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Cloud Expo: Article

GreenButton Uses Multiple Clouds for Big Compute

The company is targeting financial services, media and entertainment, aerospace, oil and gas, and biotech

The inspiration for GreenButton was the devilishly complicated battle scene in the 2003 movie "The Lord of the Rings" that its founder Scott Houston pulled together in two weeks for director Peter Jackson against all odds. It was accomplished in record time with thousands of servers and little sleep.

Fade to today. The GreenButton start-up claims its newfangled Cloud Fabric is the first server solution to let users - both the enterprise and service providers - deploy, manage and run compute-intensive applications in either private or public clouds or, for that matter, in multiple multi-tenant clouds.

It's talking about what it calls "Big Compute," basically deploying as much supplementary processing power as the cloud can provide. Thousands of cores spun up in 20-30 minutes at a fraction of the usual cost.

An SGI and Compaq veteran, Houston says, "Cloud computing has been focused on running general-type applications with low memory and CPU requirements. We believe the future of cloud computing is to bring the applications that most people have said ‘will never run in the cloud' to the cloud."

He claims to be seeing exceptional growth and adoption of his widgetry among High Performance Computing and technical computing users looking for a highly scalable, robust, cost-effective solution.

The company is targeting financial services, media and entertainment, aerospace, oil and gas, and biotech. It has partnerships with Pixar, SAP and some ISVs.

Enterprises are meant to run Cloud Fabric to manage workloads in their private clouds and then burst to public clouds when needed.

Only approved jobs are sent to the public cloud and only when on-premise capacity is exhausted. The job is matched to the cloud with the right SLA and price. The architecture is designed so the cloud handles failures and transient error conditions. Porting between clouds is supposed to be easy.

Apparently any application that can scale across multiple nodes can make use of GreenButton including highly parallel workloads, Big Data analysis and Message Passing Interface (MPI) applications.

The company says it's currently running rendering, animation, simulation, bioinformatics, audio/video indexing and captioning, geological analysis and Monte Carlo computations.

This Cloud Fabric stuff is also supposed to let service providers integrate and sell the solution to their ISV and enterprise customers.

They can run the platform on their own cloud infrastructure or on a public platform like Amazon, Windows Azure, VMware vCloud or Dell Cloud Services. OpenStack support is in the works. GreenButton was named Microsoft's Global Cloud Partner last year.

According to Dell cloud evangelist Stephen Spector, "GreenButton has earned the reputation as the best provider of HPC and on-demand computing solutions in the business. With Cloud Fabric, we are able to differentiate our cloud offering and drive utilization, giving our customers a proven Software-as-a-Service solution to help them get the most out of the cloud with the least amount of effort. Cutting time-to-market at a fraction of the cost is invaluable to all."

The company also offers a hosted managed service where it runs GreenButton in one or more public clouds for ISVs that don't have their own infrastructure but want to market a cloud-based service that their customers can take advantage of with the push of a button.

The New Zealand cloudbursting start-up is hawking a centralized multi-cloud management toolkit and SDK called GreenButton Mission Control.

It includes a development emulator to enable workloads and commercial features around billing, reporting and chargeback for granular visibility into cloud use and costs. The emulator is used to test and verify application integration prior to cloud deployment.

It also includes data synchronization tools for the cloud called GreenButton CloudSync, a seamless way to migrate data iteratively into the cloud as well as define custom data extraction for integration with other data sources that can automatically synchronize nominated files with the cloud. (Got that?)

Files can be as big as can be sensibly uploaded and downloaded to and from the cloud over the Internet. If they're so big that it's impractical to send them over the Internet, a physical disk can be shipped to the cloud provider to be uploaded or downloaded directly.

Only owners of the files uploaded to GreenButton can access them or the results of their job. After a job runs, GreenButton wipes the data from that compute node before it's allowed to process another job. All communication with GreenButton is secured using SSL so files and jobs can't be intercepted on the wire.

GreenButton services are exposed to clients via Web Services accessible from Windows, Mac OS X and Linux desktops and, in the rare case mobile devices complements of an integrated green button. Ditto desktop applications like Numerix and Deep Exploration. A green button can also be plugged into Office apps.

The GreenButton Q&A says its platform tracks the number of milliseconds that end customers use a third-party application and charges this aggregated time to the user's GreenButton account. It's an hourly rate and includes the compute and storage costs, GreenButton's management fee, and the software license.

Usage reports can be downloaded from Mission Control, with information about usage at the organizational, departmental and individual level. It provides this data as CSV files so they can be imported into Excel or some other financial tool and compared against budgeted numbers. Users can also get an itemized bill to drill down into how individual applications and jobs are tracking against budget.

GreenButton prices its platform-agnostic widgetry by asking would-be users how much time they've got and what they've willing to pay. Figure a company will pay $75,000 along with a $7,500 fee for each app. The integration work should probably take no more than a couple of weeks.

The company is working on angel investments and a $4 million A/B round from a couple of New Zealand VCs. It has offices in Seattle and San Jose along with East Coast ambitions and an unidentified telco account in Europe.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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