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Data Sheet—Thursday, August 28, 2014

Good morning, Data Sheet readers. Sandra Kurtzig—the first woman to take a tech company public with ASK Computer Systems—ditched retirement in 2010 to start Kenandy, a close enterprise cloud ally of Salesforce.com. I quizzed her about the company’s addition of a CFO this week and her perspective on how young women can succeed in the gender-challenged tech industry. Plus, need to converge your data center? Add Nutanix to your vendor checklist.

TRENDING

This startup wants to slim down your data center. Five-year-old Nutanix makes hardware that converges server, networking and storage features—and it just got a secretive $140 Series E infusion to help out. That’s on top of the $101 million it got in January. Nutanix makes no secret about its IPO aspirations, and this latest funding puts the valuation around $2 billion. Of course, it also faces no shortage of big-name rivals: VMware, Dell, Cisco, EMC, Hewlett-Packard and (insert every major data center player here).

Feds investigate big breaches at big banks. According to multiple reports, FBI agents and security experts are looking into whether hackers pilfered “gigabytes” of data from JPMorgan Chase and at least four other (as-yet-unnamed) banks. Time to peek at your account balances, I guess. Seriously, when did cyberhacking become the new normal and why should it be?

Red flag at Red Hat? Its long-time chief technical officer Brian Stevens is out. The development was revealed via terse press release, stoking speculation about product direction and succession plans.

CLOUD CHATTER

Coincidence? I think not. Dropbox went live yesterday with its new “Pro” plan, which includes 1 terabyte of storage with remote wipe and password protection for just $9.99 per month—the same as Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive. The price for Amazon Web Services’ new Zocalo service isn’t quite as sweet, but the service boasts tighter ties with existing corporate directories.

Price cuts for Azure databases. Changes reflect new service level tiers slated to become available in September. Plus, is the developer planning to let customers use its internal Cosmos big-data service? And, is it wise to offer more (albeit limited) free accounts for Visual Studio Online, given recent outages?

STATS & SPECS

Microsoft issues partial all-clear on patches. Remember those flawed software updates the developer warned you not to install last week? At least one replacement is ready, but we’re still waiting for the others.

Google shines up Chrome. A 64-bit Windows version just hit the download channel, promising speedier graphics and media. Mac users will need to wait. 

Global rollout continues for Surface Pro 3. Microsoft latest greatest hope in Windows tablets is now available in 25 more markets, and it’s taking orders for the companion docking station.

STARTUPS & DISRUPTORS

May I be of service? You’ve probably heard of “showrooming”—when shoppers use a smartphone while standing in a store to figure out if they can get a better deal elsewhere. Expect Labs (boasting credentials from MIT, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon and Bell Labs) is developing a way to make navigating online catalogs and price lists easier, via spoken voice commands. Its backers and partners include Google, Samsung, Intel and Nuance Communications.

FAQ

The story behind cloud-centric ERP developer Kenandy is the stuff of Silicon Valley legend. When founder Sandra Kurtzig asked her Hawaiian neighbor Marc Benioff which enterprise software companies were worth an investment, his answer was, “The one you’re about to start.” (Or words to that effect.)

What actually spurred the ASK Computer Systems founder and inventor of MANMAN (shorthand for “manufacturing management”)—and, notably the first woman to take a high-tech company public—to come out of retirement? The opportunity was too compelling to turn her back. “The last time we had such a disruptive transition in technology was when we went from mainframes to minicomputers,” Kurtzig told me earlier this week. “Every single piece of software has to be rewritten for this new digital world.”

Plus, her entrepreneurial nature got the better of her, in what she feels is a more giving climate than the past: “There’s a fear of failure that drives you, but there’s also more forgiveness if you try something that doesn’t work.”

Here’s the thumbnail about what’s she created over the past four years: backed with $43.5 million (so far), Kenandy’s board includes prominent VCs Ray Lane and Chris Schaepe, senior Salesforce exec John Wookey, and legendary lawyer Larry Sonsini.

Closely allied with Salesforce, its customers include 3Sigma Corp., Del Monte (Big Hear Pet Brands) and Yokohoma Tires. And it just hired its first CFO.

I chatted with Kurtzig about a wide range of topics, including sales prospecting, why this week’s CFO hire is notable and the ongoing high-tech gender diversity debate. Here are snippets of our conversation.

You mentioned that you’re selective about customers. What does that mean?

“We defined that we only want to go after enterprises. We wanted to meet the needs of large enterprises as they transform. Every company is looking at transformation right now, they have to. Not everybody is at the same place when it comes to where they are in that transformation. Some just want to be educated and some are really ready to go and understand what they need. We’re happy to do a little education for those that are looking and want to be educated, but we can’t spend too much time on them because they’re not really ready. By being selective, I mean we’re interested in those companies that are in a transformative process. … “

Tell me more about this week’s CFO hire and why it’s a big deal?

“My philosophy is that you don’t overhire at the beginning. You conserve your money and wait for each step of the business to hire those people necessary for that step of the business. By doing that, you’re better to get a better quality person at that step than you would be if you overhired at the beginning. This is a new position, we never had a CFO before, we had a very, very good comptroller. And it was time to really put the processes in place for tracking revenue, for looking at costs, looking at all the things you need to do as a company grows. It was time to hire somebody that had public market experience.”

I’ve been watching the debate about diversity in the technology industry. What would you advise a young woman to do, if she’s considering a career in high-tech?

“You probably know that I feel I’m a businessperson who just happens to be a woman. I certainly recognize the press I’ve gotten about that, but I also think that my job is to represent women by achieving, not by waving banners. I think as far as advice goes: I think you need to have a technical background. If you have a technical background, it really helps you have a sense of confidence even if you don’t use it. My degrees are in math, chemistry and aeronautical engineering. I’m certainly not designing planes, but that technical background gave me the self-confidence that when people came to me with technical things, if I didn’t understand it, I wouldn’t be scared to ask. I knew that if I didn’t understand it, others wouldn’t understand it, too, if it wasn’t explained well.”

ONE MORE THING …

We’ve been duped! Even though many security breaches that crowd daily headlines require sophisticated hacking techniques, let us not forget that sometimes they attack prey on human nature. Remember the flood of email you used to get about friends stranded in foreign countries needing cash? They may not arrive as frequently, but at least 70% of IT professionals still face at least one phishing attack on a weekly basis.

EVENTS

Boxworks14: Talk enterprise cloud strategy. (Sept. 2 – 4, San Francisco)

Atlassian Summit: Build software, collaboratively. (Sept. 9 – 11, San Jose, Calif.)

Open Data Center Alliance Forecast 2014: Cloud trends. (Sept. 22 – 24, San Francisco)

Oracle OpenWorld: Get a roadmap reality check. (Sept. 27 – Oct. 2, San Francisco)

Interop: Actionable solutions for IT headaches. (Sept. 29 – Oct. 3, New York)

Enterprise Security Summit: Challenges, trends and solutions. (Sept. 30, New York)

Gartner Symposium ITxpo 2014: Compare notes. (Oct. 5 – 9, Orlando, Fla.)

Splunk .conf2014. Glean intelligence from machine data. (Oct. 6 – 9, Las Vegas)

Dreamforce: 1,400 sessions about the largest cloud ecosystem. (Oct. 13-16, San Francisco)

Strata/Hadoop World: Big data tools and techniques. (Oct. 15 – 17, New York)

TBM Conference 2014: Manage the business of IT. (Oct. 28- 30, Miami Beach)

AWS re:Invent: The latest about Amazon Web Services. (Nov. 11 – 14, Las Vegas)

Gartner Data Center Conference: New ideas for operations and management. (Dec. 2 – 5, Las Vegas)