Businessweek on Amazon & Powerset

BusinessWeek investigates Amazon’s expansion into storage and grid computing. Turns out they used Barney’s new project, PowerSet, as one case study:

"Everything we can
get Amazon to do, we will get Amazon to do," says Chris MacAskill.
"You’re going to see all kinds of startups get a much better and faster
start" by using Amazon’s services.

   They already are. Consider Powerset, the secretive search startup backed by A-list angel investors, including PayPal Inc. (EBAY
) co-founder Peter Thiel and veteran tech analyst Esther Dyson.
Co-founder and CEO Barney Pell harbors ambitions of out-Googling Google
with technology that he says would let people use more natural language
than terse keywords to do their searches. By analyzing the underlying
meaning of search queries and documents on the Web, Powerset aims to
produce much more relevant results than the current search king’s.

Problem is, Powerset’s technology eats computing power like a child
munches Halloween candy. The little 22-person company would have to
spend more than $1 million on computer hardware, two-thirds of that
just to handle occasional spikes in visitor traffic, plus a bunch of
people to staff a massive data center and write software to run it.
That’s when Pell heard about Elastic Compute Cloud. He was sold. Based
on tests so far, using the Amazon site for part of the company’s
computing power could cut its first-year capital costs alone by more
than half.


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