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Apple acquires big data analytics firm Acunu

Apple appears to have acquired London-based big data analytics firm Acunu, which previously marketed an eponymous real-time analytics platform that boasted high-velocity ingests and compatibility with Cassandra databases.


Acunu Analytics dashboard.


A preponderance of evidence suggests Apple performed an "acqui-hire" of key Acunu employees in late 2013, though an exact timeline is currently unknown. From the end of 2013, and moving into early 2014, at least seven software engineers, including founding CEO and CTO Tim Moreton, left Acunu and are now working for Apple in some capacity.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Moreton uprooted from the UK and is now serving as an iCloud manager in San Francisco. He left Acunu in December 2013.

Former Acunu chief product officer and head engineering Andrew Byde left the firm in January 2014 and is currently a senior software engineer working out of Apple's London offices. On his LinkedIn bio, Byde says his current position "involves "Big Data" at the largest scale — high quality reliable scalable engineering."

Other former Acunu employees now working at Apple include software engineers Richard Low, Nicolas Favre-Felix, and Sam Overton. Tellingly, Overton is continuing work with distributed systems at Apple and is involved in the "development of highly available distributed systems for structured storage." Another software engineer left Acunu for Apple in December 2013 before moving on to Google.

Grzegorz Milos left his seat as Acunu's kernel team lead in early 2013 and entered Apple in December 2014 as an iCloud engineer focusing on CloudKit technology. Another former Acunu kernel engineer just joined Apple in February as part of the iCloud team.

In addition to the mass employee migration, UK executive agency Companies House London lists Acunu as registered to 100 New Bridge Street in London, the official registered address of Apple Europe. This same address was used to register Camel Audio when Apple took control of the digital instrument effects developer in February.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bloomberg reported on the purchase earlier today.

Acunu started life in 2009 with founding talent made up of researchers and engineers from Cambridge University and Oxford University. Although Acunu's website is no longer in service, a cached snapshot from August 2014 still exists on the Web. As the firm described itself at the time:

Acunu Analytics offers low latency analytics, powering dashboards and embedded applications for infrastructure monitoring, web analytics, IoT and other high arrival rate applications. Wherever high velocity data in motion must be analyzed immediately, Acunu Analytics delivers powerful operational intelligence.

During an interview published by Planet Cassandra in 2013, Moreton revealed that Acunu worked with banks that collect financial market data to understand activity patterns in trading environments. Among the firm's duties was spotting anomalies and performing risk analysis.

The company also worked in the telecommunications industry, helping telcos parse telemetry data like call detail records.

While it was still available, Acunu Analytics provided realtime, incremental analytics by processing events and SQL-like queries into C* operations. Results were visualized on Acunu's dashboard software, while original data remained compatible with Cassandra NoSQL databases and Hadoop distributed processing.

How Apple integrated Acunu's technology into its own services like iCloud is not yet clear, though it likely resides as a backend analytics system for the company's constantly growing content network. Along with Beats Music and iTunes Radio, Apple is rumored to roll out an over-the-top streaming TV service this fall.

While Acunu likely changed hands more than a year ago, today's news represents the second Apple acquisition to come to light in so many days. On Tuesday it was reported that Apple purchased database software company FoundationDB in a move thought to bolster iTunes media content distribution.

Apple has ramped up mergers and acquisitions operations in Europe, and most recently assimilated music analytics startup Semetric in January.