Demo 2010: Developers Head To The Cloud

Several startups used this week's Demo Conference to demonstrate new technologies to help customers make use of cloud computing, including applications to build cloud computers, expand databases, and enhance online meetings via the iPad.

Developers demonstrated or discussed these applications and more at Demo Spring 2010, a semi-annual gathering of startups pitching their technology to potential venture and strategic investors and the press.

AirSet, Berkeley, Calif., demonstrated technology to help customers build cloud-based computers with integrated storage capacity and bandwidth.

With AirSet, customers can either build their own cloud-based computers that take advantage of offsite processing and storage, or work with partners to have such virtual systems built for them, said CEO Brian Dougherty.

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For instance, customers can get online data storage protection with encryption, the ability to automatically synchronize data between PCs and mobile phones, and the ability to publish customer-created content to the Web with a single click, all within the same cloud computer, Dougherty said.

Customers can then use that cloud computer in a group environment to share documents, coordinate calendars and contact lists, and collaborate on documents, he said. The group environment is enhanced with features such as group news feeds and chat.

"That's your basic introduction to cloud computing for the rest of us," he said.

AirSet is currently looking to work with two types of partners, Dougherty said.

The first is partners who can create a customized cloud computer for their customers, such as real estate firms or restaurants, and who can also integrate their own technology in those clouds. "We want partners who understand their customers' business," he said.

The second is partners with a single-feature Web application such as a flat file database. "Both of our products could be better if the partner integrates his app to our environment," he said. "I could then sell it to my customers."

AirSet's first technology partner is online office application developer Zoho. Dougherty said customers can create a spreadsheet with Zoho and then upload it to the cloud.

AirSet's cloud computers can be built for customers free of charge with storage capacity of 1 GB and minimal security capabilities. For $2.95 per month, customers get 5 GB of storage and better security.

Solution providers set their own prices, Dougherty said. "One partner offers our cloud computer for $35 per month, with the partner handling management and offering customers up to 20 GB of storage," he said. "That partner keeps 70 percent of the monthly revenue."

Next: Taking Applications To The Cloud

Several developers used their time on stage to demonstrate other ways to take applications to the cloud.

Cloudscale, San Mateo, Calif., unveiled Cloudcel, a technology which allows customers to use cloud-based technology to process huge databases in Excel in minutes.

Bill McColl, CEO and founder of Cloudscale, said Excel is the world's primary tool for managing data, but it does not work for huge data sets.

Cloudcel lets customers grab a subset of a huge Excel database sitting somewhere on a cloud, download it into a local spreadsheet in real-time, and process that data locally. Customers can also use Cloudcel to move data from their local spreadsheets or data lists to the cloud, McColl said.

In a typical data analytics task, Cloudcel can be used to build a local app, grab blocks of data from a large database, fill in the formulas, and process the data in five to ten minutes. he said.

San Francisco-based FathomDB showed technology that offers customers relational databases-as-a-service where databases like MySQL can scale with using cloud-based computing.

Justin Santa Barbara, CEO and founder, said that FathomDB allows relational databases to scale in capacity using cloud-based technology instead of the expensive hardware and restrictive licensing terms required by companies like Oracle.

With FathomDB, customers can use their own application, database, and cloud provider at a low cost, letting them invest more on using the database and less on the underlying technology, Santa Barbara said.

The company plans to raise its Series A funding round in April, and is currently recruiting engineers.

gwabbit, Carmel Valley, Calif., introduced gwab-o-sphere, a cloud-based application for automatically updating and managing contact lists.

gwabbit's name is a play on the words "grab it" because of earlier technology that automatically scans incoming e-mails for contact information and moves it to a user's address book.

The company's new application, gwab-o-sphere, automatically syncs the contact information with cloud-based content management applications like, Facebook, or Linked-In, said Todd Miller, company president.

If a customer's contact information changes, gwab-o-sphere automatically senses the change from the latest e-mail and give the user the option of refreshing the data, Miller said.

MightyMeeting, Setauket, N.Y., demonstrated a mobile collaboration app that lets users join Web meetings from their mobile devices.

Dmitri Tcherevik, CEO and founder of MightyMeeting, said customers can use their iPhone and even the upcoming iPad to set up a meeting on the cloud.

The interface is quick and easy to use, Tcherevik said. "I can be hanging on a cliff with one hand, and invite other people to the meeting with the other," he said.

Customers can schedule a meeting, choose participants from their contact book, pick a presentation, send out invites, and add the meeting to Outlook or Google or other calendars.

Because the application is based in the cloud, attendees can connect from anywhere, Tcherevik said.

MightyMeeting is the first-ever collaboration app for iPad, Tcherevik said.

Demonstrating the technology on an iPad was not easy, because it took some time to convince Apple to provide an iPad for the demonstration, Tcherevik said.

He said the iPad is ideal for cloud-based presentations because of its fast processors. "So if your are an executive on a sales call, there is no reason to carry a laptop," he said. "We all know iPad will be a great entertainment device. With MightyMeeting, we turn it into a powerful business tool."

Infusionsoft, Gilbert, Ariz., demonstrated Infusionsoft Email Marketing 2.0, a cloud-based application which combines e-mail marketing with CRM.

Clate Mask, CEO and co-founder of Infusionsoft, said the application is aimed at helping small business improve their e-mail marketing with a number of automation features.

The application lets businesses easily build personalized e-mails with a variety of modules including video content and social marketing apps as well as the ability to change titles, text, and color.

Even more important, Mask said, Infusionsoft automates the follow-up, which has traditionally been the Achilles' Heel for small businesses.

The software provides a list of follow-up tasks such as follow-up e-mails or faxes, a coupon, a text message, or promotional materials, with the user scheduling those follow ups to automatically happen a specified number of days after the initial e-mail was sent, Mask said.