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Mirantis bets on Spinnaker, Netflix’s open-source continuous delivery platform

Spinnaker is the new open-source project to watch. It’s a multi-cloud continuous delivery platform that came out of Netflix and that now also has the backing of Google.

The typical cycle for these kind of products, which mirrors what we’ve seen with projects like Kubernetes or OpenStack, is that a few companies will back the open-source efforts and others will start to offer commercial services and distributions around it. We’re seeing the same play out with Spinnaker.

One of the first companies to offer support for it was and today, Mirantis is joining in as well. While Mirantis started out as an OpenStack specialist, the company has added other managed cloud services over time and is currently in the process of refocusing many of its activities on application delivery — and at the core of that is now the Spinnaker project.

“We spent probably a good 18 months kind of pathfinding in the application space to figure out what the proper angle was going to be and where to invest our fairly scarce resources,” Mirantis co-founder and CMO Boris Renski explained to me. The result of this is the beta launch of the Mirantis Application Platform today.

The team already had a lot of expertise in the infrastructure space, but Renski believes that to truly succeed — and provide real value to enterprises — it had to go beyond infrastructure tools like Docker and Kubernetes to deliver value to enterprises. In the end, the company decided that Spinnaker would be the way to go. Spinnaker’s backing by major tech companies like Netflix and Google surely helped, but it also helped that the tools can sit on top of virtually any cloud or on-premise environment, and that it’s meant to be very open and pluggable.

Mirantis CEO Adrian Ionel mirrored this assessment in a statement today. “While it’s easy to start using public cloud and get immediate benefits as a small team, getting ROI from cloud for a large enterprise requires streamlining the various processes, tools and security requirements across a diverse set of engineering silos,” he wrote. “Mirantis Application Platform aims to address this challenge, enabling enterprises to maximize cloud ROI at scale through cloud native continuous delivery.”

In practice, enterprises that work with Mirantis will get a number of services through the Application Platform. Mirantis will install, configure and manage a dedicated Application Platform instance with Spinnaker, Jenkins, Gerrit and Terraform running on any private of public cloud. It’ll integrate this instance with a company’s identity provider and continuous integration system of choice, as well as compliance scanners and tools like Slack (because without a Slack integration, any tool is pretty much dead in the water these days, right?). Mirantis will then work with the enterprise to deploy and support one starter application. That starter application is meant to create a blueprint for the overall delivery pipeline that the enterprise can then use to deploy new applications going forward.

This approach mirrors Mirantis’ take on delivering its OpenStack and Kubernetes solutions.

Mirantis’ current customers include the likes of Adobe, AT&T, State Farm, Vodafone, Volkswagen and Wells Fargo. Renski couldn’t disclose which of its customers are in the beta program for its Application Platform, but he did note the company currently has about a dozen beta deployments in progress.

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AWS adds more EC2 instance types with local NVMe storage

AWS is adding a new kind of virtual machine to its growing list of EC2 options. These new machines feature local NVMe storage, which offers significantly faster throughput than standard SSDs.

These new so-called C5d instances join the existing lineup of compute-optimized C5 instances the service already offered. AWS cites high-performance computing workloads, real-time analytics, multiplayer gaming and video encoding as potential use cases for its regular C5 machines and with the addition of this faster storage option, chances are users who switch will see even better performance.

Since the local storage is attached to the machine, it’ll also be terminated when the instance is stopped, so this isn’t meant for storing intermediate files, not long-term storage.

Both C5 and C5d instances share the same underlying platform, with 3.0 GHz Intel Xeon Platinum 8000 processors.

The new instances are now available in a number of AWS’s U.S. regions, as well as in the services Canada regions. Prices are, unsurprisingly a bit higher than for regular C5 machines, starting at $0.096 per hour for the most basic machine with 4 in AWS’s Oregon region, for example. Regular C5 machines start at $0.085 per hour.

It’s worth noting that the EC2 F1 instances, which offer access to FPGAs, also use NVMe storage. Those are highly specialized machines, though, while the C5 instances are interesting to a far wider audience of developers.

On top of the NVMe announcement, AWS today also noted that its EC2 Bare Metal Instances are now generally available. These machines provide direct access to all the features of the underlying hardware, making them ideal for running applications that simply can’t run on virtualized hardware and for running secured container clusters. These bare metal instances also offer support for NVMe storage.

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Parsable secures $40M investment to bring digital to industrial workers

As we increasingly hear about automation, artificial intelligence and robots taking away industrial jobs, Parsable, a San Francisco-based startup sees a different reality, one with millions of workers who for the most part have been left behind when it comes to bringing digital transformation to their jobs.

Parsable has developed a Connected Worker platform to help bring high tech solutions to deskless industrial workers who have been working mostly with paper-based processes. Today, it announced a $40 million Series C cash injection to keep building on that idea.

The round was led by Future Fund with help from B37 and existing investors Lightspeed Venture Partners, Airbus Ventures and Aramco Ventures. Today’s investment brings the total to nearly $70 million.

The Parsable solution works on almost any smartphone or tablet and is designed to enter information while walking around in environments where a desktop PC or laptop simply wouldn’t be practical. That means being able to tap, swipe and select easily in a mobile context.

Photo: Parsable

The challenge the company faced was the perception these workers didn’t deal well with technology. Parsable CEO Lawrence Whittle says the company, which launched in 2013, took its time building its first product because it wanted to give industrial workers something they actually needed, not what engineers thought they needed. This meant a long period of primary research.

The company learned, it had to be dead simple to allow the industry vets who had been on the job for 25 or more years to feel comfortable using it out of the box, while also appealing to younger more tech-savvy workers. The goal was making it feel as familiar as Facebook or texting, common applications even older workers were used to using.

“What we are doing is getting rid of [paper] notebooks for quality, safety and maintenance and providing a digital guide on how to capture work with the objective of increasing efficiency, reducing safety incidents and increasing quality,” Whittle explained.

He likens this to the idea of putting a sensor on a machine, but instead they are putting that instrumentation into the hands of the human worker. “We are effectively putting a sensor on humans to give them connectivity and data to execute work in the same way as machines,” he says.

The company has also made the decision to make the platform flexible to add new technology over time. As an example they support smart glasses, which Whittle says accounts for about 10 percent of its business today. But the founders recognized that reality could change and they wanted to make the platform open enough to take on new technologies as they become available.

Today the company has 30 enterprise customers with 30,000 registered users on the platform. Customers include Ecolab, Schlumberger, Silgan and Shell. They have around 80 employees, but expect to hit 100 by the end of Q3 this year, Whittle says.

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Artificial Intelligence

Dialpad gets AI injection with TalkIQ acquisition

Sometimes two companies get along so well together and fit each other so perfectly, they almost have to come together. That’s what happened when Dialpad, a business communications platform whose products include UberConference, started working with TalkIQ. They liked them so much, they bought the company.

Dialpad CEO Craig Walker says the two companies actually started working together about 8 months ago when Dialpad began looking at artificial intelligence options and they found that most weren’t real time and were expensive.

Walker liked the fact that TalkIQ had that near real-time solution and that it was also built on the Google Cloud Platform like his company. In addition, the principals from both companies each came out of Google and had actually worked together at various points.

When the teams came together under that commercial agreement, Walker says, they really clicked. At some point, they began talking about making it a permanent arrangement.

TalkIQ CEO Dan O’Connell says there was natural synergy they both recognized right away. “All acquisitions have challenges and opportunities. For me making a decision [to sell] was a pretty easy decision. We knew each other and with culture sometimes you don’t know what you are getting. Our values aligned really well,” he said.

With TalkIQ, the Dialpad platform gets an injection of intelligence. Specifically, they can capture voice in near real time and apply sentiment analysis and analytics. This could provide a customer service operation with feedback in real time along with advice for managers when to intervene in a call.

Call is being analyzed in real time and the manager can see the intervene recommendation. Photo: Dialpad

The TalkIQ functionality will be incorporated natively right into the Dialpad suite of apps, which includes voice and video along with customer service call center management and UberConference for conference calling. “Part of why we wanted to go all the way and acquire this technology was that we wanted it to be seamless and integrated and simple and not weird for end users,” Walker said.

To that end, the initial offering called VoiceAI will include real-time transcription along with smart notes, which automatically pick out the salient points in a meeting or call. It also comes with the real-time sentiment analysis and coaching for call centers.

Starting today, customers will be offered the opportunity to opt in on the new functionality and can use it for free during the Beta period. They will begin charging for it in July, but are still working out exactly how that will work. It could come with a certain amount of the AI-fueled functionality for free and then higher paid tier for more advanced functions.

The deal closed a few weeks ago and TalkIQ’s 29 employees are already part of the company with the San Francisco-based employees moving into the Dialpad headquarters. The TalkIQ engineering team will continue to work out an office in Waterloo, Ontario.

Dialpad was founded in 2011 and has raised $70 million. TalkIQ was founded in 2014 and has raised $14 million dollars. The two companies did not disclose the purchase price.

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