IBM brings Cloud Foundry and Red Hat OpenShift together – gpgmail


At the Cloud Foundry Summit in The Hague, IBM today showcased its Cloud Foundry Enterprise Environment on Red Hat’s OpenShift container platform.

For the longest time, the open-source Cloud Foundry Platform-as-a-Service ecosystem and Red Hat’s Kubernetes-centric OpenShift were mostly seen as competitors, with both tools vying for enterprise customers who want to modernize their application development and delivery platforms. But a lot of things have changed in recent times. On the technical side, Cloud Foundry started adopting Kubernetes as an option for application deployments and as a way of containerizing and running Cloud Foundry itself.

On the business side, IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat has brought along some change, too. IBM long backed Cloud Foundry as a top-level foundation member, while Red Hat bet on its own platform instead. Now that the acquisition has closed, it’s maybe no surprise that IBM is working on bringing Cloud Foundry to Red Hat’s platform.

For now, this work is still officially still a technology experiment, but our understanding is that IBM plans to turn this into a fully supported project that will give Cloud Foundry users the option to deploy their application right to OpenShift, while OpenShift customers will be able to offer their developers the Cloud Foundry experience.

“It’s another proof point that these things really work well together,” Cloud Foundry Foundation CTO Chip Childers told me ahead of today’s announcement. “That’s the developer experience that the CF community brings and in the case of IBM, that’s a great commercialization story for them.”

While Cloud Foundry isn’t seeing the same hype as in some of its earlier years, it remains one of the most widely used development platforms in large enterprises. According to the Cloud Foundry Foundation’s latest user survey, the companies that are already using it continue to move more of their development work onto the platform and the according to the code analysis from sourced, the project continues to see over 50,000 commits per month.

“As businesses navigate digital transformation and developers drive innovation across cloud native environments, one thing is very clear: they are turning to Cloud Foundry as a proven, agile, and flexible platform — not to mention fast — for building into the future,” said Abby Kearns, executive director at the Cloud Foundry Foundation. “The survey also underscores the anchor Cloud Foundry provides across the enterprise, enabling developers to build, support, and maximize emerging technologies.”

Also at this week’s Summit, Pivotal (which is in the process of being acquired by VMware) is launching the alpha version of the Pivotal Application Service (PAS) on Kubernetes, while Swisscom, an early Cloud Foundry backer, is launching a major update to its Cloud Foundry-based Application Cloud.


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DigitalOcean launches managed MySQL and Redis database services – gpgmail


Half a year after launching its managed PostgreSQL service, upstart hosting and cloud services platform DigitalOcean today announced the launch of its managed MySQL and Redis database offerings, too.

Like most of the company’s latest releases, this move exemplifies DigitalOcean’s ambition to move beyond its discount hosting roots and to become a more fully-fledged cloud provider. Besides the database service and its core hosting products and infrastructure, the company now offers object and block storage and a Kubernetes engine, which itself can be used to run virtually any modern piece of cloud infrastructure. It’s unlikely to catch up with the hyperclouds anytime soon, but it’s good to have a competitor in the market.

“With the additions of MySQL and Redis, DigitalOcean now supports three of the most requested database offerings, making it easier for developers to build and run applications, rather than spending time on complex management,” said Shiven Ramji, DigitalOcean’s Senior VP of Product. “The developer is not just the DNA of DigitalOcean, but the reason for much of the company’s success. We must continue to build on this success and support developers with the services they need most on their journey towards simple app development.”

Pricing for the managed database services remains the same, no matter which engine you choose.

The new database services are now available in the company’s New York, Frankfurt and San Francisco data centers. Support for other database engines is also in the works. As the company notes, it selected MySQL and Redis because of popular demand from its developer community and it will do so for other engines as well. MySQL and Redis were the only services on DigitalOcean’s roadmap for 2019, though, so I don’t expect we’ll see any additional releases before the end of the year.


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Hundreds of exposed Amazon cloud backups found leaking sensitive data – gpgmail


How safe are your secrets? If you used Amazon’s Elastic Block Storage snapshots, you might want to check your settings.

New research just presented at the Def Con security conference reveals how companies, startups and governments are inadvertently leaking their own files from the cloud.

You may have heard of exposed S3 buckets — those Amazon-hosted storage servers packed with customer data but often misconfigured and inadvertently set to “public” for anyone to access. But you may not have heard about exposed EBS snapshots, which poses as much, if not a greater, risk.

These elastic block storage (EBS) snapshots are the “keys to the kingdom,” said Ben Morris, a senior security analyst at cybersecurity firm Bishop Fox, in a call with gpgmail ahead of his Def Con talk. EBS snapshots store all the data for cloud applications. “They have the secret keys to your applications and they have database access to your customers’ information,” he said.

“When you get rid of the hard disk for your computer, you know, you usually shredded or wipe it completely,” he said. “But these public EBS volumes are just left for anyone to take and start poking at.”

He said that all too often cloud admins don’t choose the correct configuration settings, leaving EBS snapshots inadvertently public and unencrypted. “That means anyone on the internet can download your hard disk and boot it up, attach it to a machine they control, and then start rifling through the disk to look for any kind of secrets,” he said.

One of Morris’ Def Con slides explaining how EBS snapshots can be exposed. (Image: Ben Morris/Bishop Fox; supplied)

Morris built a tool using Amazon’s own internal search feature to query and scrape publicly exposed EBS snapshots, then attach it, make a copy and list the contents of the volume on his system.

“If you expose the disk for even just a couple of minutes, our system will pick it up and make a copy of it,” he said.

Screen Shot 2019 08 07 at 2.14.30 PM

Another slide noting the types of compromised data found using his research, often known as the “Wall of Sheep” (Image: Ben Morris/Bishop Fox; supplied)

It took him two months to build up a database of exposed data and just a few hundred dollars spent on Amazon cloud resources. Once he validates each snapshot, he deletes the data.

Morris found dozens of snapshots exposed publicly in one region alone, he said, including application keys, critical user or administrative credentials, source code and more. He found several major companies, including healthcare providers and tech companies.

He also found VPN configurations, which he said could allow him to tunnel into a corporate network. Morris said he did not use any credentials or sensitive data, as it would be unlawful.

Among the most damaging things he found, Morris said he found a snapshot for one government contractor, which he did not name, but provided data storage services to federal agencies. “On their website, they brag about holding this data,” he said, referring to collected intelligence from messages sent to and from the so-called Islamic State terror group to data on border crossings.

“Those are the kind of things I would definitely not want to be exposed to the public internet,” he said.

He estimates the figure could be as many as 1,250 exposures across all Amazon cloud regions.

Morris plans to release his proof-of-concept code in the coming weeks.

“I’m giving companies a couple of weeks to go through their own disks and make sure that they don’t have any accidental exposures,” he said.


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Amazon says U.S. government demands for customer data went up – gpgmail


Amazon said the U.S. government asked more data from the company during the first-half of 2019 than on the previous six-month period.

The latest figures landed in the company’s transparency report, published quietly on its website late Wednesday, said the number of subpoenas it received went up by 14% and search warrants went up by close to 35%.

That includes data collected from its Amazon Echo voice assistant service, its Kindle and Fire tablets, and its home security devices.

Amazon turned over some or all data in about four out of five cases, the figures show.

But the number of other legal demands Amazon received were down slightly.

The company’s cloud business, Amazon Web Services — which makes up the bulk of Amazon’s annual operating income — also reported separately a 77% increase in the number of subpoenas it received for cloud-stored customer data, but a decline in received search warrants.

Per reporting rules set out by the Justice Department, Amazon said it received between 0 and 249 national security requests, for both consumer and cloud services.

Amazon was one of the last major tech companies to issue a transparency report, despite mounting pressure from privacy advocates. The company eventually buckled, releasing its first set of figures several days after whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked highly classified documents which revealed mass surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency and its global intelligence counterparts.

The company said at the time and continued to maintain until recently that it “never participated” in the NSA’s so-called PRISM program, which allowed the government to obtain data from Apple, Google, Microsoft, and several other tech companies.

But gpgmail noticed that Amazon removed that wording from its transparency report pages several weeks ago.

When reached, an Amazon spokesperson said that the change was “simply because it was a somewhat dated reference.”


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With the acquisition closed, IBM goes all in on Red Hat – gpgmail


IBM’s massive $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat closed a few weeks ago and today, the two companies are now announcing the first fruits of this process. For the most part, today’s announcement further IBM’s ambitions to bring its products to any public and private cloud. That was very much the reason why IBM acquired Red Hat in the first place, of course, so this doesn’t come as a major surprise, though most industry watchers probably didn’t expect this to happen this fast.

Specifically, IBM is announcing that it is bringing its software portfolio to Red Hat OpenShift, Red Hat’s Kubernetes-based container platform that is essentially available on any cloud that allows its customers to run Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

In total, IBM has already optimized more than 100 products for OpenShift and bundled them into what it calls “Cloud Paks.” There are currently five of these Paks: Cloud Pak for Data, Application, Integration, Automation and Multicloud Management. These technologies, which IBM’s customers can now run on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform or IBM’s own cloud, among others, include DB2, WebSphere, API Connect, Watson Studio and Cognos Analytics.

“Red Hat is unlocking innovation with Linux-based technologies, including containers and Kubernetes, which have become the fundamental building blocks of hybrid cloud environments,” said Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO of Red Hat, in today’s announcement. “This open hybrid cloud foundation is what enables the vision of any app, anywhere, anytime. Combined with IBM’s strong industry expertise and supported by a vast ecosystem of passionate developers and partners, customers can create modern apps with the technologies of their choice and the flexibility to deploy in the best environment for the app – whether that is on-premises or across multiple public clouds.”

IBM argues that a lot of the early innovation on the cloud was about bringing modern, customer-facing applications to market, with a focus on basic cloud infrastructure. Now, however, enterprises are looking at how they can take their mission-critical applications to the cloud, too. For that, they want access to an open stack that works across clouds.

In addition, IBM also today announced the launch of a fully managed Red Hat OpenShift service on its own public cloud, as well as OpenShift on IBM Systems, including the IBM Z and LinuxONE mainframes, as well as the launch of its new Red Hat consulting and technology services.


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SoftBank’s second act – gpgmail


Hello and welcome back to Startups Weekly, a weekend newsletter that dives into the week’s noteworthy startups and venture capital news. Before I jump into today’s topic, let’s catch up a bit. Last week, I noted some challenges plaguing mental health tech startups. Before that, I wrote about Zoom and Superhuman’s PR disasters.

Remember, you can send me tips, suggestions and feedback to kate.clark@Gpgmail.com or on Twitter @KateClarkTweets. If you don’t subscribe to Startups Weekly yet, you can do that here.

Anyway, onto the subject on everyone’s mind this week: SoftBank’s second Vision Fund.

Well into the evening on Thursday, SoftBank announced a target of $108 billion for the Vision Fund 2. Yes, you read that correctly, $108 billion. SoftBank indeed plans to raise even more capital for its sophomore vehicle than it did for the record-breaking debut vision fund of $98 billion, which was majority-backed by the government funds of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, as well as Apple, Foxconn and several other limited partners.

Its upcoming fund, to which SoftBank itself has committed $38 billion, has attracted investment from the National Investment Corporation of National Bank of Kazakhstan, Apple, Foxconn, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft and more. Microsoft, a new LP for SoftBank, reportedly hopped on board with the Japanese telecom giant as part of a grand scheme to convince the massive fund’s portfolio companies to transition to Microsoft Azure, the company’s cloud platform that competes with Amazon Web Services . Here’s more on that and some analysis from gpgmail editor Jonathan Shieber.

News of the second Vision Fund comes as somewhat of a surprise. We’d heard SoftBank was having some trouble landing commitments for the effort. Why? Well, because SoftBank’s investments have included a wide-range of upstarts, including some uncertain bets. Brandless, a company into which SoftBank injected a lot of money, has struggled in recent months, for example. Wag is said to be going downhill fast. And WeWork, backed with billions from SoftBank, still has a lot to prove.

Here’s everything else we know about The Vision Fund 2:

  • It’s focused on the “AI revolution through investment in market-leading, tech-enabled growth companies.”
  • The full list of investors also includes seven Japanese financial institutions: Mizuho Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, MUFG Bank, The Dai-ichi Life Insurance Company, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank, SMBC Nikko Securities and Daiwa Securities Group. Also, international banking services provider Standard Chartered Bank, as well as “major participants from Taiwan.”
  • The $108 billion figure is based on memoranda of understandings (MOUs), or agreements for future investment from the aforementioned entities. That means SoftBank hasn’t yet collected all this capital, aside from the $38 billion it plans to invest itself in the new Vision Fund.
  • Saudi and Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth funds are not listed as investors in the new fund.
  • SoftBank is expected to begin deploying capital fund from Fund 2 immediately, and a first close is expected in two months, per The Financial Times.
  • We’ll keep you updated on the Vision Fund 2’s investments, fundraising efforts and more as we learn about them.

On to other news…

iHeartMedia And WeWork's

IPO Corner

WeWork is planning a September listing

The company made headlines again this week after word slipped it was accelerating its IPO plans and targeting a September listing. We don’t know much about its IPO plans yet as we are still waiting on the co-working business to unveil its S-1 filing. Whether WeWork can match or exceed its current private market valuation of $47 billion is unlikely. I expect it will pull an Uber and struggle, for quite some time, to earn a market cap larger than what VCs imagined it was worth months earlier.

Robinhood had a wild week

The consumer financial app made headlines twice this week. The first time because it raised a whopping $323 million at a $7.6 billion valuation. That is a whole lot of money for a business that just raised a similarly sized monster round one year ago. In fact, it left us wondering, why the hell is Robinhood worth $7.6 billion? Then, in a major security faux pas, the company revealed it has been storing user passwords in plaintext. So, go change your Robinhood password and don’t trust any business to value your security. Sigh.

Another day, another huge fintech round

While we’re on the subject on fintech, gpgmail editor Danny Crichton noted this week the rise of mega-rounds in the fintech space. This week, it was personalized banking app MoneyLion, which raised $100 million at a near unicorn valuation. Last week, it was N26, which raised another $170 million on top of its $300 million round earlier this year. Brex raised another $100 million last month on top of its $125 million Series C from late last year. Meanwhile, companies like payments platform Stripe, savings and investment platform Raisin, traveler lender Uplift, mortgage backers Blend and Better and savings depositor Acorns have also raised massive new rounds this year. Naturally, VC investment in fintech is poised to reach record levels this year, according to PitchBook.

Uber’s changing board

Arianna Huffington, the CEO of Thrive Global, stepped down from Uber’s board of directors this week, a team she had been apart of since 2016. She addressed the news in a tweet, explaining that there were no disagreements between her and the company, rather, she was busy and had other things to focus on. Fair. Benchmark’s Matt Cohler also stepped down from the board this week, which leads us to believe the ride-hailing giant’s advisors are in a period of transition. If you remember, Uber’s first employee and longtime board member Ryan Graves stepped down from the board in May, just after the company’s IPO. 

Startup Capital

Unity, now valued at $6B, raising up to $525M
Bird is raising a Sequoia-led Series D at $2.5B valuation
SMB payroll startup Gusto raises $200M Series D
Elon Musk’s Boring Company snags $120M
a16z values camping business HipCamp at $127M
An inside look at the startup behind Ashton Kutcher’s weird tweets
Dataplor raises $2M to digitize small businesses in Latin America

Extra Crunch

While we’re on the subject of amazing gpgmail #content, it’s probably time for a reminder for all of you to sign up for Extra Crunch. For a low price, you can learn more about the startups and venture capital ecosystem through exclusive deep dives, Q&As, newsletters, resources and recommendations and fundamental startup how-to guides. Here are some of my current favorite EC posts:

  1. What types of startups are the most profitable?
  2. The roles tools play in employee engagement
  3. What to watch for in a VC term sheet

#Equitypod

If you enjoy this newsletter, be sure to check out gpgmail’s venture-focused podcast, Equity. In this week’s episode, available here, Equity co-host Alex Wilhelm, gpgmail editor Danny Crichton and I unpack Robinhood’s valuation and argue about scooter startups. Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercast and Spotify.

That’s all, folks.




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Microsoft and the second SoftBank Vision Fund as another play for corporate cloud dominance – gpgmail


It looks like the return of SoftBank’s Vision Fund may be less reliant on murder money and more reliant on Microsoft’s money-making machine for its backing.

The rumored involvement of Microsoft in financing SoftBank Vision Fund II (electric boogaloo?) is interesting for what it may indicate about how the relationship between venture investors, startups and the large corporations that dominate the tech industry are changing.

If the name of the game is platform and services, then corporate behemoths like Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon and Apple are in interesting positions to invest in startups as a flywheel for growth in some of their most profitable and strategic business units.

To some extent this has always been true, but it’s becoming more important now as web services become larger slices of the corporate balance sheet at these three companies (particularly — although IBM is also playing in this game). Basically, like corporate accelerators and venture arms, investing in SoftBank is another service that’s being potentially offered to lock in startups to corporate cloud ecosystems.

While there are no guarantees that a nudge from an investor to use one tech platform for web services over another would make any difference, it’s clear that big tech companies like Amazon, Alphabet and Microsoft are all over startups to use one web stack over another.

Amazon has tied itself ever more tightly to the Techstars ecosystem of incubators for new tech companies, Microsoft has its own corporate accelerator programs and investment arm and Alphabet does the same.

As technology continues to advance, the big companies have more services they can offer to tech companies that will be increasingly more compelling and drive increasing revenue.

All three big companies mentioned above (and even IBM, bless its big blue non-existent heart) have machine learning tools that they’d love to provide as a service to startups as well. And even as IBM sunsets Watson as a balance sheet item (an event that was an elementary conclusion to anyone who has tracked its long, slow spiral), machine learning services are going to become a larger slice of revenue for the providers who can effectively tie startups into those services.

Most entrepreneurs pay lip service to the fact that enhanced algorithms are going to become table stakes in new product offerings so observers can watch that become another engine of growth for the big companies that can get it right.

Also, startups are going to increasingly become a sales channel for big tech, even as big tech has traditionally been a sales channel for startups.

Software as a service businesses using a freemium business model have an easier time getting into a corporate environment than Microsoft or Google . And even as the productivity suites from these companies battle it out (Verizon, FWIW, is team Google for now), some of the money flowing to a SaaS company’s coffers from a big corporate entity will ultimately wind up in either Microsoft, Amazon or Alphabet’s returns.

This model also helps venture investors, who now have more assurance that there will be late-stage capital to bolster their businesses (including really, really bad ones), although most traditional firms have a love-hate relationship with Masayoshi Son’s gargantuan investment vehicle.

Finally, there’s the simple fact that divorcing SoftBank from Saudi Arabia’s journalist-killing murder money is a good thing for the firm and the larger technology industry, which has enough moral conundrums to consider without adding to the mix another problematic geopolitical relationship.


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