Cisco Acquires Meraki For $1.2 Billion In Cash

Cisco will be acquiring San Francisco-based Meraki Inc. Meraki, a 330 employee startup, provides customers with cloud-based software for managing networking solutions such as Wi-Fi, security devices and mobile devices. Meraki’s acquisition enables Cisco to expand its market penetration in the midmarket segment with respect to cloud-based management of networking as well as security and mobile devices. The acquisition empowers Cisco to offer its midmarket customers the cloud-based networking management infrastructure they require even though those same customers lack the resources to implement more complex networking management solutions.

The move is widely regarded by analysts as an acquisition not only of cloud-based networking software, but also of cloud-based infrastructure management software more generally. Gartner’s Mark Fabbi, for example, remarked:

It’s pretty clear Cisco bought Meraki because of their ability to manage cloud infrastructure and Meraki has proven that the model works and is robust. I would expect that it will become the platform for Cisco to offer different delivery and management models to a much broader product and customer set.

Meraki will become of the “Cloud Networking Group” at Cisco, which strongly suggests a grander vision for its future than cloud-based Wi-FI management alone. Cisco will acquire Meraki for $1.2 billion in cash and employee-retention incentives. The acquisition is expected to close in the second quarter of 2013.


Big Data BI Vendor Platfora Raises $20M And Proclaims The Death Of the Data Warehouse

Big Data continues to be red hot within the venture capital space as evinced by the finalization of $20M in Series B funding for Platfora, the San Mateo-based business intelligence platform for Big Data and Hadoop. The funding round was led by Battery Ventures with additional participation from existing investors Andreessen Horowitz and Sutter Hill Ventures. The capital raise will be used to expand Platfora’s sales and marketing teams as well as to add depth and talent to its engineering and design teams.

Platfora’s value proposition within the Big Data business intelligence space consists in its ability to transform Hadoop-based Big Data into “interactive, in-memory business intelligence” that dispenses with the need for an ETL job or data warehouse. Platfora’s innovative BI interface enables data scientists and business users alike to interactively explore the relevant data landscape through the product’s web-based interface. Platfora allows users to segment and compare data subsets, collaborate by way of annotations, seamlessly switch between visual and numeric representations of data as well export data to csv format or png images.

Platfora’s CEO Ben Werther elaborated on the product’s value proposition in a blog post that proclaimed the death of the traditional data warehouse as follows:

We’ve been living in the dark ages of data management. We’ve been conditioned to believe that it is right and proper to spend a year or more architecting and implementing a data warehouse and business intelligence solution. That you need teams of consultants and IT people to make sense of data. We are living in the status quo of practices developed 30 years ago — practices that are the lifeblood of companies like Oracle, IBM and Teradata.

And yet to build a data warehouse I’d be expected to perfectly predict what data would be important and how I’d want to question it, years in advance, or spend months rearchitecting every time I was wrong. This is actually considered ‘best practice’.

Imagine what is possible. Raw data of any kind or type lands in Hadoop with no friction. Everyday business users can interactively explore, visualize and analyze any of that data immediately, with no waiting for an IT project. One question can lead to the next and take them anywhere through the data. And the connective tissue that makes this possible — bridging between lumbering batch-processing Hadoop and this interactive experience — are ‘software defined’ scale-out in-memory data marts that automatically evolve with users questions and interest.

Werther, who was previously Director of Product Management at Greenplum, notes that the “dark ages of data management” require companies to allocate teams of resources to create a data warehouse and define schemas that “predict what data would be important” and “how I’d want to question it, years in advance, or spend months rearchitecting every time I was wrong.” Platfora, in contrast, delivers a platform whereby users can visually and interactively engage data without waiting for months of costly data architecture as a foundational, precursor step. Importantly, Werther here takes direct aim at traditional business intelligence giants such as Oracle, IBM and Teradata by proclaiming the death of both the traditional data warehouse and the business intelligence platforms that supported it. Built on HTML 5 technology, the product’s interface is optimized for data drill-downs by users and collaborative communication.

According to GigaOm, this week’s funding raise brings Platfora’s total funding to $25.7 million after it emerged from stealth mode in October, roughly a year after its initial $5.7 million capital raise. Platfora’s funding raise was announced in conjunction with recent product enhancements by BI vendors such as Tableau, Talend, Jaspersoft and Pentaho, all of which revealed details of upgraded functionality to their BI, Hadoop-supported platforms within the last month. Given the current labor shortage of skilled data scientists that can write advanced Hadoop queries in MapReduce or Hive, Big Data platforms that, like Platfora, are rich in visualization functionality are likely to take the cake in the battle for big data BI market share as long as they can remain competitive in terms of data processing speed and analytic granularity as well.

Jaspersoft 5 Release Features New Visualization Engine And Enhanced Analytic Functionality

On Tuesday, Jaspersoft announced version 5 of its business intelligence suite of reporting and analytics products that boasts significant enhancements to its analytic functionality in addition to a new visualization platform that provides a richer user interface for interacting with data.

The release features data virtualization capabilities that allow aggregations of data into a single, virtual data warehouse without an ETL job or the hassle of creating an actual data warehouse. Moreover, the product now delivers enhanced OLAP analysis that includes support for Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services. Meanwhile, Jaspersoft’s Advanced Reporting Functionality features conditional formatting and cross-tab sorting that goes beyond simple sorting, filtering and table formatting.

Brian Gentile, Jaspersoft’s CEO, elaborated on the significance of the web-based functionality of Jaspersoft 5 as follows:

The Jaspersoft 5 architecture delivers advanced visualization features much like Tableau, but entirely inside a web browser using HTML5. Our server is built with pure Java and open standards, and our architecture enables access to virtually any data source as well as easy deployment on-premises and in the cloud. In total, we provide a web-scale reporting and analytics platform that can be delivered inside of any business application or process, on all major devices, and at a fraction of the cost of any major competitor.

At an architectural level, Jaspersoft 5 features a “100% web-based embeddable architecture” that can be delivered inside an application or as a standalone BI product. Moreover, the application now delivers a rich visualization interface that empowers business users and data scientists alike to more intimately interact with visual representations of data by changing axes and obtaining additional detail on data elements of interest.

Cindi Howson, Founder and Principal Analyst at BI Scorecard, remarked on the new visualization capabilities and Jaspersoft 5 more generally as follows:

I’m most impressed by the new data exploration capabilities and the improvements to interactive reporting in Jaspersoft 5. Jaspersoft understands the full continuum of self-service BI and, with this release, gets some of the highest marks for interactive reporting of any of the vendors we cover.

As Howson illustrates, customers have ample reason to be excited about the new release. The data visualization capabilities illustrate the company’s commitment to business-level explorations of data that can be performed both by data scientists and business analysts with little in the way of explicit coding skills. Moreover, Jaspersoft 5’s web-based, embeddable architecture renders it one of the more flexible BI platforms in the industry and gives users a varied set of options with respect to its deployment within a multitude of IT infrastructures.

The charts below show some of the capabilities of Jaspersoft’s latest visualization interface, with the filters on the far right column and the data store representations on the far left illustrating some of the ways in which users can transform the current visual representation of data.

Jaspersoft Chart 2

RightScale And Rackspace Partnership Signals Turning Point In Battle For OpenStack Commercial Market Share

This week, RightScale made two important announcements related to OpenStack. First, the Santa Barbara-based cloud management company announced it will become a corporate sponsor of the OpenStack Foundation. Because RightScale has delivered cloud management support for OpenStack-based private and hybrid clouds for years, it stands well poised to differentiate itself as a cloud management provider that can “seamlessly integrate” with OpenStack due to its extensive history of involvement with the OpenStack community. Mark Collier, Chief Operating Officer of the OpenStack Foundation, pointed to RightScale’s experience with large enterprises and the importance of the availability of cloud management products for OpenStack deployments:

RightScale’s support of the OpenStack Foundation and involvement in the community are very important to OpenStack users, who expect the cloud management tools they use today to seamlessly integrate with OpenStack. RightScale brings a lot of experience working with large enterprises, and can contribute that valuable insight to the community.

Bailey Caldwell, VP of Business Development at RightScale, noted that the corporate sponsor relationship provided opportunities for RightScale to assist with large-scale OpenStack deployments as well as to receive product-related feedback that would help the company enhance its cloud management platform:

The OpenStack foundation is a robust group of members and companies. We’re excited to expand our participation in the community by becoming a Corporate Sponsor. We look forward to sharing our experience of deploying and managing applications on the cloud at scale, as well as the valuable feedback we’ll receive from other members of the Foundation.

RightScale’s deepened relationship with OpenStack as a corporate sponsor empowers it to position itself as the de facto cloud management vendor of choice for the OpenStack community, although it stands to face fierce competition from the likes of Puppet and Opscode, both of which have significant experience delivering cloud management infrastructures to the OpenStack platform themselves.

Meanwhile, just as it pledged support for OpenStack in general, RightScale and Rackspace jointly announced an agreement to integrate RightScale’s cloud management platform into the Rackspace Open Cloud, which is based on OpenStack. RightScale’s CEO, Michael Crandell, commented that the choice of Rackspace as an OpenStack partner “minimizes proprietary extensions” to the “trunk code base” that third party OpenStack vendors may impose on the core OpenStack product. Here, Crandell suggests that other commercial purveyors of OpenStack were more likely than Rackspace to customize the OpenStack core code in ways that rendered it less portable and interoperable than the allegedly purer, Rackspace version.

The Rackspace blog trumped up the partnership with RightScale as another step on the road to a cloud landscape free of vendor lock-in and commitments to proprietary cloud platforms:

The pairing between Rackspace and RightScale is another step in the fight against vendor lock-in. With the launches of our new cloud products this year like Cloud Block Storage, Cloud Networks andCloud Databases, RightScale users now have a broader selection of cloud alternatives and we believe they’ll be looking at Rackspace. The deep product integration will also include the OpenStack-powered Rackspace Private Cloud, which lets users deploy a Rackspace cloud in their data center of choice — be it their own data center, a colo facility or in one of Rackspace’s global data centers.

The integration of RightScale with Rackspace empowers users to transport or disperse applications between the Rackspace public cloud, an on premise Rackspace private cloud or a private cloud hosted by Rackspace. Customers can now create hybrid cloud infrastructures by deploying applications to public and private cloud environments alike, all from within a “single pane of glass” as signified by the RightScale platform. Creating a failsafe infrastructure marked by the availability of applications in public and private cloud environments has never been easier for Rackspace customers.

The partnership represents a huge coup for both RightScale and Rackspace, both of whom stand to synergistically gain from the pairing of cloud management and an enterprise-grade OpenStack platform. Rackspace, in particular, stands to profit from the partnership given that RightScale has expressly recommended Rackspace to its customers. After all, the very title of RightScale’s press release about the partnership reads “RightScale Recommends Rackspace to Customers for OpenStack-Powered Clouds.” The agreement signals an intensification for market share amongst the crop of private vendors that have commercialized OpenStack and is likely to prefigure other partnerships that enable commercial OpenStack vendors to claim a competitive advantage over each other.

Twitter Aims For 100% Uptime Based On Movement From Ruby To Java

Twitter is well on its way toward its goal of remaining fully accessible 24/7 all over the world. In a blog post the day after the 2012 presidential election, Mazen Rawashdeh, VP of Infrastructure Operations Engineering, remarked that the election not only shattered Twitter’s records for election-related tweeting, but also illustrated the capacity of Twitter’s infrastructure to withstand sustained stresses in traffic over several hours. Election night on Tuesday, November 6 featured the following Tweeting data points and statistics:

•Over 31 million election-related Tweets were transmitted on November 6
•Twitter users averaged 9,965 Tweets per second (TPS) from 8:11pm to 9:11pm PDT
•Twitter experienced a spike in TPS at 8:20pm PDT of 15,107 TPS
•The one minute peak was 874,560 Tweets per minute (TPM)

While these numbers well surpassed notable Twitter high points such as 6,939 TPS for 2011 New Year’s Eve, or the 7,196 TPS that followed Japan’s stunning victory over the United States in the 2011 Women’s World Cup soccer final, they also pointed to Twitter’s ability to support sustained increases in traffic such as the near 10,000 TPS for a full hour that ensued as the world gradually learned of the projections of President Obama’s re-election.

Rawashdeh attributes the robustness of Twitter’s infrastructure to its optimization of Ruby runtime and gradual movement away from Ruby to Java. In March 2011, Twitter revealed the results of their optimization of Ruby runtime related to reducing CPU usage required for the garbage collector on CPU usage fell from 18.5% to 14% as a result of creating two garbage heaps as opposed to one. Separately, Twitter directed mobile-related traffic to a Java Virtual Machine stack that avoided the Ruby stack entirely as part of the larger project of migrating from Ruby to Java altogether.

Twitter began moving away from Ruby to Java as early as 2008, “when the company’s Ruby-based message queuing system “hit a wall,” according to former developer Alex Payne. Because Ruby lacked in performance with respect to “long running processes” that were additionally “memory intensive,” the company opted for a Java-based path as reported in The Register as follows:

Twitter’s solution was to migrate some of its Ruby code to a new server stack running on the JVM. Initially, the company’s development team avoided stock Java in favor of Scala, an alternative JVM language that combines aspects of object-oriented and functional programming. Today, Twitter’s software is built from a mix of Scala and ordinary Java code.

Fans of Ruby are likely to take issue with Twitter’s gradual but highly purposeful migration toward Java. Nevertheless, the larger issue highlighted by Twitter’s impressive performance on election day is the need for cloud-based platforms to remain up and running 100% of the time, in all geographies, even in the wake of sustained and event-driven traffic. Outages such those recently experienced by Amazon Web Services will be gradually considered unacceptable by the industry, meaning that cloud-based platforms will increasingly need to channel more of their talent and resources into the development of failsafe infrastructures that are capable of withstanding pressures imposed by natural disasters and dramatic spikes in traffic. 100% uptime as opposed to 99.5% or even 99.9% is likely to become the norm and expectation and anything short of that will be viewed as unacceptable.

Talend Releases Version 5.2 With Hadoop Big Data Profiling And NoSQL Integration

Talend, the open source data integration company, announced the release of version 5.2 of its Open Studio data integration and data management platform on Monday. The release features prominent enhancements such as Hadoop Big data profiling and support for well known NoSQL products in addition to a bevy of other usability, productivity and performance improvements.

Hadoop Big Data Profiling

Talend’s big data profiling functionality demonstrates the ability to “discover and understand data in Hadoop clusters” with a view to:

•Identifying data quality issues such as corrupt, incomplete, duplicate or inconsistent data
•Analyzing data in Hive clusters without extracting it from the Hadoop cluster
•Cleansing, enriching, de-duplicating and creating crosswalks across data sets within the Hadoop cluster itself

NoSQL Integration

Talend version 5.2 features support for NoSQL databases in the form of an initial set of connectors to Cassandra and MongoDB. The product indigenously supports Apache Hadoop and integrates with Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS), HCatalog, Hive, Oozie, Pig and Sqoop. The support for NoSQL databases complements a total of more than 450 connectors to other products and platforms that are already built into the Talend Open Studio architecture.

Fabrice Bonan, co-founder and Chief Technical Officer of Talend, elaborated on the significance of the new Talend release by noting:

Talend version 5.2 delivers on our vision of simplifying the development, integration and management of big data so that businesses can focus on using that data to make faster and more informed decisions. We provide the most powerful and versatile open source, big data solution to help organizations load, extract and improve disparate data while leveraging the massively parallel processing power of big data technologies including Apache Hadoop and leading NoSQL databases.

According to Bonan, Talend’s 5.2 release delivers on its mission of streamlining big data management while providing solutions to “load, extract and improve disparate data” in conjunction with the “massively parallel processing power” of Hadoop and NoSQL. The underlying vision, as in most Big Data initiatives, is to help organizations make “faster and more informed decisions.”

Talend’s enhancements point to an industry-wide embrace of more sophisticated Hadoop data discovery and cleansing functionality that empowers data scientists to perform more nuanced manipulations of data within a Hadoop cluster, without extraction. Additionally, virtually all big data integration platforms will need to support NoSQL databases such as Cassandra and MongoDB given NoSQL’s rapid uptake by enterprise customers at both a cloud and traditional data center level.

At a product level, however, Talend’s innovations in version 5.2 on the Big data profiling front are geared more toward data scientists than they are to business analysts or business stakeholders that will be consuming the analytical insights themselves. This release focuses on architectural and data processing enhancements while leaving business-focused functionality upgrades such as enhanced data visualization capabilities and dashboards to a forthcoming version.

Amazon Web Services Enhances Elastic Beanstalk & EBS IOPS

This week, Amazon Web Services announced two significant enhancements to its PaaS platform Elastic Beanstalk in the form of support for Ruby and Virtual Private Clouds. Elastic Beanstalk now supports application development in Ruby in addition to Java, PHP, Python and .NET. Ruby applications are run on the Phusion Passenger application server, which enables users to develop and test code and subsequently deploy applications to the Elastic Beanstalk platform. In addition to supporting Ruby, Elastic Beanstalk now supports integration with Virtual Private Clouds, allowing customers to run an intranet atop the Elastic Beanstalk infrastructure.

Separate from the enhancements to Elastic Beanstalk, AWS declared a doubling of the maximum Input/Output Operations Per Second (IOPS) per EBS volume from 1000 to 2000. The new upper bound of 2000 IOPS per EBS volume represents “an order of magnitude more IOPS than you can expect from a high-end 15,000 RPM disk drive.” The increase in the maximum IOPS per EBS volume means that customers may be able to RAID together fewer EBS volumes to achieve the desired increase in performance. Based on comments by AWS CTO Werner Vogels at Structure Europe, customers should expect to see more enhancements to the AWS platform in general, and Elastic Beanstalk in particular, as AWS fends off competition from Microsoft Azure and the emerging constellation of private PaaS vendors.