15 cloud companies to watch

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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.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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