Trello acquires Butler to add power of automation

Trello, the organizational tool owned by Atlassian, announced an acquisition of its very own this morning when it bought Butler for an undisclosed amount. What Butler brings to Trello is the power of automation, stringing together a bunch of commands to make something complex happen automatically. As Trello’s Michael Pryor pointed out in a blog […]

Trello, the organizational tool owned by Atlassian, announced an acquisition of its very own this morning when it bought Butler for an undisclosed amount.

What Butler brings to Trello is the power of automation, stringing together a bunch of commands to make something complex happen automatically. As Trello’s Michael Pryor pointed out in a blog post announcing the acquisition, we are used to tools like IFTTT, Zapier and Apple Shortcuts, and this will bring a similar type of functionality directly into Trello.

Screenshot: Trello

“Over the years, teams have discovered that by automating processes on Trello boards with the Butler Power-Up, they could spend more time on important tasks and be more productive. Butler helps teams codify business rules and processes, taking something that might take ten steps to accomplish and automating it into one click,” Pryor wrote.

This means that Trello can be more than a static organizational tool. Instead, it can move into the realm of light-weight business process automation. For example, this could allow you to move an item from your To Do board to your Doing board automatically based on dates, or to share tasks with appropriate teams as a project moves through its life cycle, saving a bunch of manual steps that tend to add up.

The company indicated that it will be incorporating the Alfred’s capabilities directly into Trello in the coming months. It will make it available to all levels of users, including the free tier, but they promise more advanced functionality for Business and Enterprise customers when the integration is complete. Pryor also suggested that more automation could be coming to Trello. “Butler is Trello’s first step down this road, enabling every user to automate pieces of their Trello workflow to save time, stay organized and get more done.”

Atlassian bought Trello in 2017 for $425 million, but this acquisition indicates it is functioning quasi-independently as part of the Atlassian family.

Here’s what caused yesterday’s O2 and SoftBank outages

It appears that most mobile carriers, including O2 and SoftBank, have recovered from yesterday’s cell phone network outage that was triggered by a shutdown of Ericsson equipment running on their networks. That shutdown appears to have been triggered by expired software certificates on the equipment itself. While Ericsson acknowledged in their press release yesterday that expired […]

It appears that most mobile carriers, including O2 and SoftBank, have recovered from yesterday’s cell phone network outage that was triggered by a shutdown of Ericsson equipment running on their networks. That shutdown appears to have been triggered by expired software certificates on the equipment itself.

While Ericsson acknowledged in their press release yesterday that expired certificates were at the root of the problem, you may be wondering why this would cause a shutdown. It turns out that it’s likely due to a fail-safe system in place, says Tim Callan, senior fellow at Sectigo (formerly Comodo CA), a U.S. certificate-issuing authority. Callan has 15 years of experience in the industry.

He indicated that while he didn’t have specific information on this outage, it would be consistent with industry best practices to shut down the system when encountering expired certificates “We don’t have specific visibility into the Ericsson systems in question, but a typical application would require valid certificates to be in place in order to keep operating. That is to protect against breach by some kind of agent that is maliciously inserted into the network,” Callan told TechCrunch.

In fact, Callan said that in 2009 a breach at Heartland Payments was directly related to such a problem. “2009’s massive data breach of Heartland Payment Systems occurred because the network in question did NOT have such a requirement. Today it’s common practice to use certificates to avoid that same vulnerability,” he explained.

Ericsson would not get into specifics about what caused the problem.”Ericsson takes full responsibility for this technical failure. The problem has been identified and resolved. After a complete analysis Ericsson will take measures to prevent such a failure from happening again.”

Among those affected yesterday were millions of O2 customers in Great Britain and SoftBank customers in Japan. SoftBank issued an apology in the form of a press release on the company website. “We deeply apologize to our customers for all inconveniences it caused. We will strive to take all measures to prevent the same network outage.”

As for O2, they also apologized this morning after restoring service, tweeting:

Pivotal announces new serverless framework

Pivotal has always been about making open source tools for enterprise developers, but surprisingly up until now the arsenal has lacked a serverless component. That changed today with the alpha launch of Pivotal Function Service. “Pivotal Function Service is a Kubernetes-based, multi-cloud function service. It’s part of the broader Pivotal vision of offering you a […]

Pivotal has always been about making open source tools for enterprise developers, but surprisingly up until now the arsenal has lacked a serverless component. That changed today with the alpha launch of Pivotal Function Service.

Pivotal Function Service is a Kubernetes-based, multi-cloud function service. It’s part of the broader Pivotal vision of offering you a single platform for all your workloads on any cloud,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing the new service.

What’s interesting about Pivotal’s flavor of serverless besides the fact that it’s open source, is that it has been designed to work both on-prem and in the cloud in a cloud native fashion, hence the Kubernetes-based aspect of it. This is unusual to say the least.

The idea up until now has been that the large-scale cloud providers like Amazon, Google and Microsoft could dial up whatever infrastructure your functions require, then dial them down when you’re finished without you ever having to think about the underlying infrastructure. The cloud provider deals with whatever compute, storage and memory you need to run the function and no more.

Pivotal wants to take that same idea and make it available in the cloud across any cloud service. It also wants to make it available on-prem, which may seem curious at first, but Pivotal’s Onsi Fakhouri says customers want that same abilities both on-prem and in the cloud. “One of the key values that you often hear about serverless is that it will run down to zero and there is less utilization, but at the same time there are customers who want to explore and embrace the serverless programming paradigm on-prem,” Fakhouri said. Of course, then it is up to IT to ensure that there are sufficient services to meet the demands of the serverless programs.

The new package includes several key components for developers including an environment for building, deploying and managing your functions, a native eventing ability that provides a way to build rich event triggers to call whatever functionality you require, and the ability to do this within a Kubernetes-based environment. This is particularly important as companies embrace a hybrid use case to manage the events across on-prem and cloud in a seamless way.

One of the advantages of Pivotal’s approach is that Pivotal can work on any cloud as an open product. This in contrast to the cloud providers like Amazon, Google and Microsoft who provide similar services that run exclusively on their clouds. Pivotal is not the first to build an open source Function as a Service, but they are attempting to package it in a way that makes it easier to use.

Serverless doesn’t actually mean there are no underlying servers. Instead, it means that developers don’t have to point to any servers because the cloud provider takes care of whatever infrastructure is required. In an on-prem scenario, IT has to make those resources available.

IBM selling Lotus Notes/Domino business to HCL for $1.8B

IBM announced last night that it is selling the final components from its 1995 acquisition of Lotus to Indian firm HCL for $1.8 billion. IBM paid $3.5 billion for Lotus back in the day. The big pieces here are Lotus Notes, Domino and Portal. These were a big part of IBM’s enterprise business for a long […]

IBM announced last night that it is selling the final components from its 1995 acquisition of Lotus to Indian firm HCL for $1.8 billion.

IBM paid $3.5 billion for Lotus back in the day. The big pieces here are Lotus Notes, Domino and Portal. These were a big part of IBM’s enterprise business for a long time, but last year Big Blue began to pull away, selling the development part to HCL, while maintaining control of sales and marketing.

This announcement marks the end of the line for IBM involvement. With the development of the platform out of its control, and in need of cash after spending $34 billion for Red Hat, perhaps IBM simply decided it no longer made sense to keep any part of this in-house.

As for HCL, it sees an opportunity to continue to build the Notes/Domino business, and it’s seizing it with this purchase. “The large-scale deployments of these products provide us with a great opportunity to reach and serve thousands of global enterprises across a wide range of industries and markets,” C Vijayakumar, president and CEO at HCL Technologies said in a statement announcing the deal.

Alan Lepofsky, an analyst at Constellation Research who keeps close watch on the enterprise collaboration space says that the sale could represent a fresh start for software that IBM hasn’t really been paying close attention to for some time. “HCL is far more interested in Notes/Domino than IBM has been for a decade. They are investing heavily, trying to rejuvenate the brand,” Lepofsky told TechCrunch.

While this software may feel long in tooth, Notes and Domino are still in use in many corners of the enterprise, and this is especially true in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) AP (Asia Pacific). Lepofsky said.

He added that IBM appears to be completely exiting the collaboration space with this sale. “It appears that IBM is done with collaboration, out of the game,” he said.

This move makes sense for IBM, which is moving in a different direction as it develops its cloud business. The Red Hat acquisition in October, in particular shows that the company wants to embrace private and hybrid cloud deployments, and older software like Lotus Notes and Domino don’t really play a role in that world.

The deal, which is subject to regulatory approval processes, is expected to close in the middle of next year.

Ericsson software problem has been causing widespread cell phone outages

A problem with the software in Ericsson equipment is causing outages across the world, including O2 users in Great Britain and SoftBank users in Japan, according to a report in the Financial Times earlier today. Ericsson took blame for the outage in a press release. It apparently involves faulty software on certain Ericsson equipment used […]

A problem with the software in Ericsson equipment is causing outages across the world, including O2 users in Great Britain and SoftBank users in Japan, according to a report in the Financial Times earlier today.

Ericsson took blame for the outage in a press release. It apparently involves faulty software on certain Ericsson equipment used on the affected company’s mobile networks. While Ericsson indicated it involved multiple countries, it appeared to try to minimize the impact by stating it involved “network disturbances for a limited number of customers.” The FT report indicated that it was actually affecting millions of mobile customers worldwide.

Regardless, the company said that an initial analysis attributed the problem to an expired software certificate on the affected equipment. Börje Ekholm, Ericsson president and CEO, said they were working to restore the service as soon as possible, which probably isn’t soon enough for people who don’t have a working cell phone at the moment.

“The faulty software that has caused these issues is being decommissioned and we apologize not only to our customers but also to their customers. We work hard to ensure that our customers can limit the impact and restore their services as soon as possible,” Ekholm said in a statement.

While the press release went on to say they are working to restore the service throughout the day, as of publishing this article, the O2 outage maps still showed problems in the London area and throughout Great Britain.

The AT&T and Verizon outage pages are also currently showing outages in the U.S. We reached out to Ericsson by phone and email to confirm if this was part of their software problems, but had not heard back by the time we published. If we do, we will update this story.

(Note that Verizon owns this publication.)

Linux Foundation’s OpenChain project welcomes Google, Facebook and Uber

The Linux Foundation’s OpenChain project helps company find ways to comply with open source licensing requirements. Today at the Open Compliance Summit in Yokohama, Japan it announced Google, Facebook and Uber have joined the project as platinum members. As platinum members the three companies become part of the governing board. Shane Coughlan, OpenChain General Manager […]

The Linux Foundation’s OpenChain project helps company find ways to comply with open source licensing requirements. Today at the Open Compliance Summit in Yokohama, Japan it announced Google, Facebook and Uber have joined the project as platinum members.

As platinum members the three companies become part of the governing board. Shane Coughlan, OpenChain General Manager says as the project has matured, this a logical point for three large technology companies to come on board.

“Facebook, Google and Uber are perfect new additions for this point, as we move towards becoming a formal industry standard and scaling very significantly across multiple markets. In particular, we are making sure that we can clearly communicate the advantages of OpenChain, and we can clearly show that diversity and the knowledge of our board, as well,” Coughlan told TechCrunch.

As companies who use significant amounts of open source code, having these three organizations in particular really raises the profile of the project. “Facebook, Google and Uber are really interesting because they are in strong competition with each other and are coalescing around a single solution. And I think that’s probably one of the most important messages today. Companies which are intense rivals in many markets all see one single coherent approach to open source compliance in the supply chain and are putting their weight behind it,” he said.

Google has been building its own compliance processes for years, and it sees this project, which launched in 2016, as a way to help standardize open source governance. “The OpenChain Project is changing that by defining the core requirements of a quality compliance program and developing curriculum to help with training and management. It’s hard to overstate the importance of this work now that open source is a critical input at every step in the supply chain, both in hardware and software,” Google’s Max Sills and Josh Simmons wrote in a blog post on the company joining OpenChain.

While OpenChain works toward a standard way of helping companies comply with open source licensing requirements, regardless whether it’s a tech company or any other industry, the project is about helping companies, rather than prescribing a particular way to comply. They look for best efforts and let members deal with the specifics of how they do it.

As applications make use of open source libraries, it’s up to the developers and their companies to make sure they use the code as defined in whatever license the project uses. The Linux Foundation, which is an umbrella organization for many popular open source projects, created the OpenChain project as a way to encourage developers to comply with these requirements.

Looker snags $103 million investment on $1.6 billion valuation

Looker has been helping customers visualize and understand their data for seven years now and today it got a big reward, a $103 million Series E investment on a $1.6 billion valuation. The round was led by Premji Invest with new investment from Cross Creek Advisors and participation from the company’s existing investors. With today’s […]

Looker has been helping customers visualize and understand their data for seven years now and today it got a big reward, a $103 million Series E investment on a $1.6 billion valuation.

The round was led by Premji Invest with new investment from Cross Creek Advisors and participation from the company’s existing investors. With today’s investment Looker has raised $280.5 million, according the company.

In spite of the large valuation, Looker CEO Frank Bien really wasn’t in the mood to focus on that particular number, which he said was arbitrary, based on the economic conditions at the time of the funding round. He said having an executive team old enough to remember the dot-com bubble from the late 1990s and the crash of 2008, keeps them grounded when it comes to those kinds of figures

Instead, he preferred to concentrate on other numbers. He reported that the company has 1600 customers now and just crossed the $100 million revenue run rate, a significant milestone for any enterprise SaaS company. What’s more, Bien reports revenue is still growing 70 percent year over year, so there’s plenty of room to keep this going.

He said he took such a large round because there was interest and he believed that it was prudent to take the investment as they move deeper into enterprise markets. “To grow effectively into enterprise customers, you have to build more product, and you have to hire sales teams that take longer to activate. So you look to grow into that, and that’s what we’re going to use this financing for,” Bien told TechCrunch.

He said it’s highly likely that this is the last private fund-raising the company will undertake as it heads toward an IPO at some point in the future. “We would absolutely view this as our last round unless something drastic changed,” Bien told TechCrunch.

For now, he’s looking to build a mature company that is ready for the public markets whenever the time is right. That involves building internal processes of a public company even if they’re not there yet. “You create that maturity either way, and I think that’s what we’re doing. So when those markets look okay, you could look at that as another funding source,” he explained.

The company currently has around 600 employees. Bien indicated that they added 200 this year alone and expect to add additional headcount in 2019 as the business continues to grow and they can take advantage of this substantial cash infusion.

Camunda hauls in $28M investment as workflow automation remains hot

Camunda, a Berlin-based company that builds open source workflow automation software, announced a €25 million (approximately $28 million) investment from Highland Europe today. This is the company’s first investment in its 10-year history. CEO and co-founder Jakob Freund says the company has been profitable since Day One, but decided to bring in outside capital now […]

Camunda, a Berlin-based company that builds open source workflow automation software, announced a €25 million (approximately $28 million) investment from Highland Europe today.

This is the company’s first investment in its 10-year history. CEO and co-founder Jakob Freund says the company has been profitable since Day One, but decided to bring in outside capital now to take on a more aggressive international expansion.

The company launched in 2008 and for the first five years offered business process management consulting services, but they found traditional offerings from companies like Oracle, IBM and Pega weren’t encouraging software developers to really embrace BPM and build new applications.

In 2013 the company decided to solve that problem and began a shift from consulting to software. “We launched our own open source project, Camunda BPM, in 2013. We also offered a commercial distribution, obviously, because that’s where the revenue came from,” Freund explained.

The project took off and they flipped their revenue sources from 80 percent consulting/20 percent software to 90 percent software/10 percent consulting in the five years since first creating the product. They boast 200 paying customers and have built out an entire stack of products since their initial product launch.

The company expanded from 13 employees in 2013 to 100 today with offices in Berlin and San Francisco. Freund wants to open more offices and to expand the head count. To do that, he felt the time was right to go out and get some outside money. He said they continue to be profitable and more than doubled their ARR (annual recurring revenue) in the last 12 months, but knowing they wanted to expand quickly, they wanted the investment as a hedge in case revenue slowed down during the expansion.

“However, we also want to invest heavily right now and and build up the team very quickly over the next couple of years. And we want to do that in in such a quick way that we want to make sure that if the revenue growth doesn’t happen as quickly as as the headcount building, we’re not getting any situation where we would then need to go look funding,” he explained. Instead, they struck while the company and the overall workflow automation space is hot.

He says they want to open more sales and support offices on the east coast of the US and move into Asia as well. Further they want to keep investing in the open source products and the new money gives them room to do all of this.

Salesforce wants to deliver more automated field service using IoT data

Salesforce has been talking about the Internet of Things for some time as a way to empower field service workers. Today, the company announced Field Service Lightning, a new component designed to deliver automated IoT data to service technicians in the field on their mobile devices. Once you connect sensors in the field to Service […]

Salesforce has been talking about the Internet of Things for some time as a way to empower field service workers. Today, the company announced Field Service Lightning, a new component designed to deliver automated IoT data to service technicians in the field on their mobile devices.

Once you connect sensors in the field to Service Cloud, you can make this information available in an automated fashion to human customer service agents and pull in other data about the customer from Salesforce’s CRM system to give the CSR a more complete picture of the customer.

“Drawing on IoT signals surfaced in the Service Cloud console, agents can gauge whether device failure is imminent, quickly determine the source of the problem (often before the customer is even aware a problem exists) and dispatch the right mobile worker with the right skill set,” Salesforce’s SVP and GM for Salesforce Field Service Lightning Paolo Bergamo wrote in a blog post introducing the new feature.

The field service industry has been talking for years about using IoT data from the field to deliver more proactive service and automate the customer service and repair process. That’s precisely what this new feature is designed to do. Let’s say you have a “smart home” with a heating and cooling system that can transmit data to the company that installed your equipment. With a system like this in place, the sensors could tell your HVAC dealer that a part is ready to break down and automatically start a repair process (that would presumably include calling the customer to tell them about it). When a CSR determines a repair visit is required, the repair technician would receive all the details on their smart phone.

Customer Service Console view. Gif: Salesforce

It also could provide a smoother experience because the repair technician can prepare before he or she leaves for the visit with the right equipment and parts for the job and a better understanding of what needs to be done before arriving at the customer location. This should theoretically lead to more efficient service calls.

All of this is in line with a vision the field service industry has been talking about for some time that you could sell a subscription to a device like an air conditioning system instead of the device itself. This would mean that the dealer would be responsible for keeping it up and running and having access to data like this could help that vision to become closer to reality.

In reality, most companies are probably not ready to implement a system like this and most equipment in the field has not been fitted with sensors to deliver this information to the Service Cloud. Still, companies like Salesforce, ServiceNow and ServiceMax (owned by GE) want to release products like this for early adopters and to have something in place as more companies look to put smarter systems in place in the field.

FortressIQ raises $12M to bring new AI twist to process automation

FortressIQ, a startup that wants to bring a new kind of artificial intelligence to process automation called imitation learning, emerged from stealth this morning and announced it has raised $12 million. The Series A investment came entirely from a single venture capital firm, Light Speed Venture Partners. Today’s funding comes on top of $4 million […]

FortressIQ, a startup that wants to bring a new kind of artificial intelligence to process automation called imitation learning, emerged from stealth this morning and announced it has raised $12 million.

The Series A investment came entirely from a single venture capital firm, Light Speed Venture Partners. Today’s funding comes on top of $4 million in seed capital the company raised previously from Boldstart Ventures, Comcast Ventures and Eniac Ventures.

Pankaj Chowdhry, founder and CEO of FortressIQ, says that his company basically replaces high-cost consultants who are paid to do time and motion studies and automates that process in a fairly creative way. It’s a bit like Robotics Process Automation (RPA), a space that is attracting a lot of investment right now, but instead of simply recording what’s happening on the desktop, and reproducing that digitally, it takes it a step further in a process called “imitation learning.”

“We want to be able to replicate human behavior through observation. We’re targeting this idea of how can we help people understand their processes. But imitation learning is I think the most interesting area of artificial intelligence because it focuses not on what AI can do, but how can AI learn and adapt,” he explained

They start by capturing a low-bandwidth movie of the process. “So we build virtual processors. And basically the idea is we have an agent that gets deployed by your enterprise IT group, and it integrates into the video card,” Chowdhry explained.

He points out that it’s not actually using a camera, but it captures everything going on, as a person interacts with a Windows desktop. In that regard it’s similar to RPA. “The next component is our AI models and computer vision. And we build these models that can literally watch the movie and transcribe the movie into what we call a series of software interactions,” he said.

Another key differentiator here is that they have built a data mining component on top of this, so if the person in the movie is doing something like booking an invoice, and stops to check email or Slack, FortressIQ can understand when an activity isn’t part of the process and filters that out automatically.

The product will be offered as a cloud service. Chowdhry’s previous company, Third Pillar Systems, was acquired by Genpact in 2013.