It’s the data, stupid

It’s the data, stupid

Protocol Enterprise

Welcome to Protocol | Enterprise, your comprehensive roundup of everything you need to know about the week in cloud and enterprise software. This Thursday: another funding round for data startups driving the future, big moves at Intel and VMware, and Microsoft and AWS remain high on enterprise shopping lists in 2021.

Oh, and a quick housekeeping note: Protocol | Enterprise will be taking a day off on Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We'll be back next Thursday.

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The Big Story

It's the data, stupid

So much has changed in the practice of software development over the last decade, and one of the most profound changes has been an explosion in the breadth and depth of database technology available to software developers. Dozens of database and data analysis companies emerged over that period, and whether or not "data is the new oil," it's still a good time to be in the data business.

This week Cockroach Labs became the latest of many database startups to cash in on the surge of interest in new database companies, as more and more companies start to modernize their tech infrastructure. The company just raised $160 million in new funding, adding to the $86.6 million it raised last May to help it chase all the new cloud business that emerged in 2020.

Two things are coming together to drive demand for new database technologies: good old "digital transformation," as years of data is freed from legacy infrastructure, and the flexibility offered by the new generation of cloud-first technologies.

  • For all we talk about "cloud native" companies like S&P Global Ratings, Capital One or Netflix, there is still so much data locked up inside older systems that will one day have to migrate to something newer.
  • Data has long been considered fragile inside those companies. As in: Don't touch it, no matter how old that database is; if our inventory system goes down, you're fired.
  • But at a certain point, there's no choice for on-premises software users. Last year's end-of-support deadline for Microsoft SQL Server 2008 was a forcing function for a lot of migrations, and almost all vendors will eventually stop providing software updates and security fixes for old databases.

A new generation of companies is built around this market, and they don't have to consider their legacy customers when pressing ahead.

  • There are so many database options available right now to accommodate a variety of application needs, from traditional relational databases built around SQL to graph databases to time-series databases: AWS offers more than 15 options, and that doesn't include third-party databases available on its cloud.
  • While "best of breed" might be on the wane in enterprise software, dozens of database startups and public companies are focused on a single product, or at least a small handful.
  • In addition to Cockroach Labs, startups like Materialize, Starburst, and BigID have all raised substantial sums of money in the last month for their database or data-management businesses.
  • And while Oracle and SAP struggle to reinvent themselves for the cloud era, newer public companies like MongoDB, Elastic and (of course) Snowflake are just getting started, and have the potential to add new data-related products alongside their flagship services.

This trend isn't going away: In addition to all the existing data that will find its way into new services over the next few years, even more data will be generated over the next decade, and that's boosting the fortunes of these companies.

  • 5G networks will (eventually) start to connect more and more devices in our homes and offices, and some day autonomous vehicles will finally start to take to the streets.
  • Software development trends such as observability require data logging and analysis technology to reach their full potential.
  • And companies hoping to use artificial intelligence to improve their products and services won't get anywhere without massive data sets.

On the balance, data has probably had a more neutral impact on the world than oil. But it's the most precious commodity in tech, and the companies that know how to store, organize and protect it will be in a good place for years to come.

— Tom Krazit



For Raj Hazra, who is senior vice president of corporate strategy and communications at Micron, there has never been a more thrilling time than this golden age of data. In this interview, Hazra describes how "we are now at the doorstep of taking things that we thought were science fiction and making them real, and it's only going to be exponentially faster going forward". Read more from Micron's Raj Hazra.

This Week On Protocol

Second acts: Pat Gelsigner designed some of the most important chips in Intel's history, and he's returning to the company at a moment when it desperately needs a new direction, as Protocol's Ben Pimentel outlined. His departure from VMware also creates a tricky situation for the virtualization company, according to Joe Williams. (Disclosure: My wife works at VMware.)

Parler games: Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson has not had second thoughts about ending his company's relationship with the right-wing social media app Parler in the wake of last week's attack on the Capitol. In an interview, Lawson also discussed the motivation for Twilio's $3.2 billion acquisition of Segment and his thoughts on "yo code," the polar opposite of no code.

Hold the line: The 21-year-old cloud-based communications company RingCentral has found itself in competition with Zoom and Microsoft Teams this past year. But its CEO Vlad Shmunis told Joe Williams that you shouldn't count it out: Big partnerships with on-prem communication providers mean it's very much still in the thick of the action.

Five Questions for...

Francois Locoh-Donou, CEO, F5

What was your first tech job?

My first job was at a French company called Photonetics. I did research and development on fiber-optic sensors. We built sensor systems that could measure temperature and pressure in really extreme environments, such as oil hydrogenation tanks. Really cool technology!

What's the best piece of advice you could give to someone starting their first tech job?

Start a learning journey that never stops. Learn everything you can about your company — e.g., its customers, technology, market, competitors, what it sells, what it doesn't and why. Technology changes constantly and your ability to augment your education with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge will make you increasingly valuable to your employer.

What was the first computer that made you realize the power of computing and connectivity?

The MO5; it was well before computers helped with connectivity! But it made me discover how much you could do with a computer program, especially games and mental calculus!

What was the biggest reason for the success of cloud computing over the past decade?

The short answer is the acceleration and democratization of application deployment. Cloud is the chief enabler of scale, speed and innovation of enterprise applications. Many enterprises can't staff fast enough to meet end users' appetites for applications. Cloud enables businesses to focus precious human talent on development and deployment to grow strategically.

Will the pandemic usher in a new era of remote working, or will we all come back together when it is safe to do so?

I think the future of work is learning to better integrate our work life into our personal life. We need to create better balance by shaping a life that works for the individual. Regardless of whether we are working at home or the office, we need to be able to do the things we love, like spending time with our children, exercising, etc.

Around the Cloud

  • Oracle introduced the latest generation of its flagship database and released a version of its APEX low-code development platform as a cloud service.
  • Intel's 10-nanometer server processors are finally ready after long delays, and should start rolling out to cloud providers and server manufacturers in the first quarter.
  • AMD showed off its own next-generation server processors this week, which will be built on TSMC's 7-nanometer manufacturing process starting sometime this quarter.
  • The latest on the epic SolarWinds attack: The attackers were able to remove the code that facilitated the hack before SolarWinds could detect it, according to Crowdstrike.
  • For years, Microsoft operated its own data centers for cloud services like Office365 but it has finally moved Office365, Xbox Live, and Bing to Azure, according to ZDNet.
  • Microsoft's Brad Anderson joined Qualtrics as president of products and services. He's held a variety of enterprise and consumer-tech positions over an 18-year career at Microsoft.
  • The Next Platform unpacked the F5-Volterra acquisition: It will help F5 continue a years-long migration from selling primarily networking hardware to primarily software.
  • Observability is getting traction as a more complete way of assessing application performance, and Grafana now offers a free tier so smaller companies can take advantage of increased visibility along with the big companies.
  • Last year was great for most cloud software vendors, but Microsoft and AWS continued to be the big winners according to a new report from Flexera.



For Raj Hazra, who is senior vice president of corporate strategy and communications at Micron, there has never been a more thrilling time than this golden age of data. In this interview, Hazra describes how "we are now at the doorstep of taking things that we thought were science fiction and making them real, and it's only going to be exponentially faster going forward". Read more from Micron's Raj Hazra.

Thanks for reading. We'll be back with Protocol | Enterprise next Thursday.

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