Data Sheet—Monday, September 15, 2014

September 15, 2014, 12:26 PM UTC

Good morning, Data Sheet readers, and welcome to the new workweek. We could hear more today about Microsoft’s rumored $2.5 billion takeover of Sweden’s Mojang, developer of the popular Minecraft. But this is less about games and more about mobile culture: Minecraft is the top paid app for both Apple iOS and Android mobile. (Nope, it is not on Windows Phone.) Meanwhile, Oracle wants to buy the company that manages programming for NASCAR and Discovery, and Salesforce is readying its analytics pitch.


Oracle's preview of coming attractions? It's buying Front Porch Digital, which makes technology for managing massive volumes of digital media like TV programming and medical records. (Terms weren't disclosed.) Front Porch handles more than 750 petabytes of content for 550 customers including NASCAR, the BBC and the Library of Congress. 

Straight talk from Tim Cook. Charlie Rose scored a two-hour interview with Apple's reticent CEO, who dishes about the new iPhone and enterprise aspirations with partner IBM. He says this about the latter: "When you get to the working environment, the change that we've made, to us, isn't significant enough. And so we began to ask ourselves why. Why haven't we done more? And the real answer is in the applications. There are not enough apps that have been written for verticals, for very deep verticals, like what the airline pilot does. What the bank teller does." Watch the first hour on Hulu. The second half airs Monday night. (Plus, two big hospitals are planning trials using Apple's HealthKit.)

Cognizant writes new prescription for healthcare. It just paid $2.7 billion for TriZetto, an IT services specialist serving more than 200,000 U.S. physicians. Healthcare clients already drive about 26% of Cognizant's annual revenue. 

Turns out Home Depot wasn't fast enough. With more details about the retailer's security breach comes the realization that the home improvement retailer knew it was vulnerable months ago. While it was busy drawing up better blueprints, hackers exploited those weaknesses. By the way, JPMorgan is still cleaning up after its own security breach: so far, it has seen no evidence of fraudulent activity.


Is Salesforce's next stop analytics? Sales support. (Check.) Marketing services. (Check.) Customer service and communities. (Check.) Rumor has it analytics are on the Dreamforce conference agenda, which would leverage the company's buyout last year of visual analytics and business intelligence company EdgeSpring. (Plus, here are nine companies in Salesforce's path when this becomes real.)


Super-duper kill switch. Qualcomm's next-generation of processors (dubbed Snapdragon) includes built-in features to zap stolen or lost mobile phones, making them useless. The advantage: a second line of extra defense. 

Sizing things up. Everyone's yakking about software-defined networks (even Intel, which would love to control far more of your data center). Turns out the shift is already happening: sales of related equipment (such as SDN-capable switches and controllers) were up 192% in 2013. Infonetics predicts related revenue of $9.5 billion by 2018.


More moolah for big data developer. The secretive company tied to the CIA and NSA, and co-founded by Peter Thiel) just got another $50 million, bringing the amount raised to more than $700 million from investors including Founders Fund.

Square shores up. An infusion of $100 million could be the first half of a $200 million round, boosting its valuation to almost $6 billion. Now that Apple is in the mobile payments game along with PayPay, Amazon and Google, it could use all the help it can get.

Porsche fuels traffic analytics developer. The German automotive giant invested approximately $55 million in INRIX, giving it a 10% stake. The developer's real-time services currently cover more than 4 million miles of roads in 40 countries.

FAQ is pretty fond of hackathons: last year it awarded more than $2 million in prizes for an event held during Dreamforce (the top prize was supposed to be half that, there was controversy over the winner). It held a series of smaller ones over the summer.

But did you know Microsoft also is keen on the idea as a way of accelerating creation of mission-critical enterprise apps? (It calls them hackfests.) One developer willing to play along is Skyline Technologies, which builds manufacturing software and is looking for better ways to integrate machine-generated data. (Some source code for their joint work was just published openly.) It's not the only participant: Microsoft's tech evangelism team has held similar events with Sage and Edupoint.

Although hackathon is the phrase du jour, think of these sessions as hands-on prototyping: Microsoft technical fellow John Shewchuk explains to ZDNet: "A big multinational company that's a Java shop won't be interested in replatforming on .Net or Azure [based on a presentation]. But if we go in there and say how can we help you solve a hard problem with no PowerPoint—just sitting down and jointly coding—that's what we're doing with these hackfests."

IT services firm Avanade (created as a joint venture between Accenture and Microsoft) uses hackathons internally to come up with new ideas: it runs small ones almost weekly, but has held three annual companywide innovation contests.

"We give our people a specific challenge that is broad enough not to hamper creativity but that also has a reasonable chance of being useful," says Avanade chief technology innovation officer Florin Rotar. "Our people are being coached by customers, and the customer is getting better ideas." Ultimately, Avanade employees get to choose the winning team.

The app that won last year, called SocialSight, lets retailers personalize shopping experiences for customers—it's already being deployed for multiple Avanade accounts. (The prize for the winning team was $25,000.)

Wondering how to pay for something like this? Rotar says this is factored into Avanade's central budget for research and development; although it isn't exactly a traditional way to spend it.


An appetite for Apptio: Tech entrepreneur Ken Lynch weighs in with a response to my question about why IT cost-management software has been slow to catch on. In short, it's been too expensive. (He's got firsthand experience; software Lynch sold to IBM back in 2006 now exists as IBM SmartCloud Cost Manager.)

Lynch notes: "It used to take 30-90 days at minimum just to get the first meaningful report. Then, the tables that were used to match users, system IDs, transaction codes, etc., to cost centers, departments and divisions were very difficult to keep up-to-date and often required manual intervention. Today, most of this can be automated and with SaaS models it can be provided as a service. An organization no longer needs an internal team just to care and feed the cost management system. As large cloud environments continue to be shared, I think this concept will catch on more deeply and become less of a niche market as it was in the past."

Mea culpa: Last week, in an item about Atlassian's latest earnings, I commented about both its business model (no salespeople until this year) and suggested the developer handled venture financing somewhat differently than other enterprise software companies—by giving employees a chance to sell shares directly to investors. Turns out, I overlooked Accel Partners' sizable $60 million investment back in 2010.


Mobile apps exacerbate insecurity. It's not like this is a surprise, but all the unmonitored software that people download to personal tablets and smartphones—the same ones they then use to sign into company networks to catch up after hours—could expose your company to malicious software. Roughly 75% would fail basic security tests. Things should start changing after 2015. They better: by that time there could be three mobile-centric attacks for every desktop one.


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: Ideas for operations and management. (Dec. 2 – 5, Las Vegas)