How Acxiom moved to the cloud
Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

How Acxiom moved to the cloud

Protocol Enterprise

Hello, and welcome to Protocol Enterprise! Today: why not all cloud migration projects are created equal (as Acxiom quickly found out), the enterprise startups raising new funding rounds and how one of the most important companies in the chip supply chain plans to double production.

Data cloud culture shock

Despite the cappuccino robot and Michelin-caliber spread, there was something nagging guests from 53-year-old data giant Acxiom at an all-day briefing at Google Cloud HQ in 2019. As much as Acxiom’s cloud converts believed in its promise of speed, efficiency and connectivity, they knew that moving to the cloud could cannibalize a core part of the Arkansas company’s business.

  • Acxiom’s data center services once brought in a significant portion of its revenue, but costs grew as the AI rush required more data storage and speedier processing to enable machine learning and other analytics.
  • Acxiom’s cloud-faithful would have to convince the rest of the company — including salespeople and others still clinging to the data-center days — that a more deliberate move to the cloud was the right one.

Today, Acxiom has relationships with AWS, Google Cloud and Snowflake, as well as other cloud services including Databricks and MongoDB. But moving to the cloud is not as simple as flipping a “cloud-first” switch.

  • “The vast majority of clients, across the board, they still run on-prem,” said Eugene Becker, general manager of Data and Identity at Acxiom, referring to customers that store their data and applications in an Acxiom data center, their own data center or a hybrid of both.
  • Acxiom has more control over decisions to make its own packaged data and services available on cloud platforms. The consumer data that Acxiom sells to marketers is available in AWS and Snowflake’s cloud data marketplaces.
  • Other systems are in the process of moving to the cloud, like Acxiom’s U.S. Postal Service-certified contact data clean-up product, which is getting set up on AWS.
  • As a legacy data broker scrutinized over the years for having too much personal data, security and privacy are major deciding factors. “What could happen if the data was subjected to unauthorized access in these clouds?” said Bhavna Godhania, its senior director of Strategic Partnerships.

As tech built for the cloud infringed on the old way of doing things, it forced an upheaval of how the company did business.

  • Acxiom’s standard three-year, flat-fee package contracts for hardware, software and data management services weren’t set up for the cloud.
  • However, Acxiom CEO Chad Engelgau said, “When solutions are effectively architected, and the availability of all the necessary components exists within a cloud, we can architect solutions that can lower customer costs while creating greater flexibility and access to compute and storage.”

Eventually, Google did get an Acxiom win, but the future of Acxiom’s data centers is unclear.

  • Google is the primary cloud partner for Acxiom’s Intelligence Hub, a home base for ad and marketing applications.
  • Will Acxiom ever ditch its data centers? “Truthfully, we will probably have our own data centers, and will continue to operate and run client solutions in those for five, eight, 10 years, probably — maybe forever. Not sure,” Engelgau said.

Read the full in-depth report about this unusual cloud migration project.

— Kate Kaye (email | twitter)


The competitive edge of digital solutions

For the last 50 years, SAP has worked closely with our customers to solve some of the world’s most intricate problems. We have also seen, and have been a part of, rapid accelerations in technology in response. Across industries, certain paths have emerged to help businesses manage the unexpected challenges over the last few years.

Click here to read more from SAP

Financial corner

AlphaSenseraised $225 million at a $1.7 billion valuation to build search tools for market analysis and intelligence.

CoachHub raised $200 million to provide employee training and digital coaching.

Zoovu raised $169 million for its product discovery software.

Vendr raised $150 million to help enterprises buy and renew their SaaS applications. raised $140 million to help developers build websites and applications.

LeadSquared raised over $150 million for its software, which helps sales teams become more efficient.

DataStax raised $115 million at a $1.6 billion valuation for its database built on the open-source NoSQL database Cassandra.

Fountain raised $100 million for its recruiting and hiring software.

— Aisha Counts (email | twitter)

We’re gonna need more tools

Making the most advanced chips with extreme ultraviolet lithography technology is a challenge. But building the EUV tools themselves is a momentous undertaking for ASML, the only company in the world that can do it.

Even as it rushes to increase its capacity, ASML executives estimate it will ship only 55 EUV tools this year, a sharp contrast to the nearly 400 machines using earlier-generation technology it expects to ship. As the thirst for silicon continues to grow, ASML realized that it would have to figure out a way to churn out almost twice that many EUV machines every year. To do so would require the entire supply chain around the machines to ramp up too.

The reason for the big demand is twofold, according to ASML Vice President Christophe Fouquet: EUV tech lets manufacturers produce chips that use less power, which is increasingly becoming a priority. And chips are getting larger in size, which translates into stronger demand for tools.

“So our customers are already looking at, indeed, 90 systems per year, maybe even more in the future,” Fouquet said at a recent investor conference, according to a transcript from Sentieo. “That's something we believe to be structural.”

— Max A. Cherney (email | twitter)

Around the enterprise

Cloudflare suffered a widespread 45-minute outage that took down many of its customers’ sites and was traced back to a similar problem that took down Facebook for several hours last year.

TSMC released more details around how it plans to use gate all-around technology, a breakthrough new transistor design that will help chipmakers increase performance.

AWS introduced the AWS Center for Quantum Networking, a long-term research project to understand how quantum networks will evolve alongside quantum computers somewhere down the road.

HashiCorp unveiled a new tool called Drift Detection for Terraform Cloud, which will allow Terraform users to more quickly understand when configuration changes have taken a production environment too far away from its intended state, a common cause of many outages.


The competitive edge of digital solutions

When companies invest in maintaining their “green ledger” with the same commitment they have to their financial ledgers, they will be able to connect their environmental, social, and financial data holistically so they can steer their business towards sustainability. At the end of the day, what gets measured, gets managed.

Click here to read more from SAP

Thanks for reading — see you tomorrow!

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