Microsoft announced that it will acquire professional networking giant LinkedIn for $26.2 billion in cash on Monday. The acquisition, the largest in Microsoft’s history, represents a landmark moment for Microsoft and the technology industry as a whole by underscoring Microsoft’s transition from devices qua PCs and operating systems to cloud-based software and infrastructures under current CEO Satya Nadella. As Nadella put things in an interview, the acquisition brings together the “professional cloud and professional network.” With over 400 million members, LinkedIn represents a treasure trove of data not only about professionals, but also about hiring trends and the global labor market more generally. Microsoft stands in a better position to monetize the surfeit of data that resides within LinkedIn that LinkedIn itself, but will need to demonstrate an ability to execute on a strategic plan for integrating and monetizing LinkedIn swiftly in order to appease investors eager to see value from the deal. As such, the deal represents a ripe opportunity for Nadella to showcase Microsoft’s renewed capabilities for innovation and operational agility while further demonstrating components of his “cloud-first” vision for the company. Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn constitutes emphatic validation of the business model of SaaS social media companies and underscores the business value of data about collaboration. Microsoft’s task now will be to drive the development of synergies between its portfolio of products and services and LinkedIn and possibly even leverage LinkedIn’s core backend technology platform to build applications that richly deliver possibilities for collaboration and communication in an age where the frequency of device-enabled communication claims parity with face to face interaction between human beings.
On Thursday, Mesosphere announced the finalization of $73.5M in Series C funding led by strategic investor Hewlett Packard Enterprise with additional participation from Microsoft, a new strategic investor, in conjunction with previous investors Andreessen Horowitz, Fuel Capital, Khosla Ventures, and new investors A Capital and Triangle Peak Partners. Mesosphere’s Data Center Operating System (DCOS) helps companies manage hyper-scale data centers as if they were one unit in addition to facilitating the operationalization of distributed applications, containers, micro-services and Big Data within cloud-based and on-premise environments. The San Francisco-based startup boasts customers such as Microsoft, HP, Yelp and eBay and currently staffs approximately 125 employees. The funding raise will be used to enhance its engineering operations in addition to expanding its sales and support teams. Microsoft and HPE remain likely acquirers of Mesosphere, particularly given Mesosphere’s collaboration with Microsoft on the Azure Container Service and Mesosphere’s partnership with HPE to leverage HPE hardware. The biggest news from today’s funding announcement is Microsoft’s participation as a new strategic investor, which corroborates reports that Microsoft attempted to purchase Mesosphere last year for approximately $150M. The $73.5M in Series C funding round brings the total capital raised by Mesosphere to $126M. In addition to the funding raise, Mesosphere today announced the release of Marathon 1.0, an enterprise-grade orchestration platform and a new product, Velocity, a continuous improvement and continuous development tool for its DCOS that uses the open source Jenkins framework.
In December, Microsoft acquired Metanautix, a Palo Alto startup founded by Google and Facebook veterans Theo Vassilakis and Toli Lerios that emerged from stealth with $7M in Series A funding in August 2014. Metanautix delivers a SQL interface for querying relational and non-relational datasets that dispenses with the need to integrate disparate data sources. Metanautix’s Quest platform brings the power of distributed computing alongside the simplicity of SQL to enable companies to concurrently ingest, analyze and visualize data from multiple datasets and data repositories. Metanautix’s platform shortens the time between data acquisition and data analysis by helping analysts understand the topography of the data within scope and subsequently enabling SQL queries to run against Hadoop, NoSQL and relational databases. The acquisition bolsters Microsoft’s portfolio of big data analytic tools and promises to fit into Microsoft’s SQL Server and Cortana Analytics Suite. Importantly, Microsoft’s acquisition of Metanautix illustrates the evolution of the concept of the traditional enterprise data warehouse given that platforms such as Metanautix empower customers to obtain 360 degree analytics by means of distributed, SQL-based queries, analytics and data visualizations, without the requirement to integrate and house all data within a single, unified warehouse or repository.
Microsoft and Red Hat have reached a monumental agreement that enables hybrid cloud users to more easily deploy Red Hat solutions on the Microsoft Azure cloud. As a result of the collaboration, Microsoft has designated Red Hat Enterprise Linux the preferred vendor for Linux workloads on Microsoft Azure. Enterprise customers who want to use RHEL on Azure can now do so with the blessing of Microsoft’s support for RHEL on the Azure platform. In other words, customers can now deploy RHEL on Azure in ways analogous to the deployment of RHEL on Amazon Web Services. To enable this partnership, Red Hat will designate Microsoft Azure one of Red Hat’s Certified Cloud and Service Providers in upcoming weeks and meanwhile, Microsoft Azure customers can leverage Red Hat’s application platform such as Red Hat JBoss Enterprise Application Platform, Gluster and Red Hat’s Platform as a Service, OpenShift.
The collaboration between Microsoft and Red Hat further includes enterprise-grade support for hybrid cloud environments marked by the participation of support personnel from both vendors to ensure that customers obtain the support they need. The partnership also features unified workload management within hybrid cloud infrastructures enabled by the integration of Red Hat CloudForms and Microsoft Azure and the ability of System Center Virtual Machine Manager to manage RHEL on Microsoft Azure. Moreover, the collaboration includes the ability to use .NET on Red Hat products and solutions in ways that expand the ability of developers to write .NET applications on Linux applications. Whereas previously developers often had to re-write .NET applications to use them on Linux, they can now use RHEL as the principal development platform for Linux.
All told, the agreement between Microsoft and Red Hat continues to illustrate Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s commitment to partnering with vendors in contrast to Microsoft’s historical stance of failing to integrate with vendors and potential competitors. More importantly, the announcement illustrates Microsoft’s commitment to supporting hybrid cloud environments and its willingness to support RHEL on Azure, not only at a technological level but also at the level of integrated enterprise-grade support. All this illustrates how Microsoft is putting its eggs in the cloud basket as it attempts to consolidate its relationships with enterprises and reputation for delivering enterprise-grade products and services in anticipation of an intensification of the battle for cloud market share with Amazon Web Services. Microsoft’s strategy of focusing on rendering hybrid cloud deployments using Azure more flexible goes right to the heart of CIO considerations regarding enterprise IT cloud adoption and stands to position Azure strongly, particularly given the prevalence of RHEL within the enterprise. Expect Microsoft to continue deepening its partnership and cloud-related acquisitions as it puts the cloud first and stakes out its contention as the world’s premier cloud provider for the enterprise.
As reported by ZDNet, Microsoft is developing an open source, distributed platform designed for the creation of cloud services and big data analytics called OneNet or Prajna. OneNet specializes in interactive, big data analytics and boasts in-memory processing functionality in ways that are similar to Apache Spark. Importantly, OneNet supports both batch processing and real-time, streaming data ingestion and analytics. Unlike Spark, however, the platform can deploy cloud platforms and access them via mobile applications and distributed applications featuring in-memory key-value stores. Prajna also claims distributed programming functionality across multiple clusters and in memory sharing of data across multiple jobs. Prajna’s ability to support “multi-cluster distributed programming” differentiates it from Spark and pushes the envelope with respect to high performance distributed computing in the industry today. OneNet/Prajna specializes in a distributing computing platform across multiple clusters that can be used to build high performance, big data analytic engines while reducing the engineering costs typically associated with building distributed systems. Microsoft’s investment in OneNet comes at a time when Cloudera has recently announced a One Platform Initiative aimed at rendering Apache Spark production-ready in the form of a viable alternative to MapReduce.
On July 13, Rackspace and Microsoft announced a partnership whereby Rackspace will include Microsoft Azure within the purview of its legendary fanatical support qua professional services. Rackspace will help Azure customers optimize their Azure deployments by minimizing costs, optimizing performance and providing consultative support regarding infrastructure and application architecture, deployment and ongoing configuration and monitoring. In addition to delivering its professional services arm to Azure customers, Rackspace will offer hybrid cloud solutions that combine the Rackspace private cloud, hosted on the Microsoft Cloud Platform, featuring Azure. The availability of Rackspace’s professional services for the Azure cloud represents a huge coup for both Rackspace and Microsoft. Having struggled to keep pace with the likes of Amazon, Microsoft and Google Cloud Platform, Rackspace’s partnership with Microsoft positions it strongly to command a leadership position in the market for professional services for cloud products and services. Meanwhile, Microsoft stands to gain from Rackspace’s reputation for impeccable support and managed services that builds on Rackspace’s deep expertise with Microsoft technologies.
Within the larger context of the industry, the Rackspace-Microsoft partnership promises to tilt the momentum for IaaS-focused cloud services toward Microsoft and away from Amazon Web Services because of Rackspace’s venerable reputation for cloud-related professional services. By tapping into Rackspace’s sweet spot for fanatical support, Microsoft gives its customers the option of leveraging a professional services partner with impeccable IaaS, private cloud and managed cloud solutions credentials. All this means that Azure enterprise customers need no longer depend on internal cloud resources for their deployments but can rather reap the benefits of Rackspace consultants to accelerate the timeline for their deployments while expanding scope and complexity as needed. The deal between Rackspace and Microsoft illustrates one of the ways in which CEO Satya Nadella’s cloud experience is bearing fruit for Microsoft given its success in implementing an array of impressive partnerships that render the Azure platform open to an increasingly impressive roster of technologies and vendors. As such, the collaboration with Rackspace adds a notable feather to Microsoft’s cap that further distinguishes Azure not only from Amazon Web Services but also from the Google Cloud Platform.