Apple's AI Plans, MapR Raises $50M: Big Data Roundup

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Hadoop distributor MapR raises new round of equity funding and hints at possible IPO, Salesforce acquires another analytics startup, PwC partners with Coursera on a data analytics course, and Apple CEO Tim Cook talks AI and more in our Big Data Roundup for the week ending Aug. 21, 2016.

Hadoop distributor MapR has raised a new round of funding and may be preparing for an IPO next year, Salesforce acquires analytics startup BeyondCore, Coursera releases a new data analytics course together with PwC, and Apple CEO Tim Cook provided some illumination on how his company regards artificial intelligence (AI). We've got all the highlights in this Big Data Roundup for the week ending Aug. 21, 2016.

Let's start with the news from Hadoop distributor MapR. The company recently announced that it has raised a round of equity financing worth $50 million, and provided a few select details about its financial performance. MapR is still a privately held company, so it can choose what to disclose and what not to disclose.

The company said that its second quarter was strong, with an increase in bookings of over 100% over the same period a year ago. MapR's Converged Data Platform -- the company's stack of big data technologies that includes Hadoop and other components, represented 90% of the total bookings. The company also said new and expanded customers included American Express, Audi, Ericsson, JLL, Philips, Qualcomm, and Rubicon Project.

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MapR SVP of Data and Applications Jack Norris told InformationWeek in an interview that the IT space is undergoing enormous change.

"We are in the middle of the biggest change in enterprise computing in three decades," he said. "Organizations are looking at flat IT budgets going forward, and trying to lower IT costs. They need to drive innovation through next generation technologies like our Converged Data Platform."

MapR President and COO Matt Mills told InformationWeek in an interview that the new funding came with participation from all of the company's existing investors and was designed to strengthen the balance sheet and the company as a whole. And while there's no initial public offering (IPO) planned right now, Mills didn't completely dismiss the possibility.

"The idea behind getting additional equity is to be able to evaluate the markets and continue to grow and invest in the company and not be in a position to take the company public for the wrong reasons," he said. "We anticipate an IPO in calendar year 2017, but we'll see how it plays out."

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff confirmed via a tweet this week that his company has acquired BeyondCore, a startup focused on business data analytics. BeyondCore says its technology can analyze data from databases, Hadoop or CSVs, using descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive analytics. In a blog post this week BeyondCore CEO Arijit Sengupta said the Salesforce acquisition will let BeyondCore "magnify our impact on the world of analytics as part of the Analytics Cloud, extending smart data discovery and advanced analytics capabilities across the entire Salesforce Customer Success Platform."

Looking to fill the skills gap for data analytics, MOOC platform Coursera and professional services firm PwC have launched a five-course "Specialization" called Make Smarter Business Decisions With Data Analysis. The courses themselves focus on business applications of data analysis and using Excel for analysis and data visualization. So you won't learn how to use Hadoop or code Python here. But it could give beginners or aspiring business analysts a boost.

In a wide-ranging interview in The Washington Post last weekend, Apple CEO Tim Cook talked iPhones, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles and more. And when it came to artificial intelligence, Apple's top executive defended his company's progress, pointing to the expanding capabilities of digital assistant Siri. Indeed, he noted, Apple is opening up Siri to third-party developers so that the technology can be used by other applications such as Uber or Lyft, to help users complete tasks faster and more efficiently.

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