The Troposphere

May 12 2009   8:40PM GMT

Cloud management startups vie for VC dollars

CarlBrooks Carl Brooks Profile: CarlBrooks

Cloud computing is the fresh word on everyone’s lips; the push started in earnest a year or more ago, when Amazon’s Web Services portal came into its own and the reality of instant-on, pay-as-you-go infinitely scalable servers sank in. Now companies that cover the middle ground between your minute-by-minute rental server and the software that actually makes you money are hot topics.

Needless to say, venture capitalists are hungry for cloud companies. Diego Marino of Spanish startup Abiquo says that VC firms have been beating the door down for attention since Under the Radar 2009, April’s startup showboat conference in Redmond, CA. “They are knocking”, he said.

The slump in the US economy has probably done more to stimulate cloud interest than any amount of hype: companies from large to small that were mulling the choice between buying iron or renting cloud space have had to face up to severe bottom-line pressures. The practically zero time and investment costs involved in using cloud and the growing awareness of reliability have tipped the balance for cloud, and big enterprise is slowly but surely hoving over to using cloud technologies in their own data centers to increase utilization and flexibility.

And thus companies who can help manage, deploy and use all these new technologies are all the rage. Here are five shiny new shops to know about, in alphabetical order:

Abiquo:
Open source cloud development and management software: Abiquo released AbiCloud in April, has $400k in funding and prospects for more very soon. The company expects to make money giving away the software to developers and charging for support and development. AbiCloud currently supports VirtualBox, VMware ESX & ESXi, Xen and KVM.

Cloudkick:
Stripped down, intuitive management tools for EC2 instances in a browser format; Cloudkick is angling for admins who want a clever way to keep on top of their cloud. Co-founder Alex Polvi says that they started with $20K in seed money from Y Combinator and coded the project in Python in 5 months. He says the user base is growing fast and “It’s a logical progression” for users to want to buy premium services once they are hooked on the free service. It will be sold just like server instances- by the minute.

enStratus:
Indicative of the current heady state of the marketplace, enStratus started as product development and new features for Valtira, a marketing platform. Valtira honchos David Bagley and George Reese spun enStratus off when it became clear they could use their tools for distributed systems in general and are aimed squarely at companies moving into the cloud. They too, are optimistic about funding.

Eucalyptus Systems:
The bunch who developed EUCALYPTUS, an open source cloud platform out of UC-Santa Barbara are cashing in by offering to help IT shops start build their own data cloud, fully compatible with EC2 and Amazon’s APIs. They have $5.5 million from Benchmark Capital and the support of well established players in cloud, like RightScale. They are head-to-head with Abiquo, but the world is big enough for two free cloud –building software projects, right?

Tap In Systems:
Running from and sold from and used from inside Amazon’s cloud, Tap In is an early example of what will eventually be a crowded ecosystem of businesses inside EC2 space. Built around open source Nagios, Tap In promises support for an increasing number of vendor APIs in the cloud and recently announced partnerships with public cloud providers GoGrid and 3Tera. CEO Peter Loh says they have angel money right now, and they are targeting enterprise users.

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