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Amazon Web Services continues to enhance support for Microsoft workloads with added SDK support for Windows Phone and Windows Store Apps.

According to the AWS blog, the new support comes with a Developer Preview of the next version of the AWS SDK for .NET. The release of the SDK adds two new enhancements for.NET developers.

A developer can connect Windows Phone or Windows Store apps to AWS services and build a cross-targeted application that’s backed by AWS. With the addition, AWS now also offers SDK support for Windows as well as iOS and Android.

AWS also added support for its “task-based asynchronous pattern,” which uses “the async and await keywords and makes programming asynchronous operations against AWS more easily to do.”

The support follows AWS efforts to show support for running Microsoft Exchange Server in the AWS Cloud as well SQL Server and Sharepoint.

The new support illustrates the competition among the cloud service providers to become the developer center for all devices. AWS is by far the leader but Windows Azure has steadily added more features for supporting iOS and Android.

David Goldberg

At 14 years old, SurveyMonkey, the online feedback and survey company, is “not quite a startup anymore,” says its CEO David Goldberg. But the last year has marked what you might call a second childhood of sorts for the Silicon Valley company: a large raise of funds (some $850 million, all secondary); a launch of a whole new product branch (enterprise); and, now, for its hattrick, a new international push. It’s the third of these that has brought Goldberg – a seasoned enterpreneur, investor and husband to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg – to London, to meet with me in a bar high above the city in the Shard, a new skyscraper near London Bridge.

We’re meeting here because although SurveyMonkey is announcing a new office in London, along with a hiring push for 50 new staff in sales, marketing and business development, it hasn’t yet found a place to call its own. Where will the company look? The answer is still (ahem) up in the air. Not in the glitzy Shard, where the rents are too high; and not necessarily in Shoreditch, where many other startups have laid down roots.

As it turns out, the Shard – with London spread out beneath us – is a fitting place to meet. SurveyMonkey is arriving here with opportunity in its eyes. London will represent its biggest investment yet outside of the U.S., and it comes directly as a result of its bigger enterprise push. It comes also as part of a concerted effort by the UK government to bring more tech business to London, including encouraging a new work visa scheme, faster broadband and more companies to commit to investing here.

Today the UK is SurveyMonkey’s biggest market after the U.S., with 1.5 million users, a position that is built on enterprise and customers across organisations like the National Health Service, the oil company BP, local councils and universities, and “100% of the FTSE 100 says Goldberg.

Many of these have started out as individual accounts, and so these are connections that SurveyMonkey hopes to reinforce and expand under its new enterprise licensing scheme; and, down the line, with more analytics services to make the most of the data that the surveys snag.

While I had Goldberg’s attention, I got an update on what else might be happening at SurveyMonkey:

Acquisitions. It’s an obvious way for companies from the U.S. to scale business abroad, not to mention a way to bolt on new technologies, so will the be a route for SurveyMonkey?

Goldberg says that for the moment there are no acquisitions on the cards for customer scaling purposes. “There’s not a lot of anything of any scale out there,” he told me. “That’s not to say we wouldn’t buy something. We have been looking internationally but haven’t found anything.”

As for technology acquisitions, that’s a different story. The key with SurveyMonkey is that it’s launching a new business area with enterprise, and that could lead it into offering new products and services, some of which may get built internally; and some of which will not.

One of those areas could be data, and specifically big data analytics. “How do we collect data and how can we help people make decisions?” Goldberg asked me rhetorically. “To call what we do a survey is very narrow. It’s data, and that’s a very, very big space.”

Data intelligence could also be one way that SurveyMonkey could stay competitive against the likes of Google Surveys and (to a lesser extent) Formstack.

Although SurveyMonkey counts the public sector as a strong vertical for its services, one company Goldberg rules out as a target of any kind is YouGov, the UK-based polling company. “That’s not a space we want to be in,” he said, noting that SurveyMonkey in fact already has its own panel business.

And there remains a plan as well to continue to expand partnerships and integrations via SurveyMonkey’s API. Integrations like these are an important customer retention tool: “Those who use us and also use MailChimp and Eventbrite churn from us at a lower rate,” Goldberg notes.

Funding. The money that SurveyMonkey raised earlier this year – which included significant contributions from Tiger Global, Social + Capital, and others – was “100% secondary,” he said, with the funds going to employees and investors.

“None of it went into the company,” he added, meaning that any acquisitions that it would make will come from its own cash reserves, as well as debt if needed. In 2012, SurveyMonkey made $62m in EBITDA, and $113 million in revenue, he tells me. It has not disclosed 2013 revenues. That funding round, he pointed out, which valued the company at some $1.35 billion, will put off questions of an IPO for some time to come.

Image: Flickr

palantir

Palantir, the big data company that secured clients like the NSA, the FBI and the CIA early on, is topping up its recent September funding round with a 50 percent bump in valuation.

The company is now valued at $9 billion, according to sources familiar with the deal. An SEC filing released today showed that they are raising an additional $57.5 million on top of a $196.5 million round three months ago. That round valued the company at $6 billion.

The company hasn’t shared the identities of the investors in both rounds. We’re hearing that the company’s revenues are set to top half a billion this year, and will do at least $1 billion in contracts next year.

Founded back in 2004, the company was the brainchild of Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel, who believed that the payments company’s anti-fraud technologies could be used to fight terrorism.

Current CEO Alex Karp, Joe Lonsdale (who went on to found Asia and Silicon Valley-focused investment firm Formation 8), Stephen Cohen and chief technology officer Nathan Gettings put together an initial product.

In its early years, Palantir grew into an analysis platform that government agencies use to manage the war against terrorism and drug trafficking. Palantir’s platform pulls disparate reams of data and puts them together in a way that makes otherwise hard-to-detect patterns and connections much more visible to users.

Since then, they’ve grown beyond their government clientele and have expanded into the private sector, cybersecurity and the pharmaceutical industry.

The company’s earlier investors include Founders Fund, Yelp’s Jeremy Stoppelman and Ben Ling among others and they’ve raised at least $650 million.

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Apigee has a new platform for customers to manage API-driven business efforts that extends from purchase-to-payment of digital assets. The service is meant for organizations, such as telecommunications providers, that sell services delivered through an API.

Apigee has designed the platform so a customer can get help with pricing, notifications set-up and limits that tell when a number of products have been sold. It comes with an administration platform and developer platform for billing. Licensed on a yearly basis, the platform is available both in the cloud and on-premise.

The communication through the API monetization platform is two-way. For example, telecommunications customers have often had to send email notifications when there was a change to a rate plan for one of its digital services. With the new platform, the service is automated so a customer can set up notifications for the developer subscribing to the plan.

The issue extends to the finance department with API providers historically collecting money by invoice from developers. With the platform integration, a bill gets automatically sent to the customer with real-time credits and deductions to the developer’s account without having to invoice.

In the overall market, there are companies that are digital native and those that do not have the background with APIs. Apigee is trying to serve both markets. They are offering easier API integration for the more seasoned customers and the expertise to show how the service can be offered and managed for the clients newer to the ways of the API economy.

APIs are becoming part of the mainstream business world. Until most recently, APIs have primarily been viewed as a way to connect apps. But they are increasingly used as a gateway for customers to sell services. This is evident in how they are getting baked deeper into enterprise systems. Intel acquired Mashery for $180 million this spring to offer the API platform to serve as a way to connect back-end systems to the cloud.

In essence Apigee is offering its customers a deeper way to automate the selling process and subsequent management of a customer’s digital assets. That’s something we can expect to see more often as APIs move deeper into the mainstream business world.

Disclosure: Apigee’s Sam Ramji needed a place to stay while here in Portland this week for OSCON so he bunked at our house.

heaven

Docker, an app container service from the co-founder at DotCloud, and Salt, an open DevOps platform from the founder of SaltStack, were mentioned this past week at OSCON as two of the most exciting new open-source efforts.

Complexity comes with the cloud and its fit with enterprise data centers. The Docker team calls this new world of services and devices the matrix of hell. The Salt folks see salvation in speed – perhaps to save us all from the hell that comes with heavyweight systems that require extensive resources and are slow due to being built when distributed systems were not as common as they are today.

Both projects are tied to the deeper complexity that comes now with what new DotCloud CEO Ben Golub and Co-Founder Solomon Hykes describe as a world that resembles a matrix, represented by rows of endless number of available services and columns that represent any number of devices where applications run. DotCloud supports the Docker open-source project.

Their emergence also represents the new reality about what can be described as the “agnostic cloud.” Sure, there’s a belief structure about cloud but there is no almighty allegiance to its power. Instead, there is an agnostic movement to make on-premise and cloud services accessible through a universe of providers and open-source services that run anywhere – be it a private data center or a public cloud service.

Docker

Docker automates the deployment of apps as a lightweight Linux container. The container can be built and tested on a laptop and synced to run anywhere. It can run on virtual machines, bare-metal servers, OpenStack clusters, public instances or any combination of on-premise and cloud offerings.

Docker does not port the virtual machine nor the operating system, which makes sense when considering that the infrastructure itself is becoming the operating system. The compute, storage and networking is already in place on a cloud service – the application just goes there to run.

The service avoids the issue that comes with moving virtual machines, which are not designed to move between clouds. So instead of moving the VM, Docker moves the code between the VMs. Most of the security is managed by the Linux kernel.

Hykes said in an interview last week that developers particularly like the capabilities to continually test and integrate app containers. This makes for simpler and faster methods for building applications that can run anywhere. For example, developers are using Docker to build next-generation platform as a service (PaaS) offerings. It’s a noteworthy development. Most PaaS providers have historically provided monolithic platforms to do as much as possible. With Docker, platforms can be built that leverage the services of different providers to create lightweight environments for building and delivering apps.

For more technical descriptions about Docker, there are some good resources here, here and here.

Salt

Salt is a new open DevOps platform built for speed. It is designed to use generic high-speed communication to move data out to nodes by doing parallel data processing. Generic commands get sent to the nodes with feedback coming back very quickly. Harvard University used it for their supercomputer clusters. Jobs that once took 15 minutes now take five seconds.

According to the SaltStack website, Salt can be scaled to tens of thousands of servers through a communications bus that orchestrates, does remote execution and configuration management as well as other tasks.

Salt is being used as a replacement for Chef and Puppet, the two leading DevOps platforms. It is now used by LinkedIn and Rackspace. Here’s an excerpt from a good analysis by Sebastian Kreutzberger, CEO of RhodeCode, an open source software configuration and management platform for Git and Mercurial:

Salt is like a mix of Chef/Puppet (defining states) and an easy way to communicate with machines directly (like with an MQ). The big difference to Chef is the architecture: the slave (called minion) does not pull for changes every bunch of minutes, which can cause weirdness, but has a standing connection to the master which allows instant changes and commands.

Noted often about Salt is its documentation, which has helped the community further develop the platform. Here’s an introduction to Salt by its creator Thomas Hatch:


Conclusion

The cloud and on-premise systems are starting to merge into one cohesive universe. OpenStack serves as a way to make data-center environments more elastic. Cloud services like Amazon Web Services represent the public cloud infrastructure. The PaaS providers are becoming environments for serving apps to these different infrastructures. These agnostic providers, such as Cloud Foundry, do not serve one cloud. They help developers serve multiple cloud environments.

The same is true for services like CloudMunch, which offers a continuous integration platform that can move code between different cloud services. CloudMunch Founder Pradeep Prabhu said this new universal world has three main characteristics:

  • There must be the choice to use any developer or operations tools with any PaaS for any IaaS/cloud or on-premise/private cloud.
  • It has to be workload centric. Whatever makes best sense for a given workload including tooling, patterns and practices and infrastructure/cloud for delivering the best results/roi for that workload.
  • It is the ability to define a customizable software delivery progression with all the checks and balances for both application code and infrastructure code with no lock-in to any tool, methodology or cloud.

Similar principles apply to Docker, which treats the app container as the way to deliver apps to the cloud or any other infrastructure. Salt also fits into this universal mentality.

The new world is not about universal control and beliefs in all-mighty systems. Open-source efforts like Docker and Salt are popular because they fit into this more flexible and agnostic view of the cloud and data center universe.

Image credit: Wikipedia

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For 100 years or more, architects have relied on the massive catalog sitting on their desk to find the right products to use in their projects – this brand of glass, or that brand of toilet. That catalog had a monopoly on the market for a century, but with the birth of the internet, that catalog never made the transition over to digital.

But a site that launched back in 2009 as a platform for architects to publish their work, Architizer, is relaunching tomorrow to finally fill the void it left.

Architizer is a two-sided platform that lets architects upload their work in order to get more potential clients as well as professional feedback from their peers. Meanwhile, brands can pay a subscription to connect their own product pages to Architizer projects in which their products were used.

How it works:

It looks a little like this:

Architects upload their work in any format they like, from a PDF to a picture of a napkin covered in scribbles. Architizer’s curatorial team then deciphers that project, beautifies it, and publishes the project on the firm’s own Architizer firm page.

Within the project, other architects can comment and view all the materials used in the building, from the fixtures to the window systems and more.

Then, brands who had products used in that building can connect with that project. So let’s say the building used Kohler toilets, for example. Within the project page, Kohler would be listed as the plumbing provider, and that would automatically be hyperlinked to the Kohler product page on Architizer.

Architizer is free to use for architects and firms, while brands pay a subscription fee of anywhere between $95/month and $595/month for Architizer to hyperlink every mention of that brand on the site.

Competition:

Architizer launched back in 2009 as a self-publishing platform for architects who wanted a digital portfolio. Though the two sites were inherently different (one is an editorial curated blog and the other is a self-publishing platform), ArchDaily stuck out as the greatest competitor to Architizer at the time.

See, ArchDaily receives tips from architects who send in their work, and then features those projects in an editorial blog-style web site. Though Architizer’s content was all self-published by architects, Architizer had an editorial team that packaged and featured the top projects for browsing on the site.

At the time, most of the company’s revenue came from traditional advertising and running branded competitions amongst architects. This new form of native advertising, however, wherein brands pay to connect with users, will end up being the main source of revenue moving forward.

As it stands now, native advertising is huge with regards to any curated or editorialized content, especially when it involves user generated publishing. Everyone from blogs like BuzzFeed and Gawker to social networks like Facebook and Twitter are pushing branded content into a special place on the site, where it’s sure to receive eye balls.

Meanwhile, recommendation engines like WeeSpring are working hard to offer solid feedback on very niche verticals, like pre-delivery baby shopping.

However, combining user-generated content with a subscription-based paid service for brands to automatically promote themselves (within that user-generated content) is a relatively new business model.

The Re-Launch:

Architizer grew from 200 projects published in 2009 to 55,000 projects published now, but founder Marc Kushner believed there was still a piece of the puzzle missing with regards to materials used in projects, and making information on those materials easily accessible to architects.

“Right now, architects know more about the sandwich they’re having for lunch then they do about the products they’re using in their projects,” said Kushner. “Right now they’re learning about these products from reviews on Amazon because there is no online destination to get credible information. We’re looking to change that.”

The site has been redesigned entirely from the ground up to make uploads faster as well as connect users to other architects and brands. As it stands now, the site sees 1.5 million monthly visitors with over 14,000 firms on the platform according to Kushner. The relaunch will include participation from 18 partnering brands including Sherwin Williams, Kohler, and Dupont.