Every week the Opus team picks a news story or topic or idea that is relevant to the entrepreneurs and businesses we partner with.

RSS Feed

Archives

ARM: The new standard?

Ajit Deshpande - - 0 Comments

On October 25th, ARM, Red Hat and Applied Micro announced a partnership to develop a disruptive 64-bit server platform for datacenters and enterprises. This announcement came on the heels of other recent announcements from Calxeda and Dell, and is expected to be followed next week by one from AMD. ARM is the dominant architecture in smartphones, and as expected, following ARM’s unveiling of its 64-bit v8 architecture in Oct’11, the first products to leverage this architecture have been the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy (starting early 2013). Now, these recent partnerships with Red Hat, AMD and others could help ARM penetrate the server market that Intel x86 currently dominates.

So what does this mean for Intel? Intel’s multiple advantages in the server processor space – a universally accepted WinTel configuration, advanced chip processing capabilities from its in-house fabs, and limited competition from AMD – are all being challenged due to the increasing demand for low-power server processors, and ARM is leading this challenge. While Windows seems to still be the pre-dominant OS in datacenters, ARM’s new partner Linux is currently an able number two (Windows is opening up to ARM itself as well). On the fab side, TSMC is strengthening its partnership with ARM to help them leverage the most advanced chip processing nodes. Finally, by getting players like AMD and Red Hat into its camp, ARM has built a strong coalition in the compute processor ecosystem.

Unlike traditional competitors like AMD, what Intel is facing here is more of a partner ecosystem. Vertically integrated product offerings have not been too successful in recent days, and so maybe now ARM is up for its time in the sun at Intel’s expense.

Continue Reading ...


The new, affordable Chromebook

Ajit Deshpande - - 0 Comments

The new, third-generation Chromebook from Google and Samsung is here, priced at an extremely affordable $249. Google has long been considered as trying to do everything for everyone – arguably no other player is involved with apps, devices, operating systems and infrastructure to this extent – and Chromebook seems to be the company’s latest attempt to build on its cloud-focused strategy. This is the first Chromebook to move away from Intel processors, instead being powered by Samsung’s new ARM-based Exynos 5 Dual SoC. Initial reviews have been generally positivefor performance, aesthetics and especially the device’s offline usability.

While none of Google’s initiatives have been immediate successes, a strong balance sheet driven by search and advertising revenues has allowed the company to nurture these initiatives to success over time. In that context, the latest Chromebook is also an evolutionary step in Google’s ChromeOS strategy that is based on the premise that the web browser is the gateway for most of the important user applications. Whether this evolutionary step converts into a winning product depends on a number of aspects working in its favor, including consumerization of the enterprise speeding up as a trend, offline usability features helping ChromeOs become more prevalent, the $249 price point being low enough to attract users, and the semi-plastic construction not undermining the product’s robustness. That’s a lot of if’s, but the company’s most recent results notwithstanding, Google still does have ~$45 billion in cash and a strong interest in pushing ChromeOS, so whether or not the Chromebook becomes a winning product, we will for sure continue to see this device, along with its cousin the Nexus 7, as key pieces of Google’s enterprise strategy.

Continue Reading ...


Smartphones on LTE

Ajit Deshpande - - 0 Comments

Last week, Verizon announced during CTIA’s MobileCon that currently ~12% of their customer base uses LTE, and that these customers represent ~35% of the company’s mobile data traffic. As new LTE devices including the iPhone 5 come on board over the next few months, the company soon expects more than half of its mobile data traffic to go over its LTE spectrum. While Verizon is the farthest along in its LTE infrastructure build-out(~400 cities compared to less than 100 cities for AT&T and limited deployments for Sprint), even Verizon’s LTE network is less than 2 years old. Verizon’s revelation is thus an early pointer to how smart device adoption, enhanced connectivity and rich mobile data offerings will feed each other to create a strong positive feedback loop that will result in explosive growth in data traffic.

But here’s the problem: carriers only have limited spectrum capacity. Any decent additional chunk of spectrum capacity costs billions of dollars, thus at the rate mobile data is projected to grow, carriers will soon become capacity limited. As VoLTE becomes main-stream and 3G infrastructures are sunset, this spectrum crunch will get worse, and would need some combination of the following to be mitigated:

  • Localized infrastructure buildout: Small-cell and WiFi offload infrastructure providers including Opus portfolio company SpiderCloud Wireless can scale up to create localized spectrum usage in enterprises and thereby enable carriers to re-use spectrum capacity
  • Regulatory intervention: The FCC can open up new, free (or cheap) LTE-usable spectrum for carriers to enhance capacity without breaking their back with the additional capex.
  • Dynamic Spectrum Access: 5G technologies such as cognitive radio will be able to efficiently utilize unused spectrum capacity across the wireless spectrum to meet variable demand.

For enterprises, additional spectrum capacity as well as dynamic spectrum access each has significant implementation risk. Small-cell technology on the other hand seems to represent an elegant solution to a technologically complex problem – in other words it is an excellent entrepreneurship opportunity with a structural barrier to entry. Will the market adopt it soon and in a big way, we will see!

Continue Reading ...


Pluggable Databases in the Cloud, from Oracle

Ajit Deshpande - - 0 Comments

Oracle OpenWorld, held in the first week of October, officially heralded the company’s acceptance of cloud as the new reality for the enterprise. And with the company’s announcement that the next version of its flagship database will include a new architecture called ‘pluggable databases’, Oracle seems to now be on a path that none of its major competitors have taken so far. Oracle arguably right now has the most vertically integrated stack for the new cloud economy: IaaS from Sun/Solaris m PaaS from Fusion middleware and these new pluggable databases, and applications from its product lines ranging from Peoplesoft and Siebel to Taleo.

Oracle can now provide a bundled offering to enterprises that includes traditional ERP systems all the way to some of the latest enterprise social apps. Add to that Oracle’s explicit adoption of the mobility trend, and suddenly Oracle seems like it wants to be the one-stop shop for the enterprise. This approach raises questions on multiple levels. First, does a full enterprise stack really mean much in the era of the cloud, where seamless interoperability is an aspect considered right from the design phase of an application? If it does (maybe for applications requiring low latency), then is the pluggable database approach the most efficient way forward? And finally, will the sales juggernaut of Oracle need to be rejiggered to extract maximum customer lifetime value for the company’s broadening multi-product stack, with many of the products not being the best ones in the market? After years of not embracing the cloud, Oracle has now turned a corner, but is still behind players like Amazon, Salesforce and Microsoft. Which means we now have a serial acquirer with a serious interest, and that might be a good thing for cloud startups!

Continue Reading ...


Instagram bests Twitter in Mobile Engagement

Ajit Deshpande - - 0 Comments

Earlier this past week, comScore reported that Facebook-owned photo-sharing site Instagram had surpassed Twitter in terms of daily active users for their respective smartphone apps during the month of August. This news becomes even more impressive when comparing the respective user bases: Twitter has a user base of more than 500M users whereas Instagram has roughly 80M users (about 60% of Twitter users access the site through their mobile devices, whereas Instagram is a mobile only app). What makes this news fascinating is the age demographic of users for Twitter vs Instagram. Independent research sites suggest that only approximately 20% of Twitter’s user base is younger than 25 years, whereas for Instagram that number is greater than 50%.

This does seem to bode well for Instagram. As connectivity and storage become cheaper and as mobility becomes pervasive, rich data might become transcendent enough to make Instagram a preferred platform for communication. And in a few years, the current college going generation would join the workforce and develop into a user base that Instagram can monetize well. In that sense, an Instagram picture does seem like it might soon be proverbially worth a thousand tweets! If the world adopted text based social networks five years ago, and if the world is adopting rich media sharing networks such as Pinterest and Instagram today, could we make the projection that five years from now the rage would be a social and mobile Youtube? Who knows, but for now this news is for sure allowing Facebook to say cheese!

Continue Reading ...