15 Cloud Computing Firms to Watch: Security, Storage, Apps

Tuesday Apr 26th 2011 by Kenneth Corbin
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Cloud computing companies targeting greater market share in various emerging cloud sectors.

For enterprises considering moving their IT operations to the cloud, the market can feel a little overwhelming. In addition to the major players like Salesforce, Amazon and Google, a bewildering array of startup firms offer tools and services for cloud computing -- and their numbers seem to grow by the day.

Here, we have highlighted 15 promising cloud computing vendors that are carving out a niche for themselves in this emerging arena. Though by no means comprehensive, this list serves as a primer for some of the innovative startups whose offerings range from cloud security and storage to apps and infrastructure.

1) Abiquo: One of the more promising upstarts in the cloud-management space, Abiquo offers a comprehensive hypervisor support portfolio that encompasses leading vendors such as VMware, Microsoft, Citrix and Zend. The firm boasts a support system that provides drag-and-drop conversion for virtual machines from one hypervisor to another in an effort to defang the problem of vendor lock-in.

Abiquo offers a multi-tenancy, permission-based hierarchy that enables enterprises to forge public, private or hybrid clouds spanning data centers on- and off-premises as well as hosted resources.

2) Appirio: San Mateo, Calif.-based Appirio is tackling the challenges of enterprise adoption of cloud computing from both the technology and consulting perspectives. Founded in 2006, the firm has tallied more than 200 enterprise clients that it has helped implement cloud deployments with some of the leading vendors, including Google, Salesforce and Amazon with a portfolio spanning strategy, migration, development and management.

And lately, the company has been on a modest acquisition spree. Earlier this month, Appirio scooped up VMG, a consulting firm specializing in cloud training and learning programs for its third acquisition in two months.

3) Bluelock: An enterprise-focused cloud hosting provider, Bluelock's services are tied to VMware's virtualization technology.

Bluelock can boast that it is a leading VMware vCloud hosting provider, offering both technology and services in the infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) space. Bluelock pitches businesses with a tailored solution for establishing a virtual data center hosted on either a public or hybrid cloud.

4) CloudOptix: Cloud virtualization software player CloudOptix backs its signature MeghaWare product line, offering businesses and individual users an affordable path to creating a private cloud from a variety of vendors. The preconfigured MeghaWare Cloud Appliance portfolio of storage, application and compute clouds promise low-cost deployments that can be set up in less than 15 minutes, while the CloudTop Application suite allows customers to choose among devices, apps and cloud providers, skirting the trap of vendor lock-in. Founded in May 2009, CloudOptix is headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla.

5) CloudSwitch: Billed as an enterprise cloud gateway, CloudSwitch offers software that syncs policies and tools rooted in the data center with a cloud environment, providing security and scalability for businesses looking to maintain both in-house and cloud-based IT assets. Earlier this month, CloudSwitch announced a joint solution with Riverbed to boost performance and security in the cloud while easing the burdens of deployment and management.

6) Kaavo: Kaavo's core product, IMOD, is an application management and deployment tool that promises to expedite the process of bringing server systems online, configuring middleware, and other steps to hasten the transition to a cloud-based environment. Kaavo bills itself as "the first and only company to deliver a solution with a top-down application-focused approach to IT resource management across public, private and hybrid clouds."

Kaavo believes that its application-centric approach is essential to effective management in the cloud, once the apps have been liberated from the server environment, and CEO Jamal Mazhar has recently taken gentle pokes at Amazon and Microsoft for what he sees as following Kaavo's lead.

7) Nasuni: For businesses still contemplating a move to the cloud, storage can be a double-edged sword. The cloud offers essentially limitless capacity, high redundancy and reliability. But when sensitive data resides in the ether, IT managers worry that they are ceding control over how, when and by whom sensitive information is permanently deleted.

And rightly so, says Nasuni, which offers a "cloud gateway" that seeks to marry the best aspects of cloud and on-premises storage through a partnership with leading cloud-computing providers. In March, the Natick, Mass.-based company augmented its Nasuni Filer product with a feature dubbed "snapshot retention," which enables IT managers to set policies governing how long files stored in the cloud should be retained after they are permanently deleted, a boon for compliance-oriented industries such as health care.

Small, deduped snapshots of a firm's working filesystem are cached to local storage infrastructure, sending frequent updates to the cloud provider, offering prompt and complete restoration of past versions of files, directories and filesystems. With the snapshot retention feature, the manager can determine at what point a snapshot is irrevocably deleted.

8) NephoScale: One of the more recent entrants to the IaaS market, cloud hosting provider NephoScale came out of stealth mode in January. NephoScale's public cloud infrastructure platform offers object-based storage, pay-by-the-hour servers and dedicated, on-demand servers. The company touts the CloudScript interface as one of its signature innovations, enabling users to control all elements of their cloud deployment using a single, one-to-many API call.

Most recently, the company debuted its Cloud Computing and Storage Starter Package, inviting clients to kick the tires with a free, one-year trial of a 256 MB cloud server and as much as 1 GB of storage.

"The industry is still in the stage where organizations are doing homework on cloud infrastructure services and this starter package will allow them to become familiar with our services without having to dip into their wallets," NephoScale President Bruce Templeton said in a statement.

9) Nimbula: Not one to mask its ambition, Nimbula is taking dead aim at Amazon's EC2 services with hybrid technology geared for enterprises and service providers. Earlier this month, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company released its flagship product, Nimbula Director 1.0, providing management for both cloud-based resources and on-premises data centers.

Nimbula describes itself as a "cloud operating system company," and was founded by a management team that helped develop Amazon EC2. For smaller deployments of up to 40 cores, Director is available for free download and licensing at the company's website, with an optional fee-based annual support service available for larger systems.

10) Prolexic Technologies: A provider of cloud-based security technology to mitigate DDoS attacks, Prolexic caters to government, enterprise and SMB clients. The firm boasts a proprietary mitigation and control software that it pairs with a global network of "scrubbing centers" served by filtering technologies, high-speed bandwidth, peering and routing hardware to detect and fend off DDoS attacks.

At the end of March, Prolexic received $13.9 million in funding from Kennet Partners, and was most recently rumored to be helping a major electronics manufacturer guard against a DDoS attack.

11) RightScale: Founded in 2006, the software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendor offers a fully automated management platform for cloud computing deployments. RightScale is working to lower the entry barriers to cloud deployments with server templates, a preconfigured, so-called "cloud-ready" mechanism for connecting servers with a cloud environment of the customer's choosing, such as Amazon's EC2.

Most recently, RightScale and Zend Technologies jointly announced a technology for deploying and managing PHP applications in the cloud. The new offering pairs RightScale's cloud management platform with Zend's PHP architecture and its Zend Server in what the companies are billing as an open platform-as-a-service (PaaS).

12) Skytap: In a fiercely competitive space -- self-service cloud automation -- Skytap recently grabbed headlines with the release of a new technology it claimed could establish a secure hybrid cloud, connecting an on-site data center with its cloud, in 10 minutes.

The secret? A point-and-click interface that locks down connections under a VPN and assigns role-based privileges for access and deleting files. Skytap, fresh off a $10 million C round of financing, is betting that it can win with a dead-simple hybrid cloud deployment solution that provides the security of the traditional data center with the scale of the cloud.

13) Spanning Cloud Apps: "Spanning Cloud Apps was founded to become the Norton Computing of the cloud computing era. That is, to do all of the things your other cloud apps should do, but don't." So proclaims the young company specializing in backup services for Google Apps on its LinkedIn page.

Spanning Cloud Apps, founded last year as a spinoff from Spanning Sync, offers its signature Spanning Backup product for a free trial and modest annual subscription, backing up an Apps domain's users' Google Docs, Contacts and Calendar in the cloud. In April, Spanning Cloud Apps received $2 million in Series A funding.

14) Standing Cloud: Another middle-market player, Standing Cloud offers enterprises a simple proposition: "We do the sys admin so you don't have to. Sure, you could handle Web application management. But why?"

The firm offers management services on a variety of big-league cloud operators, along with monitoring, backup and simplified application updates. Forrester analyst James Staten recently noted that Standing Cloud enables users to "deploy myriad open source software solutions to IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service), but goes a step farther in letting you choose from multiple clouds."

15) Zimory: This Berlin-based company offers a technology suite for enterprises to transition virtual data centers into cloud-based infrastructure. Zimory bills its Carrier Grade Cloud Computing portfolio as a comprehensive solution for deploying and managing secure and scalable public, private and hybrid clouds. Zimory is aiming to deliver a flexible, high-quality cloud solution while at once maximizing efficiency by tapping into underused resources. The firm's open technology can scale up to thousands of machines and connect with multiple clouds.

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