May, 2014

Nigel Parker's Outside Line

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  • Nigel Parker's Outside Line

    Working Together to Change the World – the Microsoft <3 GreenButton Story

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    All good stories start with a Once Upon a Time and the GreenButton story is no different.

    It was a cold Wellington August in 2003 only a few weeks before the Lord of the Rings Return of the King needed to be complete. At the time WETA Digital ran the 3rd largest supercomputer on the planet (3300 processors) and it was running at 95% capacity. The most complex scene in the film, the Battle of the Pelennor fields that pitted 120k digitally rendered orcs against 8k digitally rendered Riders of Rohan still had to be rendered. Scott Houston, then Weta Digital CIO, estimated that it would take almost a year to render the scene with the resources that he had available. That would subsequently delay the film beyond the world premier planned to take place in Wellington on Dec 1 2003.

    Peter Jackson would not accept delays or compromise on his vision so Scott flew in new servers on private jets to Wellington into a brand new datacentre. Ten short days later with true kiwi “can do attitude” ensured that the team had built the capability to render the scene and finish the film on time!

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    It was what happened next that sent Scott on a path away from WETA Digital into his own kiwi based start-up. After the film the additional hardware was no longer being utilised. WETA Digital entered into a JV with Gen-I to create the 2nd largest supercomputing facility in the world at the time. Scott was operating this facility and identified a business opportunity as the resources in the centre were manually provisioned making it not economically viable for smaller customer workloads. In June 2006 Scott formed GreenButton (formally known as InterGrid) to be based in the supercomputing facility in Wellington to provide the interface for customers to get access to computing resources on demand as they needed them.

    GreenButton were ready to expand globally and Microsoft was ready to help them. By this time it was 2009 Microsoft had just launched our start-up programme BizSpark to help companies get started on Microsoft technologies. I remember sitting in a coffee shop in Wellington five years ago meeting Scott Houston and Dave Fellows for the first time and being inspired by their vision. We talked about what we were bringing to market to help start-ups take advantage of cloud computing on the Microsoft Azure platform. GreenButton proceeded to migrate its namesake solution to Windows Azure in early 2010. In 2011 as GreenButton progressed through the BizSpark start-up program and their global revenues and customer base grew Microsoft entered into a Global Alliance with GreenButton (article) to help them expand in the US. Also in 2011 GreenButton was declared as Microsoft Corp’s Windows Azure ISV Partner of the Year, they also won the Microsoft NZ BizSpark Partner of the Year, Software Exporter of the Year and Dave Fellows won the Solutions Architect of the Year.

    In the last four years GreenButton has expanded further and built a world class engineering team in Wellington. I filmed this case study with Dave Fellows for last year’s TechEd Keynote in Auckland where Dave announced that GreenButton had helped a film studio in Mexico render the world’s first full length animated film entirely in the cloud in three short months!

    GreenButton has been a big part of our TechEd events over the years:

    Last September we brought down Scott Guthrie (Microsoft Executive vice president of the Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise group, reporting to Satya Nadella – CEO) to deliver our TechEd keynote. We organised a side meeting with the leadership team at GreenButton which was very interesting to be a part of. During the meeting I saw how the team’s vision was aligned to Scott’s vision for Microsoft Azure. Scott was very impressed at the quality of the platform that the GreenButton team had built and commented to Dave on what they had been able to achieve with the 18 strong development team in Wellington.

    Roll forward to today and I’m proud to announce that Microsoft Corp. has purchased GreenButton.

    The best part is that in addition to integrating GreenButton’s intellectual property into Microsoft Azure cloud solutions, Microsoft will retain and invest in the team and infrastructure, which will remain in Wellington, New Zealand after the acquisition.

    Personally I can’t wait for the team to be integrated and for New Zealand to have a core part of the engineering for Microsoft Azure based here!

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    GreenButton was one of the first companies to graduate from the Microsoft BizSpark programme in NZ. Over the last five years we have had over 700 start-ups enrol in the BizSpark programme in NZ with the majority choosing Microsoft Azure to power their start-ups. In the 6 months since July 1 2013 we gifted over NZ$200k worth of computing hours on Microsoft Azure that was consumed by 264 kiwi based start-ups. We have also invested over NZ$2.4 million in software and developer tools to 395 start-ups in BizSpark in NZ in the last year.

    It is moments like this that make me proud to work for a multi-national that works with local subsidiaries and the people of the countries that they do business within. I love working for Microsoft and I love being based in New Zealand, working as a loyal kiwi helping kiwi developer’s stay here and take on the world. I am proud of the work that my team does every day to help kiwi entrepreneurs, visionaries and technologists fulfil their dreams.

    Paul Muckleston (Managing Director Microsoft New Zealand) and Scott Houston (Founder of GreenButton) talk about the acquisition on TV this morning.

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