FOXTROT/ALFA: Verizon Buys BlueJeans, Apple Introduces Insanely Expensive Mac Pro Wheels, Cloudflare Techie Pulls the Wrong Cable

OK, folks… let’s see what’s been going on with the technology. Damn, I sound like Joe Biden. Well, anyway, here we go… this is issue 102 of FOXTROT/ALFA for Thursday, 16 April 2020.

Verizon Buys BlueJeans

Whereas most industries are being absolutely clobbered right now, telecommuting software is having an absolute bonanza. And everyone wants a piece of the cake, including Verizon.

It’s as good a time as any to buy a video conferencing and cloud comms firm. Just ask the business arm of US comms behemoth Verizon, which today confirmed it is acquiring BlueJeans Network for an undisclosed (but presumably substantial) sum. Headquartered in San Jose and first launched in 2009, BlueJeans is a veteran of the cloud conferencing space. Since its inception, it has raised $175m across five funding rounds, with the latest in 2015. Last year, the privately held firm reported annual recurring revenues of $100m.

Absolute bonanza:

Of course, that’s not nearly as impressive as the figures produced by Zoom, its younger (and publicly traded) rival, which reported $622.6m in revenues and $12.6m in operating profit for fiscal year 2020.

With this acquisition, Verizon aims to slurp the main BlueJeans product into its own unified communications suite. Verizon also said it’ll integrate the BlueJeans Network platform into its 5G roadmap, offering tools for specific areas such as telemedicine and distance learning.

Apple’s Mac Pro Wheels Costs as Much as a Decent Laptop

Apple. You can’t make this shit up. In the midst of the biggest economic slowdown in a century, they decide to start selling a wheel kit for the Mac Pro for $700. Seven hundred fucking dollars. For a couple of wheels! You’re taking the piss, mate…

Apple now sells a US$699 (£560) wheel kit for the Mac Pro.

Apple recommends the wheels as “ideal for moving your Mac Pro quickly and easily without having to lift it”. For this price we thought that perhaps Apple has reinvented the wheel, but Apple has nothing to say about them other than: “The custom-designed stainless steel and rubber wheels make it easy to move your Mac Pro around, whether sliding it out from under your desk or across your studio.”

Desk? Studio? Surely Apple means “sliding it out from under the board you’ve stretched across piles of bricks in your garage” in the current climate? Or are Mac Pro users still going to work? And if so, how will they feel when they realise nobody else has worn pants for weeks? Or when someone steals their wheels to trade for toilet paper?

See, this is why I read The Register. Not only do they get how ridiculous this news is, they also treat it accordingly.

The price of the wheels seems a little excessive given that they’re a $400 option if acquired with a new Mac Pro. We gather that’s because the $300 price of Apple’s Mac Pro feet is built into the price of the computer.

The Register decided to look for what other wheels we could get for $699. To do so we looked up data on the best-selling car in the USA and UK, which taught us that the Toyota Camry and Ford Fiesta topped the charts. We easily found Camry wheels for US$108 a pop and Fiesta wheels for £85 apiece.

Apple’s wheels include tyres of a sort, so maybe Cupertino’s prices aren’t entirely crazy! For that state of mind, consider this $3,244 pair of Italian carbon fibre bicycle wheels.

As Microsoft Completes Acquisition, NPM CTO Quits

After GitHub has bought NPM Inc., its CTO is quitting.

GitHub has completed its acquisition of JavaScript package registry NPM Inc, leading CTO Ahmad Nassri to announce his departure “in the near future”.

It seems like GitHub, that is Microsoft, wants to make the JavaScript package repository more stable, which is sorely needed.

Both GitHub and NPM are heavily used sites. In his farewell post, Nassri revealed that “the npm registry is serving around 125 billion requests at a whopping 6 petabytes per month”. He added that the number of packages in the registry has increased from 1 million to 1.3 million since June 2019.

GitHub’s own reliability record is not spotless, with significant outages on 27 February and 2 April, for example. On NPM’s side, there were a couple of partial outages on 10-11 February. The sites do work well most of the time, though, with NPM reporting 100 per cent uptime in March and April, and 99.13 per cent in February, while GitHub cited 99.91 per cent, 100 per cent and 99.76 per cent (so far) for those three months. Uptime is critical since millions of developers rely on GitHub and/or NPM to do their work.

More important than the technical aspect is that Microsoft-owned GitHub is a stable home for NPM after a chaotic period in which Bryan Bogensberger was hired as CEO in January 2019 only to resign the following September. The business model behind running a free public registry is challenging, depending mainly on signing up paying customers for private registries, and Microsoft’s motivation may be as much about gaining favour with developers as for any obvious commercial benefit. Friedman said: “Later this year, we will enable NPM’s paying customers to move their private npm packages to GitHub Packages – allowing NPM to exclusively focus on being a great public registry for JavaScript.”

Cloudflare Techie Pulls the Wrong Cable

Cloudflare was down today because A Dude Named Ben pulled the wrong cable. How cliché!

Cloudflare has admitted that a four-and-a-bit-hour outage today was caused by someone pulling out cables that should have been left in place, but which were yanked because techies were given unhelpfully imprecise instructions.

The incident started with some “planned maintenance at one of our core data centers” that saw techies told “to remove all the equipment in one of our cabinets.” Cloudflare said the cabinet in question “contained old inactive equipment we were going to retire and had no active traffic or data on any of the servers in the cabinet.”

But there was more to this cabinet than met the eye: The cabinet also contained a patch panel (switchboard of cables) providing all external connectivity to other Cloudflare data centers. Over the space of three minutes, the technician decommissioning our unused hardware also disconnected the cables in this patch panel. It turned out that patch panel was a single point of failure for Cloudflare’s data centre.

Or as Cloudflare has explained in its incident report: “Starting at 1531 UTC and lasting until 1952 UTC, the Cloudflare Dashboard and API were unavailable because of the disconnection of multiple, redundant fibre connections from one of our two core data centers.”


In Other News…

Oh, and if you missed it: Sandboxie is now open source. That might interest some people, I hear it’s still a tool well loved by people.

This is an archived issue of my daily newsletter FOXTROT/ALFA. You can find more information about it, including how to subscribe via email, on this page.