Category Archives: News

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AI is unraveling the mysteries of the serial killer mind

Hunting a serial killer is, according to experts, a fundamentally different type of detective work than any other type of homicide investigation. For decades the top investigators in this hyper-specialized field have turned to technology. In 2017 this means AI, and just like everything else, it’s revolutionizing the industry. It’s impossible to know how many active serial killers there are in the US right now. Due to law enforcement and other government reporting failures, miscategorized evidence, and genuine mystery the best estimate we have is somewhere between 25 and 340. The FBI thinks about 150 people a year are murdered…

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Live from Red Carpet at the GeekWire Gala, our annual holiday bash in Seattle

We’re rolling out the red carpet tonight for Seattle’s geekiest holiday party, the annual GeekWire Gala, where more than 1,000 attendees will mingle with old and new friends at the Museum of History & Industry in Seattle’s South Lake Union Neighborhood and dance the night away at one of our favorite events of the year.

GeekWire reporters Clare McGrane and Taylor Soper will be hosting a live red carpet session starting at 5:45 p.m. PT — check out the stream above for interviews with our awesome attendees, asking about their opinions on everything from favorite geeky gifts in 2017 to Amazon’s influence in Seattle.

Stay tuned for a full recap of the evening. If you can’t make it tonight, we’ll see you at the 2018 GeekWire Bash on March 15 in Seattle. Have a great holiday!

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Those awful Facebook Year In Review videos are back, prepare yourself

As the year comes to a close, annual wrap-ups are most companies favorite way of reminding us just how much we love using their services. Unfortunately, Facebook’s ‘Year In Review‘ videos have the opposite effect on me. So prepare yourself because as of today, they’re back once again to clog up our newsfeed. Unlike Spotify’s ‘Yearly Wrapped’ playlist, Facebook’s Year in Review videos always highlight the worst moments. Worse, they’re blended over a forgettable and utterly cheesy soundtrack. Populated using ‘new friends’ you’ve made, ‘happy birthdays’ you received, your most popular pictures and more social detritus to annoy your friends with, Facebook…

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5 things to know about the Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 845

Qualcomm may have announced its Snapdragon 845 platform at its Hawaii Tech Summit yesterday, but it didn’t really reveal any new details until today. Though the jump from 835 to 845 might seem small, but there are a number of significant advancements in the company’s next-gen processor. Here are some of the biggest changes you need to know. It’s faster, and not just in processor speed Of course, every generation processor is faster than the last, but Qualcomm seems to be focusing less on raw CPU speed and more on the other aspects of the Snapdragon platform, such as the…

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Facebook won the war for your mind. Now it wants your children.

Fashioning a noose from a scarf, 14-year-old Naika Venant ignored the pleas of Facebook Live viewers as she wrapped the makeshift hanging device from a shower rod, ending her own life. When the stream ended just over an hour later, all that remained was a lifeless body police found in the bathroom just feet from her sleeping foster parents. Venant’s story is tragic, as are those of Ayhan Uzun, Katelyn Nicole Davis, Frederick Jay Bowdy, and countless others who attempted, or successfully committed suicide in front of a live audience. Facebook denies any culpability. The social network promises it’s taking…

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Key Arena renovation leader Tim Leiweke on his vision for technology, security, esports, and more

This week marked a big milestone for the future of pro sports and live entertainment in Seattle as the City Council approved a new $660 million deal to renovate Key Arena, signed by Mayor Jenny Durkan today.

It’s the latest chapter in a decade-long saga that started after Seattle’s NBA franchise departed to Oklahoma City in 2008. Numerous high-powered groups and individuals have been involved in the process of building a potential new stadium in Seattle, including former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who was part of a ownership group that nearly brought the NBA back to Seattle in 2013.

But the city has now put its faith in Oak View Group, a Los Angeles-based organization led by Tim Leiweke, a sports industry veteran who has experience building new arenas across the globe.

Leiweke spoke at the GeekWire Sports Tech Summit this past June in Seattle and talked about his vision for the new Key Arena, which could re-open and host an NHL team as soon as 2020. He addressed various topics ranging from transportation; security, esports; Amazon; and Seattle’s technology industry boom.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Getting to and from the new Key Arena is a hot topic and OVG has committed $40 million toward transportation improvements in the surrounding area. Leiweke said technology will play a big role: “Thinking about technology as an opportunity to communicate to people how to get to and from the campus, without thinking that they had to park right next door to the arena, is the greatest challenge we have with this particular development.”
  • Leiweke expects that Key Arena will host 20 esports events per year, and he wants to engage with companies like Activision Blizzard. “Do I think 18,000 people come into each and every one of those 20 nights to watch people play games? I’m not sure it’ll be 20,000, but look, if you do 5,000-to-8,000, and that keeps your building busy, and those are 20 nights that you can schedule around your anchor tenant and your concert business, I think it’s a fantastic addition completely driven by technology.”
  • Leiweke said the place where technology can be most effectively used is security, noting tools like facial recognition and drones. “There’s changes coming with security that will be able to keep our fans, our campuses, and our facilities safe. I think it’s the technology that will ultimately help us understand who’s on our campus, where they’re at on our campus, and how we get them into the building and out of the building as quickly and as convenient as humanly possible. From a security standpoint, the way you secure your campus, at the end of the day, is going to be technology.”

Read on for the full interview with Leiweke (edited for brevity), or watch the video above.

Renderings of Oak View Group’s proposed KeyArena renovation. (Oak View Group Image)

GeekWire Editor Todd Bishop: “It’s been a couple weeks since Oak View Group was announced as the preferred partner for the redevelopment of what’s now known as KeyArena in Seattle. You’ve said that this Seattle arena renovation plan is the most iconic, the most visionary, and the greatest opportunity you’ve been involved with. Now, that’s from a person who oversaw, in previous roles, development of arenas including STAPLES Center, L.A. Live, the neighborhood, the O2 in London. What makes this the most iconic and the greatest opportunity you’ve had so far?”

Oak View Group Tim Leiweke: “…I think this is a unique situation, because seldom in your life do you have a chance to bring a winter sports franchise to the fastest-growing marketplace in all of North America, and I think for those of you that live here, you know this. For those of us that have been coming to this town for 20 years, we certainly have learned this. When you walk through Amazon’s campus and you look at what’s going here; when you hear Google and their announcement of the new jobs they’re moving down here; when you see Expedia and the campus they’re building; you begin to understand how dynamic Seattle is and what a great opportunity it is. The fact that they don’t have a winter sports franchise is shocking, so our ability to bring either a hockey team, a basketball team, or both here is fantastic.

But also, we could sit here and debate where the arena ought to go, but if you look at Seattle Center, this is a building that was built back in 1962. That’s where the Space Needle started. That’s where this community hosted the World’s Fair. The history and the tradition of this building is amazing, and our ability to go in and add 350,000 square feet and not make the roof change, and honor the historic nature of the building, and spend $564 million doing it and going down, it’s a hard project. It’s a visionary project. It’s an amazing project. It’s on 75 acres of the most beautiful campus I’ve seen in any urban core, and we get a chance to bring winter sports back to Seattle in the fastest-growing marketplace in the United States and North America.

I don’t know where else we’ll ever have a chance to do that again, and it certainly isn’t something I’ve done in my career, so we’re extremely excited about it, but we’re also nervous. This isn’t for the faint of heart.”

Tim Leiweke speaks at the 2017 GeekWire Sports Tech Summit. (GeekWire photo / Kevin Lisota)

Bishop: “Let’s fast-forward to 2025. I’m an NHL fan or an NBA fan, and I’m going to this new Seattle arena. Sketch out the vision for me. What’s the experience going to be like from going from my house to the arena, buying the ticket, getting through the gate, experiencing the game, interacting with the players? Just give me the highlights of how this arena is going to be different and what the fan experience is going to be like.”

Leiweke: “One thing that occurred to me, I got up early this morning and I walked not only the campus at Seattle Center, but also the campus at Amazon. It’s really remarkable when you walk through what they’re doing. It’s shocking, gutsy, innovative, and scary to see a company grow that fast. The thing that occurred to me, as I looked at the hundreds and hundreds of young people walking into that campus, is, I looked around and I realized there’s not a lot of cars. They’re not coming in cars. They’re coming in buses. They’re on bikes. A lot of people were getting off the light rail that’s in and around their campus.

It was pretty remarkable to see that the new generation, they understand … look, Uber, Lyft, and Curb didn’t exist 10 years ago, eight years ago. These are new phenomenons that are changing the way that we think about how we get from point A to point B. If you look at new technology that people can pre-reserve a parking space and put it into an app, and the app will take you directly to the parking space on the night of an event, none of this existed just a few years ago.

What we’re going to have to think about for 2025 is driverless cars. People always kind of chuckle when I talk about, do we have drones that are taking people from point A to point B? At the Consumer Show this year in Vegas, they were there, and it was pretty amazing to watch, the fact that there’s a new mode of transportation that is going to come in our lifetime at some point or another, and that will change the way we think about how we bring people in and out of our facilities.

Thinking about technology as an opportunity to communicate to people how to get to and from the campus, without thinking that they had to park right next door to the arena, is the greatest challenge we have with this particular development. Same in Miami. We’re not building a parking garage in Miami at the MLS stadium there. By the way, some of the other projects we’re looking at, we’re not looking at building parking garages either, because we think the world’s going to change, and there’s going to be technology, in particular, a huge impact on getting out of the car and either doing driverless cars, Uber, mass transportation, or ultimately finding ways to park and then commute in by doing what I think people are going to do here, the Monorail.

I think the biggest change will be security. Those that think these issues and incidents and acts of terrorism that we’re now seeing in and around live music, sports, and facilities is going to come and go — unfortunately, this is our way of life, and we have to be prepared for it.

So, we can no longer secure [just] our building. If you look at every major terrorist attack that has happened in the last three years now, the majority of them are happening on the outside, not the inside. We’ve all spent huge amounts of money on X-ray machines, and metal detectors … coming into this building last night, we had to go through a bag check to check our bags in order to go through a line in order to go through security in order to get our tickets ultimately taken, so…”

KeyArena renovation
Renderings of Oak View Group’s proposed KeyArena renovation. (Oak View Group Image)

Bishop: “Will technology change that?”

Leiweke: “Sure. It should, because what we need to do is ultimately say, we need to keep our fans safe, that’s first. And we need to do it using technology so we don’t make them wait in three lines. That’s not good for our fans, so how do we do that? Technology is going to allow us to have facial recognition, and that’s going to change security. Security will no longer be about a building or a stadium — it’s going to be about a campus, and security is going to have to get stretched, and we’re going to have to have security everywhere. There will be aspects of technology, drones, cameras, facial recognition, the new Ticketmaster system where you know who has that ticket and who’s in your building. Why do we make our season ticket holders, if we know it’s really our season ticket holder coming into the building, and Pete’s been a season ticket holder for 20 years, why is Pete going through three lines? He’s not our threat.

I think the other thing is, there will be non-technology. To this day, if they would have had ‘Vapor Wake’ dogs in Manchester, that bomb wouldn’t have gone off — at least, not there, because the dog would have smelt it. I’m still a huge fan of ‘Vapor Wake’ dogs for our campus, because it’s the only technology we have today. Amazingly, there’s only one machine they’ve invented today that can smell bomb belts like that, and it cost over a million dollars for one of the machines, and you got to walk through it in order to really make it work.

So just a quick story. This is not technology, but it shows you sometimes the things that we have today, that exist today, might be the best solution. The New York Mets ended up buying a bunch of ‘Vapor Wake’ dogs, and they donated them back to the police department, and then when the Mets had games, the police department would bring the dogs to Citi Field. St. Paddy’s Day Parade two years ago, a million people on the streets of New York, most of them not feeling any pain, bomb dogs walking along, nose goes up in the air, and he goes back a block and picks up on a guy, and the police officer says, ‘I’m afraid my dog smelled something on you. I got to pull you out.’ Checks him out, nothing there, walks away. Another half block later, the dog’s nose goes back in the air, he goes right back to this guy. They pull him into one of their substations they had on the route, and as it turns out, he had a nitroglycerin pill for his heart in his pocket, and the dog smelled it almost a block away.

We’re going to need that on our campuses until we figure out technology that ultimately can replace the nose of a dog, which is the most effective means today at making sure … I’m not worried about the arena at the Seattle Center. I’m worried about Seattle Center and the 75 acres, so what we’re going to have to do in 2025 is make sure we protect the entire campus.”

(GeekWire photo / Taylor Soper)

Bishop: “When you talk about that, the first thought that goes across the minds of a lot of folks out there is privacy. If you’re going to be scanning my face, tracking my movement through the arena or Seattle Center, I’d rather just stay home. What do you say to people who say that?”

Leiweke: “I’d say I don’t agree with that at all. One, we don’t make going to sporting events convenient today. Let’s admit that what we’re making people go through right now is a bit extreme, and yet last night [Sounders FC owner Adrian Hanauer] had 45,000 people here.

I think if you look at the fan experience today, it’s not great. I think technology’s going to make it better, not worse, and still, we need to come together as a society and ultimately celebrate. If you look at what happened in Manchester, a week later they had 60,000 people show up at the stadium and a defiant message that you will not disrupt our choice, and our freedom, and our lifestyle, and we’re going to have the right to go where we want to go, and yes, we’ll put up with the other aggravation we now had to put up with. Our challenge is to understand that people want to come together and celebrate. The game’s still always much better in person than it is on TV and on distribution channels, but that said, what we have to do is say, how do we do that, make them feel safe, and not make them go through three lines of security in order to get to the event and enjoy the moment?”

Seattle traffic
Snarled traffic in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Bishop: “You mentioned earlier walking through the Amazon campus. Obviously, there is a very large employee base of Amazon, but if you look back at KeyArena when the Seattle Sonics were still here, a big portion of the audience for those games came from the Eastside. There’s no real option for light rail in the short-term across SR 520. Wouldn’t that make the argument for Interstate 90 and the Sodo arena being the arena and the location that could better serve the broader population?”

Leiweke: “Yeah, I’ve done a pretty good job of avoiding getting into shooting at any other project, and I’m going to stay with that.”

Bishop: “Well, let’s talk about your project. What do you say to people on the Eastside who say, “It’s not the bridge, it’s the mess’?”

Leiweke: “Here’s what I say. Two million people went to KeyArena about eight years ago when they had the Sonics, they had the Thunderbirds, they had the concerts, and they had the family show. Since that time, they’re now introducing computerized lighting systems on Mercer. We’ve never had them before. By the time we open our arena, we will have that.

Within 10 years of the arena opening, there will be a light rail station there, and in the meantime, if you look at not only the technology that’s been created, and Uber, and Lyft, and hopefully driverless cars, that will get people in and out of the building, the infrastructure in and around Seattle Center has gotten better, not worse. There’s actually more parking there than there was when the Sonics are there. Look at the gates and the beautiful headquarters building they built and the garage they have next door.

What we have is, we have traffic in Seattle everywhere … The newspaper that we were just at is next to the Space Needle in Seattle Center. It took me five minutes to get on the freeway. Then the freeway stopped, and it stopped because of what’s going on right here, and that’s people trying to get out, and it was completely blocked. Then we came here, and guess what we hit? A train, so we were trying to figure out how to get on the ramp and get above the train, and so there’s nothing easy in Seattle.

You’re the fastest-growing city in the United States. You’re going to have traffic problems. The traffic problems are not KeyArena’s. The traffic problems are Seattle’s, and we have to solve them. But at the end of the day, next door the Amazon campus has 35,000 people going and coming from that campus each and every day. They not only get there, but stand down in that campus and look around and what will amaze you is, it seems to me the majority of those people are getting there either walking or commuting somehow. There’s not a ton of cars that were on the streets within the campus today.

We have a lot of work to do to figure out a transportation plan. I’m not claiming it’s going to be perfect — it’s not. But I went down to Staples Center a few weeks ago, and it took me an hour and a half to drive down there. Last time I checked, Staples Center sells out every night, still.”

Valve hosts The International, a big esports event, each year at Key Arena. (GeekWire photo / Kevin Lisota)

Bishop: “How much are you depending on the continued tech boom to make this project economically viable in terms of the ultimate demand for games, entertainment at the arena?”

Leiweke: “I think technology makes the experience better. It doesn’t replace the experience, so we should understand that. I think looking at the Amazon campus and understanding they’re a tech company — do I feel better about the $564 million bet, plus buying a team, when you look at 35,000 people in that campus? Yes. We feel much better that technology and Seattle becoming a technology hub is going to have a huge impact on the people that we get to talk to to buy our tickets for sports and music.

Do we ultimately think there’s going to be esports? Yes. I think there’s 20 nights of esports that will be in this building. We’re just following the lead of the guys that are thinking about esports as well as anybody — Activision and Blizzard — and their league is going to be 20 nights. We’re excited about that concept and that technology. Do I think 18,000 people come into each and every one of those 20 nights to watch people play games? I’m not sure it’ll be 20,000, but look, if you do 5,000-to-8,000, and that keeps your building busy, and those are 20 nights that you can schedule around your anchor tenant and your concert business, I think it’s a fantastic addition completely driven by technology.”

Bishop: “In terms of that, you’ve said that the NHL is likely to be first, and I recognize you’re being very careful not to speak on behalf of any of the leagues.”

Leiweke: “I’m the only guy I know that’s not in a league and still getting fined by commissioners. It makes no sense whatsoever.”

Bishop: “Is it conceivable that we could have an NBA team, and a Sodo arena, and an NHL and entertainment arena separate at KeyArena?”

Leiweke: “People could spend money, so if you’re going to privatize both arenas, and one’s going to run off and get a hockey team, and the other guy wants to go get a basketball team, so be it. But here’s what I do know. [NBA Commissioner Adam Silver] has been very clear on this. There’s no expansion currently being debated, discussed, or contemplated at the NBA, and I wouldn’t if I were them either. Their TV contract is fantastic now, so it’s not even a conversation.

The problem with Seattle is twofold. One, their hearts got ripped out seven, eight years ago when the Sonics left, and it was not done in a great way, and they were misled and some people came in, and ultimately they had a personal agenda that cost this community their basketball team. I think people are bitter about that. They don’t think it was handled well by the league, by (former NBA commissioner) David Stern, by the political leaders. I think we have to inherit that distrust.

Now, add to that that for seven years they’ve been told, ‘I’m going to get you an NBA team,’ and then we come along and say, ‘I’m sorry for being honest, but there is no NBA team to be gotten right now. They’re not expanding.’ Because of the job that Adam Silver has done — and he’s done a tremendous job as commissioner of that league — there’s no teams that are in danger today of failing in their marketplace and moving.

The reality is, the conversation is one where if you just do simple math, there’s 31 National Hockey League teams. There’s 16 in the east and 15 in the west. It takes you about a second to figure out they need another team out west. Is there a better marketplace west of the Mississippi today than Seattle for a winter sports franchise?

What they need is, they need an arena, and then they need an owner. Well, we believe we have a vision to do both. If someone else wants to come along after we do that and build another arena and put the basketball team in there, great. I’m fine with that. I don’t think it works, especially when Live Nation is our equity partner, and they’re going to put 40 or 50 nights of music in the building they own every day of the week — so you lose all the music, and you lose the hockey, and then you’re going to go put another arena up and spend $600 million privately. I think that’s a tough economic bet.”

Key Arena hosted a tennis match between Roger Federer and Bill Gates this past April. (GeekWire photo / Taylor Soper)

Bishop: “One thing that might have gotten lost amid the announcement about the choices of your group as the preferred partner is that Jerry Bruckheimer is among your partners. I mean, we’re talking Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop, Armageddon. How will Jerry Bruckheimer’s sensibilities impact the design of this arena?”

Leiweke: “I think we have two really interesting partners in David Bonderman and Jerry Bruckheimer. David Bonderman owns lots of things through his partnership in TPG, including Cirque and CAA, and so he’s in the entertainment business, he’s in the technology business, and I think he’s going to bring a very sharp mind to how we build a building that is, from a technology standpoint, very advanced.

We have to be as good as San Francisco and not only the 49ers’ current stadium and the job they’ve done with technology, but what [Golden State Warriors owners] Joe, Rick, and Peter are doing with the new Chase Center and how brilliant that building’s going to be. Sacramento, and what [Sacramento Kings owner] Vivek and [Kings President] Chris Granger have done there, phenomenal.

We have to be as good as that, because it’s Seattle, and I think Bondo’s going to bring us relationships, connections, experience, knowledge and a drive to force us to really think outside the box on we have to be as good as any other building from a technology standpoint.

Jerry is going to be about the experience. He’s going to be about the brand. He’s going to be about the hockey team.”

Bishop: “So explosions is what you’re saying.”

Leiweke: “Well, we’ll see. Maybe we’ll have pirate ships kind of skating through the ice in the middle of the game. Jerry has been chasing the NHL for a long time. He’s a passionate hockey guy. He used to sit next to me. His season tickets were next to mine for the Kings, so he went through our Stanley Cup run with me. There’s no one more passionate than Jerry about how to build a hockey team, how to build a brand, and how to build something that’s going to entertain people. Those are two good partners, and they also happen to bring an enormous amount of not just expertise, but their wealth is going to help us, because we have to privatize the building, and then we have to go buy a team.”

Bishop: “My last question here is about technology. What are your thoughts on augmentation of the experience, either in the stadium through VR, or at home through continued annotation of the screen?”

Leiweke: “The ability now to replay, to look at calls, to look at near misses that should be maybe goals or shouldn’t be goals — I think technology has made that better. We all wish it would go a little bit quicker, and I think it will over a period of time, but I think, again, I believe technology enhances the experience. It doesn’t replace the experience. I think what’s going to happen is, our ability to go up to concession stands and pull what we want and walk right out, and not have to go through a checkout lane … the theory of ultimately living in a technology world where we get rid of lines, we get rid of cash, we get rid of the hassles of security, I think that is a huge opportunity for our industry, and I’m really excited about the future, because it’s changing every day very quickly.”

Bishop: “You mentioned esports earlier. Will esports influence the actual design of the arena as you’re thinking about the unique nature of that experience?”

Leiweke: “Probably. We’re spending a lot of time thinking about technology and events in the venue, and one thing I’d say is, it’s not lost on us that you have Amazon here, you have Microsoft here, you have a lot of technology in this marketplace. If we could get to them quickly, what we want them to be seen as is a visionary partner in the design of the building and the design of the customer experience. So my guess is, whether it be esports and having a relationship with Activision and Blizzard, to think through what that’s going to look like in five years if you’re coming to an esports event, or it’s a hockey game and thinking through how we could improve the customer experience. We’re sitting in one of the great technology capitals of North America. I would hope we can empower them to help us think through how we make this experience in our building very unique and something special to Seattle.”

Bishop: “Don’t forget about Valve and Gabe Newell. I mean, I’m sure he would want to have a say in this. Have you ever thought about engaging with them in terms of the design as well?”

Leiweke: “I think you’re going to see a lot of people that we haven’t even met yet in this town hopefully be activated into our process. There’s a lot of really smart people in this marketplace, and we’re excited about trying to utilize all of their thinking on making this their arena. This is an amazing marketplace with a lot of very smart people.”

Bishop: “What would be your key takeaways for this audience, people interested in technology in sports? What are the key things you would want them to know about where things are headed?”

Leiweke: “Well, I think our lives are all going to get better, because technology is changing so quickly and challenging us to rethink the customer experience. To me, the one place where it’s most evident is security. There’s changes coming with security that will be able to keep our fans, and our campuses, and our facilities safe. I think it’s the technology that will ultimately help us understand who’s on our campus, where they’re at on our campus, how do we get them into the building and out of the building as quickly, as convenient as humanly possible, and from a security standpoint, the way you secure your campus at the end of the day is going to be technology. The dogs are important, but at the end of the day, that, to me, is going to change all of our lives and our business far greater than any other aspect of what technology is going to do to facilities or sports going forward.”

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Interview: Bob Muglia, Microsoft veteran and Snowflake Computing CEO, on databases and a changing Seattle

Snowflake Computing CEO Bob Muglia. (Snowflake Photo)

Tech is supposed to be a young person’s game, which makes the perspective of someone like Snowflake Computing CEO Bob Muglia even that much more valuable.

Muglia, who ran Microsoft’s Server and Tools Division for five years as the capstone to a 23-year-career at the software giant, now runs Snowflake Computing, a 300-person data warehousing startup that thinks it has developed the best cloud-native product for analytical databases. Cloud databases are turning into a very important segment of the enterprise tech market, as Oracle attempts to hold on to its legacy customers while cloud providers and others like Snowflake try to pull them in a new direction.

I caught up with Muglia on the sidelines of Amazon Web Services’ re:Invent 2017 conference in Las Vegas last week to talk about shifting database market trends, the pecking order in infrastructure cloud computing, and how Seattle has changed since he first arrived in 1988. A lightly edited version of our talk follows below.

GeekWire: I’m interested in hearing about your cloud provider strategizes, and hope to get an idea of where databases are going over the next five years.

Bob Muglia: We’re five and a half years old as a company. Our founders recognized you could build a cloud, a data warehouse, a relational database very differently using cloud-based technology than you can in the traditional on-premises world. They recognized this five years ahead of the industry. I think people are reading our white papers, and then figuring out, “OK, this is the way to do it.” We may have some people building something similar now, but our team’s been way, way, way ahead of that.

GeekWire: What are those key differences that you would identify?

Bob Muglia: The attributes that eventually customers see are basically, we are a SQL relational database, an analytic relational database, likened to a Netezza, Teradata, or Vertica, something like that. We’re not an OLTP database. We don’t replace Oracle or MySQL, but we can replace and have replaced all of those other products. We do replace Oracle and SQL Server for things that are more analytic in their nature. While we look like, and are in fact a full transactional SQL database, we don’t have any limits that these other systems have.

GeekWire: Such as?

Bob Muglia: (The) amount of data you can store, how many queries you can run concurrently, those are the two big ones. How much data can be processed, and how many queries can we run concurrently.

The difference is, all those other systems are built using architectures that go back 30 years, literally 30 years, going back to the mid-1980s. Most of them are built on an architecture called shared nothing, where you have a cluster of machines with the data coupled to those nodes, and that cluster and the computers within it cooperate to run the queries. In those systems, that cluster defines the unit of scalability. That cluster consists of some number of physical machines. You can process more data by adding more nodes to the cluster, but you can’t really run more queries simultaneously by adding nodes. That’s gated by how much memory there is in those systems.

All of these systems have some limit in terms of how many queries they can run concurrently, five, ten, twenty, maybe a really scalable system can run 30 to 50 queries concurrently, but you hit that limit and you are done. You can’t run any more queries. We don’t have those limits because we have the ability to have multiple clusters running against the same data at the same time with full transactional support.

Nobody’s ever been able to do that. We’re the only product on the market that does that, the only product on the market that can do that. What that means is that there is no limit to the number of queries you can run with full transactional consistency associated with it. This is a very big deal because when we talk to customers what happens is, with these other systems they are successful. The systems are mature, and they work, and they’re good products. They start with a good experience, but then as they put more load on it, and they put more users on it, they hit these limits. Then their users complain because their stuff runs really slowly.

There’s very little they can do to fix that problem. The only way to fix it is to introduce multiple clusters, multiple machines that are each independent. You have to manage that environment, which is … now your data’s all over the place. It’s not all in one database. You have all these different systems, and you have to send some users over here, and some users over there. It’s just a mess. With Snowflake, none of those problems exist. You can have all your data accessible to all your users all the time.

GeekWire: Are there specific applications that take advantage of that?

Bob Muglia: Sure, there’s a couple. Anybody who is offering using their data warehouse as a part of a service offering, is going to hit that limit. If you’re a SaaS provider, you’re going to hit that limit. If you become successful, you will hit limits guaranteed, guaranteed. But any large enterprise will hit it. If you can only run five or 10 queries simultaneously, that’s a pretty small number.

We literally hear customers that it takes three days to close the books at the end of every month. That’s a very predictable (event) and they don’t like that, and they don’t like that very much. We had one customer that had to do their consolidated billing at the end of every week, and it literally took them the entire weekend to run this. Assuming everything went well, it took them the entire weekend to run this job, and it had to be done on Monday morning. In literally the best cases it got done like Sunday night at 10 PM. If anything goes wrong, they’re in trouble.

With Snowflake, they don’t have that problem because now they literally every Friday afternoon they throw multiple warehouses against it and they get the whole thing done in just a few hours.

GeekWire: So, you’re primarily on AWS?

Bob Muglia: We’re only on Amazon at this point.

I mean, look; we are a cloud data warehouse. We were built and born on Amazon. Amazon is great, they are a fabulous partner. We do have customers that ask for other clouds. We are a customer-centric company. We’re a values-based company. Our first value is we put our customers first. And there are customers that want other clouds so we’re certain…

GeekWire: Why do they want other clouds?

Bob Muglia: Couple of reasons. First of all, there are some industries that are somewhat averse to Amazon. For example, the retail industry.

GeekWire: Is that growing (into more of a thing)?

Bob Muglia: It’s pretty real. If anything, we’d say it’s simply this: in talking to quite a few companies in the retail industry, all of them noticed the Whole Foods acquisition.

I think that that galvanized the retail industry, and I think they have … obviously Amazon is a very significant competitor to them. And to be fair, none of these companies think that Amazon is looking at their data. I don’t think anyone is worried about that. And certainly, if their data is on Snowflake, Amazon couldn’t see their data because it’s all encrypted and Amazon would have no way of looking at it because they don’t have the keys.

But their bigger concern is simply, “Why should I spend my money with a competitor?” And that is pretty real. And it’s an understandable concern. The other thing I’d say is that customers have preferences in vendors. And you have a lot of customers for sure that have worked with Microsoft, as an example, for a long time, so that some reasons they do.

Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services, addresses the crowd at AWS re:Invent 2017. (GeekWire Photo / Tom Krazit)

GeekWire: Do you see traction with Google, or IBM, or any of the other clouds?

Bob Muglia: We do see some, but we see a lot more, we hear more … I mean first of all let me be very, very clear. The vast majority of our customers want Amazon. But when we hear other clouds, I would say nine times out of ten, it’s Azure. And then IBM sometimes and Google sometimes.

I think, in terms of other clouds, and longterm viability of other clouds, I’m very clear that Azure has a longterm future. I think it’s likely that Google will be successful. And I’m not sure that there will be a whole lot after that. We’ll have to see if SoftLayer … how successful IBM is on a long-term basis.

And then the other sort of wild card in all this might be Oracle. And I think that Oracle has a captive customer base … ‘captured customer base’ might be a way to put it. And they certainly are doing some things economically to incent that customer base to go to Oracle. So I think you’ll see that. I think what we’ll see is essentially all of Oracle’s customers will have some adoption. I mean that a little overstating it, but I think we’ll see very broad adoption of Oracle Cloud, for something where Oracle is used. But I don’t see people who are not in that space right now moving to Oracle.

I sort of look at this thing fairly simply. The (global) IT market is roughly a bit over three trillion overall. About half of that is communications and the other half is everything else. So you’ve got 1.5 trillion in IT spend, basically.

It started with 0% cloud adoption. I think it’s realistic that in ten years half of that spend is going to be in the cloud … at least a third, 500 billion to three quarters (of a triillion). You look at this and Amazon is on their way to building another $100 billion business for themselves.

GeekWire: I can’t let you go without talking to you about Seattle a little bit. What do you make of the changes in the region over the last 15 to 20 years?

Bob Muglia: Well, you know, it’s funny. When I moved to Seattle 30 years ago. Literally it will be 30 years in January. When my wife and I moved to Seattle we were in the Bay Area and we consciously left the Bay Area because we felt it was too crowded and too expensive, in 1987. In 1987.

GeekWire: Wow.

Bob Muglia: And when we moved … this is all a true story … we just thought it was very crowded and expensive. When we moved up to Seattle. I said “My greatest fear is that Seattle is 20 years behind the Bay Area.” And I actually think it’s probably 15.

Bob Muglia, back in 2010, on Microsoft’s Channel9 show. (Photo courtesy MicrosoftPDC on Flickr / cc2.0)

And what we’ve seen is, as the Bay Area has grown to a point where it’s sort of, I don’t know how it grows too much more. As that sort of happened, I think that people have recognized that there needs to be other places where we have technology centers of excellence. Seattle has really emerged, more so than ever, as the very strong number two after the Bay Area.

As the CEO of a growing software services company that’s based in the San Francisco area, Seattle is very attractive because it’s the same time zone and it’s a two hour flight, and there are a lot of flights. And when people say, “Well, what about Vancouver?” It’s like well, Vancouver is great, but you have to cross the border. And there’s only a couple of flights a day. I mean there are flights, but they aren’t like Seattle.

GeekWire: Are you finding recruiting harder?

Bob Muglia: It is so much easier in the Seattle area than it is in the Bay Area for us. And it was my expectation that that would be true and it certainly is turning out to be. We can find really high quality people. It’s not cheaper. We never thought it would be less expensive. We pay people the same. Our pay rates are the same. Now they do get the benefit of the income tax difference between Seattle … Washington and California. So there’s an automatic ten-ish percent difference in comp associated with that.

So it’s actually easier for people to live on the same salary in Seattle than it is in the Bay Area. But we never thought it would be cheaper and it’s not cheaper.

For us, we have a very attractive value proposition to a potential candidate. We’re a growth company and we’re small but growing rapidly. We’re not an early stage startup, so the risk of coming to Snowflake is relatively low. It’s higher risk perhaps than going to Microsoft, but it’s very low risk overall.

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$20 billion ITER fusion facility reaches halfway point for construction in France

ITER construction site
A super-wide-angle view shows the fusion reactor under construction in France. (ITER Photo)

The world’s biggest and most expensive nuclear fusion research project, known as ITER, says it’s halfway done with the construction effort leading to the startup of its seven-story-high reactor in 2025.

ITER’s ambition to demonstrate a sustained fusion reaction that produces a net gain in energy is matched by the estimated cost, which exceeds $20 billion.

The 35-nation consortium began construction a decade ago, under an unusual arrangement that calls for the various countries to contribute components for the reactor taking shape at Cadarache in southern France. The United States is responsible for 9 percent of the total cost.

“ITER” originally stood for International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, but now project leaders prefer to characterize the name as a Latin word meaning “The Way” — that is, the way to the world’s energy future.

Today, ITER Director-General Bernard Bigot declared that the construction work has passed the halfway point on the timeline leading to “first plasma,” when deuterium and tritium are to be heated to high temperature in the reactor’s giant tokamak chamber.

During a visit to Washington, D.C., Bigot expressed concern that the United States was cutting back on its budgeted contributions to ITER. He noted that the amount went from a planned $105 million in 2017 to $50 million, and that the budget for 2018 anticipated a cut from $120 million to $63 million.

“If the U.S. does not provide the necessary funds in 2018, then there will be an impact on the entire project,” he told Reuters.

Bigot said the Trump administration was reconsidering the funding issue, with a decision coming as early as this week.

Fusion is the reaction that powers the sun, involving the combination of hydrogen nuclei under conditions of high pressure and high temperature. When the nuclei combine, that creates one helium nucleus and converts a smidgen of extra mass directly into energy.

ITER is pursuing a path to fusion power that’s relatively low-risk but high-cost, known as magnetic confinement fusion. Atoms of deuterium and tritium, two isotopes of hydrogen, will be heated into a plasma while being squeezed by super-strong magnetic fields in a doughnut-shaped chamber.

“First plasma” is scheduled for 2025, but ITER says it could take 10 more years to reach full-power operation. Even then, the reactor isn’t likely to produce power for commercial use. Instead, the insights gained during ITER’s experiments are expected to help engineers design and build commercially viable fusion power plants.

In parallel with ITER, several privately funded ventures are pursuing lower-cost, higher-risk avenues to controlled fusion, with a potentially quicker reward (or failure).

A Canadian company called General Fusion has won backing from Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos. California-based TAE Technologies, meanwhile, counts Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen as an investor. Another fusion company, Helion Energy, is headquartered in Redmond, Wash., and has attracted funding from PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.

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With DACA clock ticking, tech community rallies behind Dreamers

Activists attend a march for immigrant rights in Los Angeles. (Flickr Photo / Molly Adams)

Remitly marketing manager Lazaro Carrion became a U.S. citizen last year. It took 20 years and two emigrations to achieve that status, in part because the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program didn’t exist when he graduated from college.

Carrion traveled with family from Mexico to Washington’s Yakima Valley when he was 7 years old without legal documentation. The significance of that didn’t set in until high school, when he started looking into financial aid for college. Carrion didn’t qualify for many of the public grants but was able to attend Whitman College on private scholarships. Then, he graduated.

“I realized I didn’t have opportunities to work legally in this country, so I left,” Carrion told GeekWire at a Seattle event hosted by Remitly, a company that enables international money transfers, as part of a broader effort to pressure Congress to act on DACA.

Carrion moved back to Mexico in 2008. It was four years before the Obama administration created DACA, allowing some 800,000 undocumented immigrants (a.k.a. Dreamers) who arrived in the U.S. as children to remain in the country and work without fear of deportation. Carrion returned to the U.S. in 2012 and obtained legal residency through marriage.

“It was a 20-year process, essentially, from the moment I first entered the country to the moment I had the legal right to vote, which I celebrate every day,” he said.

Today, Carrion is part of the immigrant tech workforce, and his story makes it easy to see why immigration reform — from DACA, to startup visas, to the H1-B program — has become a flagship issue for the industry. Businesses founded by immigrants and their children comprise 43 percent of the Fortune 500; the tech industry relies on skilled foreign workers to address its talent shortage; and companies like Microsoft feel compelled to stand behind their immigrant employees, especially Dreamers.

Lazaro Carrion immigrated from Mexico as a child and just received citizenship last year. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

Immigrant advocacy is particularly essential to Remitly’s DNA; the company’s business is all about making it cheaper and easier for people living and working in affluent countries to send money back home. Because of that mission, many immigrants, like Carrion, are drawn to the startup.

The fact that Carrion left the U.S. after earning his degree is exactly why Washington Technology Industry Association CEO Michael Schutzler thinks immigration reform is so imperative.

“We’re bringing people from all over the world into our universities, they’re paying tuition, they’re getting educated, and then we deport them,” Schutzler said during a panel discussion at Remitly’s Seattle headquarters Wednesday. “It’s like, shooting yourself in the foot is tragic. Shooting yourself in the head is catastrophic. But we continue to have a gun pointed at our own head as a country.”

Schutzler was joined by OneAmerica Executive Director Rich Stolz and Remitly CFO Krish Srinivasan on the panel. Remitly co-hosted the event with New American Economy (NAE), a group created by several mayors of big cities and leaders of top companies to push policymakers toward comprehensive immigration reform.

Remitly CFO Krish Srinivasan, WTIA CEO Michael Schutzler, and OneAmerica Director Rich Stolz speak at an immigrant advoacy event in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

Today, NAE is hosting events, like the one at Remitly, in each of the 50 states to promote immigration reform and pressure Congress to act on DACA by the end of the year. To underscore the events taking place nationwide, NAE released a series of reports on the impact of immigrants across the nation. In Washington state, immigrants comprise 14 percent of the population with spending power of $27.5 billion. Washington state has 28,054 residents who are eligible for the DACA program. They could pay $93 million in state and local taxes, according to NAE’s analysis.

Three months ago, President Donald Trump announced he would not renew DACA, leaving the fate of the immigrants protected by the program up in the air. Trump gave Congress a six-month window to come up with a legislative fix before DACA protections expire. That deadline is in March, though immigration advocates say a solution is needed by the end of the year because it will take several months to implement the new program. The onus is on Congress because Obama created DACA as an executive order when his immigration reform bill stalled. Many Republicans say they oppose DACA because the executive branch isn’t authorized to make changes to immigration policy.

Paúl Quinonez is one of the Dreamers watching Congress with bated breath. Like Carrion, he arrived in this country as a 7-year-old and grew up in Eastern Washington. He was a top student and wanted to go to college but didn’t know if it would be worth the investment.

“What was the point of going to college if we were going to invest all this money in my education and once I graduated, I wasn’t going to be able to legally work in the country? I wasn’t going to be able to put my degree to good use,” he said. Then, during Quinonez’s senior year of college, DACA was announced.

Paúl Quinonez is a Dreamer and advocate for immigration reform in Washington state. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

“My parents and I talked about it for months, if we should take the risk of applying or not,” Quinonez said.

In the end, he decided to apply for DACA. The security it provided allowed him to study economics and political science at Gonzaga University, where he also began volunteering for an immigrant advocacy group, the Washington Dream Coalition. After graduating, he took a job with the Washington state Legislature. The career Quinonez has started to build is now in jeopardy because his DACA status expires in 2019.

“If Congress doesn’t act in time, my employer would be forced to fire me because they couldn’t continue to legally employ me and I would lose all of those things,” he said.

Today in the other Washington, thousands of immigrants and activists attended a rally to pressure Congress to act on DACA before time runs out. Democrats are using their leverage in budget negotiations to push for protections for DACA recipients. That and other issues could lead to a partial government shutdown if lawmakers can’t reach an agreement.

“Obviously, while we don’t want a government shutdown, the Republicans are the ones that control every branch of government so if a shutdown does happen, it’s going to be on them,” Quinonez said. “It’s going to be on their unwillingness to negotiate and pass something that the majority of American people need and support.”

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This Week in Gal Gadot: Ramallah Bans ‘Justice League’ Screening Because of You-Know-Who

If you’re looking to spend a night out at the movies in Ramallah, and if superhero movies are your thing, you’re out of luck: After a massive campaign, which included viral videos distributed on social media, Palestine Tower Cinemas, the city’s largest multiplex as well as the sole film distributor in the Palestinian Authority, has announced that it won’t screen Justice League, Gadot’s latest blockbuster, in the West Bank’s most bustling city.

Even if you don’t read Arabic, you can tell that the campaign means business, cutting from photographs of Gadot in her Wonder Woman costume to snapshots of her in IDF uniform and showing the actress with Shimon Peres, who is to Israel as the Green Lantern’s Guardians are to the DC universe. You can watch it here:

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