Microsoft’s BizSpark Plus Offers Startups $60,000 In Windows Azure Funding Through Accelerators Such As TechStars

Microsoft’s BizSpark Plus, a program designed to accelerate the success of technology startups, expanded its range of startup services by announcing $60,000 in free Windows Azure compute and storage over a period of 24 months for select startup accelerators. Specifically, the BizSpark Plus startup accelerator TechStars will allow TechStars accelerators in Boulder, Boston, New York, Seattle and Texas to provide the designated $60,000 in free Windows Azure services to each of their respective startups. In addition to TechStars, Microsoft is extending the offer of free Windows Azure services to startup founders that belong to a technology accelerator within the Global Accelerator Network, a network of roughly 40 startup accelerators that are similar to TechStars. The expanded relationship between Microsoft Corporation and the startup accelerator community represents an astute strategic move on the part of Microsoft insofar as it constitutes a golden sales and marketing opportunity to seed its Windows Azure platform in the IT infrastructure of up and coming technology startups all over the world.


Nine Startups Compete For IBM Global Entrepreneur Of The Year Award For Solutions Benefiting Cities

IBM recently announced nine startups as finalists in the IBM Global Entrepreneur of the Year competition. The competition features startups that tackle problems faced by cities and urban environments. Each of the nine finalists placed first in regional competitions spanning the nine cities of Barcelona, Tel Aviv, Bangalore, Rio de Janeiro, New York City, Shanghai, London, Austin and Istanbul. Finalists will meet with IBM and venture capital firms in San Francisco from January 31 to February 2 in order to compete for the title of IBM Global Entrepreneur of the Year.

The nine finalists are:

BitCarrier: (winner, SmartCamp Barcelona)
Bitcarrier provides traffic management solutions that leverage data from Bluetooth and public WiFI mobile devices.

C-B4 Context Based 4Casting: (winner, SmartCamp Tel Aviv)
C-B4 specializes in pattern recognition and predictive “Big Data” analytics that provide customers with actionable insights for making strategic business decisions.

ConnectM: (winner, SmartCamp Bangalore)
ConnectIM delivers business intelligence on domain specific analytics in the machine to machine (M2M) space.

IDXP: (winner, SmartCamp Rio de Janeiro)
IDXP analyzes data about consumer behavior in the brick and mortar retail space.

Localytics: (winner, SmartCamp New York City)
Localytics provides analytics that enable developers of applications for smartphones and tablets to improve the usage of their mobile apps.

Palmap: (winner, SmartCamp Shanghai)
Palmap’s technology maps indoor spaces that are not presently covered by GIS data to help enable businesses and consumers more effectively navigate spaces such as airports and shopping malls.

Profitero: (winner, SmartCamp London)
Profitero provides analytics on competitor pricing, product inventory and strategy in order to help organizations develop more effective pricing strategies.

SecureWaters: (winner, SmartCamp Austin)
SecureWaters sells a product that detects toxic products in drinking water sources at concentrations far below those resulting from accidental contamination or a terrorist attack.

SkinScan: (winner, SmartCamp Istanbul)
SkinScan provides an Apple iPhone integrated product for tracking and analyzing skin moles in order to proactively guard against skin cancer.

Business intelligence on Big Data represents the clear theme for over half of the finalists. Only one finalist examined problems specific to the healthcare (SkinScan) and counter-terrorism (SecureWaters) verticals, respectively. The IBM Global Entrepreneur Winner For 2010 was Streetline, which received $15 million in venture capital for its analytic solutions that empower cities, garages, airports and universities to more effectively manage parking and increase parking-related revenue.

Russian Venture Capital Firms Set To Fund U.S. Technology Startups With Non-Social Media Focus

The Russian Venture Company (RVC) and RTP Ventures, two Russian venture capital firms, have recently created offices in the U.S. and intend to invest heavily in software, hardware and technology without a social media focus. The Russian Venture Company (RVC) has offices in Back Bay, Boston and Menlo Park, CA whereas RTP Ventures is based in NYC. RVC-USA is headed by CEO Axel Tillman and has the dual goal of guiding U.S. startups and venture capital to Russian markets in addition to introducing Russian engineering talent to the U.S. based companies. RVC-USA is expected to be within the range of $50-$80 million and plans to make investments of $1–$3 million starting in August. RTP Ventures, the personal fund of billionaire Leonid Boguslavsky, is managed by serial entrepreneur and Greycroft Partners venture capital veteran Kirill Sheynkman. In a blog post, Sheynkman remarked that the focus of RTP Ventures “will be early-stage, Series A software and internet companies that have technology and innovation at their core. B2B, SaaS, cloud, big data, analytics, infrastructure, enterprise — these, in my opinion, are markets underserved by the current swarm of consumer internet investors. And these are exactly the investments that we are going to do.” RTP Ventures launched in October 2011 with $100 million in funding and an additional $600 million for later stage investments.

U.S. Director Of National Intelligence Sees Increased Role For Cloud Technologies In Spy Agencies

U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper revealed that cloud computing technology will prove central to the IT budgets of U.S. spy agencies over the next five years. In a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Clapper remarked that cloud computing has the “potential for achieving savings and promoting integration.” Clapper elaborated that considerations of data security would become paramount as more and more highly classified data moved into the cloud in order to enable enhanced access and greater collaboration amongst intelligence employees. The National Intelligence Director noted that the next five years would witness significant changes in the methodology used for tagging and sharing data across different intelligence agencies. Congress passed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act in 2004, which created the Information Sharing Environment (ISE) to promote the exchange of intelligence related to terrorism. Although it is widely believed that the U.S. has enhanced its intelligence infrastructure for sharing classified and sensitive information, Clapper announced that the U.S. would continue to invest heavily in auditing and monitoring technology and develop a “national insider threat policy” in order to avoid incidents such as the 2010 WikiLeaks disclosure of classified information on the order of hundreds of thousands of classified records. Big Data technology, meanwhile, is also leveraged by U.S. intelligence agencies as evinced by Kitenga, whose Hadoop-based ZettaVox analytics platform specializes in actionable business intelligence and enterprise search capability for deriving insights from massive amounts of structured and unstructured data.

IBM Releases Netezza Customer Intelligence Appliance For Big Data Analysis For Retailers

IBM revealed the availability of its Netezza Customer Intelligence Appliance today. The appliance empowers retailers to analyze petabytes of data about customer interactions regarding their products across multiple segments and points of interaction. Retailers can use the Netezza Customer Intelligence Appliance to obtain a 360 degree picture of customer behavior spanning the internet, mobile and purchases in brick and mortar stores. Based on the premise that 70 percent of a customer’s initial interactions with a product take place online, IBM partnered with Aginity to develop actionable analytics that assist retailers to understand and predict customer behavior by aggregating data from multiple channels. Leslie Weber, CIO of Bass Pro Shops, testified that the appliance had enabled the retailer to analyze data from “retail stores, boat dealerships, Internet and catalog sales, wholesale and hospitality,” thereby enabling it to “deliver more targeted promotions, circulars and catalogs to create a better shopping experience.” The Netezza Customer Intelligence Appliance is a SQL based Big Data product designed to deliver analytics on structured data. IBM is still in the process of integrating Netezza with its BigInsights, Hadoop-based appliance for analyzing structured and unstructured data.

Joyent Raises $85 Million In Venture Capital For Global Operations

Cloud computing company Joyent announced that it had successfully secured $85 million in venture capital funding today. The European group Weather Investment II led the round. Weather Investment II was advised by Accelero Capital, who also participated in the funding raise. Telefonica Digital contributed to the funding raise as a strategic investor. Speaking of the capital raise, Joyent CEO and founder David Young remarked: “Having worked with customers around the world, we see the demand for consistent global services regardless of how many countries our customers are operating in. This funding will enable Joyent to build out a global compute offering to assist customers in expanding consistent software, support and services to their clients.” The funding is intended to enable Joyent to develop global operations marked by the delivery of public clouds on every continent. Joyent’s SmartDataCenter software provides the technological infrastructure for the delivery of high performance public, private and hybrid clouds. Customers can use Joyent’s SmartDataCenter to create private clouds for their own operations or public clouds for use by third parties.

In May 2011, for example, Joyent revealed details of an alliance with ClusterTech whereby ClusterTech would become the provider of public cloud services to companies in the gaming, media, mobile and social media space in China. Under this arrangement, ClusterTech provisioned Joyent’s cloud computing SmartDataCenter software to service providers that licensed Joyent’s cloud computing technology to media, gaming and mobile companies in China. In licensing its cloud computing software to a third party distributor, Joyent leverages a business model that differs markedly from most of its U.S. competitors such as Amazon Web Services and Rackspace that retain control over the deployment of their cloud computing operating systems. Joyent’s existing investors include El Dorado Ventures, Epic Ventures, Greycroft Partners, Intel Capital, and Liberty Global.

Amazon DynamoDB Offers Big Data Cloud Processing With Managed Services

This week, Amazon Web Services announced the availability of Amazon DynamoDB, a fully managed cloud-based database service for Big Data processing. The announcement represents yet another move by Amazon Web Services to consolidate enterprise market share by providing an offering that can store massive amounts of data with ultra-fast, predictable rates of performance and low latency waiting times. Amazon DynamoDB is a NoSQL database built for customers that do not require complex querying capabilities such as indexes, transactions, or joins. DynamoDB constitutes a greatly enhanced version of Amazon SimpleDB. One of Amazon SimpleDB’s principal limitations is its 10 GB limit on data within containers known as domains. Moreover, Amazon SimpleDB suffered from performance issues due to indexing all of the attributes for an object within a domain and a commitment to eventual consistency of the database taken to an extreme. Amazon DynamoDB builds upon the company’s prior experience with SimpleDB and Dynamo, the precursor to NoSQL, by offering the following features:

• Managed services

Amazon DynamoDB managed services take care of processes such as provisioning servers, configuring a cluster, and dealing with scaling, partition and replication issues.

• No Upper Bound On Data

Customers can store as much data as they would like. Data will be spread out across multiple servers spanning multiple Availability Zones.

• Speed

The solid state drives on which Amazon DynamoDB is built help optimize performance and ensure low latencies. Applications running in the EC2 environment should expect to see latencies in the “single-digit millisecond range for a 1KB object.” Another reason performance is optimized involves a design whereby all attributes are not indexed.

• Flexible schemas and data models

Data need not adopt a particular schema and can have multiple attributes, including attributes that themselves have multiple values.

• Integration with Amazon Elastic MapReduce (Amazon EMR)

Because DynamoDB is integrated with the Hadoop-based, Amazon Elastic MapReduce technology, customers can analyze data in DynamoDB and store the results in S3, thereby preserving the original dataset in DynamoDB.

• Low cost

Pricing starts at $1 per GB per month.

With this set of features, Amazon DynamoDB represents a dramatic entrant to the Big Data party that features Oracle, HP, Teradata, Splunk and others. The product underscores Amazon Web Services’s strategic investment in becoming a one-stop service for cloud and Big Data processing. Moreover, the managed services component of Amazon DynamoDB represents a clear change of pace by Jeff Bezos’s spin-off because of its recognition of the value of managed services at the enterprise level for technology deployments. Amazon DynamoDB’s managed services offering is expected to appeal to enterprises that would rather invest technical resources in innovation and software development as opposed to the operational maintenance of a complex IT ecosystem. Assuming that AWS can quantify the degree to which DynamoDB’s managed services offering ends up being responsible for sales, expect to see more managed service offerings from Amazon Web Services in both the cloud computing and Big Data verticals. Going forward, the technology community should also expect partnerships between Amazon Web Services and business intelligence vendors that mimic the deal between Jaspersoft and Red Hat’s OpenShift given how Amazon Web Services appears intent on retaining customers within their ecosystem for all of their cloud hosting, Big Data and business intelligence analytics needs.