15 cloud companies to watch

AbiquoHeadquarters: Redwood City, Calif.What it offers: Abiquo Enterprise Edition, cloud management softwareHow much it costs: Community Edition: free download. Enterprise Edition: From $211 for 1-49 physical cores to $432 for 1,000 or more cores

Why we're watching the company: Abiquo has tackled two problems plaguing just about any IT organization that operates a virtual infrastructure – how to manage it effectively and how to avoid vendor lock-in. Abiquo combines open source software with cloud expertise and support for multiple hypervisors.

"We built our product around where virtual management is going, which is the cloud. We are hypervisor agnostic and can move virtual machine images between any hypervisor. We provide the management glue," said Abiquo CEO Pete Malcolm in an interview for Network World's "Network/Systems Management Alert" newsletter. 

IT managers can use the software to create virtual data centers through which they can deploy bundled servers, storage and other physical resources, and applications from public or private virtual image libraries. The Abiquo cloud management software separates the task of managing those physical infrastructure pieces from the creation and management of applications. The software, running on a central server, auto-discovers machine resources, manages existing live virtual machines, and can capture and store "stateful" virtual machines, Malcolm described.

The latest version, Abiquo 1.5, adds policy-based workload management, enforceable resource limits and multi-tenancy capabilities that provide delegated provisioning of virtual enterprises.

What this all means for enterprise IT shops is the grand promise of vendor-neutral, interoperable management of virtual resource pools, be those inside the company or out in the cloud.

Who heads the company: CEO Pete Malcolm, a serial entrepreneur brought in last year to help the company expand internationally. Most recently, he had been CTO at Orchestria, which he founded and CA bought in 2009.

How the company got into cloud computing: Founders initially focused on grid computing but interest in cloud technologies led to development of the AbiCloud open source project in early 2008. AbiCloud was formally released in February.

BoomiHeadquarters: Berwyn, Pa.What it offers: Boomi AtomSphere, a cloud integration platform for enterprises, systems integrators and SaaS players.How much it costs: Monthly fees range from $495 for SMBs to $1,995 for complex, enterprise needs

Why we're watching it: SaaS apps are increasingly becoming part of an enterprise's business solutions portfolio, and that gives rise to the thorny issue of integrating the new with the old. A company might, for example, complement a legacy ERP application with an online HR service for acquiring and managing talent. Sharing information between the two could prove highly beneficial – "'but what do you do when you've got the on-premises over here and the cloud over there?'" asks Mike West, a vice president with Saugatuck Technology, a strategic IT advisory firm.

"Integration is probably one of the most significant things companies want to do," West says. "'What are the concerns we hear about cloud solutions, year over year?' They're about integrated processes, data and workflows."

Boomi, West says, has the connectors to make that work. "It offers a powerful set of options for companies that want to manage cloud and on-premises applications or applications in multiple clouds. … It's a complete, trustworthy solution that has high ease of use."

Who heads the company: CEO Bob Moul, who joined the company in late 2005 and shepherded Boomi as it moved from the premises to the cloud. He comes to the company with senior management experience at a variety of consulting and software firms.

How the company got into cloud computing: Boomi began in 2000 as a provider of on-premise application integration technology. As talk of a cloud-computing model gained momentum, it decided to parlay that experience into a position providing integration for SaaS applications – and so in mid-2007 launched its on-demand integration platform.

CloudShareHeadquarters: Menlo Park, Calif.What it offers: An on-demand SaaS collaboration platform for running demonstrations, proofs-of-concept, technical evaluations, and training. CloudShare Pro, for individual users, teams and small- and midsize businesses, enables customers to share simple IT environments comprising multiple virtual machines. CloudShare Enterprise, targeted at large enterprises and value-added resellers, includes advanced user management, channel hierarchy, analytics and collaboration features.How much it costs: All-inclusive pricing is on a per-seat, per-size model.

Why we're watching the company: Having extra IT resources ready for the taking is one of the big promises of the cloud, but making that quick and easy – especially for individuals, workgroups or smaller IT shops – can be problematic.

CloudShare, however, seems to have gotten that down to an art.

"This is a great solution if you need a lower entry point on technical expertise or time," says Steven Peltzman, CIO of New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), referring to CloudShare Pro and its ease of use in setting up and tearing down IT environments for testing or production support. "This is drag and drop and you're off – lots easier to interface and get started with than with bigger, burlier cloud solutions." 

For example, he says, "I could easily whip up a few servers to run a disaster recovery exercise, prove what we need to prove and give the servers back."

Besides the disaster recovery potential, MoMA and other museums could use CloudShare for occasions when they need to share applications.

Who heads the company? Founder Zvi Guterman, formerly CTO of Safend, an endpoint data protection company he co-founded.

How company got into cloud computing: Founders say they launched CloudShare to address the frustration and inefficiencies they encountered in their daily jobs in trying to use IT. The aim was to enable users to spend less time on operational tasks and more on those related to creating business value, they say.

Crosscheck NetworksHeadquarters: Newton, Mass.What it offers: CloudPort, a cloud simulation productHow much it costs: $4,999

Why we're watching the company: Service-oriented architecture (SOA) testing companies have begun rounding out their product lines with tools aimed at giving IT organizations more confidence as they plan for application migrations to the cloud. The product can also ease the infrastructure and cost burdens of building out lab environments.

With CloudPort, developers can profile and measure the impacts of moving to cloud platforms while modeling the risk and cost benefits, the company says. From a central console, the tool provides information about cloud providers such as performance metrics, geographic latency and service initiation times; outages and application error states; and security, capacity and interoperability. Plus, it offers the ability to run what-if modeling scenarios. It leverages cloud instances from Amazon EC2, OpSource Cloud, GoGrid and Rackspace, and says its pay-as-you-go model lets enterprises realize cost savings of up to 60% when compared to reference architectures, while compressing the services life cycle and reducing time-to-market.

Who heads the company: CEO Mamoon Yunus, who founded Forum Systems, where he pioneered Web services security gateways and firewalls.

How the company got into cloud computing: Crosscheck comes from the Web services/SOA testing world. As SOA and virtualization come together in the cloud, adding cloud testing tools to its portfolio was a logical next step.

EgnyteHeadquarters: Mountain View, Calif.What it offers: Egnyte Local Cloud, a hybrid file server service combining local and cloud storageHow much it costs: Pricing ranges from $9.99 to $49.99 monthly, plus an additional $4.99 to $19.99 monthly for optional local cloud storage, depending on number of users, services selected and payment term.

Why we're watching it: Egnyte initially caught our eye back in late 2008 for its cloud-based file storage service offering a new way to store and back up data, as well as share information. Egnyte has since upped the ante with the Local Cloud hybrid option. With this offering, users can tap into hosted files and store data when online and, when not connected to the 'Net, via a local cloud. When Internet connectivity is restored, the Egnyte Local Cloud synchronizes with the Egnyte Cloud File Server for seamless storage.

"What's interesting about Egnyte is that it embodies a lot of the ideals of the entrepreneurs and pundits around cloud – namely, that it should be pay per use, self-service, and simple to use with easy-to-understand payment," says Frank Gillett vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. "These are the attributes that makes it interesting. Egnyte has standardized and streamlined the whole process."

Egnyte should prove particularly appealing to individuals, workgroups or small companies. One such company is The Law Offices of Ronny Buni, a New York firm that uses Egnyte cloud storage to "release the burden of maintaining a large server and adequate tech support," says Ronny Buni, president.

Who heads the company? Co-founder Vineet Jain, who is CEO. Previously, Jain founded and built Valdero, a supply chain software solution provider since acquired by One Network Enterprises.

How the company got into cloud computing: Founders say they came up with the idea for Egntye when considering how to address a problem they faced in their previous work lives – easy but secure access to files from their familiar computing devices.

ElastraHeadquarters: San FranciscoWhat it offers: Elastra Enterprise Cloud Server (ECS), a software platform that automates the allocation and management of application and related resources in private and public cloudsHow much it costs: Metered, pay-per-use pricing; an edition of Elastra's Enterprise Cloud Server is available free to Amazon Web Services (AWS) users.

Why we're watching it: An IT management technology start-up to watch for 2010, holds the promise of making cloud computing easier to use and more accessible overall, but especially to companies with lightly staffed IT organizations that want to support cloud computing initiatives.

Elastra has gained recognition for its ability to simplify the processes of creating, managing and allocating shared resources. In an April 2009 report, Forrester identified Elastra as one of several "cloud-in-a-box" solutions that help enterprises build on existing resources and provide a quick path to an internal cloud. In particular, the report points out Elastra's ability to combine architecture and life-cycle management with cloud automation tools that help with design and deployment, monitoring, consumption-based metering and management of commercial software licenses.

Elastra offers a version of ECS that supports private clouds based on VMware vCenter or Citrix Xen virtualization environments, and has made available packages for supporting applications for use in the Amazon cloud and, in a trial version released in March, VMware vSphere 4.

Who heads the company: CEO Kirill Sheynkman, a longtime entrepreneur who, prior to launching Elastra, founded Standard Technology Group, a relational OLAP engine maker acquired by Informix/IBM.

How the company got into cloud computing: Sheynkman and others founded the company specifically to address an emerging need in the cloud market.

GoodDataHeadquarters: San FranciscoWhat it offers: GoodData On Demand, a cloud-based platform for business intelligence (BI) applicationsHow much it costs: Monthly fees range from $500 per project for a 250MB data warehouse to $2,500 per project for a 20GB data warehouse.

Why we're watching the company: BI is a hot technology – a business imperative for companies that want to be agile and compete effectively. But BI projects can be notoriously tricky to do well and they don't come cheap, either. Upfront licensing, consultative and ongoing costs can be limiting, if not prohibitive factors for many companies.

Enter BI in the cloud. Available on demand, BI as a service can be far less expensive yet much quicker to implement and easier to use than complex, legacy BI applications. BI in the cloud means no software to buy, licenses to maintain or related infrastructure to support.

In GoodData's case, users place their data within a single instance of the company's secure, hosted BI platform. For simple data files of up to 10MB – or 100,000 rows in an Excel file, the company says – users can upload into the cloud using a comma-separated values wizard. Also available are REST-based APIs and pre-built scripts for loading data directly and securely from any location. Users can automate the upload process to ensure currency of the hosted data. Once their data is safely nestled in the cloud, companies then have the ability to build and manage multidimensional data models, analyze data – collaboratively if desired – and share results via user-friendly dashboards.

Who heads the company: CEO Roman Stanek, a longtime tech entrepreneur; prior to launching GoodData, he founded NetBeans and Systinet.

How the company got into cloud computing: Stanek set out with a mission to provide a platform for collaborative analytics.

KaavoHeadquarters: Stamford, Conn.What it offers: Infrastructure and Middleware on Demand (IMOD), SaaS offering for managing applications in the cloud, plus an on-premises version for managing applications within private clouds.How much it costs: Online self-serve model pricing starts at $100 per month and depends on number of servers managed; custom pricing is available for the on-premises version.

Why we're watching it: Kaavo addresses the dual pain points of managing and securing application data in the cloud. Its goal is to provide a simple self-service interface into the cloud plus deliver security and role-based access controls, automated systems monitoring and n-tier, application-centric configuration capabilities enabling system deployment online via a single click.

Kaavo's IMOD has earned a positive response from the cloud-watching community. In its March report on cool vendors in cloud management, for example, Gartner gives the thumbs up to Kaavo's top-down IMOD approach. "The technology can start a complex system that consists of multiple tiers (i.e., a database tier, an application tier and a Web tier), as well as the firewalls that may exist between each tier without requiring the use of scripts," Gartner said in the report.

And Rick Grehan, contributing editor of the InfoWorld Test Center at InfoWorld, a Network World sister publication, gave the IMOD positive ratings for its "excellent" control plane user interface, an easy-to-manipulate graphical view of applications plus its pre-built appliances

Kaavo supports the Amazon EC2, Eucalyptus, IBM and Rackspace clouds.

Who heads the company: CEO Jamal Mazhar, who most recently established technology infrastructure and product development operations in India for a Canadian business analytics start-up.

How the company got into cloud computing: Mazhar says he founded Kaavo in November 2007 to address the management, security and transparency challenges related to the cloud model.

NasuniHeadquarters: Natick, Mass.What it offers: Nasuni Filer is a cloud storage gateway that provides file access to select cloud storage services plus local caching, snapshots and other storage management capabilities. Once an enterprise installs and activates the gateway software – a network-attached storage (NAS) filer that runs on VMware – Nasuni bills for the filer as a service.How much it costs: $300 monthly over the cost of a supported cloud storage service

Why we're watching it: Nasuni addresses a challenge facing many would-be cloud storage users: the ability to move data into and out of the storage cloud in a simple, consistent manner.

While some cloud storage providers do support access via the CIFS, NFS or FTP, those gateways are fairly rudimentary, says Ray Lucchesi, president of Silverton Consulting. Nasuni not only offers an independent means of mapping CIFS files into storage clouds from Amazon, Iron Mountain, Nirvanix and Rackspace, but tops that capability off with nifty features such as a local data cache, file snapshot, data compression and encryption, and cloud management services. The latter includes performance monitoring and billing.

Who heads the company: CEO Andres Rodriguez, who founded Archivas, which Hitachi Data Systems acquired in 2006.

How did the company got into cloud computing: Rodriguez and fellow founder Robert Mason, both storage veterans, launched the company with the goal of extending the benefits of cloud storage to business., 

Navajo SystemsHeadquarters: New YorkWhat it offers: Virtual Private SaaS (VPS), for SaaS application data securityHow much it costs: 10% on top of the SaaS provider fee

Why we're watching it: For many enterprises, privacy and regulatory concerns are a deal-breaker for public cloud services. Navajo intends to change this with its unique approach to SaaS application data security.

Navajo has developed a scheme for transparently encrypting before transmitting sensitive application data to a SaaS provider. Likewise, encrypted data returning to the end user within the SaaS application responses is decrypted. The SaaS provider does not have an encryption key, making the data undecipherable to the cloud servers.

In other words, data at rest within the cloud remains encrypted and, because the sensitive data hosted outside of the company is unreadable, regulatory compliance is enforceable, says Dan Gross, Navajo CEO.

Navajo's focus on privacy and regulatory compliance is an important distinction, Gross says. "This isn't about security – the SaaS providers handle that. This is for organizations dealing with regulatory constraints. For heavily regulated industries, this will be a must-have while others may consider it a nice-to-have," he adds.

Who heads the company: CEO Dan Gross, who most recently spent nine years in various management roles at ActionBase, developer of a human process management solution.

How the company got into cloud computing: Gross and other founders, envisioned dramatically expanding the use of cloud computing by eliminating the barriers related to data security and regulatory concerns. The founders named the company after the Navajo code talkers recruited by the U.S. military during World War II.

SymplifiedHeadquarters: Boulder, Colo.What it offers: SinglePoint, an integration-as-a-service platform for extending enterprise security policies and administration into the cloud and enabling secure SaaS and cloud application access and identity managementHow much it costs: Available on a monthly per-user charge

Why we're watching it: Symplified addresses some of an enterprise's weightiest concerns about using cloud services, including the ability to determine who has access to SaaS applications, deactivate user accounts easily, scale out user access as needed, and manage user identities and policies from a central point.

Integrating existing security policies and administration with cloud applications and data should provide IT organizations the enterprise-class cloud security they desire. Using online identity and access management, for example, has clear benefits such as "instant" compliance, reduced operational and staffing costs and attractive, pay-as-you-go pricing models, according to Forrester security analysts in a recent report.

SinglePoint, available as an on-premises appliance or hosted in the cloud, is pre-integrated with leading cloud applications and platforms including Google Apps, Salesforce.com, ADP, Taleo and others.

Who heads the company: CEO Eric Olden, who co-founded Web access management pioneer Securant Technologies until its acquisition by RSA Security in 2001. He co-authored the AuthXML Web security specification and negotiated its combination with Netegrity's S2ML to create Security Assertion Markup Language, OASIS' identity federation standard.

How the company got into cloud computing: Symplified's founders identified the need to extend IT security and control mechanisms to the cloud.

Terremark WorldwideHeadquarters: MiamiWhat it offers: Enterprise Cloud, a high-end hosted private cloud, plus vCloud Express, a pay-as-you-go cloud service aimed at development teams and departmental needsHow much it costs: Enterprise Cloud custom pricing depends on the size of the dedicated resource pool; vCloud Express pricing depends on a number of factors, such as the number and type of servers used and the amount of storage required, but starts as low as 3.6 cents per hour.

Why we're watching it: Terremark is about as good of a representative of hosted private cloud model – an appealing option for enterprises that want the benefits of cloud computing without the hassle of maintaining the infrastructure internally -- as it gets. In a recent test conducted by ExtremeLabs for Network World, testers found Terremark delivered speed and offered the best administrative portal, as well as the lowest cost of clouds tested. "Terremark's rapid speed of delivery (three days) earned the product high marks as it delivered quickly and to spec — all things we like in a cloud vendor," the testers said.

Who heads the company: Manuel Medina, who has served as CEO since founding Terremark 30 years ago.

How the company got into cloud computing: Cloud computing represents a natural extension of the company's longstanding utility computing architecture and IT infrastructure services business.

ViewfinityHeadquarters: Waltham, Mass.What it offers: Viewfinity, a SaaS suite for systems management, privilege management and user migration capabilitiesHow much it costs: Viewfinity Systems Management is free for up to 50 PCs, and then $48 per desktop per year; Viewfinity Privilege Management costs $28 per desktop annually; Viewfinity User Migration, which targets moves from Windows XP and Vista to Windows 7, was free through April as a promotion

Why we're watching it: At most enterprises today, a far greater percentage of the budget goes toward keeping systems up and running than toward business-enhancing initiatives. Viewfinity, by enabling client device management from the cloud rather than from an internal systems management infrastructure, can ease the burden.

Once an organization has registered for the cloud service and has installed agent software on target client devices, systems administrators can perform typical desktop tasks via the Viewfinity software delivery platform over secure Web links. The agent install is an on-demand process using existing Active Directory and network infrastructure, and completes within minutes.

"Because we work within a Web browser there is no complexity in managing our solution," said Gil Rapaport, president of Viewfinity in an interview for Network World's "Network/Systems Management Alert" newsletter. "We see ourselves as complementary to existing systems management products because customers in many cases have been adding our technology to monitor their mobile workforce more easily alongside other systems management products."

The cloud platform builds on Viewfinity's specialized application virtualization technology, which enables administrators to install and manage virtualized applications without changing the user's desktop experience.

Who heads the company: CEO Leonid Shtilman, who most recently served as a senior vice president at CA, which acquired XOsoft, a company he founded and led.

How the company got into cloud computing: Viewfinity launched using virtualization technology as a foundation for simplifying and automating the deployment and management of applications, licenses and assets. Transitioning to systems and privilege management via the cloud was a natural progression, the company says.

Virtual ArkHeadquarters: San FranciscoWhat it offers: The Virtual Ark SaaS Application Management Platform, which combines SaaS-enablement of enterprise applications on clouds with managed services expertise.How much it costs: Pricing specifics unavailable

Why we're watching it: While SaaS applications are available for just about any IT and business need imaginable, sometimes enterprises just don't want to go there. They've grown comfortable with their enterprise applications. Start-up Virtual Ark has an answer – a value-added service for delivering a customer's enterprise applications in a SaaS model, complete with pay-as-you-go pricing.

Virtual Ark leverages existing cloud infrastructures from companies such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Rackspace, using its managed services expertise, software and management tools to deliver true SaaS for enterprise applications. It uses its own development platform and systems as well as leading tools from cloud companies such as RightScale, says Klaus Bartosch, the company's executive vice president of global sales and marketing.

Virtual Ark works with enterprises through independent software vendors partners including Ingres and TechnologyOne. Bartosch adds. To date, SaaS-enabled applications include those for CRM, ERP and financial management, he says. Enterprises benefit from reduced IT complexity and lower fixed costs.

Who heads the company: CEO Marty Gauvin, who also founded data center operator Tier 5 and Hostworks, which sold to Macquarie Group in 2008.

How the company got into cloud computing: Gauvin launched Virtual Ark as a value-added service provider aimed at addressing the gap between cloud providers and enterprises that want to SaaS-enable a core business application.

VMLogixHeadquarters: Palo Alto, Calif.What it offers: VMLogix LabManager – Cloud Edition, a virtual lab management solution tailored for Amazon Web Services and supporting Windows and Linux guest images as well as ISV-specific Amazon Machine Images.How much it costs: Promotional pricing available upon request

Why we're watching it: Like start-up CloudShare, VMLogix is targeting the all-important test-and-development arena – a best-practices starting point for enterprises that want to begin experimenting in the cloud. Virtual lab management software lets users create virtual instances of physical infrastructure on demand. VMLogix comes to cloud-based virtual lab management with experience garnered from enabling on-demand lab environments on virtualization platforms. That might serve well as the virtual lab environment heats up going forward.

"Virtual lab management continues to prove itself as a rare, real, breakthrough use of technology revolutionizing the computing industry and the enterprise," says voke Research analysts in a March 2010 report on the technology. Voke researchers base their assessment on an independent survey of 100 organizations using virtual lab technology conducted from August 2009 to this past February.

Voke calls virtual lab management strategic, empowering and relatively easy and low risk to adopt, saying it delivers immediate, measurable benefits and a clear, quick return on investment. It predicts "virtual lab management will be the new 'hub' of the modern application life cycle" and emphasizes that "uses for this technology extend the testing lab.

"The ability to rapidly deliver an environment for the needs of testing, development, sales, marketing, training, technical publications, support and other constituents in an organization enhances business alignment, removes barriers and lowers costs, particularly capital expenditures.

Who heads the company: Sameer Dholakia, CEO, comes to VMLogix from enterprise software firm Trilogy, where he spent 12 years in various management positions.

How the company got into cloud computing: LabManagerCE is a natural evolution of VMLogix' virtual lab management technology for internal enterprise use

Schultz is an IT writer in Chicago.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

This story, "15 cloud companies to watch" was originally published by Network World.

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