Good morning, Data Sheet readers. Apple’s iPad sales are still lagging, but that’s one of the few negatives in its Q4 earnings report. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella boasts the most “complete” cloud for businesses. Plus, does the world really need a new data warehouse technology? Read today’s FAQ to find out why three respected database experts and a former Microsoft executive think it’s overdue.
Apple’s feel-good quarter. After IBM’s abysmal results (which shaved more than $13 billion off its market cap), Apple’s upside surprise was refreshing: it posted a 12.7% jump in fiscal Q4 profits. Record iPhone shipments (39.3 million) were a big contributor, but “blow-away” Macintosh system sales (5.5 million units, up 25%) were the icing. The biggest disappointment: iPad revenue slipped for the third consecutive quarter. Fortune
Microsoft’s claims most “complete” cloud computing portfolio. Technically speaking, Amazon Web Services still offers more servers, storage and computing resources in the public cloud than anyone else. So fierce rival Microsoft is spinning its competitive pitch a little differently.
Specifically, the company claims more reach with “enterprise-grade” offerings: by the end of 2014, its Azure service will be available in 19 regions. For context, that’s about twice the locations AWS offers and five times Google’s footprint, Microsoft corporate vice president Jason Zander told me last week. Another statistic he would like you to remember: Azure hosts more than 1 million databases. Ponder that one, Oracle.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella put a number on its penetration during a briefing Monday in San Francisco: “With more than 80% of the Fortune 500 on the Microsoft cloud, we are delivering the industry’s most complete cloud—for every business, every industry and every geography.”
One caveat: Keep in mind that number reflects the entirety of Microsoft’s cloud portfolio, including business software applications sold as a service. Still, it appears the company is on track to meet Nomura analyst Rick Sherlund’s prediction that it will end the year as the largest cloud business, with about $5.8 billion in annual revenue (compared with AWS’s $5.5 billion).
STATS & SPECS
Staples next for cyber comeuppance? The office supplies retailer is investigating a pattern of fraud activity that suggests credit and debit card information may have been stolen from its post-of-sale systems. ZDNet
STARTUPS & DISRUPTORS
$100 million for Mirantis. Its Series B infusion led by Insight Venture Partners is characterized as the biggest one ever for an open source software company. Mirantis OpenStack is used to build and deliver cloud services. Customers include Comcast, DirectTV, Expedia and Workday.
Hostile $540 million bid for Shoretel. Canadian telecommunications equipment company Mitel is taking a $8.10 per share offer for its smaller U.S. rival directly to shareholders after Shoretel’s board rejected the proposal earlier this month. The directors promise a careful review. Re/code
Mysterious visualization company gets $542 million. Few people really know exactly what Magic Leap is working on—except that it combines augmented reality technology with mobile computing and it’s being compared to Oculus Rift. What we do know is that Google is leading its half-billion-dollar Series B financing round, which pushes the company’s valuation over $1 billion. TechCrunch
Former Oracle engineers team with ex-Microsoft exec to reinvent data warehouses
Does the world really need yet another data warehouse technology, let alone one that defies convention and flaunts compliance concerns by living outside the “safety” of corporate data centers as part of a public cloud service?
Snowflake Computing, a startup in San Mateo, Calif., founded by a team of data experts including two Oracle engineers and helmed by longtime Microsoft executive Bob Muglia, has raised $26 million to answer that question.
Emerging from stealth this week with backing from investors including Redpoint Ventures, Sutter Hill Ventures and Wing Ventures, Snowflake’s proposition is simple: it believes its patent-pending SQL relational database technology—built completely from scratch—can accommodate more types of business data than legacy offerings from the likes of Teradata or big data management platforms building on Hadoop. “Customers do have existing solutions, but they’re not satisfied. It’s not like we’re entering a market where people are happy with their current solutions,” Muglia says.
Rather than requiring customers to install its technology on site, Snowflake is offering it as a service. Businesses pay for how much data they are storing and by the number of hours it takes to analytics queries against their information. The most direct competitor is Redshift from Amazon Web Services. The company claims its approach costs 90% less than investing in the hardware and software necessary to build on on-site data warehouse.
Snowflake was founded two years ago by a team of engineers who between them hold more than 120 patents in databases and data management technologies: Oracle veterans Benoit Dageville and Thierry Cruanes, and Dutch computer scientist Marcin Zukowski. The whimsical name pays homage to their mutual love of snow sports. Muglia joined as CEO in June, taking over from Sutter Hill director Mike Speiser, who was managing the team while it was in stealth mode.
Muglia admits Snowflake won’t appeal to companies that aren’t willing to put their data on cloud servers and storage. Its initial customers hail from the advertising, media and technology sectors.
“Whoever has the biggest dataset can answer the hardest questions,” says James Rooney, senior vice president of media platforms at Accordant Media, one of Snowflake’s beta customers. “Instead of spending an hour waiting for a response, we get it in five minutes with Snowflake. So we can spend more time interpreting the result or whiteboarding harder questions.”
Whether Snowflake can melt the hearts of skeptics remains to be seen. Still, if you consider how much data is now being generated in applications and services that live “in the cloud” (as opposed to on-premise corporate data centers) the logic behind its approach could add up quickly.
ONE MORE THING
MasterCard turns fingerprints into signatures. The global payments giant is teaming with biometrics company Zwipe on a new credit and debit card that can’t be used until the authenticated user touches an integrated fingerprint strip. It replaces the personal identification number or password you’d normally use. After a pilot in Norway, the card should get a broader launch next year. TechCrunch
IBM Insight 2014: Big data and analytics. (Oct. 26 – Oct. 30, Las Vegas)
TBM Conference 2014: Manage the business of IT. (Oct. 28- 30, Miami Beach)
SIMposium 2014. Tech execs and practioners. (Nov. 2-4, Denver)
AWS re:Invent: The latest about Amazon Web Services. (Nov. 11 – 14, Las Vegas)
Gartner Data Center Conference: Ideas for operations and management. (Dec. 2 – 5, Las Vegas)
IBM Interconnect 2015: Cloud and mobile strategy. (Feb. 22 – 26, Las Vegas)
Microsoft Convergence 2015: Dynamics solutions. (March 16 – 19, Atlanta)