The past few years have been nothing if not a boon for entrepreneurs looking to cash in on venture capitalists’ lust for all things cloud. All the activity has been great, and we’ve seen some exciting new companies emerge and prosper — companies such as Heroku, RightScale and New Relic — but it also means there’s precious little room on the playing field for newcomers. Startups that want to get noticed, get funded, and ultimately have a winning exit must either find their own unique niche or stake out ground on a different field altogether.
Here are 10 cloud computing startups that launched in 2011 and that have a chance to make it big in 2012.
AppFog is one of a handful of Platform-as-a-Service startups to launch in 2011, but AppFog is unique because it leverages the open-source Cloud Foundry code as its core. The switch to a Cloud Foundry foundation over the summer resulted in a name change from PHP Fog, as the company was immediately able to support numerous new programming languages. Going forward, AppFog can ride Cloud Foundry’s development wave, while focusing its own efforts on building the best user experience.
Little is known about Bromium other than that it plans to use virtualization technology as a tool for securing the myriad endpoints (e.g., desktops, mobile phones and tablets) that connect to enterprise networks. While securing cloud servers, as other startups such as CloudPassage attempt to do, is important, the advent of consumerization means endpoints need security. Among Bromium’s founders is Simon Crosby, who co-founded XenSource and served as virtualization CTO at Citrix Systems.
Cloudability provides a simple service with a lot of value: it monitors customers’ spending on cloud computing resources. It might uncover something as commonplace as cloud-server sprawl because so many employees are spinning up instances, or it might find something nefarious such as hackers using a company’s instances serve boatloads of network traffic. As use of cloud services proliferates, companies will need an easy tool to help them keep track of what they’re spending and where.
The Infrastructure-as-a-Service space is a tough racket to enter because it means competing with the likes of Amazon Web Services and Rackspace, but CloudSigmahas a plan. The company is all about giving customers high performance and lots of control. CloudSigma sits in the impressive SuperNAP data center and offers 10 GbE interconnects as well as solid-state drives, and developers can buy and manage resources with the granular control normally found in co-location.
Kaggle, a crowdsourcing platform for solving big data challenges, is about the hottest thing going in big data right now. The idea behind the service is simple: although not everyone has data scientists in-house, there are plenty of them floating around the world perfectly happy to put their skills to work on a problem for cash prizes and a little bit of credit. It takes a lot of computing power to host hundreds of teams on any given competition, as well as the data sets, which is why Kaggle utilizes Amazon Web Services.
Nebula isn’t the only company pushing a commercial version of the open-source OpenStack cloud computing software — it isn’t even the only one founded by a former NASA employee — but it does have a unique approach and an impeccable pedigree. Nebula ties OpenStack to an optimized hardware platform designed to make building public clouds a plug-and-play experience. Among its founders are former NASA CTO Chris Kemp, and investors include Andy Bechtolsheim, David Cheriton and Ram Shriram.
Parse is trying to become a PaaS specialist for mobile apps, a laudable ambition given how many people now rely on their mobile devices just about everything. It will be difficult to distinguish itself from competitors such as Stackmob, as well as from web-app PaaS offerings such as Heroku and AppFog, but Parse seems to have the right ideas in mind. It has a backend focused on the needs of mobile apps, and a frontend designed for mobile developers that might not have extensive programming chops.
What ScaleXtreme lacks in sexiness it makes up for in functionality. Everyone needs server-management software, but not everyone needs the big, expensive software offered from traditional software vendors, or even wants to manage software at all. ScaleXtreme gives users a cloud-based service to manage both physical and cloud-based servers, and, it says, has also garnered a lot of interest from cloud providers thinking it might be a good value-added service to their users who want more control.
SolidFire wants nothing less than to revolutionize cloud computing by making it palatable to large enterprises wanting to run mission-critical applications. The company targets cloud providers with SSD-based storage systems that make it possible to store virtual machine images in the cloud and still deliver high performance. Cloud providers utilizing SolidFire gear could find themselves hosting far more relational databases and other applications that presently remain in house.
Zillabyte, still operating in private beta mode, wants to provide users with both data sets and the algorithms needed to process them. Data sets aren’t uncommon on the web, but they usually don’t come with algorithms and a processing backend. The service will initially focus on web data and text-based algorithms, but there’s plenty of room for growth into new types of data and algorithms as the service matures. Zillabyte was co-founded by two former Google software engineers and a former Intel engineer.