Taking the Initiative

Today: System Initiative launches a new visually oriented approach to managing infrastructure, AWS throws money at generative AI, and this week in enterprise moves.

An aerial view of a Google Cloud data center in Iowa at sunset or sunrise, it's tough to tell.
A Google Cloud data center in Iowa. Credit: chaddavis.photography/CC 2.0

Welcome to Runtime! Today: System Initiative launches a new visually oriented approach to managing infrastructure, AWS throws money at generative AI, and this week in enterprise moves.

Visualize world infrastructure

More than ten years after the DevOps revolution promised to reduce friction to shipping software, Adam Jacob still thinks the workflow required to deploy applications out into the world is too difficult. So he and a small team of engineers created a new way to visualize that workflow, and they think it could transform the way companies ship software.

Jacob and co-founder Mahir Lupinacci are finally ready to talk about System Initiative, their new startup that officially launched Wednesday.

  • The company was founded in 2019 and has already raised $18 million in funding to create a private beta of what Jacob called a "simulator" that models a company's tech infrastructure — on either cloud services or on-premises servers — using digital twins technology.
  • It allows users to basically drag and drop computing resources into a staging area to prepare for deploying an application, detecting implementation errors and even rewriting code as needed to make sure everything will work when the time is right.
  • "The tasks that we ask people to do, or the ways the tools that we ask them to use fit together, basically hasn't changed since 2009," said Jacob, CEO of the new company, in a recent interview.

If HashiCorp acquired Figma and redesigned Terraform as a whiteboard, System Initiative might be the result.

  • When operations engineers fire it up, they're greeted with a digital "workspace" that features a list of the computing resources available to them at their company and the components of their applications.
  • The workspace lets users literally draw the connections between all the components necessary to deploy the application and points out any flaws in their configuration models as needed.
  • And as users make changes to one part of the puzzle, System Initiative can automatically adjust other components that now require slightly different marching orders.

System Initiative believes it can replace CI/CD tools, which have soared in popularity, as well as the broader world of infrastructure-as-code tool providers, which includes the major cloud companies.

  • "For SI to cover a large range of use cases it will be crucial to get enterprises excited about the implication of nearly complete infrastructure automation and validation to make them want to contribute staff hours to the SI open source project that aims to create the scripts that implement the policy rules, validations, and automations needed for broad production use of the new platform," wrote analyst Torsten Volk.
  • There have been a lot of tools that claim they can live up to the promise of DevOps, which brought software developers and operations engineers closer together but, in some ways, only underscored the divisions between their work.
  • This is certainly a different approach, however, and if System Initiative can back up the flashy demo with a reliable product Jacob and his team might be onto something.

Read the full story on Runtime here.

Nice round numbers

AWS has been much quieter than its cloud rivals during the generative AI frenzy this year. While Microsoft and Google have been at the forefront of the AI hype cycle, AWS CEO Adam Selipsky is taking the long view.

“You ask yourself the question — where are the different runners three steps into a 10K race?” Selipsky told CNBC ahead of AWS's announcement that it will invest $100 million in something called the "AWS Generative AI Innovation Center." That is, of course, what people who aren't in the lead say about their chances, but it's also true that it's going to take some time for enterprise customers to understand exactly how they want to implement these technologies.

That's presumably what the "Innovation Center" will hope to accomplish; enterprise vendors have these kinds of customer hand-holding programs for pretty much everything they sell. But they're going to have to find the budget for it: Selipsky told CNBC that "we’re still in the middle" of a slowdown as customers rein in their spending, and declined to offer an assessment of exactly how far into that race AWS is at the moment.

Enterprise moves

Daniel Zhang stepped down as Alibaba CEO to orchestrate the spin-off of its cloud division.

Zaid Kahn of Microsoft is the new board chair of the Open Compute Project, and Google's Amber Huffman joined the board.

Sean Moriarty is the new CEO of Primer.ai, after serving as CEO of Leaf Group (formerly known as Demand Media).

The Runtime roundup

Microsoft laid out a ten-year roadmap for its quantum computing project and unveiled a new project to combine quantum computing assets with AI and classical computing resources.

Twitter is robbing Oracle to pay Google, which … sure, fine, whatever.

MongoDB launched new capabilities for its Atlas cloud database that will help customers jump on the generative AI bandwagon.

MotherDuck's serverless version of the open-source DuckDB database is now a cloud service open by invitation.

A SSD stolen from one of SAP's data centers was available on eBay until an SAP employee noticed and purchased it, and that person should get a raise.

Thanks for reading — see you Saturday!

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