Amazon CTO: Israel has some excellent start-ups

Chief Technology Officer of Amazon likes what local companies are doing with the popular AWS services

Werner Vogels (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Werner Vogels (Photo credit: Courtesy)

With the biggest cloud services on the planet, Amazon’s reach extends to nearly every part of the globe. Among the services Amazon offers its customers are free seminars that show users the best way to take advantage of AWS, Amazon Web Services. Although Israel is a relatively small market for AWS, it’s a very important one — important enough that a recent AWS seminar was attended by Dr. Werner Vogels, chief technology officer and vice president of With so much high-tech activity in Israel — and especially Internet start-ups that need cloud services — Amazon is going out of its way to make sure Israeli start-ups are comfortable working with AWS.

Israel is important to Amazon not just for the business it gets, but for the technology that Israeli companies are supplying the company. Like most other large Internet companies, Amazon takes advantage of Israeli high-tech. Although the company does not talk about its partnerships and where it gets it technology from, at least one Israeli start-up, Newvem, has become an important partner of Amazon; in fact, Vogels himself is a great admirer of Israeli start-ups.

AWS, of course, allows companies to use servers and computing services in the cloud, which avoids the need to buy, and care for, expensive servers. During a presentation to journalists, Vogels discussed the advantages of AWS for companies: He cited numerous case studies — among them ClickSoftware, an Israeli-based company — that used AWS for its Software-as-a-Service dispatch-scheduling software. Using the system, companies like Best Buy, Hewlett-Packard, Portugal Telecom, Oi, Bosch, Anglian Water and Xerox can better plan shifts and task scheduling for field service personnel, saving time and money and ensuring better service. Vogels discussed how AWS could successfully be used in a wide variety of online and mobile services, from retail to big data and beyond.

One innovative project being touted by Amazon is the use of AWS to build what is essentially a supercomputer. Traditionally, businesses had to invest vast sums of money upfront to purchase the supercomputer which, in some cases, was several tens of millions of dollars. Even for businesses that could afford the large expense of a supercomputer there were gatekeepers to navigate who control who uses the hardware, and when, which means customers have to wait days, or even weeks, before they could run their application, said Vogels, adding that thanks to the cloud, anyone with some programming skills, an idea and a credit card can now hire supercomputer by the hour with AWS.

One Israeli company that has embraced this philosophy is Idomoo, which uses supercomputing technologies to create personalized videos for customer care and marketing campaigns that can be viewed on web or mobile devices. The service integrates customer data, such as names, birthdays, service usage, loyalty points activity, etc. to generate individually targeted, broadcast-quality video clips to help brands personalize and improve the communication with their customers. To produce this unique service Idomoo utilizes Amazon EC2 Cluster GPU Instances, allowing Idomoo to scale up to produce any number of personalized videos, from 100 to 100 million, and due to their innovative use of technology they now count some of the world’s biggest brands, in the US, Europe and Middle East, as clients.

In order to harness AWS for supercomputer or big data usage, though, companies have to be versatile and flexible – and keep an eye on server availability. There has evolved, said Vogels, a “spot market” for server space, in which companies can bid for on-line AWS space. The idea is to bid low and pay as little as possible for non-time sensitive processing work, like video conversions, for example. “This works for many Internet businesses, letting them get a bargain and enabling us to use our capacity more efficiently,” said Vogels.

As a result, Newvem has emerged as an important partner for Amazon. Newvem’s technology works by looking at a company’s entire cloud estate and analyses current and past usage information, and trends, and provides recommendations on how to improve performance and make cost savings in the cloud. For example, the system continuously tracks and analyzes complete resources utilization patterns, and provides a down-to-the-hour picture of AWS consumption and usage behavior, as well as future capacity estimates. Newvem can also detect underutilized resource capacity, highlighting cost reduction opportunities by recommending which servers to use and when.

Newvem CEO Zev Laderman said that the information being gathered about AWS usage is being used not only to help specific clients, but to help all cloud users, showing them the way to more efficient usage, tips and tricks for getting the most out of AWS. “It’s a way to democratize the cloud, and a great program for Amazon as well, as it makes AWS easier to use.” Newvem has emerged as such an important partner that it was chosen as a gold sponsor of AWS re:Invent, a major AWS conference taking place in Las Vegas at the end of November.

Vogels had nice things to say about many of the start-ups Amazon works with, including Waze, the social networking app for drivers. “There are some excellent start-ups here,” he told reporters, especially among start-ups developing for mobile, which he sees as a major part of future development.

Vogels realizes that enterprise is still somewhat wary of the cloud – but businesses need not fear this new, better way to manage resources. “The cloud has changed our thinking in many areas,” Vogels said. “It has helped build a distributed architecture, which we now know to be more secure for data, with not just the organization protected, but the entire database, the applications, and more. Instead of laying out half a million dollars to buy hardware, the investment in which made it very difficult to change direction, the most businesses lose today is a few hundred dollars when they use AWS for their work.”

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