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SD Times news digest: MongoDB Atlas enables multi-cloud clusters, Git 2.29 released, and Neo4j Graph Data Science 1.4

MongoDB Atlas has been updated with multi-cloud clusters. According to the company, the solution enables developers to leverage the best from each cloud provider, including services such as AI, analytics, and serverless development products. 

“With the availability of MongoDB Atlas multi-cloud clusters, customers can build, deploy and run powerful, highly available applications across different cloud providers, giving them unprecedented flexibility on where they can deploy applications, and what services they can leverage from our cloud infrastructure partners,” said Dev Ittycheria, the president and CEO of MongoDB.

Multi-cloud clusters give organizations the unprecedented flexibility to seamlessly migrate their data—a typically onerous challenge—from one cloud provider to another to meet the changing needs of their application or business requirements, the company explained. 

Git 2.29 released 
Git 2.29 offers experimental support for writing a repository’s objects using a SHA-256 hash of their contents, instead of using SHA-1 as well as other new features. 

When files are added to a repository, Git copies their contents in its local database and creates a ‘tree’ object that refers to the blobs. 

Other features include the addition of negative refspecs and new git shortlog tricks. Additional details are available here.

Microsoft Edge WebView2
Today’s release includes a forward-compatible WebView2 SDK along with the production-ready WebView2 Runtime.  

These can be used in any Win32 C/C++ application, and are supported across existing Windows versions.

WebView2 is Microsoft’s new embedded web control built on top of Microsoft Edge, which means that a Windows app developer will now have access to the latest web tech in both existing and new apps. 

Neo4j Graph Data Science 1.4 released with new data algorithms
Neo4j for Graph Data Science 1.4 is a graph-native machine learning functionality commercially available for enterprises. 

The latest Neo4j version includes graph embedding algorithms that learn the structure of a user’s graph, rather than relying on predetermined formulas to calculate specific features like centrality scores. 

“The ability to learn generalized, predictive features from data is significant because organizations don’t always know how to represent connected data for use in machine learning models,” Neo4j wrote in a post.

Fluree Web3 data platform now open source
Fluree released its core source code under the AGPL open source license. Developers can now pull from and contribute to Fluree on Github, in turn building a new internet ecosystem that promotes data-centric security, traceability and global interoperability.

“By open sourcing our technology, we reject the status quo practice of locking data up in proprietary format, and instead solidify our commitment to building best-in-class open source solutions to modern data management problems,” said Fluree co-CEO Brain Platz. “We are offering enterprises a bridge from vendor lock-in towards a future of complete data ownership, portability and interoperability.”

Fluree’s key use cases include verifiable credentials, decentralized identifiers, master data management, open data platforms and integrations with public blockchains. Additional details are available here.

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Amazon removes the $500 Prime Bike, says it has nothing to do with the Peloton knock-off

Yesterday, a fitness equipment maker called Echelon Fitness announced its latest product, the so-called Prime Bike. At $500, it’s nearly a clone of Peloton’s $1,900 product. The company said it had developed the bike “in collaboration with Amazon”. Amazon is now saying that’s not true and has removed the product from its site and issued statements distancing itself from Echelon. The press release announcing the product is now removed from most listings, too.

“This bike is not an Amazon product or related to Amazon Prime,” Amazon said in a released statement. “Echelon does not have a formal partnership with Amazon. We are working with Echelon to clarify this in its communications, stop the sale of the product, and change the product branding.”

This comes the day after Echelon Fitness announced the product, touting the partnership that resulted in “[Amazon’s] first-ever connected fitness product”. The $500 bike certainly looked the part as a Peloton knock-off. Despite weighing 45 lbs less than Peloton’s original, Echelon’s Prime Bike had the same color scheme, design, and features minus a large video monitor.

At this time, the bike is unavailable from Amazon. If the retailer’s statement above is any indication, the product will eventually be re-listed and available for sale under different branding. Or buyers can look to Walmart where it’s available under a different name for the same price.


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The SD Times Data Quality Project

It began last January with a column I wrote titled “The little dirty data secret,” which shone a light on the issue of data quality — or lack thereof — within many organizations. I called it the dirty little secret because of a reluctance on the part of many to even acknowledge they had a problem.

I spoke with Greg Brown at data quality solution provider Melissa about it, who said for many organizations, poor data quality is “the cost of doing business.” We spoke about the issue in their California offices, and from that conversation was born the SD Times Data Quality Project.

After our initial meeting, Brown worked with us to create a survey of developers as to how much they were responsible for data quality, what their role was in ensuring the data going into their applications was of high quality. In short, more than half of the 202 respondents said they were involved in data quality input, data quality management, choosing validation APIs or API data quality solutions, and data integration. 

To help us better understand the issue, Brown described six defined dimensions of data quality, The standard measures of data are accuracy, timeliness, consistency, validity, uniqueness and completeness. 

We asked people who took the survey if they would share their stories, and several agreed. They will be appearing on sdtimes.com in the coming weeks. We’ll hear where their data problems exist, what they’re doing to remediate those problems, and where they are at now. Among the issues we’ll be talking about are data integrity, poor documentation, a lack of training for dealing with data, cleaning and optimization, and data management.

In a world where the amount of data organizations are handling has literally exploded, maintaining quality takes more time and effort than ever before. We’re looking forward to bringing you the stories from the field of how organizations today are managing. Join us for the journey.

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Salsify nabs $155M as its commerce experience platform sees a big surge of business from Covid-19

As traditional brands grapple with a new world where selling online is as much or perhaps even more important than how you are positioned in a physical store, a startup that helps them get all their inventory, marketing and selling strategies all on one page has raised a significant round of funding.

Salsify, which provides brands and the companies behind them a single place to track product inventories, manage how they are described and sold across a disparate array of online and offline locations, and then run analytics on the data to figure out what next steps to take, has closed $155 million in a Series E round of financing led by Warburg Pincus, with other unnamed investors participating.

Jason Purcell, the CEO and co-founder who co-founded the company with Jeremy Redburn (chief data officer) and Rob Gonzalez (CMO), said the company would not be disclosing its valuation but only confirmed that it was a “significant proud” compared to Salsify’s valuation in its last fundraise, which was $308 million, according to data from PitchBook.

Prior to today Salsify had raised around $96 million, from investors including Matrix Partners, Venrock, North Bridge Venture Partners.

The funding is coming on the back of a big 2020 for Salsify, which, like a lot of other companies working in the wider area of e-commerce, has seen strong tailwinds resulting from Covid-19. Specifically, with many continuing to comply with social distancing rules, there has been a big shift for shopping and browsing for goods online.

“Companies realize they need a strong digital footprint,” Purcell said simply in an interview. “Whether it’s Amazon or another marketplace, or their own site, what Covid has done is give many brands a fraction of the thought process: if we don’t have a strong digital footprint, we won’t be able to engage.”

The company is tackling a very fundamental (but I guess “happy”) problem in the world of online commerce. It’s an extremely fragmented landscape, with a huge number of potential ways for a brand to connect with potential customers: their own sites, those of other retailers, larger marketplaces, social channels, direct sales using messaging or email, and much more.

And that’s before you factor in the offline channels that are still very much in use, despite the turn to online shopping for many of us.

This is, in fact, the rationale for the name of the company, too, Purcell told me. The salsify might be known by some as a black root vegetable that looks a bit like a thin white carrot when peeled but with a sweet and mild taste. But it’s also a wildflower that is a bit like a dandelion: it grows everywhere and its blooms spread far and wide, a metaphor for the wide, fragmented world of online commerce. Purcell said he and the founders originally wanted to name the company “Dandelion” but it was taken (indeed, there are a lot of dandelion-themed businesses) so Salsify it was.

The fact that it’s a wide-ranging problem also means that there have been a wide-ranging field of companies that have aimed to tackle it. They include companies like Contently and Sitecore, as well as the likes of Salesforce and Adobe, although Purcell describes his company as “complementary to marketing clouds.” (Notably, it made a big hire from Salesforce two weeks ago: Mike Milburn, formerly Salesforce’s chief customer office, is now Salsify’s president.)

Salsify counts companies like Coca Cola, Rubbermaid and Mars among its customers. In all, it has some 800 companies and brands on its books with 225 of them pulling in more than $1 billion in revenues, and since its last round, a Series D in 2018, the company has seen a boom in business, with a 120%+ net revenue retention rate.

Purcell said that his company plans to use the funding in two main areas. First, it plans to continue expanding its product stack, currently based around the company’s CommerceXM (for “experience management”) platform, which includes features for managing product information, digital assets, and managing how products are sold through a brand’s own site, marketplaces, online and offline retailers and social channels and more.

Second, the company has its sights set on expanding internationally. The company is based out of Boston, and a couple of years ago it opened its first international headquarters in Lisbon, Portugal. Right now some 40 of its customers are based overseas, and the plan will be to double down on more expansion both serving them, as well as their US customers abroad, as well as picking up new business.

Purcell also added that the round and the choice of lead investor was very much in line with the company’s ambition to eventually go public.

“This is pointing us on the path to an IPO,” he said. “The intent is to build a company that can operate as a public company. It’s about how we hold ourselves against public companies, while making sure we can operate the same from a growth perspective. Warburg Pincus has taken 150 companies public, and we are building with that in mind.”

Warburg Pincus has been a pretty prolific growth-stage investor whose involvement indeed points not to existing scale and success, but wider ambition. Other companies it has backed include CrowdStrike, Avalara, Samsara, Ant Group, Privitar, Trax and Gojek.

“Salsify is a clear market leader, serving some of the largest and most discerning global brands and retailers. The company’s strong track record, paired with a talented leadership team has positioned it well for the increase in demand for digital shelf solutions,” said Vishnu Menon, Managing Director, Warburg Pincus, in a statement.

“We are excited to partner with Salsify in their mission to help brands develop better and longer lasting relationships with consumers online,” said Michael Ding, Vice President, Warburg Pincus.


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Dropbox CEO Drew Houston says the pandemic forced the company to reevaluate what work means

Dropbox CEO and co-founder Drew Houston, appearing at TechCrunch Disrupt today, said that COVID has accelerated a shift to distributed work that we have been talking about for some time, and these new ways of working will not simply go away when the pandemic is over.

“When you think more broadly about the effects of the shift to distributed work, it will be felt well beyond when we go back to the office. So we’ve gone through a one way door. This is maybe one of the biggest changes to knowledge work since that term was invented in 1959,” Houston told TechCrunch Editor-In-Chief Matthew Panzarino.

That change has prompted Dropbox to completely rethink the product set over the last six months, as the company has watched the way people work change in such a dramatic way. He said even though Dropbox is a cloud service, no SaaS tool in his view was purpose-built for this new way of working and we have to reevaluate what work means in this new context.

“Back in March we started thinking about this, and how [the rapid shift to distributed work] just kind of happened. It wasn’t really designed. What if you did design it? How would you design this experience to be really great? And so starting in March we reoriented our whole product roadmap around distributed work,” he said.

He also broadly hinted that the fruits of that redesign are coming down the pike. “We’ll have a lot more to share about our upcoming launches in the future,” he said.

Houston said that his company has adjusted well to working from home, but when they had to shut down the office, he was in the same boat as every other CEO when it came to running his company during a pandemic. Nobody had a blueprint on what to do.

“When it first happened, I mean there’s no playbook for running a company during a global pandemic so you have to start with making sure you’re taking care of your customers, taking care of your employees, I mean there’s so many people whose lives have been turned upside down in so many ways,” he said.

But as he checked in on the customers, he saw them asking for new workflows and ways of working, and he recognized there could be an opportunity to design tools to meet these needs.

“I mean this transition was about as abrupt and dramatic and unplanned as you can possibly imagine, and being able to kind of shape it and be intentional is a huge opportunity,” Houston said.

Why Dropbox shares are soaring after it reported earnings

Houston debuted Dropbox in 2008 at the precursor to TechCrunch Disrupt, then called the TechCrunch 50. He mentioned that the Wi-Fi went out during his demo, proving the hazards of live demos, but offered words of encouragement to this week’s TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield participants.

Although his is a public company on a $1.8 billion run rate, he went through all the stages of a startup, getting funding and eventually going public, and even today as a mature public company, Dropbox still evolving and changing as it adapts to changing requirements in the marketplace.


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A BizOps Manifesto aims to close gap between business, IT

A coalition of software industry leaders today is releasing a BizOps Manifesto, a framework that aims to finally address the need for the business and IT sides of an enterprise to work toward common outcomes that drive the bottom line.

In its announcement, the BizOps Coalition said a recent survey showed that more than three-quarters of respondents indicated that “the disconnect between IT and business units results in significant costs,” while also creating waste and stymieing innovation.

“To us, this is a progression of 20 years of transformation in the industry,” said Serge Lucio, an author of the manifesto and vice president and general manager of the Enterprise Software Division at Broadcom, which is driving a BizOps initiative. “It started about 20 years ago with the Agile Manifesto, and as we’ve seen in the last five years, a lot of standards and agile consultants have started talking about elevating agility to encompass the business level.”

According to the coalition, the BizOps Manifesto lays out a dozen guiding principles for organizations to follow to better achieve the business outcomes they desire though IT. Among those principles are:

Business outcomes are the primary measure of success;
Business leaders need to make informed technology investment decisions that drive business growth, improve customer experience and increase profitability;
Requirements can and should change frequently, based on changing market, customer and business requirements.
Changes are welcome even after software is in production; and
The most efficient way to build trust and confidence is through transparency, communication and shared objectives.

“I see BizOps as a fundamental competence for companies with a significant technology investment — one that will improve their business agility and enable them to fulfill their purpose and serve their customer, no matter what the future brings,” Evan Leybourn, a BizOps Manifesto author and CEO and co-founder of the Business Agility Institute, said in a statement.

The issue of bringing business and IT efforts into alignment has been much-discussed over the last quarter-century, and it remains an issue today. Some of the disconnect involves different KPIs for IT and business. On the IT side, KPIs usually revolve around delivering on-time and on-budget, while business KPIs might revolve around the number of shopping cart purchases closed, or the number of seats booked on an airline, for example. The challenge for IT is to understand the KPI they ultimately need to deliver on, and Lucio said that at times, even the business doesn’t have this crisply defined. 

But Lucio believes the time is right for that to actually be realized. Among the reasons he cited were shorter development cycles, in which business and IT can no longer work under what he called “a contractual relationship,” and more continuous feedback loops exist for developers and decision-makers as to what is being developed.

Further, the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing organizations to more quickly follow through with digital transformation plans. “Just quoting Satya Nadella, he famously mentioned that he believes there’s been more transformation month to month than in the last two years,” Lucio said. “So there has been two years of transformation in just two months. There’s been way more of an imperative to transform now.”

Meanwhile, a new generation of CIOs and development leaders who come into this from a different culture. These “Gen Z’ers and millennials” want to understand their purpose, what they are doing, and ultimately what kind of value they are delivering. 

Finally, the advancement of tooling, leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning, gives organizations the ability to bring together different kinds of data that enables people from different department and organizational units to share it and use it as a common foundation to make decisions.  

To learn more about the BizOps Coalition and the manifesto, Lucio, Mik Kersten of Tasktop and distinguished professor of Information Technology and Management at Babson College take part in a discussion on Oct. 15 at 11 AM Eastern time.

The founding members of the manifesto are:

Serge Lucio, vice president and general manage of the Enterprise Software Division at Broadcom
Patrick Tickle, chief product officer at Planview
Mik Kersten, founder and CEO of Tasktop
Sally Elatta, CEO of AgilityHealth
Evan Leybourn, CEO of Business Agility Institute
Tom Davenport, distinguished professor and author
Dave West, founder, Scrum.org
Kevin Surace, chairman/CTO of Appvance.ai

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