Uni tries wings with cloud start-up

Uni tries wings with cloud start-up

Summary: The fortunes of a Melbourne cloud computing start-up could be a prototype for how Australian universities can successfully commercialise their intellectual property.

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TOPICS: Cloud, Start-Ups
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The fortunes of a Melbourne cloud computing start-up could be a prototype for how Australian universities can successfully commercialise intellectual property.

Manjrasoft offers high-end distributed computing services over the internet, by essentially using a network of desktop computers and servers to collectively process highly-intensive computations. Customers are charged for how much computing power they need, and this can be scaled as required.

The Aneka platform was developed in the University of Melbourne cloud computing and distributed systems (CLOUDS) laboratory by a team led by Professor Rajkumar Buyya.

The university believed the product had potential and co-founded Manjrasoft with Buyya in 2008. The university has contributed the IP behind the Aneka platform and also staff and computing resources, while Buyya manages the operation and sales.

Recently, the company received a $750,000 funding injection from $60 million investment fund UniSeed, which is a partnership between the Uni of Melbourne, Uni of Queensland, Uni of New South Wales and superannuation fund Westscheme.

The purpose of the fund is to commercialise research developed in universities. It does this via funding and also its staff, many of whom have worked at multinational technology companies in areas of research and development, sales and product development, according to Buyya.

Traditionally, universities often get no return on the research and development they perform because any lucrative IP and staff are often cherry-picked by private companies. There is an emerging trend for universities and technology companies to partner, but the lion's share of the profits usually go to the private company.

UniSeed appears to be an attempt to prove a university's capacity to commercialise technology, and Buyya said the funding injection has provided the sales and product development staff required to grow the company.

Manjrasoft has six customers based in China, India and the US and turned a small profit last year, Buyya said. One customer, China Southern Railway used Aneka to perform calculations for engineering design.

It must meet strict sales and growth targets set by UniSeed, which is grooming the company for sale, Buyya said. Manjrasoft has projected revenues of $300,000 in the 2010 financial year which will grow to $1.5 million in 2012.

Commentary

Strength

Manjrasoft is significantly backed by the University of Melbourne and UniSeed, which have a lot of skin in the game and have to see a return on this.

Weaknesses

The kind of customers that use this technology (construction, engineering, finance, telco) traditionally deal with big companies with a proven track record, as opposed to a start-up. It's also unknown how Manjrasoft could respond to these demands.

Opportunities

As the internet has opened up new markets, companies require high-end computing power quickly in order to develop new products and services, so Manjrasoft operates in a rapidly growing market.

Threats

A multinational such as IBM, Google or EMC could easily develop a similar or superior product, and more importantly they have the sales and distribution network to quickly profit from it.

Conclusion

Manjrasoft has developed an interesting product with a useful application, but it doesn't appear to have the capacity to secure enough large customers that would make it a worthwhile acquisition. I'm not convinced it will meet sales and growth targets in the set time frame and think it will be cheaply offloaded or re-absorbed by the University of Melbourne.

VERDICT: BUST

Topics: Cloud, Start-Ups

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7 comments
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  • This sounds very similar to Nimrod that came from Monash University in Australia.
    It's interesting to note, that Dr. Buya was a student at Monash under the direction of Dr. David Abramson and was involved in Nimrod. How interesting.............

    Did you have an understanding of that before you wrote your article?
    RenderGeek
  • It's amazing how little research goes into some investments, eh?

    That said, both are just a copy of what Amazon did a decade earlier so the IP could be invalidated, or argued that it is invalid, at a later date.

    The level of risk is much higher than perceived.

    However I do wish them success, as that will breed more success in this case.

    It is sad that cloned software technology is still considered new just because the word 'cloud' appears in over half their materials though.

    Maybe they will be absorbed by a larger player and provide some viable innovation that someone larger missed?
    scott2010au
  • Looks like Manjarasoft/ Aneke have missed the boat. The commercial side of Nymroid called Enfuzion from Turbolinux was doing this in 1999.
    See link below for enfuzion on the Cloud.

    http://insidehpc.com/2009/07/13/enfuzion-image-rendering-on-amazon-ec2/
    Reddy.Reddy
  • Thanks for the feedback.

    No, I wasn't aware of that but thanks for pointing that out. I will follow it up, but feel free to email me if you would like to discuss this further.

    maheshsharm at gmail dot com

    Cheers
    Mahesh
    Mahesh.sharma
  • Nimrod/X in all of its flavours is essentially a tool to design and execute parameter sweeping applications. As many other frameworks for distributed computing it has evolved and included capabilities for leveraging infrastructure as a service providers. Aneka as a technology for distributed computing has been developed since early 2007 and commercialized at beginning of 2009. Being two technologies that address similar problems, they do naturally have some commonalities. Aneka also includes support for parameter sweeping, which is a common methodology for many task computing in computational science. Beyond this, Aneka provide several other features and among them its distinctive features are:

    - support for multiple programming abstractions for developing distributed applications
    - multi cloud providers management built-in inside the framework

    Dr. Buyya was not only involved in Nimrod, but strongly contributed in the development of Nimrod/G during its Ph.D. thesis. Taking advantage of such experience is expected in any professional growth path, as long as the appropriate ownerships are recognized.
    hyp0th3rmi4
  • To help clarify and distinguish Aneka from other products and innovations:

    Aneka is the world-first product offering multiple models of application programming in a single container, which is backed by a Manjrasoft PCT Patent application field in USA.

    Aneka as a Cloud Application Platform offers (1) SDK (Software Development
    Kit) supporting multiple programming models such as Task, Thread, and MapReduce along with a Design Explorer necessary for rapid construction of Cloud applications and (2) Resource Provisioning and Execution Manager for seamless execution of applications on enterprise or market-oriented public Clouds.
    Karthik Sukumar
  • Interesting, but to clarify matters Aneka is a different beast altogether. Aneka is a general purpose platform for HPC applications, while EnFuzion, as with other distributed image rendering frameworks, is a common benchmark/testbed in HPC. Support for dynamic scaling onto clouds has been a feature in Aneka since 2007/2008.
    themysticriver@...