Lord of the Rings triggers Kiwi tech 'success story'

NIKO KLOETEN
Last updated 05:00, May 2 2014

Microsoft has bought Wellington-based cloud computing business GreenButton that can trace its origin to the Lord of the Rings movies.

The software giant has bought GreenButton, which has 18 staff, for an undisclosed amount. Microsoft would keep all of GreenButton's operations kept in New Zealand and all staff would be retained.

GreenButton, whose clients include the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Boeing and animated-movie producer Pixar, will be added to the Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform. The company already did about 90 per cent of its business through Azure.

Cloud computing enables data to be stored and accessed remotely via the internet, removing the need for potentially costly on-site processing capacity.

GreenButton founder Scott Houston said the purpose of the company he started was to "make cloud computing easy" for users.

"To access the cloud, you literally push a green button sitting there in the app."

Houston launched GreenButton after working as the chief technology officer for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, directed by Sir Peter Jackson.

"With 10 weeks to go we had to buy 1000 processors to finish the final rendering. The processors were going to sit idle for three years before the next movie, which was King Kong," he said.

"I left the role and founded a New Zealand supercomputer centre. The idea was to rent out processing capacity."

Things have come a long way since the Lord of the Rings films, with some pioneering movies now being rendered using only the cloud.

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The cloud-computing industry has grown "exponentially" as has processing capacity, but that is not the only issue, Houston says. "The harder challenge is not getting access to processing capacity but getting access to licences. If I'm the end user, I don't know which cloud to use, how do I get data up there and rent licences?"

Houston said GreenButton was a "Kiwi success story" not just for those in the company but for investors, including several New Zealand angel investors.

"This purchase is a real shot in the arm for other New Zealand companies. It shows that if you take your ideas to the world stage, Fortune 500 companies like Microsoft might just notice.

"It happened to us, so it's entirely possible it could happen for other Kiwi startups," Houston said. 

 - The Dominion Post

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