Amazon’s Web Services Start-Up Challenge

This past November 20th, Amazon announced the winner of the AWS Start-Up Challenge for $100,000 in cash and AWS credits. Amazon Web Services or AWS is searching for the next hot start-up that uses AWS to build its business.

Yieldex was chosen as the winner of the 2008 AWS Start-Up Challenge! Yieldex delivers “advertising inventory and optimal campaign allocation for online publishers.”

The finalists in the running were:

Encoding.comn Encoding.com This link will launch a new browser window or tab.
Encoding.com has transformed video encoding from a traditional software model to a software as a service (SaaS) platform. Encoding.com combines elastic computing resources with cutting edge video encoding software.
Knewton Knewton This link will launch a new browser window or tab.
Knewton supercharges any education content by teaching the exact concepts students need, in the medium and pacing best for each. Knewton’s self-optimizing “Darwinian” engine grows increasingly effective as each new student joins the network – so the learning plan of the 50 millionth student is powered by the combined data of all the others.
MedCommons MedCommons This link will launch a new browser window or tab.
MedCommons provides cloud-based Health 2.0 application services for patients and doctors, and enables third parties to customize and extend the MedCommons Platform for their own needs.
Sonian Sonian This link will launch a new browser window or tab.
Sonian is a cloud compute email productivity service. Each day, 86 billion emails and IMs are created and most of this information needs to be saved and indexed for compliance and personal productivity. Sonian solves this problem with next generation software running on the Amazon Web Services cloud. Sonian archives electronic communications, files and unstructured content to unlock the actionable intelligence stored in this “dark data.”
Pixily Pixily This link will launch a new browser window or tab.
Pixily is an interactive document management service that organizes paper and electronic materials online so people can instantly find and share information whenever and wherever they need it. For consumers, Pixily serves as a digital organization assistant that reduces paper clutter and helps manage personal information more efficiently. Businesses rely on Pixily as an affordable on-demand document management service to streamline daily operations and be more productive.
Yieldex YieldexThis link will launch a new browser window or tab.
Yieldex delivers accurate forecasting of overlapping online advertising inventory and optimal campaign allocation for online publishers. Our tools help publishers get more revenue from their premium inventory through in-depth proposal analysis, scenario planning, and Yieldex’s proprietary yield index.
Zephyr Zephyr This link will launch a new browser window or tab.
Zephyr enables enterprises to manage their test departments more efficiently, boost productivity, reduce costs and provide IT leaders with real-time visibility into all aspects of their software quality cycle.

Although Yieldex does not seem that attrative to me, I can see how media objects could be stored in the AWS cloud and even though online advertising providers have closely integrated management tools, smartly storing those media objects and using its metadata to provide forecasting and scenario planning could have a market.

My favorite is encoding.com and with the boom in IPTV, anyone wanting to deliver quality video in a variety of formats can do so very cheaply.

Knewton and Pixily, I see as having a hard time making it. Knewton is up against with widespread access to information; Knowledge is everywhere for the taking with the advent of the Internet and as Higher Education Institutions take their knowledge online by joining the Open Courseware Consortium, I wouldn’t know why anyone would pay for this.

As for Pixily (a document management system), providing the ability to go paperless has two shortfalls in my view. I am not sure I am ready to store sensitive, confidential information online just yet and then there’s other providers like Scribd which allows you to publish documents for free.

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Educause 2008

This years Educause conference took place in Orlando, Florida.

Educause is a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology. Membership is open to institutions of higher education, corporations serving the higher education information technology market, and other related associations and organizations.

The association provides a social networking Connect site that supports blogs, wikis, podcasts and other platforms for IT professionals to generate and find content and to engage their peers; professional development opportunities; print and electronic publications, including e-books, monographs, and the magazines Educause Quarterly (EQ) and Educause Review[1]; strategic policy advocacy; teaching and learning initiatives; applied research; special interest discussion groups; awards for leadership and transformative uses of information technology; and a Resource Center for IT professionals in higher education.

Major initiatives of Educause include the Core Data Service, the Educause Center for Applied Research (ECAR), the Educause Learning Initiative (ELI), Net@EDU (advanced networking), the Educause Policy Program, and the Educause/Internet2 Computer and Network Security Task Force. In addition, Educause manages the .edu Internet domain under a contract with the U.S. Department of Commerce.[1]

The current membership of Educause comprises more than 2,000 colleges, universities, and educational organizations, including 200 corporations, with 16,500 active members.

Below are pictures from the conference:

[slickr-flickr tag=”educause 2008″ id=”61116089@N00″ group=”n”]

My schedule at the conference:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

Overall I thought it was an excellent conference, there weren’t as many people this year as previous ones.

The exhibit hall was fun as always. Some exhibits were great and others sucked which brings up another subject. Marketing.

There were two exhibits that stood out amongst the crowd. The first one from Bradford Networks and the other from Trapeze Networks. These guys not only gathered leads, but engaged their prospective customers allowing them to deliver their sales pitch. Two companies that I will definitely be following up with.

Other companies that did well on their marketing pitch were Turning Technologies, Novell, CDW, Zimbra, Elluminate, and Microsoft. Although the only thing Microsoft had going for itself was as great demo on a smart-board of Image Composite Editor.

Microsoft Image Composite Editor is an advanced panoramic image stitcher. The application takes a set of overlapping photographs of a scene shot from a single camera location and creates a high-resolution panorama incorporating all the source images at full resolution. The stitched panorama can be saved in a wide variety of formats, from common formats like JPEG and TIFF to multi-resolution tiled formats like HD View and Silverlight Deep Zoom.

The things that characterized the good exhibits can be summarized in a few words. They were accessible, had an inviting environment, gave away free stuff (like free iTouch and laptops every hour) and had either professionals or very seasoned sales people giving the presentations.

On the other side of the coin, were the very big and expensive exhibits which just didn’t deliver.

Some that deserve mention are AT&T which has a very expensive three environment exhibit representing campus life and U-Verse all over the place. Alcatel-Lucent had a not very inviting exhibit and their staff sat down most of the time. Citrix was just offering a $5 Starbucks card for filling out a survey. Cognos had a closed exhibit that wasn’t inviting to anyone.

Its not that these companies were cheap, which they were; but they are spending a lot of money for lead generation when they could also be qualifying the leads and delivering their product demos to a captive audience.

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Cloud Computing – Made Simple and Affordable

Depending on how many people you ask to define the meaning of “Cloud Computing“, you are very likely to get the same numbers of answers.

Cloud Computing builds on decades of research in a number of computer science fields including grid computing, distributed computing, utility computing and more recently networking, web and application services.

It implies a seamless Service Oriented Architecture (SOA); basically the delivery of an integrated and orchestrated suite of on-demand services to an end-user through the grouping of functionality around business processes, making them accessible over a network and allowing these services to communicate with each other by passing data from one service to another in a loosely coupled manner.

This concept built upon and evolving from older concepts of distributed computing and modular programing, promises to reduce information technology overhead, virtualization of resources, greater flexibility, and lower total cost of ownership. (TCO)

A group from North Carolina State University and George Mason University, presented this year at Educause 2008 in Orlando, Florida, a full-day seminar on “Cloud Computing Made Simple and Affordable”.

Since the year 2004 they have been hard at work building the Virtual Computing Lab (VCL), a new, scalable and accessible computing system architecture.

High costs, support and security issues, software licensing, space requirements, and demands for enhanced local and remote 24 x 7 user access constantly challenge computing in education. The Virtual Computing Lab (VCL), a new, adaptable, and open source approach to computing, provides a cloud-like rich services computing environment to serve advanced research and student computing simultaneously and affordably, within a scalable and accessible system architecture. The VCL maintains the diversity and flexibility essential to an academic environment while providing computational resources with an unprecedented lack of restrictions and significant reduction in costs. The VCL is an Internet-based service that allows users to augment their own computers of varying types and capabilities—without their having to acquire new or uniform computers, install and run advanced software, provide their own software support, and so forth.

The speakers at the session included Samuel F. Averitt (NCSU), Aaron Peeler (NCSU), Sharon P. Pitt (GMU), John Savage (GMU), Henry E. Schaffer (NCSU), Sarah R. Stein (NCSU) and Mladen A. Vouk (NCSU).

The open-source project has been submitted and recently accepted here by the Apache Foundation as one of its Incubator Projects.

VCL relies on the LAMP architecture, which includes Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP and it was originally developed in a blade environment using IBM blades and xCAT, which is a scalable distributed computing management and provisioning tool that provides a unified interface for hardware control, discovery, and OS diskful/diskfree deployment.

VCL provides a web 2.0 reservation system, making accessible a multitude of hardware and virtualized systems running a variety of operating systems and applications to the end-users via Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), for a pre-determined period of time. Images for these systems are maintained online or offline dependant on a last-used/commonly used algorithm, so an image offline could take up to 15 minutes to load.

Not only does this approach address the issue of providing users access to applications without the need for an installation, but also by making use of virtualization technologies such as VMware ESXi Hypervisor, provides the capability of multiplying by a substantial factor computing power while reducing the total cost of ownership.

Going even further, computers not being used could be aggregated to the cloud, making them all that valuable.

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