-based servers for EC2

At its re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, AWS today announced the launch of Arm-based servers for its EC2 cloud computing service. These aren’t run-of-the-mill Arm chips, though. AWS took the standard Arm cores and then customized them to fit its needs.The company says that its so-called AWS Graviton Processors have been optimized for performance and cost, with a focus on scale-out workloads that can be spread across a number of smaller instances (think containerized microservices, web servers, caching fleets, etc.).

The first set of instances, called A1, is now available in a number of AWS regions in the U.S. and Europe. They support all of AWS’s standard instance pricing models, including on-demand, reserved instance, spot instance, dedicated instance and dedicated host.

For now, you can only use Amazon Linux 2, RHEL and Ubuntu as operating systems for these machines, but AWS promises that additional operating system support will launch in the future.

Because these are ARM servers, you’ll obviously have to recompile any native code for them before you can run your applications on them. Virtually any application that is written in a scripting language, though, will probably run without any modifications.

Prices for these instances start at $0.0255/hour for an a1.medium machine with 1 CPU and 2 GiB of RAM and go up to $0.4080/hour for machines with 16 CPUs and 32 GiB of RAM. That’s maybe not as cheap as you would’ve expected given that an X86-based t3.nano server starts at $0.0052/hour, but you can always save quite a bit by using spot instances, of course. Until we see some benchmarks, though, it’s hard to compare these different machine types anyway.

As Amazon’s Jeff Barr notes in today’s announcement, the company’s move to its so-called Nitro System now allows it to launch new instance types at a faster clip. Nitro essentially provides the building blocks for creating new instance types that the team can then mix and match as needed.

It’s worth noting that AWS also launched support for AMD EPYC processors earlier this month.

more AWS re:Invent 2018 coverage