Cloud // Software as a Service
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1/16/2009
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Innovators & Influencers

A SaaS trailblazer, a REST activist, a firewall revisionist, even a president will all shape technology in the coming year.

Kirill Sheynkman
Demystifying The Cloud

Kirill Sheynkman -- Photograph by Kim Kulish Perception: Cloud computing is a no-fuss, hands-off way of provisioning software and servers.

Reality: Cloud computing requires enterprise-class application design and policy management.

Kirill Sheynkman, founder, president, and CEO of startup Elastra, recognized earlier than others the gap between perception and reality in the cloud. Elastra's Cloud Server, introduced last year, sits between Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud and cloud-based applications, providing a level of control that IT departments require as they move from early-adopter trials to full-blown cloud computing.

After his last startup, portal vendor Plumtree Software, went public in 2002, Sheynkman went into pseudo-retirement. He moved from San Francisco to New York, where he traded stocks and played World of Warcraft from a home office, while his wife worked as a venture capitalist investing in medical devices in the Big Apple.

A native of St. Petersburg, Russia, Sheynkman immigrated to the United States when he was 11 years old, studied at Stanford and UC Berkeley, and, over the past 20 years, has earned his stripes in enterprise software. Prior to Plumtree, he co-founded Stanford Technology Group, a developer of online analytical processing software, and did stints at Oracle and Microsoft.

As he contemplated the emergence of cloud computing, Sheynkman says an epiphany came when he realized that software and virtualization could be used to "create" hardware. "In enterprise software, there aren't that many exciting things," he says. "This is one of them."

The ability to launch virtual software stacks on remote servers with point-and-click ease represented a breakthrough, but Sheynkman knew that underneath that veneer of simplicity were Web servers, application servers, database clusters, enterprise service buses, and storage. In 2007, he returned to the Bay Area to launch Elastra and create tools for managing applications across those resources. Last August, Amazon.com joined Bay Partners and Hummer Winblad in a $12 million second-round investment in Elastra.

Elastra is now developing a version of its Cloud Server for private clouds. Says Sheynkman, "Enterprise IT is not dead, it does matter, and we're here to make it more efficient, productive, and service-oriented."

-- John Foley

Photograph by Kim Kulish

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