Cisco is acquiring business intelligence startup Accompany for $270M

Cisco only announced an arrangement to acquire Accompany, which employs artificial intelligence to construct databases of people and relationships at companies.

Founder and CEO Amy Chang has compared the product to a digital joint chiefs of staff or personal assistant, dedicating executives the context they need before conversations and sessions. Cisco plans to incorporate Accompany technology into its collaboration products, for example by introducing company and individual profiles into Webex meetings.

Cisco tells it will pay $270 million in cash and stock in the deal.

The company likely didn’t have to search too hard to find Accompany, since Chang( who previously served as the head of product for Google’s ad measurement and reporting) has been on Cisco’s board of directors since October 2016. As part of the transaction, she’s resigning from the board, effective immediately.

In addition, Chang will be taking over the company’s Collaboration Technology Group. Rowan Trollope, who currently results the collaboration group, is departing to become CEO at cloud software company Five9.

” Amy has proven to be an effective and innovative leader through her years as an entrepreneur, an engineer, and CEO, and I couldn’t be more pleased to have her and the Accompany squad join Cisco ,” told Cisco chairman and CEO Chuck Robbins in the announcement.” Together, we have a tremendous opportunity to further enhance AI and machine learning capabilities in our collaboration portfolio and continue to create amazing collaboration experiences for customers .”

According to Crunchbase, Accompany has raised around $40 million in funding from investors including CRV, Cowboy Ventures, Iconiq Capital and Ignition Partners.

Cisco also announced today that it’s selling off some of its NDS video assets.

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Voice interfaces beginning to find their way into business

Imagine attending a business meeting with an Amazon Echo( or any voice-driven device) sitting on the conference table. A topic starts about the month’s sales numbers in the Southeast region. Instead of opening a laptop, opening a program like Excel and find the numbers, you simply ask the device and get the answer instantly.

That kind of scenario is increasingly becoming a reality, although it is still far from common place in business just yet.

With the increasing popularity of devices like the Amazon Echo, people are beginning to get used to the idea of interacting with computers using their voices. Anytime a phenomenon like this enters the consumer realm, it is only a matter of time before we see it in business.

Chuck Ganapathi, CEO at Tact, an AI-driven marketings tool that uses voice, type and touch, says with our devices changing, voice makes a lot of sense. “There is no mouse on your telephone. You don’t want to use a keyboard on your telephone. With a smart watch, “were not receiving” keyboard. With Alexa, “were not receiving” screen. You have to think of more natural ways to interact with the device.”

As Werner Vogels, Amazon’s chief technology policeman, pointed out during his AWS re: Invent keynote at the end of last month, up until now we have been limited by the technology as to how we interact with computers. We type some keywords into Google employing a keyboard because this is the only way the technology we had allowed us to enter information.

“Interfaces to digital systems of the future will no longer be machine driven. They will be human centric. We can construct human natural interfaces to digital systems and with that a whole environment will become active, ” he said.

Amazon will of course be happy to help in this regard, introducing Alexa for Businessas a cloud service at re: Invent, but other cloud companies are also exposing voice services for developers, constructing it ever easier to build voice into an interface.

While Amazon took aim at business immediately for the first time with this move, some companies had been experimenting with Echo integration much earlier. Sisense, a BI and analytics tool company, introduced Echo integration as early as July 2016.

But not everyone wants to cede voice to the big cloud vendors , no matter how attractive they might make it for developers. We saw this when Cisco introduced the Cisco Voice Assistant for Spark in November, using voice technology it acquired with the MindMeld buy the previous May to provide voice commands for common meeting tasks.

Roxy, a startup that got $2.2 million in seed fundin November, decided to build its own voice-driven software and hardware, taking aim, for starters, at the hospitality industry. They have broader aspiration beyond that, but one early lesson they have learned is that not all companies want to give their data to Amazon, Google, Apple or Microsoft. They want to maintain control of their own client interactions and a solution like Roxy devotes them that.

In yet another example, Synqq introduced a notes app at the beginning of the year that uses voice and natural language processing to add notes and calendar entries to their app without having to type.

As we move to 2018, we should start ensure even more examples of this type of integration both with the help of big cloud companies, and companies trying to build something independent of those vendors. The keyboard won’t be rendered to the dustbin just yet, but in scenarios where it makes sense, voice could begin to replace the need to type and offer a more natural route of interacting with computers and software.

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Google and Cisco announce hybrid cloud partnership

Google and Cisco today announced a new partnership around helping their clients build more efficient hybrid cloud solutions. Unsurprisingly, dedicated Google’s recent focus, such partnerships centres around the Google-incubated Kubernetes container orchestration tool, as well as the Istio service mesh for connecting and procuring microservices across clouds.

“Google Cloud and Cisco are committed to meeting customers wherever they are in their journey to the cloud, ” said Diane Greene, the CEO of Google Cloud, in today’s announcement. “This partnership enables developers and IT departments to seamlessly take advantage of the most open, procure tools for building modern applications in a hybrid environment.”

As with so many partnership proclamations, especially in the enterprise space, the companies remained pretty vague as to what exactly their combined solution will look like, but both Cisco and Google told me that members of the general notion here is to help bring the power of the cloud to their customers’ on-premise environments.

Both squads stressed that a multi-cloud answer for enterprises must include support for the security, configuration and policy requirements of enterprises, as well as the ability to get real-time networking and performance data.

“You want to carry your networking and security capabilities with you, ” Fabio Gori, the senior director for cloud solutions marketing at Cisco told me. “You want to be free to employ microservices wherever they are — whether that’s on-prem or in the cloud.”

Google also noted that Apigee, the API management company it acquired last year, will be the glue that will allow legacy workloads to connect to the more modern applications that developers will bring to this solution. Indeed, both Gori and Google Cloud’s head of global technology partners Nan Boden told me that it’s important for both companies to ensure that their solution supports legacy applications.

For Cisco, that meant optimizing Kubernetes for its data center tools and to allow its users to use its existing services in concert with this new answer. Teams from both companies already spent the last few months working on the tech behind this new partnership and the plan is to roll it out to a limited number of clients in the first part of next year, with general accessibility planned for the second half of 2018.

What’s maybe more important than such partnerships itself, though, is that we’re clearly find Google’s plan for Kubernetes in action here. The company has long struggled to make a dent in the enterprise cloud market. Partnering with big enterprise organisations like Cisco is one part of its strategy, but Kubernetes and containers play an even larger role, since they are make it almost trivial to move workloads between clouds( assuming you data gravity isn’t holding you back ).

That’s something Mirantis founder Boris Renski also noted earlier the coming week. “Just like Android was not mainly about Google’s own mobile phone ambitions, Kubernetes is not about constructing GKE popular, ” Renski wrote. “Kubernetes is about seeding the industry with open source the criteria for application growth and operations that aim to disintermediate workloads from a specific IaaS provider.”

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Cisco to buy Perspica and fold engineering team into AppDynamics

Cisco announced today that it intends to acquire Perspica, a machine learning-driven operations analytics firm that has raised $8.5 million. Cisco were planning to fold Perspica’s team into AppDynamics, the company it purchased earlier this year for $3.7 billion.

Cisco did not share the Perspica purchase price.

All of these machinations have a purpose. Cisco is of course at its heart a networking hardware company. Over the past several years, it has been spending its considerable money on hand — it had around $70 billion as of July, according to Ycharts — to buy companies and transform into more of a services company.

AppDynamics is at its heart an application performance monitoring company, entailing it helps companies understand how their applications are performing and what hardware and software relationships are affecting the performance. That has an impact on customer experience, and AppDynamics has taken that a step further by trying to understand the business procedures behind the applications to improve those experiences more directly and also understand the influence of experience on a company’s bottom line.

That brings us to Perspica, a startup that is looking at applying machine learning to large amounts of operations data( not unlike Splunk ), and surfacing problems when they appear. This fits rather nicely with what AppDynamics doing, and with Cisco’s overall data-driven strategy .

While AppDynamics CEO David Wadhwani says his company has its share of data scientists, this bargain brings a new influx of talent( although they were not sharing exactly how many employees are coming from Perspica) and one that understands a particular kind of machine learning. Instead of analyzing the data after it’s placed in the database, Perspica brings machine learning to data in real time as it rivers into the system, and for a company like AppDynamics, this could prove very useful, especially as they monitor increasing sums of data from a variety of endpoints.

Cisco intends to apply Perspica’s domain knowledge around machine learning and streaming data immediately to AppDynamics by embedding the engineering squad with AppDynamics as soon as the deal shuts, which is expected to happen some time in the second quarter next year. The notion to assist them AppDynamics add a real-time intelligence layer to surface more data, more quickly.

As Cisco tries to transform into a software and services companies, it is also insuring a changing technology landscape with much greater intricacy. It believes that artificial intelligence and machine learning going to be able to cut through the intricacy by letting machines enter into negotiations with sifting through the growing mountains of data. Ultimately, it wants to be one of the companies at the center of this approach.

Just the other day, Cisco announced a decide of services fueled by AI to help companies predict IT failures before they happen. When you put that together with the AppDynamics purchase and today’s acquisition, you start to see where they could be going with this.

These tools when taken as a whole could help customers understand what’s going on inside the data center at the network level, at a systems level, in the cloud and even at the business process level. It seems the goal here is to act almost as a systems integrator, a decide of services to help customers understand every aspect of their systems and the impact on customers and the bottom line.

While Cisco’s hardware business may be in decline, if it has services like these in place, it could still thrive as a company. For the short term, it has insured seven straight quarterss of declining revenue. Time will tell if this is a viable approach, but it’s clear the company isn’t standing still. It’s making moves like today’s to build a new define of offerings and trying to look to the future.

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VCs determined to replace your job keep AIs funding surge rolling in Q2