Microsoft decides to push GreenButton

CLAIRE ROGERS
Last updated 05:00 30/05/2011

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Microsoft has put more than US$1 million ($1.3m) into Wellington start-up GreenButton, which lets computer users access supercomputer power at the click of a button.

GreenButton, which has backing from several of the country's leading technologists, has emerged as a big hope for the capital's hi-tech sector.

Its application can be built into software products used for data intensive processes such as film rendering and animation or complex analysis of financial or biological data.

Chairman Marcel van den Assum, a former chief information officer of Fonterra, said Microsoft would help it sell the application to major software vendors, and GreenButton would use Microsoft's cloud computing platform Windows Azure to provide processing power to customers.

Computer users pay a fee for the processing power they access through the application. That fee will be split between GreenButton, the software provider and Microsoft, under the agreement between the two companies.

Mr van den Assum said it was only the second agreement globally that Microsoft had concluded for Azure "so that's special".

"They tend to have the relationships [with software vendors] already, they have the account managers and they have the relatively senior contacts. That gives us a powerful entree into application suppliers and software vendors we would otherwise find it hard to get into."

The application is already embedded in six software products, including Auckland 3-D rendering firm Right Hemisphere's Deep Exploration software, and has more than 4000 registered users in more than 70 countries.

Customers were paying between $20 and "several thousand dollars" per processing job and Mr van den Assum said anecdotal feedback had been promising.

"We've had a couple say they had more power capability at home working from their kitchen bench than they did at the office."

GreenButton investors include the government's Venture Investment Fund, Movac founder Phil McCaw, and Datacom founder John Holdsworth. Former Sun Microsystems executive Mark Canepa is a shareholder and sits alongside Mr van den Assum and chief executive Scott Houston – once head of technology at Weta Digital – on the board of directors. Microsoft had not acquired any equity in GreenButton as part of its deal.

Mr van den Assum said GreenButton was targeting software firms that were established market leaders and was working to build up an appetite for its application among their user communities.

Software developers could use GreenButton to take advantage of the cloud without having to re-engineer their desktop or enterprise software, he said.

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Windows Azure general manager Doug Hauger said GreenButton was creating a "unique solution" that could be used in a variety of industries.

The 15-person company is working on extra features including one that would let customers take advantage of low "spot prices" for processing power.

GreenButton could turn to other providers for processing power, for example, if a customer required a job to be done in a certain country. The Government's ultrafast broadband rollout would provide fundamental infrastructure to improve access to cloud services such as GreenButton's, Mr van den Assum said.

IDC Research analyst Rasika Versleijen-Pradhan said cloud computing was still at an early stage. GreenButton was "a first stepping stone" to accessing web services through desktop software. IDC predicted global spending on cloud computing would reach US$55.5 billion in 2014, up on $16b in 2009.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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