New Azure Maps from Microsoft
Microsoft is continuing to expand Azure Maps, introducing a new set of capabilities in the form of SDKs and cloud-based services. The capabilities will enable enterprises, partners, and cities to build the solutions that will help visualize, analyze, and optimize these mobility challenges. The company says these services are designed “exclusively for the needs of the modern enterprise customer”.
Microsoft will be moving Route Range, Get Search Polygon, and Satellite and Hybrid Imagery from public previews to general availability. They are also introducing multiple new services, such as spatial operations services that provide analytics used by mobility applications and other industries; as well as a new Android SDK and a Web SDK that equip Azure customers with tools to make smarter more informed decisions.
Azure Maps is now natively integrated with the Azure Active Directory, making access to the company’s services more secure while enabling roles and restrictions to customers. Azure customers can now offload map data processing and hosting costs securely with the fastest map data refresh rate available today, a rate that is bolstered by Microsoft’s recent partnership with TomTom.
More recent news from Azure, their Azure IoT Hub Java SDK will officially support the Android Things platform. The company claims the announcement shows their commitment to enable greater choice and flexibility in IoT deployments. The company has been adding official support for iOS and Android to enable IoT scenarios since April of last year.
Developers can leverage the benefits of the Android Things operating system on the device side, while using Azure IoT Hub as the central message hub that scales to millions of simultaneously connected devices. All features in the Java SDK will be available on the Android Things Platform, including Azure IoT hub features they support and SDK-specific features like retry policy for network reliability. In addition, the Android Things Platform will be tested with every release. The company plans to publish the exact platform version they are testing on GitHub.
Google Cloud Announces Google Doc API
Google Cloud has announced a new API, Google Docs API, that can be used to automate tasks and jumpstart documentation. With Docs API, customers can generate invoices automatically and programmatically add information like order numbers or a balance due date. The API can also be used to input and export documents from your contact management systems (CMS), this way customers can collaborate within Docs without leaving their own system.
The company first introduced Google Docs API at Cloud Next18. The service is already built into the Docs apps and G Suite now has a complete set of APIs for Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Also, recently, Thomas Kurian, in his first public appearance as CEO of Google Cloud, declared at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco that Google will be investing even more in sales for its cloud business. The former Oracle executive previously said that Google nearly quadrupled its sales and distribution functions.
At the conference, Kurian also highlighted several products and pointed to several Google Cloud customers using said products, including BNP Paribas, the city of Los Angeles and Home Depot. According to Kurian, the company will be focusing more on individual industries like financial services and working with channel partners. Further, Ruth Parat, Chief Financial Officer of Alphabet, stated that the company has doubled the number of GCP contracts greater than $1 million.
Amazon and Western Union Team Up
Amazon is embarking on a secondary track to snag more business outside the 14 countries where it has built out full operations, partnering with Western Union to set up a service called PayCode. PayCode will allow users to shop and pay for Amazon items using local currencies that would not have been accepted on the site prior, starting with services in 10 countries: Chile, Columbia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Peru, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Thailand.
Shoppers in these markets will now be able to go into any Western Union outpost and pay for their Amazon purchases in cash, which also means that payment cards or other virtual payment methods will not be required to buy from Amazon; a previous barrier to expanding the service into more emerging economies where card and bank account penetration is much lower than in developed markets. Amazon notes that customers will only be able to use PayCode if it’s offered as an option at checkout, if the item is “export eligible,” and if the item’s value “exceeds the maximum value allowed for use on this payment type”; a max they have yet to specify.
Once a customer completes a purchase online, they get a PayCode or QR code that they will take to a Western Union within 48 hours to pay for the goods, otherwise their order will be cancelled. The deal was initially announced last October with very little detail and fanfare. The name then leaked out a month later.
Today was the first time the companies unveiled the first launch countries. PayCode is a significant advance for Amazon as it seeks to step to the next level being a global e-commerce powerhouse to compete against the likes of Alibaba. Amazon cites estimates from Forrest Research that say cross-border shopping will represent 20 percent of e-commerce by 2022, accounting for $630 billion.
In other news for Amazon, the company recently launched five new bare metal instances. This allows customers who want more control to use a single tenant system where they control the entire set of hardware resources; a more costly service, but the customer is receiving more control over the processor, storage, and other resources.
The five new products are the catchy, m5.metal, m5d.metal, r5.metal, r5d.metal, and z1d.metal. AWS described in a blog post in which they announced the new instances that these are for highly specific use cases. New offerings are currently available as on-demand, reserved, or spot instances, depending on your requirements.
Alibaba’s Ant Financial Buys WorldFirst
Ant Financial, the financial services behemoth affiliated with Alibaba, has acquired WorldFirst, the 15-year-old payment company based out of London. WorldFirst allows businesses and customers to move money between countries at prices that are lower than regular banks. The deal is the company’s first big move to Europe and is valued at around $700 million.
The deal was first confirmed by WorldFirst in a note to customers, while Alibaba, who didn’t put out an official press release, acknowledged the acquisition through a spokesperson. The move to the European market underscores the strong market connections between China and Europe and the market pressures that many smaller remittance companies are under in the wake of larger companies like Amazon building its own money-moving services, as well as local competition.
WorldFirst claims to have transferred over £70 billion for customers since 2004, with more than one million transfers made each year. According to Johnathan Quinn, co-founder and chief executive of World First, the company will retain its brand and become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ant Financial. The acquisition gives Ant Financial a massive international boost, and for the first time a significant profile in Europe.
Insights from IBM Think and Upcoming Cloud Events
Paul Teich, Liftr Cloud Principle Analyst, just touched back down in Austin after attending IBM Think, the company’s “flagship technology conference” in San Francisco this past week. IBM announced that they will be integrating its PowerAI hardware platforms into its Watson Machine Learning service. The goal of this is to make distributed GPU training and inference capabilities that were part of PowerAI Enterprise available to a broader range of data science clients and users. There won’t be changes this quarter to the PowerAI base framework package/offering while the company continues to make frameworks easily available for their clients to use on their own Power servers.
The big news at the conference was Watson on any cloud, a break from IBM hosting its own SaaS on its own IBM Cloud. This move empowers businesses to prevent vendor lock-in and start deploying AI wherever their data resides. While IBM could not talk about the Red Hat acquisition, it is apparent that the two companies were collaborating on a number of fronts prior to the acquisition. Integrating IBM Cloud Private and Red Hat OpenShift had to have been in the works for a while.
In upcoming cloud events, KeyBanc’s Emerging Technology Summit will be held in San Francisco from February 26-27. Paul Teich will be there for Liftr Cloud Insights, participating in emerging tech discussions. March will be busy for Liftr Cloud Insights. Paul Teich, along with Social Media & PR Specialist Trent Warren, will be attending South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive right here in Austin from March 8-13, and then Paul Teich will be flying out again March 14-15 to San Jose, Ca for the OCP Global Summit to meet with the majority of the global CSP data center infrastructure supply chain. Contact email@example.com to schedule a meeting with Paul during any of these events.
That’s a wrap on this week’s Liftr Cloud Look Ahead. Has your business made major strides using cloud? We want to hear from you! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you next week!