|From: Glenn Petersen||10/6/2019 10:36:32 AM|
|Inside Microsoft and Google Cloud’s battle for the enterprise|
The competitive landscape is heating up. As Google Cloud aggressively approaches enterprises to get a foot in the door, Microsoft is going to great lengths to keep them out.
By Adam Mansfield, Contributor, CIO
Oct 1, 2019 10:36 am PDT
Opinions expressed by ICN authors are their own.
CSA Images / Getty
For years, Microsoft has enjoyed a comfortable position in large enterprises, as the only truly viable productivity suite option. More than ever before, especially as companies continue to get over the hurdle of moving to the cloud, Google Cloud’s G Suite has become — and will remain — a serious viable alternative to Microsoft Office 365 (O365).
While many Microsoft enterprise customers have already moved to at least one of the O365 plans or even the all-in Microsoft 365 cloud bundle, there are still those that have not — or some that have only partially rolled out O365. Regardless of which scenario applies, Microsoft is aggressively targeting enterprise customers to adopt or add more. These same enterprises are also being aggressively approached by Google Cloud to get a foot in the door, whether it be for G Suite or Google Cloud Platform (GCP) adoption.
Google Cloud has made significant investments and organizational changes to be in a position to win, but Microsoft also continues to make investments to keep Google Cloud out. The competitive landscape, beyond the obvious one between Microsoft (Azure), Amazon (AWS) and Google Cloud (GCP) is heating up with more enterprises genuinely interested in adopting G Suite, even if only for a portion of their users, often starting with the deskless worker community.
As far back as its Q4 ’17 earnings call, Alphabet (Google Cloud’s parent company) announced that Google Cloud became a $1B per quarter business, an important milestone for their cloud business unit. This turning point indicated, at least in part, that more enterprises were not only starting to take Google Cloud more seriously but that they were also starting to actually adopt GCP and G Suite with significantly larger strategic cloud deals. Of course, they didn’t break out where specifically the revenue was coming from (and they have yet to break it out), so we don’t know the details. But I suspect that we soon will know, as they continue to grow the revenue associated with both.
Google Cloud fortifies the ranksIn the past several months, Google Cloud put some star power behind its goal of landing more enterprise customers, a cast of industry veterans and all-stars that each have an extensive rolodex. After bringing in former Oracle executive Thomas Kurian to be CEO back in late 2018, former SAP executive Robert Enslin joined Google Cloud as President of Global Customer Operations in April of 2019. Then in July, Google Cloud appointed Kirsten Kliphouse to be the first North American sales lead. Kliphouse was most recently at Red Hat as SVP and General Manager and prior to that was VP Enterprise Sales and Partners for 25+ years at Microsoft. This perfectly aligns with its plan to make investments geared towards putting Google Cloud in the best position possible to land more enterprise customers.
In addition to leading North American sales, Kliphouse will also be responsible for overseeing how customers actually use G Suite and other Google products and services. A clear focus on both driving sales and actual use makes perfect sense given the fact that cloud vendors are increasingly interested in driving use in the same manner as they have been driving revenue growth (ACV). This is especially true as more competitors become viable and a true threat to take away valuable market share they worked so hard to get and have become so reliant on for future product and revenue expansion.
Cloud vendors realize that it is actual use that leads to “stickiness” and it is “stickiness” that leads to “lock-in.” Lock-in creates significant leverage to add on more products or higher editions to the portfolio (upsell) and increase pricing come renewal time. Use may be the best way to deepen and widen the moat around the cloud vendor’s castle to better keep out the competition. No cloud vendor, and especially Google Cloud that is trying to catch up, wants to exert all this time, money and effort to only lose the castle back to whom they probably took it from in the first place (like Microsoft or Amazon in Google Cloud’s case).
Like Microsoft, Google Cloud has used partnerships to progress, like those with enterprise leaders SAP and Salesforce. SAP and Salesforce customers that have yet to adopt Microsoft O365, or even those that already have, should fully expect these incumbent vendors and their sales executives to call upon their established relationships. There will likely be pressure applied to at least consider switching from Microsoft O365 to Google G Suite. For those Microsoft customers that have already made the leap, there will be a push to consider ramp ups as the Microsoft renewal date approaches and the real opportunity to move away presents itself. This often happens as far out as a year from the renewal date. Google Cloud is also relying on these relationships to push for GCP consideration and potential adoption even if resulting in a hybrid cloud scenario.
Google has cited security, data analytics, and machine learning as key competitive differentiators and will likely focus on these aspects as reasons to switch. As more enterprises entertain G Suite discussions, we encourage them to challenge Google to give proof points, references, and more detailed reasons why they are the superior option. If done appropriately, this knowledge could also be effectively used as leverage during upcoming renewal discussions with Microsoft.
Making a move to competitive solutions more expensiveMicrosoft recently announced Azure Dedicated Host which, in a nutshell, is another means to move your on-premise servers into Microsoft’s cloud, Azure. The differentiator is that now you can license the cloud in such a way where only your organization’s data and applications will touch the dedicated server. For a whole variety of reasons, ranging anywhere from compliance to security, this new offering is significant because it opens the door to a lot of potential new business.
Behind the scenes, however, Microsoft has made some not-so-subtle changes to their licensing that make it more expensive for organizations to transfer their on-premise Microsoft solutions to any cloud that doesn’t belong to Microsoft. In other words, Microsoft is sending a clear message that it wants you running your workloads on Azure. This type of behavior is not new for Microsoft.
Cost reductions sound great but there is a large asterisk next to that cost reduction potential; you have to use Microsoft’s cloud. If you choose a competitor’s cloud, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Microsoft is going to hit you with increased fees. In reality, this is really just a penalty for engaging with Microsoft’s competition.
In response, Google Cloud’s Robert Enslin turned to Twitter and wrote, “Shelf-ware. Complex pricing. And now vendor lock-in. Microsoft is taking its greatest hits from the ’90s to the cloud.” This quote is immensely powerful, especially considering Enslin doesn’t typically come after the competition as directly and publicly as he did here. As Google Cloud is trying to demonstrate that they are easier to work with and have simplified pricing, Microsoft is becoming more difficult in order to force your hand.
Unfortunately for Microsoft’s long-standing enterprise customers, as the competitive landscape continues to evolve and heat up, Microsoft has resorted to hardball tactics to keep their enterprise customers utilizing Microsoft services and solutions. From introducing programmatic licensing changes that either motivate adoption or demotivate customers from moving away from Microsoft, to increasing utilization to create more stickiness within your organization, Microsoft is doing everything they can to ensure they keep their enterprise customers’ business and the dollars that come with it. More than that, it is keeping all of their current business and also, their potential future business. Enterprise customers should do everything they can to assess whether or not that is the actual right move for today and longer term.
Microsoft targets ‘firstline workers’ with Office 365 F1 and Microsoft 365 F1Most enterprise customers start their journey into Microsoft’s cloud by making sure those sitting in the boardroom and the knowledge workers that work for them have the cloud solutions needed to be most successful and productive. But once these cloud solutions are in place, they often realize (or are repeatedly told by Microsoft) that a complete and successful digital transformation requires ALL employees to have the necessary digital tools. This is where deskless workers or as Microsoft calls them, “firstline workers,” come in.
Firstline workers are essentially the employees on the front lines. They are often deskless workers that do not have a dedicated or work-related digital device or PC and if they do, it is shared. Examples of firstline worker roles include store managers, field technicians, flight attendants and production line workers. Based on a study commissioned by Microsoft, there is an estimated 2 billion firstline workers in the global workforce with roughly 690 million working in enterprises with 500+ employees. As you can also imagine, in industries like retail and hospitality, firstline workers make up the vast majority of the enterprise’s employee base.
Ultimately, Microsoft focused on an enterprise’s deskless worker community and created tailored offerings in order to gain adoption of its cloud throughout the entire organization, not just parts of it. Complete adoption and use makes it even harder, if not impossible, to exit down the road (a.k.a., vendor lock-in). This also provides Microsoft with an even larger base of users with evolving and different needs that will provide increased upsell opportunities over the life of the relationship.
Microsoft also understands that Google Cloud has a real opportunity to gain adoption and an initial entry point in enterprises through the deskless workforce. Even though Google Cloud does not yet have a productivity solution or G-Suite plan specifically dedicated to deskless workers like Microsoft does, it is safe to say that it is only a matter of time until they do. It is also only a matter of time until they increase their sales and marketing efforts tied to why their already existing G Suite offerings are the best solution for an enterprise’s deskless workers. If Microsoft is able to get enterprises to adopt O365 F1 or Microsoft 365 F1, it creates an even greater barrier to entry for Google Cloud and their G-Suite offering.
Google Cloud is already aggressively pushing G Suite as a viable alternative for retailers to consider for their deskless workers on the shop floor. Google Cloud is positioning the fact that many of these workers will most likely already have experience with G Suite and therefore can be productively using it quickly, which is always appealing. Google Cloud also knows that Microsoft may have already gotten knowledge worker O365 adoption, but they still have a chance of getting in the door through firstline workers, mapping to their particular needs and requirements.
If enterprises are deciding to give these workers tools for the first time, why not consider Google G Suite? That is the pitch that many enterprises are hearing right now. With two potential access points (GCP and G Suite), retailers should expect to be approached by Google Cloud’s enterprise sales team if they haven’t already been. Google knows GCP is another entry point of focus with retailers. After all, which retailer is going to give significant revenue to Amazon?
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|From: Sam||10/10/2019 4:58:42 PM|
|Not sure this belongs here, but I know there are some Chicago folks among the readers who might be interested.|
Chicago Quantum Summit to gather international experts
Industry and academic leaders from US, Australia, Canada, UK to share research, discuss workforce development and build toward a global quantum alliance
PR NEWSWIRE 4:50 PM ET 10/10/2019
Symbol Last Price Change
|IBM ||141.13 ||+1.46 (+1.05%)|
|INTC ||51.11 ||+0.63 (+1.25%)|
|AMAT ||51.01 ||+0.17 (+0.33%)|
|QUOTES AS OF 04:10:00 PM ET 10/10/2019 |
CHICAGO , Oct. 10, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Top experts in quantum technology from around the globe will gather at the University of Chicago on Oct. 25 to discuss the future of quantum information science and strategies to build a quantum workforce.
The second annual Chicago Quantum Summit, hosted by the Chicago Quantum Exchange, will engage scientific and government leaders and the industries that will drive the applications of emerging quantum information science. Speakers include technology leaders at IBM(IBM) , Intel(INTC) , Boeing, Applied Materials(AMAT) , Toshiba Research Europe, the University of Waterloo, the University of New South Wales, Australia, and the Quantum Economic Development Consortium.
"The Summit provides an opportunity to build and strengthen collaborations that span beyond our national and academic boundaries," said David Awschalom, director of the Chicago Quantum Exchange. "Through joint research projects with industry and national laboratories, we can leverage the unique capabilities of each organization to accelerate progress and push the boundaries of quantum science and engineering."
Chicago is increasingly seen as a world-leading hub for quantum information science. It is home to the Chicago Quantum Exchange, a catalyst for advancing academic and industrial efforts in the science and engineering of quantum information. Headquartered at the University of Chicago'sPritzker School of Molecular Engineering, the Chicago Quantum Exchange is a partnership between the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Northwestern University. It is home to one of the world's largest collaborative teams working on quantum science.
The Chicago Quantum Exchange also has six industry partners – IBM(IBM), Boeing, Applied Materials, Inc.(AMAT), ColdQuanta, Inc., HRL Laboratories LLC and Quantum Opus LLC – that enable industry-academic collaborations and provide opportunities to future quantum scientists and engineers.
During the Oct. 25 daytime program leaders will discuss their organization's work in quantum research and technology, progress in relevant quantum fields, and opportunities to develop the quantum workforce.
At 6 p.m. on Oct. 24, the Chicago Quantum Exchange will also host a public event titled "Solving Unsolvable Problems: The Future of Quantum Computing," at the Chicago Symphony Center in Chicago. The event features a keynote talk by Talia Gershon, IBM's(IBM) director of research strategy and growth initiatives, and a conversation with Gershon and Awschalom moderated by Gizmodo writer Ryan Mandelbaum.
More information, including a registration page for the public event, is available on the Chicago Quantum Exchange website. The Summit and public event will be webcast.
View original content to download multimedia:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/chicago-quantum-summit-to-gather-international-experts-300936873.html
SOURCE The University of Chicago
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|To: Sam who wrote (1525)||10/14/2019 8:36:07 PM|
|Oh Really? Top experts in quantum technology from around the globe will gather at the University of Chicago on Oct. 25 to discuss the future of quantum information science and strategies to build a quantum workforce."|
All Quantum Systems require coherence.....
Is there anything coherent in that outtake?
Next:" During the Oct. 25 daytime program leaders will discuss their organization's work in quantum research and technology, progress in relevant quantum fields, and opportunities to develop the quantum workforce. "
Whats relevant to or from a bunch of companies and personalities who are adherents to and originate from compartmentalized systems of operation?
Is this just a get together of sorts that allows for a shared narrative to be constructed? ( A path toward the next contrivance)
Oh yeah it all sounds cool, and experts will be in attendance. But your gathering must prove that they are even qualified to undertake such a mission.
Lets wait for the output of this so called event to see whether or not the narratives are not just self serving positioning papers to establish leadership.
There are 10 key words, failing to capture any of them, reduces this to the same ole pap we are all used too.
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|To: dvdw© who wrote (1526)||10/14/2019 9:02:47 PM|
|This 2018 piece needs to be re read....in case you missed it.|
Objective observers wonder if this outtake has merit 3 years in?
IBM’s Unprepared MindThe best thing going for this strategy is its pragmatism: IBM gave up its potential to compete in the public cloud a decade ago, faked it for the last five years, and now is finally admitting its best option is to build on top of everyone else’s clouds. That, though, gets at the strategy’s weakness: it seems more attuned to IBM’s needs than potential customers. After all, if an enterprise is concerned about lock-in, is IBM really a better option? And if the answer is that “Red Hat is open”, at what point do increasingly sophisticated businesses build it themselves?
The problem for IBM is that they are not building solutions for clueless IT departments bewildered by a dizzying array of open technologies: instead they are building on top of three cloud providers, one of which (Microsoft) is specializing in precisely the sort of hybrid solutions that IBM is targeting. The difference is that because Microsoft has actually spent the money on infrastructure their ability to extract money from the value chain is correspondingly higher; IBM has to pay rent:
Perhaps the bigger issue, though, goes back to Gerstner: before IBM could take advantage of the Internet, the company needed an overhaul of its culture; the extent to which the company will manage to leverage its acquisition of Red Hat will depend on a similar transformation. Unfortunately, that seems unlikely; current CEO Ginni Rometty, who took over the company at the beginning of 2012, not only supported Palmisano’s disastrous Roadmap 2015, she actually undertook most of the cuts and financial engineering necessary to make it happen, before finally giving up in 2014. Meanwhile the company’s most prominent marketing has been around Watson, the capabilities of which have been significantly oversold; it’s not a surprise sales are shrinking after disappointing rollouts.
Gerstner knew turnarounds were hard: he called the arrival of the Internet “lucky” in terms of his tenure at IBM. But, as the Louis Pasteur quote goes, “Fortune favors the prepared mind.” Gerstner had identified a strategy and begun to change the culture of IBM, so that when the problem arrived, the company was ready. Today IBM claims it has found a problem; it is an open question if the problem actually exists, but unfortunately there is even less evidence that IBM is truly ready to take advantage of it if it does.
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|From: dvdw©||10/15/2019 2:44:08 PM|
|In case you missed it MSFT has partnered with QCOM for IOT connectivity.|
This means that Azure will be fully prepared for the future.
IOT will be the largest category of connected things. These connections will be made with MM Waves specified and baked into 5G.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||10/20/2019 10:00:42 AM|
|h/t Julius Wong|
How Amazon.com moved into the business of U.S. elections
October 15, 2019
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc’s ( AMZN.O) cloud computing arm is making an aggressive push into one of the most sensitive technology sectors: U.S. elections.
The expansion by Amazon Web Services into state and local elections has quietly gathered pace since the 2016 U.S. presidential vote. More than 40 states now use one or more of Amazon’s election offerings, according to a presentation given by an Amazon executive this year and seen by Reuters.
So do America’s two main political parties, the Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and the U.S. federal body charged with administering and enforcing federal campaign finance laws.
While it does not handle voting on election day, AWS - along with a broad network of partners - now runs state and county election websites, stores voter registration rolls and ballot data, facilitates overseas voting by military personnel and helps provide live election-night results, according to company documents and interviews.
In the fullest public picture yet of Amazon’s strategic move into U.S. election infrastructure, Reuters reviewed previously unreported company presentations and documents, and conducted more than two dozen interviews with lawmakers, election administrators, and heads of election security and technology in nearly a dozen states and counties that use Amazon’s cloud.
Amazon pitches itself as a low-cost provider of secure election technology at a time when local officials and political campaigns are under intense pressure to prevent a repeat of 2016 presidential elections, which saw cyber-attacks on voting systems and election infrastructure.
“The fact that we have invested heavily in this area, it helps to attest to the fact that in over 40 states, the Amazon cloud is being trusted to power in some way, some aspect of elections,” Michael Jackson, leader, Public Health & U.S. Elections at AWS, told prospective government clients in February via a presentation on a webinar, which was viewed by Reuters.
The company’s efforts are welcomed by election administrators, who in interviews said they often struggle with keeping outdated systems up to date at the local level.
In Oregon, for example, the state’s in-house servers that support election services shut down every time there is a power outage - an often occurrence as Oregon updates its electric grid, according to Peter Threlkel, chief information officer at the Oregon Secretary of State. A move to the cloud fixes that problem, and Oregon ran a pilot with AWS to move its voter registration system to the cloud, he said.
Some security experts like David O’Berry, co-founder, Precog Security, said moving to AWS is “a good option for campaigns, who do not have the resources to protect themselves.”
Still, Amazon’s growing presence in the elections business could undermine what many officials view as a strength of the U.S. voting system: decentralization.
Most security experts Reuters spoke to said that while Amazon’s cloud is likely much harder to hack than systems it is replacing, putting data from many jurisdictions on a single system raises the prospect that a single major breach could prove damaging.
“It makes Amazon a bigger target” for hackers, “and also increases the challenge of dealing with an insider attack,” said Chris Vickery, director of cyber risk research at cybersecurity startup Upguard.
A recent hack into Capital One Financial Corp’s ( COF.N) data stored on Amazon’s cloud service was perpetrated by a former Amazon employee. The breach affected more than 100 million customers, underscoring how rogue employees or untrained workers can create security risks even if the underlying systems are secure. [nL2N24U1LH]
Amazon says its systems are reliable. “Over time, states, counties, cities, and countries will leverage AWS services to ensure modernization of their elections for increased security, reliability, and analytics for an efficient and more effective use of taxpayer dollars,” an AWS spokesperson told Reuters.
Amazon’s push into the election business comes as the company faces criticism from politicians, labor unions and privacy advocates over its business practices and growing influence. President Donald Trump has accused the company of competing unfairly and repeatedly attacked the Washington Post, owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, for alleged bias, a charge Bezos and the paper deny.
Amazon is forging ahead. It now powers the websites for the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC), according to a source and election security experts.
The FEC, DNC and RNC declined comment. A person familiar with the DNC’s plans said the committee has recently moved some data from AWS to Alphabet-owned Google ( GOOGL.O) cloud but did not explain the reason for the shift.
Amazon has also won over major individual candidates, the executive leading the company’s election push said earlier this year.
“Some of the largest presidential, congressional and gubernatorial campaigns are also trusted to AWS,” Amazon’s Jackson told clients in the February webinar viewed by Reuters.
For example, Democratic Presidential frontrunner Joe Biden’s online fundraising operations rely on AWS, a source with knowledge of the matter said. The Biden campaign did not respond to requests for comment. In the past, AWS powered the Obama for America campaign in 2012, the source added.
Reuters could not verify what cloud service the Trump campaign is using. It had no comment.
The privatization of voting infrastructure is part of a broader trend that has swept across nearly every aspect of government activities in America - from parking tickets to prisons - and continues under the Trump administration.
Microsoft Corp’s ( MSFT.O) Azure, the biggest rival to AWS, has a sizeable government business and offers some election services but it has not focused on them and lags Amazon, according to companies who partner with both firms for government contracts. Microsoft declined to comment.
Amazon is also competing with traditional election technology vendors including Elections Systems & Software (ES&S) and Dominion Voting Systems Corp, which offer some similar services such as election night reporting and data storage, according to consultants.
An ES&S spokeswoman said the company has not seen any impact from Amazon’s efforts. Dominion did not respond to requests for comment.
LESS THAN $100 TO SECURE ELECTION NIGHT
Voting itself does not happen via Amazon. Voting machines in most states are not connected to any cloud service.
But elections require a raft of other technologies to keep track of voters and provide information. Amazon often works with specialized partners, who actually do the bidding on government contracts and include Amazon as a preferred vendor.
North Carolina chose Amazon Web Services over Microsoft’s Azure to deliver election night results reporting because it “was simple to set up (and) very low in cost,” the State Board of Elections said. Before it worked with Amazon, North Carolina spent “thousands of dollars” on a similar service. Amazon charged them less than $100 during elections in 2016 and 2018 for the same service, the State Board of Elections said.
California’s Alameda County turned to Amazon’s cloud to let citizens view results on election night. The cost is less than $100 a year, county officials said.
In his webinar to clients, Amazon’s Jackson said these services help the company win bigger contracts. For example, Oklahoma has tied up with an Amazon partner and pays $26,000 for two services on Amazon’s servers, Pam Slater, assistant secretary at the Oklahoma State Election board said.
Amazon has three categories of election-related clients: election administrators in states and counties, political campaigns and election-related non-profits, the documents, presentations and interviews show.
The company's expansion in the election arena reflects its broader dominance in the fast-growing cloud computing business. Amazon had 33% percent of the overall cloud market in the second quarter of 2019 followed by Microsoft, according to SRG Research. For a graphic on market share, click tmsnrt.rs/323b9Vw
AWS, officially launched in 2006, generated $25.7 billion in sales in 2018 and is the company’s biggest profit-generator. It was not clear how big the election business is inside AWS and the company declined to provide any details.
IS IT BULLET PROOF?
One of the main security concerns with election systems involves voter registration data, which Russian hackers breached in at least Arizona and Illinois in 2016, according to the FBI.
Such databases generally include voter ID information such as partial social security numbers, addresses, voting history, party affiliation, whether an early ballot was sent, early primary ballots for independent voters, provisional ballots, and hand-written signatures of voters and absentee ballots, according to an analysis of RFP’s (request for proposal) from states looking to move such databases to the cloud.
Vickery, the director at Upguard, uncovered at least three instances where voter data on Amazon’s cloud servers was exposed to the internet, which have been reported previously.
For example, in 2017, he found a Republican contractor's database for nearly every registered American voter hosted on AWS exposed on the internet for 12 days. In 2016, he found Mexico's entire voter database on AWS servers was leaked. reut.rs/30J35be
Amazon said the breaches were caused by customer errors, adding that while AWS secures the cloud infrastructure, customers are responsible for security of what goes in the cloud.
Errors caused by customers could continue, experts said, as many employees of states and counties who use AWS services lack the skills and training to avoid such errors in the future.
Greg Miller, co-founder of the OSET Institute, which works with the Department of Homeland Security and Congress on election security, also noted many of Amazon’s partners - such as technology companies also called managed service providers (MSP’s) who are tasked with delivering AWS services to customers - do not have the credentials or experience needed in delivering and handling election services.
Amazon did not comment on the issue.
None of these risks have failed to deter those that have signed up with AWS.
“We think (AWS) provides us with the best available level of security,” said Ron Morgan, chief deputy county clerk of Travis County in Texas, one of the largest counties in the state, which uses Amazon’s servers to run its election website.
“Is it bullet proof? I don’t know,” he added. “But is it a very, very hard target? Absolutely.”
Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Additional reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco and Chris Bing in Washington; Editing by Chris Sanders and Edward Tobin
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|From: Glenn Petersen||10/20/2019 10:30:42 AM|
|From Communism To Coding: How Daniel Dines Of $7 Billion UiPath Became The First Bot Billionaire|
Alex Konrad Forbes Staff
September 11, 2019
This story appears in the September 30, 2019 issue of Forbes Magazine.
The man who at once epitomizes the hottest new growth area in tech and the burgeoning hopes for entrepreneurship in Eastern Europe twirls a marker through his fingers as he fights the mundane urge to bark at his employees. Instead, Daniel Dines, the cofounder and CEO of UiPath, merely scowls at the digital whiteboard ahead of an October product release. One feature raises security concerns; another hasn’t been designed properly for mobile.
Finally, Dines, a Microsoft veteran who pines for the simplicity of the Windows bottom-left start button, can no longer contain himself. Looking over central Bucharest, Romania, where he hatched UiPath, Dines rousts a product executive in Bellevue, Washington, where it’s 6:30 a.m. “I want you to rethink this,” Dines says. “This feels very complicated to me. It should work like Gmail works.”
Interface is crucially important to Dines because his ultimate product is something invisible to the human eye. UiPath creates bots—blocks of code that automatically carry out repetitive tasks. You might associate bots with Russian election ruses or customer service stand-ins, but UiPath recently garnered a $7 billion valuation by selling a more humdrum kind that can pull numbers from invoiced PDFs into accounting software, or process insurance claims—the mindless tasks that, like those of bank tellers or telephone operators generations ago, cry out to go the way of the dodo.
This shift—which has spawned an entirely new tech category, known as “robotic process automation,” or RPA—carries eye-popping potential. Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui bank group, a UiPath customer since April 2017, projects that reducing employee busywork and improving accuracy will have saved it nearly $500 million by next year. Giants like Toyota and Walmart have flocked to UiPath for similar magic. Setting up virtual robots is faster and cheaper than assigning engineers to build an internal app, and it spares workers the low-tech alternative: long hours creating Excel macros and filling spreadsheets. A UiPath bot does the task endlessly, without complaint, for up to $15,000 a year. Some companies use thousands at a time.
Dines, 47, didn’t invent RPA, but he’s adroitly positioned himself to dominate it. Two years ago, when European investors valued it at $110 million, UiPath was a little-known company of 150 based in Romania that had just booked less than $5 million in revenue. Today it’s headquartered in a gleaming skyscraper on Park Avenue in Manhattan and employs 3,200 in more than 30 offices around the world. It generated $155 million in revenue last year and expects to double that this year. The shift has shot it to No. 3 on Forbes’ 2019 Cloud 100. In April, Wall Street investors including Wellington Management pumped in $568 million, at a valuation of $7 billion, making Dines, who owns more than 20%, the world’s first bot billionaire.
He won’t be the last. With bots poised to create vast efficiencies via artificial intelligence (rather than just, say, generate fake pro-Trump Twitter accounts), a land grab is emerging. Blue Prism, listed on the London Stock Exchange and the category’s creator, recently raised $130 million by issuing new stock. SoftBank has invested $300 million in San Jose, California-based Automation Anywhere, which claims to be beating UiPath in artificial intelligence. And tech’s cloud giants—led by Microsoft—are showing signs of elbowing in.
Thus Dines’ impatience in Bucharest. Ui-Path must continue to push the limits of how fast a startup can grow without collapsing on itself and simultaneously serve as the face of an “industry” tarred by the risks associated with malevolent bots and the prospect of lower-skilled workers losing jobs. For Dines, who has never told his story in full until now, such talk seems too familiar, akin to the swipes people took at his old boss as software emerged as a societal game-changer. “ Bill Gates used to talk at Microsoft about a computer in every home,” Dines says. “I want a robot for every person.”
“Humility” is one of UiPath’s four main tenets, akin to Google’s early maxim “Don’t be evil,” and it’s practiced just as inconsistently. At lunch with Dines in Bucharest, the founder says he doesn’t consider himself a great coder, just a very good one. By dinnertime, he says he’s still better than anyone at UiPath.
Whichever Dines you believe, programming launched him out of Romania. The son of a teacher and a civil engineer who met after both were relocated by the government of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu to a new chemical factory town, Dines grew up behind the Iron Curtain wanting to be an author, only to discover he was far better at math. He started college in 1990, a year after the Berlin Wall fell and Ceausescu’s regime ended in front of a firing squad. Bored with impersonal lectures, Dines skipped all but some math and computer science classes to play competitive bridge. He supported himself as a post-Communist arbitrager of Romania’s inflationary currency, buying goods when they were cheaper in Bucharest and sending them home with a markup.
While running a jobs listings business in the mid-’90s, Dines heard that coders in Bucharest working on outsourced projects for U.S. tech companies were making a relatively princely $300 a month. He borrowed a book on C++ from the library and taught himself, using a friend’s computer while he slept. By 2001, he had an offer from Microsoft and moved to Seattle, where he worked as a programmer for nearly five years. “My first years were terrible,” Dines says. “In meetings, I understood 50% to 60% of what they talked about, and I couldn’t speak anything.” It was only much later that he discovered that some words—like “folder”—were more than the names of Windows icons.
In 2005, he returned to Bucharest to start a tech outsourcing company, DeskOver. In keeping with the times, Dines had forsworn bridge for poker, where his management style emerged. “He took a lot of risks, so most of the time he would lose, but he liked to make a learning experience out of it,” says Marius Tîrca, who emerged as Dines’ chief lieutenant. “He’d play sometimes with the cards on their face and ask everyone how they would play his hand.”
Those lessons were put to the test after he lost his largest outsourcing customer in 2011. Rather than fold up his little shop, he quit chain-smoking and elevated Tîrca to cofounder and, later, chief technology officer—and they focused on the company’s side business selling software development kits, or SDKs, that helped engineers code apps faster. That proved to be a stopgap. The fundamental shift came when an Indian customer showed Dines how it was building off those tools to train software to mimic basic tasks like data entry, no engineer needed.
UiPath dispatched staff to visit the Indian company and then, it says, snatched the contract from Blue Prism, which had just coined the term “RPA” after automating back-office functions for banks. “They made it clear this was the best use of our technology,” Dines says. “Our software was completely useful in the RPA world.”
So Dines went into the virtual robot business, focusing on software programs that ran autonomously without requiring the writing of new code. By 2014, the company had $500,000 in revenue—not bad in Romania —and Dines, inspired by Hacker News message boards, targeted bigger customers and Silicon Valley-style scale. He shifted the business model to software-as-a-service subscriptions, raised $1.6 million from European funds Earlybird, Credo Ventures and Seedcamp, and hastily renamed the company UiPath, after a technical term in the startup’s code.
Instead of competing with the big auditing and consulting firms, UiPath became their partner. Companies like Cognizant and EY already had deals with multinationals to make processes like procurement more efficient. As UiPath customers themselves, they could save money per client by automating some of that work. More lucrative: Dines would encourage consultants to introduce UiPath to their clients by letting the consultants keep as much as 80% of the overall bot-related spend in exchange for setting up and maintaining the program. Suddenly some of the world’s biggest companies were serving as little UiPath’s sales force. In fact, it would be two years before Dines met any of his customers face to face (Swiss Re insisted Dines fly to Zurich for a $100,000 contract).
As rival Blue Prism went public in 2016 (current market cap: $750 million), Dines was determined to take UiPath global. He had already scored U.S. clients, like a $300,000 contract with General Electric, over the phone. But Dines knew that for bigger deals he’d need boots on the ground, first with an office in outsourcing hub Bangalore in 2016, then London and New York. By Valentine’s Day the next year, Dines had signed the term sheet for $30 million in investment at a $110 million valuation from Accel as executives waited at the airport to go open the Tokyo office. Dines had a parting shot for Accel’s London investors before jetting off. “Daniel looks at us and says, ‘I will make you guys a lot of money!’” Accel partner Luciana Lixandru says.
Funding secured and aspirations multiplied, Dines relocated his headquarters—and his family—to New York two years ago. (He still spends about a third of his time working out of the Bucharest office, now an R&D center.) By the end of 2017, UiPath had just over $30 million in revenue, and unlike typical Silicon Valley startups, which often start selling to each other, the company claims that 60% of the biggest companies in America are clients. The global focus shows: UiPath’s sales come in about equal thirds from North America, Europe and the rest of the world.
"I told Masa, you're welcome in the company," Dines says. "But you can only invest this much."
This rapid, diverse growth quickly drew more blue-chip investors. Alphabet’s startup investment shop, CapitalG, joined its $153 million Series B in March 2018, which valued UiPath at $1.1 billion, with Accel returning for more.
That summer, as sales topped $100 million, Dines got the offer that has become a rite of passage for unicorn founders. Representatives of SoftBank’s Vision Fund, the $100 billion investment vehicle led by Masayoshi Son, caught up with Dines as he vacationed in France’s Côte d’Azure. Dines flew to Japan to meet with Son himself, who Dines says offered him a $1 billion investment—more dilution and board control than he was comfortable with. “I told Masa, you’re welcome in the company,” Dines says. “But you can only invest this much.” UiPath chose CapitalG and venture capital firm Sequoia to colead the $225 million investment that valued it at $3 billion. “Daniel is a brilliant negotiator. He is like a crocodile in the water,” says Mihai Faur, UiPath’s chief accounting officer, who worked on the funding rounds. “He’s relaxed on the outside. Inside, he has a fire.”
Silicon Valley’s hustle culture idolizes CEOs who rise before dawn to exercise or meditate while the rest of us punch the snooze button. Dines wakes up most mornings and reads until he’s bored, an hour or more, then takes a quick nap. Only then—11 a.m. when he’s in Romania (Dines swears he’s a bit earlier in New York)—does he deign to open WhatsApp and Slack.
A dinner conversation with Dines can zip from Hermann Hesse to Byzantine history to business how-to’s like the late Zig Ziglar’s Secrets of Closing the Sale. The Microsoft programmer who didn’t know what a folder was is now conversant about Amor Towles’ novel A Gentleman in Moscow, a bestseller on Bill Gates’ summer reading list. Dines is fascinated by how the protagonist, Count Rostov, changes his life for the better when he adopts a little girl. “The Count and I share a lot of the same personality, the same vision,” he says. “I work really hard at the company, but only at things I like. Being a lazy person, I had to build better pattern recognition in life.”
That means Dines now spends most of his time on airplanes to keep his sprawling staff on the same track. It’s not easy. With senior executives joining from HP, Microsoft and SAP, UiPath is trying to graft corporate expertise onto a startup’s ethos. Gone are the days of board meetings held over a Ping-Pong table in the local language. “It’s easier to curse in Romanian,” sighs Bogdan Ripa, the Bucharest-based head of product.
The marching orders are clear. Thirteen years ago, Amazon Web Services launched and cloud computing burst onto the scene, establishing a new hierarchy of tech titans dominating the $200 billion market while relegating others to the walking dead. RPA is trying to be next. By total dollars, the RPA market is still small—just $846 million in revenue in 2018 globally, according to Gartner—but those numbers belie much larger contract values as subscription revenues recur and businesses expand their processes over time. “Pretty much everyone has started on this journey,” says Sundara Sukavanam, head of the automation practice at Cognizant, where 2,500 specialists work on bots and customers, armed with beefy budgets to digitize their operations, spend millions for thousands of them. “RPA is the fabric of the future. Where there is a manual operation, RPA will exist.”
Toyota has automated 86 processes in North America using UiPath across manufacturing, research and development, and corporate services, saving 40,000 labor hours a year. The bots handle everything from ordering business cards to accounts receivable for the global automaker. One pulls together all the data from Toyota’s 12 major North American rail carriers into a visualization that took hundreds of hours to produce manually before. Toyota plans to automate another 60,000 hours by year-end. And that’s not counting Japan. “We’ve crawled, we’ve walked and now we are picking up to a jogging pace,” says Jason Ballard, general manager of Toyota North America.
UiPath is far from alone in benefitting. Consultancies like Deloitte work agnostically with multiple RPA providers. At Automation Anywhere, customers include Juniper Networks and Symantec as well as financial services companies like Australia and New Zealand Banking Group. CEO Mihir Shukla raised $550 million in funding last year to fend off UiPath, including $300 million from SoftBank. Shukla’s business doesn’t disclose revenue, but he boasts its sales and customer count are bigger than those of Ui-Path. “The product difference looks like a Nokia phone versus an iPhone,” he says. “Make no mistake, we are the largest . . . and our next round of funding will show you that.”
How Robotic Process Automation Works
UiPath and other RPA players save time and money for corporate clients by setting up software "robots" that can take over human workers' repetitive tasks.
The front line of the automation battle remains artificial intelligence—growth comes from making bots smarter, more durable and able to handle complex work tasks. Blue Prism made a reported $100 million AI acquisition in June; Automation Anywhere says it has offered AI tools, such as one that can approve a mortgage in five minutes or less, for the past five years.
At UiPath, visitors to the company’s “center of excellence” in Bucharest experience AI demos that predict which routine functions would be ripe to hand over to bots. In October, UiPath plans to announce several AI-focused acquisitions of its own. “We are making investments in helping our customers interact with the robots,” Dines says.
The biggest tech companies have mostly played nice for now. But the lines are getting increasingly complex. Google is a UiPath customer and an indirect investor through CapitalG, and UiPath software is mostly built on top of Microsoft software and cloud hosting tools. Microsoft is an anchor investor in SoftBank’s upcoming second mega-fund, reportedly in part to work more closely with SoftBank’s portfolio companies, which now include UiPath’s closest rival. At the same time, Microsoft continues to invest in its own automation platform, Microsoft Flow, that some industry watchers see as a challenge to the RPA set.
Then there’s a potential political hot potato: whether RPA, and its promise of efficiency, comes at the cost of human jobs. Marie Myers, UiPath’s CFO, says that when she spread the use of bots across former employer HP’s accounting operations, employees willingly retrained with RPA to work on, and add more, bots. Still, such a shift means workers will need to learn new skills—including how to maintain these automated systems. “I’ve talked to many firms and asked, ‘Give us your data and we’ll evaluate whether you’re actually creating as many jobs as you’re destroying,’?” says MIT economics professor Daron Acemoglu. “At that point, the conversation stops.”
As for UiPath, Dines says the goal is to be IPO-ready by the end of 2020, with an eye to going public in 2021. “I don’t care at all about ringing that bell. Zero. But you can’t be a really big private company,” he says. “At some point you have to be public.” Before then, UiPath could raise money again, as soon as early next year. If it does, it would fetch a far higher price, assuming it achieves its goals of $300 million in revenue by the end of this year and a run rate of $1 billion in 2020.
“UiPath isn’t a company where you can predict in six months what the company will look like, because nobody’s done this before,” Dines says. “It’s like a book: It’s constantly changing.”
Cover Photograph by Levon Biss for Forbes
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|To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (1531)||10/20/2019 10:52:54 PM|
|These iterations within the software industry will continue for some time, its dynamical field, its going to be an extraordinary opportunity for those who understand that Time will dictate the Shapes of Capital, There will be surprises, missteps, and misunderstandings about the direction of this systems evolution. Whats certain is that Capital will move, rightly so, as the collective unconscious comes together to augment the trends which underwrite the future. |
These are good times for aware minds.
Aquarian mindsets will separate those who are only fully prepared only for the past, and those who will attempt to make the future just like the past. Tools not withstanding, AI will be the interface through which civilization will encounter itself in a mirror, in recognition of its not so aloneness.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||10/25/2019 9:56:46 PM|
|Microsoft snags hotly contested $10 billion defense contract, beating out Amazon|
Published 3 hours agoUpdated 37 min ago
Jordan Novet @jordannovet
Microsoft has emerged victorious in a dramatic competition for public cloud resources for the U.S. Defense Department, beating out market leader Amazon Web Services, the Pentagon said on Friday. The contract could be worth as much as $10 billion over a decade, according to a statement.
- The JEDI contract is worth up to $10 billion over 10 years.
- IBM and Oracle are among the companies that also sought the contract but ended up getting ruled out.
- Amazon has been a repeated target for President Trump, who announced in July that
Microsoft stock rose as much as 3% in extended trading after the announcement, and Amazon stock dipped less than 1%.
The achievement highlights the emergence of Microsoft's Azure cloud as a challenger to AWS and represents the latest victory for Satya Nadella, who took over from Steve Ballmer as Microsoft chief in 2014. Microsoft has also won major cloud-infrastructure deals from companies like Walmart even as AWS has kept growing.
If the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure deal, known by the acronym JEDI, ends up being worth $10 billion, it would likely be a bigger deal to Microsoft than it would have been to Amazon. Microsoft does not disclose Azure revenue in dollar figures but it's widely believed to have a smaller share of the market than Amazon, which received $9 billion in revenue from AWS in the third quarter.
Early in the process Amazon was seen as the favorite, partly because its AWS business won a deal with the CIA in 2013. Also Amazon had been certified at the highest existing security clearance level, while Microsoft sought to catch up.
Other, smaller cloud rivals like IBM and Oracle were kicked out earlier in the process, which has been contentious and delayed.
In July, President Trump said he was looking at the contract after companies had protested the the bidding process.
While Trump didn't cite Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos by name at the time, the billionaire executive has been a constant source of frustration for the president. Bezos owns The Washington Post, which Trump regularly criticizes for its coverage of his administration. Trump also has gone after Amazon repeatedly on other fronts, such as claiming it does not pay its fair share of taxes and rips off the U.S. Post Office.
In August, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that he would look at it. Then, earlier this week, the Pentagon said that Esper had removed himself from the process because his son Luke Esper works at IBM.
Wedbush analyst Dan Ives called the deal a "game changer" for Microsoft, writing in a note to clients that the deal "will have a ripple effect for the company's cloud business for years to come." He also said that he expects Amazon to challenge the outcome in court, but for Microsoft to prevail.
Nadella once ran the Azure business, among other responsibilities in his 27-year career at Microsoft. He has made cloud a bigger piece of Microsoft while decreasing the emphasis on Windows. The company has also embraced Linux, and after Nadella joined, the cloud was renamed from Windows Azure to Microsoft Azure, reflecting that it's possible to run Linux in Microsoft's public cloud.
"We're surprised about this conclusion," an AWS spokesperson told CNBC in an email. "AWS is the clear leader in cloud computing, and a detailed assessment purely on the comparative offerings clearly lead to a different conclusion. We remain deeply committed to continuing to innovate for the new digital battlefield where security, efficiency, resiliency, and scalability of resources can be the difference between success and failure."
Microsoft didn't immediately return a request for comment.
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