While big-name players such as Amazon, Google, IBM, Verizon and VMware sit atop the burgeoning cloud computing market, an entire ecosystem of early stage startups are looking to stake their claim, too.
And why not? As Ignition Partners' Frank Artale sees it, enterprises are on the precipice of the next major shift in computing and venture capital firms are "very aggressive" in looking for companies that can help customers ease their transition to the cloud.
"Initially this move will create more complexity," he says. "Companies that can enable the use of cloud, virtual networking and storage will gets lots of attention."
LAST YEAR'S LIST: 7 hot cloud companies to watch
Our list of a dozen such cloud computing upstarts, hailing from locations as far apart as Silicon Valley and Israel, includes those leveraging mobile devices for worker productivity, integrating software-defined networking and provisioning and monitoring cloud-based services. These companies -- many of which have been able to get up and running by taking advantage of cloud services themselves -- have attracted some $161 million in funding (one snared a $60 million round by itself) and are hungry for more as they look to grow their businesses.
Focus: Optimization of Microsoft Office apps for mobile devices Founded: 2009 Location: Palo Alto, Calif., with offices in Herzliya, Israel Management: Former Cisco employees Milind Gadekar (CloudOn CEO) and Meir Morgenstern (CloudOn VP of engineering/operations) Funding: $26 million from Foundation Capital, Embarcadero Ventures, Rembrandt Venture Partners and Translink Capital Product availability: Free download available on Apple, Android platforms now
Why it's worth watching: Ask Milind Gadekar, and he'll tell you that the workforce of the future will rely even more heavily on mobile devices. But for many workers, the most popular applications they use at their jobs are not optimized to work on mobile devices. That's where CloudOn comes in.
The folks at CloudOn are aiming to make that mobile workforce more productive with their free app that's in public beta. The company specializes in optimizing Microsoft Office for use on phones and tablets across a range of mobile operating systems, including iOS and Android, all using a cloud-based service.
Cisco purchased Gadekar's first startup, named P-Cube, which focused on network optimization for service providers, for $200 million in 2004. After heading up product marketing for the firm, Gadekar left the company three years ago to explore mobile optimization opportunities. That's when he founded CloudOn with Meir Morgenstern, who led the technical side of P-Cube and now serves as VP of engineering for CloudOn. Within a year of founding CloudOn, Gadekar says the best thing that could have happened to the company did: Apple released its first iPad.
With the release of the tablet, employees started bringing their iPads to work, looking to get access to email and their applications. "This was the exact problem we were trying to solve," Gadekar says. In January 2011, CloudOn launched a free version of its app, available in the Apple App Store. Within 12 hours it was the No. 1 app in the entire app marketplace, not just in the productivity category where the company placed it. "Since then, it's been a complete whirlwind," Gadekar says. CloudOn has launched in 80 countries and in 70 of those it became the top downloaded app within 24 hours of launch. The app is now available on Android devices and in just over seven months it's been downloaded 1.8 million times. "People are clearly looking for ways to be more productive, to enhance their mobile experience and to have a way to be mobile-centric," Gadekar says.
CloudOn powers its application using proprietary software developed for optimizing Microsoft Office for use on a gesture-controlled mobile device. On the back end, it leverages file sharing services DropBox, Google Drive and Box, while hosting the software as a service (SaaS)-based application in the Amazon Web Services cloud. The success has fueled the company's further development. Having raised $26 million through two rounds of funding, the company is aiming to start monetizing the product early next year.
Focus: Cloud and network mapping and performance benchmarking Founded: 2011 Location: Ann Arbor, Mich. Management: CEO Craig Labovitz, previously chief scientist/chief architect at Arbor Networks Funding: $1.5 million in seed funding from DFJ Mercury and RPM VenturesProduct availability: Public beta
Why it's worth watching: Just how well do you know your cloud?
Do you know all of the service providers in the supply chain that make up your cloud service? If you're a service provider, do you know exactly what's going on in your network? DeepField claims it has the answers.
Founded in the fall of 2011 by network security experts who specialized in DDoS protections, DeepField gives customers a deep analysis of what the company calls the cloud genome. It's the exact makeup of a cloud infrastructure and the various vendors and users on the network.
DeepField installs virtual machines on the network to conduct a range of analytical functions. "This allows anyone with a large network or compute infrastructure to get a clear handle on exactly what's happening in their network," says DeepField Chief Data Scientist Naim Falandino. DeepField officials are releasing scant details of how the system works because of a patent pending on the back-end technology, but Falandino says it has the ability to conduct real-time monitoring and mapping.
The company's product is currently in public beta, but DeepField is ramping up for its general availability this fall.
As Network World's Carolyn Duffy Marsan explained in a recent profile, mapping a cloud's architecture can help network operators better understand their cloud services, more easily launch new services and improve system performance.
DeepField engineers have already used their data to yield some interesting findings. In April, for example, co-founder Craig Labovitz described how he used DeepField technology to monitor weeks of network data from several million Internet end users to find that nearly one-third of all Internet traffic is somehow connected to Amazon Web Services infrastructure.
Focus: Business intelligence software Founded: 2011 Location: American Fork, Utah Management: Founder/CEO Josh James, who also started the Omniture Web analytics service Funding: $63 million, including from Salesforce.com CEO Marc BenioffProduct availability: Not saying yetFun fact: Changed name to from Corda to Domo, meaning "thank you" in Japanese, to thank customers for using the service
Why we're watching: You'd think Josh James would have been thrilled to sell Omniture to Adobe in 2009 for $1.8 billion, but he had frustrations: He says it wasn't easy to get access to all the reports he needed as CEO. HR reports were in one area and file system, financial and operational reports in another.
Now James is back on the startup scene with cloud-based business intelligence software vendor Domo looking to solve that problem.
"We're focused on helping business executives get the information they want, when they want it, how they want it," says Julie Kehoe, vice president of communications. The company remains fairly hush-hush about its technology as it continues to operate in stealth mode, but Kehoe says Domo can handle anything from sales to HR and online/offline marketing information from across an enterprise and beyond. "When we talk to customers right now, they talk about all the promises of analytics tools, but the No. 1 pain point is having all their information in one place," she says. Domo is designed to work on top of and alongside existing reporting applications, including Salesforce.com's CRM tool.
James got the company started last year by purchasing Corda, another analytics firm, and changing the name to Domo. No word yet on when the product will be released, but industry watchers expect it to be next year.
Focus: Virtualized network appliances Founded: 2009 Management: Former Cisco spin-in execs Dante Malagrinò (Embrane president/CEO) and Marco Di Benedetto (CTO) Funding: $27 million from North Bridge Venture Partners, Light Speed Ventures and NEA Product availability: Version 2.0 is generally available
Why we're watching: What's the next big thing in cloud computing? If the buzz in the network industry is any indication, it could be software-defined networking (SDN).
While SDN promises to virtualize network Layers 2/3, it does not address the upper layers, 4 through 7, and that presents an opportunity to Embrane, says John Vincenzo, vice president of marketing. [Also see: "Startup founded by ex-Cisco execs pushes software-defined networking"]
Embrane's software, which it markets as Heleos, virtualizes load balancers, firewalls, VPNs and other services, allowing the applications to be provisioned in minutes and dynamically scaled as needed. It gives the functionality of a hardware appliance in the convenience of a software package, Vincenzo says. "In the evolution of IT infrastructure, virtualization has hit the compute and storage layers, but the network has still not caught up," he says.
Embrane doesn't compete directly with SDN players such as Nicira and Big Switch, but company officials hope to position its offering as a complimentary service that can be used inside or outside an SDN environment to virtualize network applications. It could be used either as an on-premise or via the cloud.
As SDN continues to gain market clout, particularly with VMware's recent $1.2 billion Nicira acquisition, Vincenzo says Embrane is expecting a big push by enterprises to virtualize various parts of the network. If they're not ready to take the full plunge into SDN though, he says virtualizing the upper layers of the network and the applications serving it can be less daunting, but equally fruitful in achieving increased network agility. "Any enterprise that needs to rapidly deploy new applications, or manage multiple private cloud deployments could benefit from easier deployment of network applications," he says.
Focus: Redis and Memcached NoSQL database optimization and management Founded: 2010 Location: Santa Clara, Calif., and Tel Aviv, Israel Management: Former F5 Networks execs Funding: $3 million in angel funding Availability: Generally available for free as a public beta
Why we're watching: The world used to be a place of structured data, neatly organized in Excel spreadsheets showing the metrics of a business. But data today is big and unstructured, and there are increasingly popular databases used to handle such information.
Two of the most popular are Redis and Memcached, both of which are NoSQL in-memory databases, allowing them to be faster than traditional databases that store information in disk storage or flash memory. Some of today's leading Web companies use these technologies: Flickr and GitHub are among Redis users for unstructured data, while Memcached is employed by Twitter, Zynga, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and Netflix.
But these open source databases aren't really plug-and-play ready for developers. Most notably, Redis by default is not easily scalable and Memcached does not inherently provide for high availability.
In steps Garantia, a company that attempts to ease the management of in-memory NoSQL databases. "Lean back and let us do the heavy lifting for you," pleads CEO Ofer Bengal, who co-founded the company along with CTO Yiftach Shoolman, former president and CTO of network management company Crescendo Networks, which was purchased by F5.
The key to the technology, Bengal says, is Garantia's ability to compress files while automatically sharding them, which saves memory space and ensures the fastest possible retrieval.
Garantia services currently are only offered through Amazon Web Services marketplace, but in the future Bengal hopes to attract other public cloud providers. The company also will look to expand support to other database types.
Focus: Enterprise storage platform Founded: 2010 Location: Mountain View, Calif. Management: CTO Jay Kistler is former engineering VP at Yahoo; CEO Amarjit Gill has sold companies to Apple, Google, Broadcom Funding: $10 million, with backing from EMC, VMware and Atlantic BridgeAvailability: Generally available this month
Why we're watching: Maginatics offers a file storage system that company officials say could provide a whole new way for IT administrators to exploit cloud-based resources while maintaining data security and control.
The company's MagFS file management system, which it launched at VMworld, overlays cloud or on-premise storage to create a distributed file system that can be accessed via mobile devices.
One of the impressive things about Maginatics is the cadre of talent on its executive and advisory team. CTO Jay Kistler, former VP of engineering at Yahoo, holds a doctorate from Carnegie Mellon and previously served as chief architect for platform technologies at Akamai. Chief Architect Niraj Tolia is a former senior researcher at HP Labs, while CEO Amarjit Gill sold his last company, Agnilux, to Google, and his previous one, P.A. Semi, to Apple.