Image: Icon Market/Noun Project and Protocol
June 15, 2021
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Good morning! This Tuesday, the explosion of data within enterprises, Magic Johnson joins Cameo, Niantic is making a Transformers game, and your summer reading list is here.
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The Big Story
The database revolution is here
Enterprises used to have to buy actual CDs and physically download programs on employee computers. And everything was saved through a connection to the local network.
Obviously much has changed since then. The cloud is quickly becoming the norm, though on-premises storage still represents a sizable portion of IT spend. And the amount of data that businesses are stockpiling has simply skyrocketed.
The database industry is undergoing one of the most significant shifts in the history of the technology as companies increasingly look to put that information to use. And tons of startups are popping up that are promising new approaches to storing and analyzing information.
- Over the course of a month, for example, four companies — Dremio, Cockroach Labs, Starburst and Databricks — collectively raised nearly $1.4 billion.
- That followed Snowflake's monster IPO in December, which industry experts say proved that vendors outside of AWS, Microsoft or Google Cloud could succeed as independent providers.
- "There has never been more transformational activity going on in this market than there has, frankly, in memory. And I started my career in Wall Street writing COBOL programs against file systems," Gartner research SVP Merv Adrian told Protocol.
The tech plays an integral role in the modern world, too. The suggestions someone sees on Netflix, for example, or the corporate dashboards that executives use to run their businesses are all supported by databases. And the use cases are only growing.
The challenge is selling enterprises on a vision that might still be years away. Part of that is a reflection that companies have a long road ahead in their quests to adopt machine learning, which Databricks and others specialize in.
- One key challenge to that goal is finding the right talent. Between May 2015 and May 2021, for example, the proportion of ML-related jobs to overall tech jobs jumped from 1,021 roles per million tech jobs to 3,289, according to data compiled for Protocol by Indeed.
- But it's also about convincing technologists of new types of architecture. Dremio, Databricks and others, for example, are banking on the "data lakehouse" as the foundation of the future, one they say could make obsolete the data warehouses that grew to prominence over the past two decades.
- And Neo4j believes graph databases will far surpass the capabilities of the operational databases that, for years, were closely associated with Oracle, SAP and other legacy providers.
Of course, not every vendor will survive as a standalone company, particularly given the dominance of the cloud providers that all offer competing tools to the likes of Snowflake, Neo4j, Dremio and Databricks. And that will lead to a wave of consolidation, according to industry experts.
How enterprises will seek to strategize around all the options, especially with money flowing so freely in the sector right now, is one pressing question. While that could mean doubling down on services from the cloud hyperscalers, it also gives third-party providers an opportunity to steal market share, particularly given the increasing focus by businesses on multicloud.
- It's not often you see AWS, Microsoft and Google Cloud sweat. But as the likes of Dremio, Databricks, Snowflake, Cockroach Labs, Neo4j and others continue to find success with users, it's creating an interesting dynamic that is forcing the giants to respond.
- AWS and Microsoft, for example, now sell graph databases, while Google Cloud is partnering with Neo4j instead of building its own product.
That's why those companies, with their deep pockets, could soon be scouring the market for options. But can the new startups survive going solo? As the use of data within enterprises explodes, they just might.
A MESSAGE FROM AMAZON
Amazon's new video series on Amazon.com/15 shows how the "Amazon effect" is helping neighboring small businesses launch, grow, and thrive. In the first episode, you'll hear the experience of Sylvia Burke and François Theodore, the wife-and-husband team who serve Caribbean-inspired specialties at their restaurant - Sylvia's Café – down the street from Amazon's fulfillment center.
People Are Talking
Hiring in a hybrid world? Re-create the whole interview process, not just the in-the-room part, said Facebook's Miranda Kalinowski:
- "With an in-person interview, someone walks with the candidate to the interview room. That's a time of high anxiety for a candidate, and that walk can help calm them down and give them a sense of what's coming in the interview. That's a really important human connection, and we needed to replicate that albeit virtually."
Ransomware is the biggest security issue facing businesses, said Lindy Cameron, head of the U.K.'s National Cyber Security Centre:
- "As the business model has become more and more successful, with these groups securing significant ransom payments from large profitable businesses who cannot afford to lose their data to encryption or to suffer the down time while their services are offline, the market for ransomware has become increasingly professional."
Being a "mission-focused company" is working out for Coinbase, Brian Armstrong said:
- "For any CEOs considering it, I can tell you life is much better on the other side (even if the change itself is painful)."
John Demers is leaving the DOJ in the midst of the controversy over the Trump administration's seizure of records from Apple and other companies. He was the head of the department's national security division.
Magic Johnson is joining the board at Cameo. He'll also start doing Cameos, which will hopefully be just as hilariously literal as his tweets.
Raymond Endres is the new CTO at Airtable, joining from Facebook.
Automattic bought the journaling app Day One, as the company continues to become what Matt Mullenweg called "the Berkshire Hathaway of the internet."
Boaz Gelbord is the new chief security officer at Akamai, joining from Dun & Bradstreet.
It's chaos at Lordstown Motors. CEO Steve Burns and CFO Julio Rodriguez are both out, with Angela Strand running the company until a new CEO is hired. Though that may not happen soon, given that Lordstown is also rapidly running out of money.
In Other News
- On Protocol: A high-profile tech case is heading back to an appeals court. The Supreme Court threw out a ruling in LinkedIn v. hiQ and sent it back to a lower court, where a new ruling on the data-scraping case will be made in light of the recent action in Van Buren v. United States.
- Tim Berners-Lee is finally going to make some money from the web. He's selling an NFT based on his original code through a Sotheby's auction, and said that "it feels right to digitally sign my autograph on a completely digital artifact."
- Niantic is making a Transformers game, adding yet more classic IP to its AR universe. It's called Transformers: Heavy Metal.
- Amazon is facing lawsuits over workplace racism. Five suits have been filed by current and former employees, Recode reported, and dozens of employees said HR chief Beth Galetti was actively preventing Amazon from becoming a more equitable place to work.
- Reality Winner is out of prison. After receiving a sentence of more than five years for leaking national security information to the press, she's now been moved to home confinement.
- YouTube is clamping down on one of the most prized assets in digital ads. Its masthead slot — that huge ad at the top of the homepage — will no longer feature ads for alcohol, gambling, prescription drugs or politics.
- On Protocol: Stripe has a new identity-verification tool. It's called Stripe Identity, and it's available to any business that needs to securely verify that its users are who they say they are.
- Tech is asking for more climate-change transparency. Alphabet, Amazon, Autodesk, eBay, Facebook, Intel and Salesforce sent a letter to SEC chair Gary Gensler asking him to require "regular and consistent reporting of climate-related matters."
- You have one more chance to buy Elon Musk's real estate! He said he's selling his one remaining house in California, and that it "just needs to go to a large family who will live there."
One More Thing
Your summer reading list awaits
What do Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, Barack Obama and Bill Gates have in common (other than tons of money and social followers)? Book clubs! Gates just dropped his reading list for summer 2021, with five selections that for the most part aren't exactly light reading — can we interest you in several hundred pages on the human immune system? — but are timely and good choices for summer.
The tech-iest of them is "Lights Out: Pride, Delusion, and the Fall of General Electric," by Thomas Gryta and Ted Mann. It's a brutal, cautionary tale of what happens when giant companies fall apart, and a really good read. Plus, "The Overstory" by Richard Powers is on his list, and Obama's too. Pretty impressive for a book about trees.
A MESSAGE FROM AMAZON
In 2018, Amazon raised its starting wage for all U.S. employees to at least $15 an hour. They've seen the positive impact this has had on their employees, their families, and their communities. Since then, they've been lobbying Congress to increase the federal minimum wage—which has been stuck at $7.25 since 2009.
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Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously stated Tim Berners-Lee was selling four NFTs; he is selling a collection of four items as a single NFT. This story was updated on June 15, 2021.