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February 5, 2019

Microsoft Invests in Databricks


Databricks, the high-flying analytics startup founded by the creators of Apache Spark, announced yet another venture funding haul this week as it hustles to meet what it says is growing demand for its analytics platform.

The analytics specialist announced Tuesday (Feb. 5) it has raised an additional $250 million in its latest funding round that included new investor and cloud partner Microsoft. The Series E round was led by Andreessen Horowitz. Databricks has so far raised nearly half-a-billion dollars and claims a company valuation of $2.75 billion.

Databricks’ ability to attract technology investors illustrates the ability of Spark proponents to position the analytics platform as a bridge from data science tasks to enterprise-wide AI tools. The San Francisco-based startup reported more than $100 in annual recurring revenues during 2018 as demand grows for its Unified Analytics Platform.

Noting that Databrick’s had no revenue three years ago, CEO Ali Ghodsi asserted the startup’s rapid growth and ability to attract A-list investors illustrates the need for an analytics platform that “bridges the divide between big data and machine learning.”

The startup’s “unified” framework is designed to funnel data stored across organizations into data pipelines that can then be organized into data sets used for machine learning applications such as model building. The Spark-based approach “allows organizations to do data science on massive data sets,” the company said in announcing its latest founding round.

Databricks credits accelerating adoption of its unified analytics platform to its launch last year as a “first-party integrated Microsoft Azure service.”

Microsoft’s participation in Databrick’s latest funding round “builds on our successful multi-year partnership around Azure Databricks, a first-party Azure service that in conjunction with other Azure Data services like Azure Data Warehouse is greatly simplifying big data analytics and artificial intelligence solutions for many Microsoft customers,” said Rohan Kumar, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Azure Data unit.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is among growing roster of cloud data warehouse providers such as Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery and Oracle (NYSE: ORCL) upgrading computing and storage components to deliver data where it is needed as quickly as possible.

The upgraded cloud offering included native integration of the Microsoft Azure distribution of the Databricks’ analytics platform along with Blob Storage and Power BI. The package is intended to support data warehousing and real-time analytics, Microsoft said.

The approach “places data next to compute based on user access patterns and frequency,” Kumar said in announcing the upgrade last May.

The service also incorporates several analytics and storage platforms customized for the cloud, including native integration of the Microsoft Azure distribution of Apache Spark-based Databricks along with Blob Storage and Power BI. The package is designed to support data warehousing and real-time analytics, the company said.

Joining in the latest Databricks funding round were Coatue Management, New Enterprise Associates, Battery Ventures, Green Bay Ventures, and Geodesic.

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