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People

Some of the world's best cloud talent is assembling in an unlikely place: Apple

Apple has for years been considered a bit of a backwater in the tech infrastructure community, far behind companies like AWS, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Netflix.

Apple
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

It's getting cloudy over at Apple.

Over the past few months, Apple has gone on a cloud computing hiring spree, snapping up several well-known software engineers working across a range of modern technologies, especially containers and Kubernetes. The quantity and quality of the new hires has caused a stir in the tight-knit cloud community, and could indicate that Apple is finally getting serious about building tech infrastructure on par with companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Google.

The new employees include:

  • Michael Crosby, one of a handful of ex-Docker engineers to join Apple this year. "Michael is who we can thank for containers as they exist today. He was the powerhouse engineer behind all of it," said a former colleague who asked to remain anonymous.
  • Arun Gupta, who joined Apple in February from AWS and is now leading Apple's open-source efforts.
  • Maksym Pavlenko, another former AWS employee who worked on its managed container services such as AWS Fargate.
  • Francesc Campoy, an ex-Googler who will be working on Kubernetes for Apple.

It's not entirely clear what Apple has in mind, but numerous job postings indicate that the company is in the midst of building new tools for its internal software development teams. Apple declined to comment on its plans for the new hires.

Apple runs a massive web operation, including the iCloud file storage service, the App Store, Apple Music, Apple TV+ and its own ecommerce site. However, it has for years been considered a bit of a backwater in the tech infrastructure community, far behind companies like AWS, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Netflix.

In fact, a new book from BuzzFeed News' Alex Kantrowitz reported that Apple's internal engineering teams operate "in a state of tumult," staffed by contractors from different firms that find themselves in constant conflict over resources and priorities. "Until Apple gives the division a hard look, its employees will be stuck spending their time reworking broken internal software, and wishing they were inventing instead," he wrote.

In late 2018, Apple announced plans to invest $10 billion in data center construction over the next five years, adding capacity in Iowa alongside five existing data centers. It also leans heavily on the cloud: As of last year, Apple was one of AWS' biggest customers, and it has a cloud computing deal with Google as well.

Now it appears to be investing in the software side of the operation. Around the same time the data center expansion was announced, Apple realized that its older style of software development needed rethinking, and that the new engineers could help the company build a modern platform for development.


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Containers allow software applications to spin up and wind down much more quickly than older technologies, and Kubernetes is an open-source project used to manage large deployments of containers. Apple joined the Cloud Native Computing Foundation — which hosts Kubernetes and containers, a project that Crosby had led at Docker — in June 2019, and with the new hires has brought several prominent members of that community on board.

Apple has long sought to "own and control" the key technologies that have made its products so successful, going so far as to hire its own mobile chip development team shortly after launching the iPhone. As the smartphone and personal computer markets mature, Apple has turned to services for much of its revenue growth over the past few years. Now it appears to be getting serious about running more of the behind-the-scenes technology that powers those services.

Microsoft wants to replace artists with AI

Better Zoom calls, simpler email attachments, smart iPhone cases and other patents from Big Tech.

Turning your stories into images.

Image: USPTO/Microsoft

Hello and welcome to 2021! The Big Tech patent roundup is back, after a short vacation and … all the things … that happened between the start of the year and now. It seems the tradition of tech companies filing weird and wonderful patents has carried into the new year; there are some real gems from the last few weeks. Microsoft is trying to outsource all creative endeavors to AI; Apple wants to make seat belts less annoying; and Amazon wants to cut down on some of the recyclable waste that its own success has inevitably created.

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Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

People

Google's union has big goals — and big roadblocks

Absence of dues, retaliation fears and small numbers could pose problems for the union's dream of collective bargaining, but Googlers are undeterred.

Recruiting union members beyond the early adopters has had its challenges.

Photo: David Paul Morris/Getty Images

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The initial boom of interest from Googlers was thrilling for Alex Peterson, a software engineer and union spokesperson. "It's really reinvigorating what it means to actually be a community of Googlers, which is something that's been eroding over the past four or five years, or even longer."

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Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (@ anna_c_kramer), where she helps write and produce Source Code, Protocol's daily newsletter. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

About Protocol | Enterprise

‘It’s not OK’: Elastic takes aim at AWS, at the risk of major collateral damage

Elastic's long-running dispute with AWS entered a new chapter last week with big changes to two of its open-source projects. AWS now plans to take those projects under its wing.

"I don't know why this is surprising to people," Elastic CEO Shay Banon said in an interview with Protocol.

Photo: Michael Nagle/Getty Images

Fed up with what he sees as unfair competition from AWS, Elastic CEO Shay Banon felt he had no choice but to restrict the way third parties can use two important open-source projects developed by his company. Yet much of enterprise tech thinks he just threw the baby out with the bathwater.

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Tom Krazit

Tom Krazit ( @tomkrazit) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering cloud computing and enterprise technology out of the Pacific Northwest. He has written and edited stories about the technology industry for almost two decades for publications such as IDG, CNET, paidContent, and GeekWire. He served as executive editor of Gigaom and Structure, and most recently produced a leading cloud computing newsletter called Mostly Cloudy.

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Issie Lapowsky (@issielapowsky) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University’s Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing. Email Issie.
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Issie Lapowsky (@issielapowsky) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University’s Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing. Email Issie.
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