All posts by Keumars Afifi-Sabet

Microsoft’s Edge now more popular than Firefox for the first time

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

3 Apr, 2020

Fundamental changes to the Edge platform have seen Microsoft’s flagship browser swell in popularity to the extent it’s overtaken Mozilla’s Firefox as the second most widely-used browser.

Microsoft Edge crept up from a market share of 7.38% in February to 7.59% during March 2020, versus a slightly reduced 7.19% share for Firefox against 7.57% the previous month, according to NetMarketShare.

A steady rise in popularity for Microsoft Edge against the steady fall of Firefox’s market share over the last couple of years has seen a crossover moment occur for the first time.

The milestone follows a period of change for Edge, that comes pre-packaged with its Windows operating systems. Among these changes are a reangling towards business users, and an overhaul of its codebase to the extent it’s now based on the open source Chromium browser.

Another feature, known as Collections, allows workers in procurement to drag and drop items from search results into a list that can be shared with others, complete with image and metadata for all items.

The Chromium-powered Edge has also seen a brand redesign to distinguish itself from the previous iteration of Edge, which has languished for years, as well as Internet Explorer, which has sustained an organic month-by-month decline.

Although Chrome enjoys a near-monopolistic market share of desktop browsers, often hitting between 60% and 70% in market share over the last few years, the tussle for second has been closely fought between Firefox, Edge and Internet Explorer.

Firefox has, itself, undergone a series of key changes focused almost exclusively on protecting user privacy. The most recent step forward in its development, which typifies this trend, involves the launch of a paid-for virtual private network (VPN) that encrypts users’ connections across apps and devices.

Unfortunately for Mozilla, these efforts haven’t paid off in the way the developer may have hoped, given its market share has continued to fall over time, from 9.27% in March 2019, for example, to just above 7% last month. Comparatively, Edge held just 5.2% market share the same time last year.

The rise of Microsoft Edge has also coincided with the fall of Internet Explorer, which held a market share above 12% during 2018. This is largely due to the fact many businesses still rely on the web browser to run business-critical applications.

The fact the new Edge is powered by Chromium is also sure to attract a swathe of users simply curious as to how it compares against previous iterations, and whether this cleaner codebase leads to smarter functionality.

How Ubisoft’s onboarded Opengear to avert networking disasters

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

2 Apr, 2020

Downtime can prove a fiasco for any organisation, as can a sudden surge in demand, and it’s particularly true for companies wired into the heart of the online gaming scene. From EA Sports’ FIFA to the renowned Call of Duty franchise, millions of gamers across the globe have come to expect 24/7 network availability. 

The growing demand for always-on services is akin to the way that organisations reliant on cloud-powered applications expect flawless and reliable connections on which to run their operations. Just look at the escalating COVID-19 pandemic that’s taken the cloud computing world by storm – with a surge in demand for data services, Wi-Fi networks and workplaces platforms like Microsoft Teams. The staggering work that goes into maintaining these networks as userbases swell, whether in the business or gaming worlds, is routinely overlooked; it’s often a case of missing crucial elements when things go wrong.

At games publisher Ubisoft, subsidiary runs and maintains the networks that power widely-played AAA multiplayer games, like Tom Clancy’s The Division. While it had been successful managing with just 70 staff and servers based in 35 sites spanning 15 countries, in the mid-2010s, it became clear extra muscle was needed to continue to service a rapidly-swelling user base.

“The big thing in game hosting is the fact you need to be really flexible and very responsive to the fast-changing market,” COO, Rick Sloot, tells Cloud Pro. “A game can be popular, or it can be a real flop. But as soon as the game is popular, and a lot of people are playing it, or maybe even more people are going to play it than you’re expecting, you need extra capacity within hours, or maybe, at most, in a matter of days.”

The pressures of an always-on world

In the past, would factor networking issues as a business cost, but these started to become too frequent to sustain. The infrastructure was built to incorporate redundancy, though if any routers, switches or other equipment went down, would be pressed to resolve these issues as soon as possible while game sessions across the world were put on hold. The firm sought to onboard a third-party network monitoring company in 2015 to bolster network resilience, once it became impossible to tolerate these problems. The need was especially pressing given how limited staffing levels were, combined with exponentially growing demand. Network management firm Opengear was recruited shortly before Ubisoft released its hotly-anticipated Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, to improve resilience and failover options should things get hairy.

“The way the 24/7 world is working currently, and everybody wants to be online 24/7, [network failure] was not an acceptable risk anymore,” Sloot continues. “Because the company, and everybody in the world, is demanding a 24/7 service, we needed to look for other solutions, and other ways of maintaining the flexibility but without adding a lot of overhead on us.”

The potential for demand to surge at any one time, and in any location across the world, was impractical given would rely on its own network engineers to fly out to these sites should work need doing. Remote hands would be used where possible, but it would take crucial minutes or hours to establish a connection while networks were offline. Expansion at existing locations, or establishing new sites, also posed issues when demand for a game went “sky high”.

Going mobile

Opengear already formed a part of’s infrastructure, but on a much smaller scale, Sloot says. The implementation phase, which spanned a year, involved heavily ramping up the company’s involvement, which, thanks to the existing relationship, was more straightforward than it could have been. The equipment was shipped to, and its engineers spent the following year flying from location to location to install the infrastructure. As harbours sufficient technical expertise, it primarily leant on Opengear for enhancements. Automatic failover to alternative networks, for example, would ensure games would continue running when things looked hairy. This operated through the installation of cellular friction, with communication running via 4G networks instead of traditional backup lines.

“Before, we would always try to have a backup line; for example, buy a backup line from a data centre and then connect that one. So this was a very good additional feature for us, which brought the service to a higher level,” Sloot continues. The implementation of cellular friction, however, brought its own challenges. 

“Maybe sometimes for us, from our side, it’s tricky because for cellular friction you need good quality of signal … which is always a challenge in a data centre, which is always a highly secure facility.”

As for how he’d advise other businesses to handle their networking infrastructure as they look to scale, he repeated that you would only miss the most crucial elements powering your networks behind the scenes when things go horribly wrong. 

“I always say to my guys here, what could be the worst that can happen?” he explains. “If you look at all those steps that could happen – what can you prevent, and if you can prevent them, what’s the best solution for it? 

“If there’s a solution, what are the costs versus the risks? Looking at this particular solution of Opengear, the costs of not having a network is, like, tens of thousands of Euros per hour. Buying the product is a small fraction of that, so, it’s a rather small investment for achieving high availability.”

Microsoft puts Windows development on lockdown

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

25 Mar, 2020

Microsoft will no longer release non-essential updates to its line of Windows operating systems due to disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

From May 2020, businesses will only receive the most important critical security updates for a swathe of Windows systems, including the recently-published Windows 10 version 1909 through to Windows Servier 2008 SP2.

Work on category C and D cumulative updates, which are optional preview releases issued in the third and fourth weeks of the month, has been put on hold due to “challenges” posed by the pandemic, the company said.

These updates are issued so Windows users can test tweaks and fixes before these are bundled into the next Patch Tuesday releases, where they’re designated category B.

“We have been evaluating the public health situation, and we understand this is impacting our customers,” an announcement reads.

“In response to these challenges we are prioritizing our focus on security updates. Starting in May 2020, we are pausing all optional non-security releases (C and D updates) for all supported versions of Windows client and server products (Windows 10, version 1909 down through Windows Server 2008 SP2).”

The monthly Patch Tuesday security updates will continue to be published as normal, Microsoft added.

This is to ensure that organisations can continue to carry out business operations as smoothly as possible, and that they’re protected from any serious bugs or security threats.

The timing and schedule of the suspension of work suggests the company is late into its development cycle for updates set to be released in April. The announcement also suggests Microsoft feels the disruptive effects of the COVID-19 outbreak to development work will continue for a long time.

It comes just days after the company said it would be pausing development work on version 81 of its Edge browser, itself a response to Google pausing its own development work on Chromium.

Coronavirus has already had a sizeable impact on businesses of all stripes and in all sectors. While the tech sector hasn’t been as severely hit as companies in the services industry, entire workforces have shifted to remote working patterns, and a host of development projects have been put on hold.

Microsoft prioritises extra Azure capacity for ‘key customers’

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

23 Mar, 2020

Microsoft has outlined provisions for adding capacity to its Azure servers for key public and emergency services across the world as teams fight to contain the escalating COVID-19 crisis.

The company says it has been monitoring its services and usage trends 24/7 to ensure customers are able to stay online as businesses adjust to a sharp rise in remote working

However, Microsoft has said a cohort of key customers will be prioritised should there be capacity constraints, which includes retaining priority over new Azure cloud capacity.

With demand rising, higher priority will be afforded to first responders, health and emergency services, critical government infrastructure organisational use, as well as ensuring remote workers are up and running with the core functionality of Teams

“Over the past several weeks, all of us have come together to battle the global health pandemic,” the company said in a blog post. “We are working closely with first responder organizations and critical government agencies to ensure we are prioritizing their unique needs and providing them our fullest support.

“We are also partnering with governments around the globe to ensure our local datacenters have on-site staffing and all functions are running properly,” added Microsoft.

The tech giant has stressed there aren’t any cloud constraints at the moment, but concerns remain that the stress on the wider internet will increase as more of the global population moves online.

A host of streaming providers, including Netflix and YouTube, have in the last few days reduced streaming quality as a direct response to these concerns.

Microsoft’s brief warning about potential usage constraints with Azure cloud services may cause concern for businesses currently struggling to grapple with masses of employees adopting flexible and remote working patterns.

It’s currently unclear what these restrictions mean for businesses and organisations not deemed to be a priority, should Azure servers be faced with capacity constraints in any of its regions – it’s likely that some businesses could struggle to secure extra capacity if demand continues to increase.

The industry giant has said, however, that it would communicate any updates as soon as possible through its online resources and blogs.

HPE adds ‘5G as a service’ suite to GreenLake portfolio

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

10 Mar, 2020

HPE has added a suite of ‘as a service’ networking capabilities to its GreenLake portfolio designed to give customers the tools to accelerate 5G deployment.

The HP spinoff is aiming to extend its reach with telecoms firms and enterprises with its new 5G tools, which are designed to enhance existing 5G networks and ramp up the scale of infrastructure rollout.

For example, the company’s cloud-native and container-based software platform, dubbed 5G Core Stack, will provide telecoms firms with 5G tech at the core of their mobile networks.

This is to ensure that networks are embedded with 5G technology at their hearts, as well as on the edge, termed standalone 5G networks. This is against non-standalone 5G networks (5G networks running on 4G cores) which is how many operators run their networks today.

HPE hopes that mobile network operators and virtual network operators can adopt the technology at the core and the edge, and repackage these platforms to serve their own enterprise customers.

This is in addition to technology from HPE subsidiary Aruba, which has been used to launch services geared towards raising interoperability and integration between 5G and Wi-Fi 6 networks. These services are dubbed Air Slice and Air Pass.

“Openness is essential to the evolutionary nature of 5G and with HPE 5G Core Stack telcos can reduce operational costs, deploy features faster and keep themselves open to multiple networks and technologies while avoiding being locked-in to a single vendor approach,” said Phil Mottram, VP and GM for HPE’s communications and media solutions division.

“HPE has one of the broadest 5G portfolios in the market and is uniquely positioned to help telcos build an open multi-vendor 5G core, optimise the edge with vRAN, and deliver connectivity and new compute services to the enterprise using MEC and Wi-Fi 6.”

The as a service suite is all-encompassing and includes both hardware and supporting software, as well as cloud-native 5G functions such as Air Slice and Air Pass.

While HPE initially hopes to complement technology offered by the likes of networking giants Huawei and Ericsson, Mottram conceded that smaller customers may opt to replace all services offered by these firms with HPE technology.

This bold move to give network operators and enterprises an alternative has been made possible due to the open nature of 5G standards.

These standards were devised to break the stranglehold that existed previously, and allow enterprises to effectively mix and match elements of their 5G infrastructure in a way that wasn’t possible with previous generations of technology like 3G and 4G.

The technology, which includes the underlying 5G infrastructure, as well as support software at both the core and the edge, will be made available to customers on a consumption-based model through the company’s GreenLake portfolio.

With 50 conversations currently underway with prospective customers, HPE expects larger enterprises to adopt a sample of the 5G as a service portfolio, while smaller firms are more likely to adopt the full capabilities on an end-to-end basis.

In terms of cloud-native 5G functions that can work on top of the underlying 5G infrastructure, meanwhile, HPE launched a couple of enterprise-oriented services powered by Aruba’s 16.5 million hotspots.

Air Slice, for example, allows customers to carve up their networks into segments with dedicated functions to avoid crosstalk. Air Pass, meanwhile, gives individuals the capacity to join Wi-Fi networks without having to manually enter credentials.

Users’ identities are verified using their ties with another entity, such as a bank or a mobile network, in a similar way to one-click social media logins, used by Facebook or Sign in with Apple.

“As part of the foundational capability we’re talking about here is a shared data environment, so having a data model you can utilise across different functions in the capabilities and sharing it across different functions,” HPE’s chief technologist for communications and media, Chris Dando told IT Pro.

He added HPE was looking at how the end experience could be made seamless, with individuals not just tied to a physical SIM or looked on as being a phone number, but retaining their individuality. This is just one aspect of the suite of cloud-native 5G functionality the firm is hoping to build out.

“Those sorts of things are where we’ve led the way and are taking that too the next layer with regards to building out some of these core capabilities,” he continued.

“That’s going to become more and more important if you look to add on more device types for different use cases, as you get into IoT, and being able to identify groups of things as being part of a particular workflow or enterprise-type environment.”

Cisco, incidentally, outlined a similar Wi-Fi hopping technology at its flagship Cisco Live 2020 conference in January, which has already been deployed at the Fira de Barcelona.

It was expected to allow visitors to Mobile World Congress (MWC) hop seamlessly between 4G and 5G networks and the venue’s Wi-Fi networks, before the event was cancelled due to the global coronavirus outbreak.

Panda Security to be acquired by WatchGuard

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

9 Mar, 2020

WatchGuard Technologies has agreed to purchase Spanish antivirus software developer Panda Security and integrate its systems into its own security platform to service customers and partners of both companies.

WatchGuard aims to provide a complete cyber security portfolio of products and services for its customers, and will, with time, integrate Panda’s technology into its own systems. This is especially true for the firm’s user-centric threat detection and response tools.

Panda launched in 1998 as a security firm specialising in developing IT security services, predominantly antivirus software. Its popular Free Antivirus package has long been a favourite for home-based online security, although Pana has expanded its range of services to offer tools for businesses, as well as technology for preventing cyber crime

Beyond providing user-focused security services, WatchGuard is known for producing secure Wi-Fi appliances, such as the recently-reviewed Firebox M670

“Businesses today face an increasingly sophisticated and evolving threat landscape, scarcity of trained security professionals, and an increasingly porous perimeter,” said WatchGuard’s CEO Prakash Panjwani.

“As a result, network security, advanced endpoint protection, multi-factor authentication, secure networking, and threat detection and response capabilities are consistently ranked as top security investment areas by IT decision-makers and IT solution providers who serve them.

“By bringing the companies together, we enable our current and future customers and partners to consolidate their fundamental security services under a single brand, backed by the innovation and quality that is a core part of both companies’ DNA.”

Among Panda’s most highly-prized assets is the patented technology TruPrevent, which amounts to proactive capabilities geared towards blocking unknown malware. This is in addition to the Collective Intelligence model it deploys to detect, analyse, and classify viruses in real-time.

The tools Panda is feeding into WatchGuard’s platforms are powered by a combination of automation, AI processes, and analyst-led investigation. The company also recently launched a sophisticated threat hunting service available for enterprises, as well as managed security service providers (MSSPs) who resell Panda services.

“We are thrilled to merge with WatchGuard because of the new scale and portfolio access it provides to Panda Security customers and partners,” said Panda’s CEO Juan Santamaria.

“We are also excited to see our innovative product portfolio be delivered via WatchGuard’s strong global network of partners. Together, we look forward to building a security platform that bridges the network and user perimeter, with capabilities that are unmatched in the cybersecurity market.”

The agreement, the value of which has been undisclosed, is likely to close in the second quarter of 2020.

Western Digital hires Cisco’s David Goeckeler as its new CEO

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

6 Mar, 2020

Hard disk manufacturer Western Digital has appointed David Goeckeler to serve as its new CEO after its former chief Steve Milligan announced his intention to retire late last year.

Goeckeler will leave networking giant Cisco to join the firm as its new leader, having served as executive vice president and general manager for its networking and security business. This division has been valued at $34 billion.

One of his last actions with Cisco was overseeing the release of smart troubleshooting functionality for monitoring applications in January, at the firm’s flagship Cisco Live event.

Western Digital’s former CEO announced he was retiring in October having been with the firm since 2002 and having occupied a leadership role since 2013. He also occupied senior roles with Hitachi from 2007, before rejoining Western Digital in 2012 when it acquired the company.

Joining the firm from Monday 9 March, Goeckeler said the entire industry is now at an exciting inflection point. This, he added, involves all organisations deploying infrastructure that’s software-driven, and powered by data and cloud computing, hinting at the possible direction he may take Western Digital in.

“This megatrend has only just now reached an initial stage of adoption and will drive a massive wave of new opportunity,” Goeckeler continued. “In this IT landscape, the explosive growth of connected devices will continue fueling an ever-increasing demand for access to data.

“With large-scale hard disk drive and semiconductor memory franchises, Western Digital is strongly positioned to capitalize on this emerging opportunity and push the boundaries of both software and physical hardware innovation within an extremely important layer of the technology stack.”

Western Digital’s board chairman, Matthew Massengill, added the new appointee boasted an exceptional track record of driving profit at scale while executing innovative business strategies to expand his division into new markets.

“With experience as a software engineer as well as running large semiconductor development projects,” he continued, “his breadth of technology expertise, business acumen and history of building and operating world-class organizations make him the right person to lead Western Digital in a world increasingly driven by applications and data.”

Milligan will continue to serve as an advisor to Western Digital until September this year, as originally planned.

Oracle expected to slash 1,000-plus jobs in Europe

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

5 Mar, 2020

Oracle is preparing to cut more than a thousand jobs across locations in Europe as part of a wider restructuring following several turbulent months.

The software giant may slash up to 1,300 staff in Ireland, as well as possibly Amsterdam and Malaga, with employees invited to reapply for their roles, according to the Irish Times.

This comes following its inconsistent financial results, with second-quarter revenues for the 2020 fiscal year, which closed 30 November 2019, falling short of analyst expectations.

Staff based in Ireland were invited to an all-hands meeting with managers on Wednesday afternoon, according to the report, in which they were told about the plans. 

An unnamed spokesperson told the Irish Times that the company would continue to rebalance resources and restructure teams as Oracle’s cloud business grows. IT Pro approached Oracle for confirmation but the company declined to comment.

The company has undergone several staffing fluctuations over the last year or so, with the latest round of layoffs coming almost exactly a year after the company cut approximately 350 roles in order to remain close to AWS’ cloud model.

The wider ambitions meant cutting back staffing in areas such as the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) unit, as well as its infrastructure as a service (IaaS) business aimed at compute, storage and network resources.

The latest round of up-to-1,300 job cuts could affect employees working across its sales, business development and solutions engineering units. 

The firm’s second-quarter 2020 financial results saw revenue from its cloud and on-premise licensing business drop by 7% to $1.1 billion, while cloud services and license support revenue rose 3% to $6.8 billion.

The news comes in contrast with the company’s ambitions set out in October last year, with Oracle’s executive vice president for its OCI unit Don Johnson outlining plans to hire 2,000 additional workers.

The hires were expected to feed into the expansion of its cloud computing services as the company attempts to compete more strongly against the likes of Azure and AWS. These jobs would be added in the US and India at the firm’s software development hubs.

How women in cloud are challenging the narrative

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

3 Mar, 2020

It’s no secret the IT industry is heavily male-dominated, with women traditionally struggling to achieve representation for reasons ranging from implicit bias to discouragement from taking up STEM subjects at school

While there are plenty of success stories, important to recognise as we approach International Women’s Day, there are also tales that speak to toxic work cultures, workplace discrimination, and women being overlooked for opportunities.

The last few years have heard a crescendo in the commotion on ‘women in tech’, although it’s hardly translated into concrete improvements. For instance, progress has stalled for the Tech Talent Charter (TTC), an organisation dedicated to raising gender balance in the UK. Women held just 24% of technical roles among TTC signatories last year, a 2% dip against figures from 2018. 

The picture isn’t unified across the entire tech landscape, however. The exciting frontier of cloud computing is challenging the narrative, Ingram Micro Cloud’s Microsoft business manager Violetta Yordanova tells Cloud Pro, with the sector’s rapid expansion opening up new opportunities and roles for women to fill.

“As cloud is a relatively new technology, my experience of being a ‘woman in tech’ may not be typical, as the cloud industry is extremely diverse,” Yordanova says. “In fact, my team has an equal gender split with a real mix of personalities, cultures and strengths from people who grew up with this technology.”

Her experiences are reflected by those of F5 Networks’ principal threat evangelist with the office of the CTO, Lori MacVittie, who feels the cloud industry is more welcoming because there’s less of an ‘establishment’.

“Whether it’s coincidental or not, the rise of cloud was accompanied by a significant drive to recognise and support women ‘in cloud’,” MacVittie explains. “The culture of the cloud industry is very welcoming and cloud as a technology is often credited as democratising the resources needed for women to take their place as entrepreneurs.”

Startups tend to be more progressive because technology has allowed women to more effectively drive their ideas to fruition, she adds. There’s been an explosion of women-led cloud startups, partially fuelled by a rise of flexible working practices.

“The adoption of cloud-based solutions in the workplace has also meant that it’s easier to balance work and life, because the tools you need to work are always accessible from anywhere – even home,” she continues. “I see that accessibility as broadening corporate acceptance of remote work when it’s necessary and alleviates stress on women who struggle with work-life balance.”

While many, including MacVittie and Yordanova, recognise differences, for senior software engineer with Red Hat, Rebecca Simmonds, these are few and far between, despite the fact the growing cloud segment is fed with plenty of resources, she tells Cloud Pro.

“At Red Hat, we have equal opportunities for all of the different sectors in the company, not just cloud. So my experience as I have moved around different companies is that as long as you are willing to work hard then there are similar opportunities in any of the tech sectors,” Simmonds says.

Despite these opportunities, the challenges that women face persist, albeit differing from person-to-person. For Simmonds, as she moved from a startup to a Java EE company, and then to Red Hat, she has felt pressured into always needing to demonstrate her expertise.

“Proving myself and making a great impression when meeting people has been the biggest challenge I had to tackle,” she says. “Women in the tech sector are still stigmatised, and I constantly feel pressured to demonstrate my knowledge. The good thing is that it’s really motivated me to work harder, push my limits, and fight the stereotypes in the industry.”

It’s similar to the experiences of F5 Networks’ MacVittie, meanwhile, who hasn’t come across many roadblocks based on her gender, although there are aspects of workplace relationships with men that have proven frustrating.

“Throughout my career I have experienced male colleagues who wouldn’t take direction from a woman, and also men at conferences who are completely taken aback when they realise I know what I am talking about,” she says. “My question is, what made you assume I didn’t? It’s frustrating but something I try to move past quickly – you can’t let people like that bring you down!”

She also sees wrestling with career progression a major challenge, especially as women become more established in their roles and industries. There are, she adds, fewer options to progress the more established one becomes, with women having to be more strategic about their personal development to ensure they have the skills needed to advance.

“The challenge, in early stages, is to establish yourself in your field of expertise and figure out how to build a reputation that will help you later when you start planning more strategically. Choosing a company that best suits your priorities for your career and life is an important factor in balancing both. If your priority is family, you don’t want to work for a company that doesn’t respect that. If your priority is your career, you want to make sure there are opportunities to [progress] where you work.”

This represents only half of the equation, however, argues head of EMEA and VP of global customer experience with Dropbox, Adrienne Gormley. Effective management plays a critical role in personal development, and women must be empowered to feel at ease with the demands of their work and home lives. 

“I really believe that it’s part of being an effective manager today to help others balance their life at home with work, and to model setting boundaries for your team,” she says. “We can bring empathy for the pressures of home life into the workplace, underlining that we understand the demands on individuals, whether as parents, or carers looking after a relative or other commitments. Looking at how we can make the workplace easier for people is deeply important to me: how we can help alleviate the pressure of trying to do it all.”

Gormley’s biggest piece of advice is for women to set their boundaries early on in their careers, and take an active role in their futures. Moreover, if something isn’t working, take a risk and speak up, or ultimately make a move. 

“Different people will be there for you, but they come and go, ultimately it’s your journey. The sooner you understand that, the sooner you can really be empowered to make choices and changes, and your actions will help shape the workplace at large.”

Salesforce co-chief Keith Block steps down

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

26 Feb, 2020

The joint-Salesforce CEO Keith Block has stepped down from his leadership role after just 18 months in-post, leaving founder Marc Benioff as the sole CEO of the software company.

Block’s resignation has come as a surprise, given the former Oracle VP has come on leaps and bounds since joining Salesforce in 2013, and was widely considered to be a potential successor to Benioff in the future.

The co-CEO first joined the customer relationship management (CRM) company in 2013 as head of sales, before being promoted to COO.

He took up the co-CEO role from August 2018, meaning that he’d only been in the role for little more than 18 months before announcing his intent to step down.

The nature of his departure is also somewhat of a mystery, with no explicit reason offered by the company.

Block will stay on with the company for an extra year to serve as an advisor before moving on, and Benioff will now handle the duties the two had previously shared.

The company revealed Block’s decision on a conference call with analysts in which it shared financial results for the fourth quarter of 2019, according to Business Insider.

The firm’s executives, including Benioff, praised Block for his almost seven-year stint at the company, and wished him well for the future.

“I am his biggest supporter,” Benioff said, adding: “I’m his close friend. You’ll always be part of our Ohana [the Hawaiian word for family].”

On the call, the company reported a net loss of $248 million for the fourth quarter of last year, compared with a net income of $362 million for the same quarter in 2018. Moreover, its total revenues rose by 34.6% to $4.85 billion, which beat analyst estimates of $4.75 billion.

The CRM company has made a series of acquisitions over the last year, the most significant of which is its purchase of data management firm Tableau for approximately $16 billion. This was in addition to its purchase of ClickSoftware for $1.35 billion in August.

Already in 2020, the company has acquired data personalisation company Evergage, and industry-specific cloud provider Vlocity.