Our top 10 stories of the first six months of 2014
It isn’t until you sift through hundreds of stories published over a six-month period that you realize how much happens in this industry. We asked our reporters to nominate their own best work of the first half of 2014 and paired that up with the news that leapt out at us. Below are the results: our candidates for the most important enterprise computing stories of the past six months. We can’t wait to see what the second-half brings.
In the venture capital equivalent of the shot heard round the world, Cloudera raised a monster funding round of $900 million in March, with Intel ponying up $740 million of that total for an 18 percent share. The investments valued Cloudera at $4.1 billion and brought the feeding frenzy over Big Data startups to a head. Just days earlier, Hortonworks announced that it had raised a not-too-shabby $100 million to fund its all-open-source strategy, setting up a clash of the Hadoop titans.
But the action wasn’t all Hadoop. Highly scalable, high-performance NoSQL databases are beginning to muscle in on the entrenched relational stalwarts, as Couchbase demonstrated with a $60 million funding round that closed just last week. Wikibon earlier this year forecast the NoSQL market to be worth $1.825 billion by 2017. And while the tech is still in its infancy, NoSQL is now used by 16 percent of 500 enterprises surveyed by Tesora.
While Intel’s endorsement of Cloudera stole the headlines, the other players in the market weren’t sitting still. Their actions demonstrate that rapid innovation in the open source market is going to pressure prices down and discourage lock-in through proprietary code.
In April, Pivotal Software, Inc. debuted a suite that integrates its Big Data products into an easily consumable package with simplified pricing. Called the Pivotal Big Data Suite, it includes Pivotal HD at its foundation with the Greenpum and GemFire databases, HAWQ, GemFire XD and SQLFire as add-on products. Customers can deploy Pivotal HD across as many nodes and clusters as desired and leverage Pivotal’s support services at no cost other than for provisioning the hardware. Hortonworks, Inc. also announced the Hortonworks Data Platform (HDP) 2.1 with a truly impressive lineup of new features.
The sheer scope of innovation demonstrated by these announcements should silence critics who say open-source development is inherently slow. “Vendors that don’t engage open source community development for platform-level capabilities will find it more difficult to gain and maintain early-adopter customer traction,” wrote Wikibon Principal Research Contributor Jeff Kelly. .
While the capacity of spinning disk storage may be growing, access speeds aren’t getting any faster, and systems vendors looking to cash in on the Big Data craze are scrambling to unlock the value of flash storage as prices plummet to less than $2 per gigabyte.
Consolidation fever peaked in June when SanDisk said it will acquire Fusion-io in a deal valued at approximately $1.1 billion. That comes on the heels of Western Digital’s $685 million buyout of Virident last September, and Seagate’s $450 million acquisition of LSI’s SSD assets in March. The market appears to be a tossup right now. IBM, which rolled over and handed the disk array market to EMC 20 years ago, was ranked the leader in solid-state arrays in 2013 by Gartner. But we can expect the savvy EMC’s won’t get caught napping.
Open source software is technically more secure because millions of eyes can scan code for vulnerabilities, right? That’s what many people thought until the Heartbleed vulnerability came to light in April, potentially exposing a half million unpatched OpenSSL servers to anonymous and undetectable snooping. Up to 17 percent of supposedly secure web servers may have been affected and the bug had reportedly existed for more than two years before being discovered by Google’s security team on April 1. Web mainstays like eBay and Yahoo scrambled to notify users to change their passwords, and the bug reignited a debate over whether open source software is as foolproof as many people had assumed. The most troubling aspect of the whole incident is that nobody will ever know how much data was compromised.
5. HP reawakens
Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Group EVP Bill Veghte kicked off the first day of the company’s Discover conference in Las Vegas last month by crowing, “HP is back.” Three days later, Wikibon Chief Analyst and theCUBE co-anchor David Vellante summed up his impressions of the conference by agreeing. “I’m excited about HP,” he said.
It’s been a long time since anyone got excited about HP, a company whose history of innovation has been clouded for the last three years by executive turnover, lack of direction and products that many people considered to be me-too candidates. But this time HP tantalized conference-goers with innovations like an aggressively priced flash storage array and a futuristic project that aims to do nothing less than reinvent computing with advanced technologies like specialized processors, Memristor solid-state storage, photonics and a new operating system optimized for solid state storage. The big question: Can its Helion cloud platform compete?
Facebook shocked the tech and investment worlds by paying a whopping $19 billion for WhatsApp in February, but the amazing thing is that Google actually offered more. Google CEO Larry Page reportedly met with WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum shortly before the Facebook deal was announced and promised that Google would pay whatever it takes. However, WhatsApp management spiked the offer, believing that the matchup with Facebook was a better fit. The incident shows that despite what Google has said about Google Plus not being a social network, it very much wants to be in that game.
Red Hat has built a $1.5 billion business around software that doesn’t carry license fees, but recent revelations about the company’s policies surrounding the OpenStack cloud platform raised questions about just how deep Red Hat’s commitment to openness runs.
The Wall Street Journal quoted internal Red Hat documents that said the company would not support its commercial Linux distributions if customers use a rival version of OpenStack. The policy was apparently directed at Hewlett-Packard Co., which bundles a version of Debian Linux that doesn’t come from Red Hat with its OpenStack distribution. The debate quickly devolved into accusations and interpretations of the wording of Red Hat’s published statements. Critics accused Red Hat of trying to lock customers into its own version of OpenStack. Meanwhile, Red Hat said its words were misinterpreted.
In an interview on theCUBE at HP’s Discover conference, Saar Gillair, Senior Vice President & Chief Operating Officer of HP Cloud, said the company is just putting customers first. “We don’t believe whatever is happening in the Linux world should be telling people what to do with OpenStack,” he said.
Google isn’t going to exactly let Amazon walk away with this cloud platform thing. In one fell swoop at its Cloud Platform event in San Francisco in March, Google cut storage prices by 68 percent, slashed 32 percent off of its Google Compute service prices; and hacked the cost of its Big Query Big Data analysis tool by 85 percent. Amazon returned the favor the two weeks later. Google then used its big I/O conference to challenge Microsoft’s Office 365 supremacy with Google for Work, featuring a line of updated productivity apps, enterprise security and unlimited storage for $10 per user per month. Google said it’s committed to success in this market, but then, it said the same thing about Google Plus.
Even though a lot of people still don’t understand what Bitcoin is or how it works, that isn’t stopping some governments and pretty big institutions from endorsing its value. Just last week, Canada became the first country to legislate Bitcoin usage, under the premise that it really is money. Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that removes obstacles to businesses legally accepting and trading in bitcoins in California. An entire island off the coast of Normandy bid to make Bitcoin legal tender. And while it may be a while still before you can pay for $9 beers with Bitcoin at Nationals Park in our nation’s capital, the San Jose Earthquakes announced that the team will start accepting Bitcoin for tickets, concessions, and merchandise. As a growing number of retailers latch onto Bitcoin, can the big guys be far behind?
On the other hand, there’s the unnerving case of MtGox, a Bitcoin exchange based in Tokyo that by 2013 was handling 70% of all Bitcoin transactions. In February the company suddenly suspended trading and went into bankruptcy. At the same time, law enforcement officials learned that around 850,000 Bitcoin valued at $450 million had disappeared. While some have been recovered, the fate of most of those coins is still unclear. Other exchanges moved quickly to put distance between themselves and MtGox, saying that the problems at the Japanese startup were not indicative of a general malaise in the Bitcoin industry.
Like two passive-aggressive kids eyeing each other suspiciously across a school yard, the US and China have engaged in a war of nerves this year that some people fear could do lasting damage to trade between the countries. It all started in January, when Google claimed that it had been the victim of “a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China.” Unlike most attacks, though, these appear to of been politically motivated. This was followed by accusations from security firm Mandiant that a unit of China’s People’s Liberation Army was carrying out cyber-espionage operations against the US on an industrial scale. China responded in May by turning up the heat on IBM, said it was “reviewing” whether local banks should dump the company’s servers in favor of alternative suppliers. In an earlier warning it said it intends to start vetting all US-made technology in the future. For good measure, China banned certain government agencies from buying Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system, without specifying any reason. Is an all-out war on US technology firms brewing?
Fireworks photo by Paul Gillin
China photo credit: Eric Constantineau – www.ericconstantineau.com via photopin cc; Herve “Setaou” BRY via photopin cc
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