Cloud Computing Leaders: Ten to Watch

Tuesday Jun 15th 2010 by Jeff Vance
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Cloud computing visionaries, start-ups and established giants, all vying to win a larger share of the emerging cloud market.

Last month, in the first article about cloud computing leaders, we looked at a few of cloud computing’s usual suspects (Amazon, Google, Salesforce.com, Microsoft), a surprise entrant (CA), and some startups driving the cloud-adoption push, including Rackspace, Eucalyptus and GoGrid.

This time around we investigate some additional big players, more up-and-coming startups, and a company on the brink that may well fail, yet still be considered a cloud pioneer.

As with the last round, the criteria used to determine our leaders mixes the objective (customer traction, experience, market cap or financing) with the patently subjective (ability to innovate, ease of use, how well cloud computing ties in with the company’s broader portfolio).

As always, if you feel we’ve missed someone, let us know in the comment field below.

1. IBM

Why they’re a leader today? As a result of operating more than 8 million square feet of data centers, “we know the data center and have decades’ worth of service level agreements behind us,” an IBM spokesperson noted. Moreover, the technologies supporting cloud computing – virtualization, self-service provisioning, Web-delivered services, open standards and Internet-scale computing – are right in IBM’s wheelhouse.

“IBM started delivering remote services to mainframes in 1968, so we have an extensive resume and have been building our assets and skills in preparation of this new computing model for decades,” the IBM spokesperson said.

Why they could be on top in years to come? IBM has one of the most comprehensive cloud portfolios, with the cloud integrated throughout its many lines of business. Moreover, IBM’s consulting arm has put them in touch with numerous early adopters and special use cases – all of which helps the company stay ahead of competitors.

For instance, the U.S. Air Force recently awarded IBM a contract to design and demonstrate a secure cloud computing infrastructure capable of supporting defense and intelligence networks. The project will introduce advanced cyber security and analytics technologies developed by IBM Research into the cloud architecture.

Advanced “stream computing” analytics will be a key design component. This technology, coupled with sensors, monitors and other detection devices, would enable the Air Force to perpetually analyze the massive amounts of data flowing through its network to get fast, accurate, and actionable insights about possible threats, such as cyber attacks and network, system or application failures, while automatically preventing disruptions.

If IBM can deliver that sort of capability to the Air Force, the only question mark for the enterprise is cost.

Key executive: Erich Clementi, VP, Strategy and GM, Enterprise Initiatives, has been with IBM since 1984 and has held several executive-level positions.

Customers: U.S. Air Force, La Perla, PayPal, Dept. of Interior, Spencer Trask Collaborative Innovations.

2. AT&T

Why they’re a leader today? While most of our cloud leaders have more traditional computing and Internet backgrounds, don’t count out the telcos. Sure, many of their traditional services are being eroded by the Internet, but their large, complex, built-out infrastructures present them with plenty of fresh opportunities, such as delivering rich media and cloud-based services.

AT&T’s Synaptic family of cloud services includes hosting, Compute as a Service (CaaS), Storage as a Service (StaaS), and the recently launched Email Gateway Service, which is part of their Security as a Service portfolio (which has the confusing acronym of -- you guessed it -- SaaS).

Why they could be on top in years to come? AT&T is convincingly building out its cloud portfolio to appeal to everyone from SMBs to large enterprises to multi-national behemoths.

“As companies increasingly move to cloud-based environments, AT&T Synaptic Compute as a Service provides a much-needed choice for IT executives who worry about over-building or under-investing in the capacity needed to handle their users’ traffic demands,” said Steve Caniano, VP, Hosting and Cloud Services, AT&T Business Solutions.

The company recently poured $3 billion into building out its global network. The investment includes five “super IDCs” (Internet Data Centers) in the United States, Europe and Asia, each of which serves as a regional gateway to the AT&T network cloud.

With that kind of investment, the company is clearly serious about being a major cloud contender for years to come.

Key executive: Steve Caniano, VP, Hosting and Cloud Services, has been with AT&T for more than 20 years. During his time with the company, he has held positions in sales, operations, program management, product management, strategic planning, supplier management and systems development.

Customers: The company declined to name actual customers of its cloud services, with a spokesperson telling me that “while we don’t reveal customer names, we can say that cloud services have proven popular with customers in all industries and markets, from startups looking for quick, easy access to compute and storage resources . . . to multi-nationals looking to re-engineer their backup or archive operations to replace aging, capacity-constrained tape environments with scalable cloud storage.”

3. Joyent

Why they’re a leader today? Joyent has been providing Infrastructure as a Service since 2004 and claims to be one of largest providers of cloud computing services. Joyent says that its platform powers web, mobile and server applications for “thousands of applications providing services to billions of end users every month.”

“With our complete stack of Smart Technologies for IaaS and PaaS, Joyent is the only company that runs a major public cloud infrastructure, [having] built the technologies that power that infrastructure, and licenses those technologies to any third party who is interested in building their own public or private infrastructure,” a Joyent spokesperson said.

The company is backed by an undisclosed amount of funding from Intel Capital and Greycroft.

Why they could be on top in years to come? Research firm Gartner predicts that the market for SaaS and cloud-computing services will exceed $14 billion by 2014. Joyent is well positioned to carve out a slice of that market.

“Joyent has developed its own data-center virtualization technology that creates a flexible multi-tenant cloud,” said David Young, CEO. “As a result, Joyent’s technology delivers more than 70 percent utilization, which is eight times more than industry averages, and produces unprecedented performance, security and savings.”

Dell recently licensed Joyent’s technology for their private cloud solution for web applications. Joyent expects to expand to Europe later this summer, opening a data center there soon, which will extend the offerings currently based in North America and China.

Key executive: David Young, CEO and founder, was formerly co-founder and CTO of manageStar, an enterprise services management software company.

Customers: Dell, Traffic Marketplace, LinkedIn, Country Life and Gilt Groupe.

4. Elastra

Why they’re a leader today? As organizations adopt a variety of cloud-based apps – both public and private – their IT departments must ask, “How are we going to manage all of this?”

Sure, rapid deployment and flexibility are great, but what happens when your IT staff is already overworked and understaffed?

Enter Elastra. The company’s cloud management software enables an application-centric model to automate the configuration, deployment, and ongoing management of IT systems – from departmental applications to large J2EE-based installs.

Supporting both Amazon Web Services and VMware vSphere private clouds, Elastra’s Enterprise Cloud Server helps organizations handle the compliance, governance, and security challenges that come with cloud computing, along with handling commercial software infrastructure, such as application servers and databases from Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft.

Why they could be on top in years to come? Cloud sprawl has the potential of making IT pros long for the simpler days when they just had to worry about data-center sprawl. Any vendor who eases this pain should do well.

Meanwhile, Elastra is already looking forward. “Long term, the major shift will be to the next great application platforms. No one is entirely sure what they will look like, but they certainly will involve a lot more operations automation and application-awareness in the infrastructure itself,” said Stuart Charlton, Elastra’s CTO.

To prep for this, instead of focusing on image management or hard-to-maintain scripts, Elastra’s modeling languages – ECML, EDML, and EMML – are open specifications that declaratively describe an application’s configuration, which can handle everything from simple to the most complex deployments, enabling IT departments to leverage cloud computing through enhanced computer-assisted IT operations management.

It’s a twist on the if-you-build-it-they-will-come trope from Field of Dreams: If you make it simple, people will actually use it. Not a bad philosophy for a cloud pioneer.

Key executive: Stuart Charlton, CTO, was previously an Enterprise Architect with BEA Systems.

Customers: Northrop Grumman, MITRE, Intel.

5. OpSource

Why they’re a leader today? OpSource was founded in 2002 and has since raised an impressive amount of VC funding – approximately $64 million – from Intel Capital, Artiman Ventures, Velocity Interactive Group, Crosslink Capital and Key Venture Partners.

OpSource has set its sights on being the go-to “cloud operations” provider. OpSource argues that it goes beyond traditional hosting by managing the cloud for many of its managed hosting customers.

OpSource’s cloud portfolio includes hosting, storage and cloud infrastructure services. With OpSource Application Operations, OpSource delivers database management, compliance services, change management, performance management and application optimization.

OpSource claims to support “hundreds of applications, millions of users and billions of transactions” each day.

Why they could be on top in years to come? OpSource believes that the future of the cloud depends on the ecosystem of developers, integrators, telcos and VARs. Enterprise customers prefer to buy “solutions,” not point products, and OpSource argues that these buyers increasingly see cloud hosting and managed hosting services as simply components to larger solutions.

“Right now, the cloud is still just servers, storage and networking. And no one ever sat around a boardroom and said, ‘You know what would make this a better company? A new server.’ But solution providers are going to change that. They are taking the cloud and providing solutions around it,” said Treb Ryan, CEO. “We believe more than 70% of Infrastructure-as-a-Service will eventually be sold through vertical channels.”

With this in mind, OpSource has been working hard to build out its channel. The company inked a deal in May with NTT America, under which NTT America will deliver cloud services built on top of the OpSource Cloud.

Key executive: Before co-founding OpSource in 2002, CEO Treb Ryan served as President of the Americas for Metromedia Fiber Network (MFN).

Customers: Adobe, BMC, SAP, NTT America, Taleo and Xactly.

6. Cisco

Why they’re a leader today? Cisco knows how to get a foothold in a new space via acquisition. The cloud proves to be no exception. After acquiring WebEx and PostPath, Cisco built out a “cloud-based collaboration platform”.

The company’s more recent acquisitions of ScanSafe, a cloud security vendor, and CoreOptics, a provider of optical networking solutions, position Cisco as a serious cloud infrastructure provider.

With ScanSafe, Cisco intends to alleviate cloud security worries. With CoreOptics, Cisco refers to the acquisition as a way “to equip service provider customers with highly advanced 100 Gigabits per second (Gbps) transmission technology to scale their networks to meet the demands of rapidly growing Internet Protocol traffic driven by video, mobility and cloud services.”

Cisco has said it will focus on private clouds, rather than going head to head with public cloud vendors, such as Amazon and Google. However, while the company may not deliver cloud services, recent moves clearly position Cisco as an infrastructure provider for any cloud flavor.

Why they could be on top in years to come? The easiest (okay, be a cynic and say “laziest”) way to predict future cloud success is via dollars invested. If Cisco’s cloud-related acquisitions are a measuring stick, they should be a contender for a good, long while. Layer investment on top of existing deployments and overall track record, and Cisco is the closest thing to a sure bet you can find in the cloud.

Key executive: Padmasree Warrior, CTO, served as CTO at Motorola before joining Cisco in 2007.

Customers: Nihon Unisys, Tele Sistemi Ferroviari (TSF), Molina Healthcare, ExamWorks.

7. Arista Networks

Why they’re a leader today? The biggest feather in Arista’s hat of late is being named 2010 Best of Interop Grand Prize Winner for its 7500 Series switch.

No matter how disruptive cloud computing ends up being, the fact remains that it still relies on plenty of traditional hardware like servers, load balancers and switches. Arista’s 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches are designed for “large datacenter and computing environments.”

Arista switches leverage Arista’s Extensible Operating System (EOS), a software layer based on a multi-process state sharing architecture that “completely separates networking state from the processing itself.” The result is automatic fault recovery and the ability to apply incremental software updates that don’t affect the state of the system.

Why they could be on top in years to come? Arista has a head start on cloud switching. The 7500 switch delivers ultra low latency (in the sub microsecond range), scales from 1000-10000 nodes (which was previously not possible at 10Gbe speeds) and requires one-tenth the power of similar switches.

Whether the trend du jour is cloud computing, ultra high-performance supercomputing or green tech, Arista looks to be well positioned.

Key executive: Jayshree Ullal, president and CEO, was formerly SVP at Cisco.

Customers: BBC, Voxel, San Diego Supercomputer Center, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, Northwestern University.

8. Savvis

Why they’re a leader today? Like many other cloud providers, Savvis built its reputation as a hosting provider. In 2002, when Intel decided to exit the hosting business, Savvis was selected by Intel to provide hosting and network services to their clients. Two years later Savvis acquired the assets of Cable & Wireless USA, which included 3,000 enterprise customers, 15 data centers and a Tier 1 backbone. Savvis now has over 2,000 employees and 28 data centers.

Predictably, the company also has a burgeoning cloud-related product portfolio. Positioned in the Infrastructure-as-a-Service cloud niche, Savvis’ platform allows customers to have either a dedicated cloud computing environment or add fractional computing resources as needed.

Why they could be on top in years to come? Savvis makes it easy for customers to get their toes wet with cloud computing. From a SaaS-enablement service that includes an app ecosystem to a VMware-based utility platform and on to traditional cloud hosting and cloud-based services, Savvis’ portfolio makes it easy for customers to expand their cloud commitments incrementally.

The company also has a strong presence in the financial sector, scoring customer wins with the likes of Financial Trading Edge, Xignite and several undisclosed “leading international” financial and investment firms.

Key executive: Phil Koen, CEO, previously served as President and CEO of Equinix.

Customers: Easy Jet, Hallmark, Experian, Trane, Universal Music Group.

9. Enomaly

Why they’re a leader today? Enomaly is one of the first companies to position itself as an Infrastructure-as-a-Service provider. Their Elastic Computing Platform (ECP) is intended to help organization’s “deliver Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) to their customers and internal users to seamlessly bridge computing tasks between their datacenters and public cloud providers.”

Enomaly’s ECP is based on two principles – oversubscription and quality-of-service quota management. Together, these enable Enomaly to deliver “powerful capacity administration.”

Enomaly’s ECP quota system provides a predetermined level of deviation across a specified resource pool of customers. Service providers can oversubscribe their environments allowing for a variety of pricing and costing schemes to be implemented using a model that incorporates usage tiers, QoS tiers, and the ability to provision additional resources dynamically as desired.

Why they could be on top in years to come? Enomaly has been aggressively rolling out features that help differentiate it from potential competitors. For instance, the company recently released the “High Assurance Edition” of the ECP platform, which adds “a unique set of security capabilities” to the platform. Together with the existing “failover as a service” features, the company argues that High Assurance helps address the security concerns that keep many organizations on the cloud sidelines.

Upcoming versions of ECP will “enable multi-data center and capacity broker capabilities (Cloud Brokers), as well as granular reseller capabilities targeting private label reseller clouds.”

Enomaly’s partnership with Ericom delivers a “Cloud Desktop platform for managed service providers.” Enterprises can use this platform to quickly add virtual desktops, add or remove desktop capacity on-the-fly, and realize VDI’s benefits without building out a complex infrastructure.

Finally, the company recently inked a partnership with HP and Intel to deliver an “end-to-end cloud platform for service providers.”

Key executive: Reuven Cohen, CTO and founder, has founded several other cloud-related organizations, including CloudCamp, The Cloud Computing Interoperability Forum and The Unified Cloud Interface Project.

Customers: Orange, France Télécom, The Bank of China, Abacus Data Exchange, Best Buy.

10. ParaScale

Why they’re a leader today? I probably shouldn’t have put ParaScale on this list, but what good is a tech trend without some risk? ParaScale is going through internal upheavals and has failed to raise a Series B round of funding – this according to an undisclosed source affiliated with the company and backed by other recent published reports (see here.)

That said, even if ParaScale bites the dust, it’s possible that another cloud vendor will snatch up this technology and showcase it in their cloud portfolio. As opposed to most of the other vendors calling themselves cloud storage providers, ParaScale does not provide a hosted storage service. Rather, their cloud storage solution is targeted to enterprises, which can then use that technology to create their own public or private clouds.

The software “runs in user space on any commodity server running standard Linux and forms a highly scalable, self-managing storage cloud, with massive capacity and parallel throughput.”

Why they could be on top in years to come? It’s a long-shot now that they will be – at least on their own. However, plenty of tech advances have been built on top of previous failures. Could ParaScale be a good acquisition target for Cisco, Citrix or even EMC? Key executive: Cameron Bahar, founder and CTO, previously led design, deployment, and operation of Scale8’s distributed Internet storage service.

Customers: Carpathia Hosting, Stanford Genome Project.

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