Young companies are emerging as software and service providers in the cloud. These newcomers can help you deploy and manage IT resources in new ways.
As more IT pros investigate their companies' cloud computing options, they run into a crowd of new, relatively unknown vendors. Appirio, Coghead, Kaavo, Mosso, ParaScale, and dozens of other startups are taking their places alongside Amazon.com, Google, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems in delivering IT resources as services rather than packaged products.
Why consider a startup when established players offer cloud services at seemingly lower risk? The cloud computing market is so broad--comprising software, server capacity, storage, middleware, virtualization, security, and management tools delivered as services--that even the biggest vendors can't excel at everything. Startups drive innovation and fill niches, often while pushing costs down and performance up.
"Every so often, you've got to start with a blank sheet," says consultant (and InformationWeek blogger) George Crump about the handful of cloud storage startups out there. "It's very hard to add a significant new capability to existing products."
Venture-funded ParaScale, founded in 2004, has just begun beta testing software, called ParaScale Cloud Server, for creating clustered storage using Linux servers. ParaScale's software can be used by other vendors to offer cloud services, similar to Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3), or by IT departments to create S3-like clouds inside their own data centers.
ParaScale specializes in bulky, unstructured data that's served up on request--video, virtual machine images, and medical images, for example--rather than structured or transactional data. In a typical configuration, ParaScale offers throughput of 100 MBps, which is roughly 10 times the performance of Amazon's S3 service, says CEO Sajai Krishnan.
ParaScale hasn't announced pricing, but Krishnan estimates its software will cost between $1 and $1.50 per gigabyte, including hardware. Compared with a monthly rate of 15 cents per gigabyte for cloud storage services, ParaScale would pay for itself in 10 months in a corporate data center. IT pros need to do their own benchmarks and cost comparisons, but ParaScale's eye-opening claims illustrate how startups get potential customers to take a look.
One-year-old Elastra offers software and services on top of Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). Though users can subscribe to EC2 directly, Elastra offers functionality that Amazon doesn't, such as markup languages for designing and deploying cloud applications.
See Through The Fog
Learn about cloud computing and the implications of IT resources offered as services.
Elastra and other startups serve another important role: providing a software layer and tools that span cloud services from different vendors. Kaavo was formed last year to develop a management interface to multiple cloud services, including those from Amazon, FlexiScale, and GoGrid. The ability to distribute and manage data across cloud services is becoming a requirement for organizations seeking redundancy and vendor diversity.
Startups such as 3Tera, Elastra, and ParaScale are also behind the trend toward "private clouds," an option for IT organizations that want the benefits of public cloud services--fast, flexible provisioning--without all the worries about data protection, governance, and reliability.
In this report, InformationWeek highlights 20 cloud startups--including profiles of eight of them--that offer cloud-based IT infrastructure or software for deploying and managing cloud services.
IT Service Management Must EvolveThe idea of technology being delivered as a service appeals to the 409 IT pros responding to our Service-Oriented IT Survey. But cloud providers are competing for that work, and CIOs are being selective.