10 IT management start-ups to watch

Virtualization, application performance, software-as-a-service among management start-ups' focus areas

Profiles of 10 promising IT management technology start-ups whose products and services can help enterprise IT improve performance and cut costs across diverse environments.

Venture capital is becoming scarce in some tech sectors, but that hasn't stopped these 10 start-ups from delivering new tools for managing IT systems.

See a slideshow highlighting the top 10's products.

Newcomers delivering technologies designed to automate tasks, do more work with fewer resources and streamline operational processes could weather the financial storm better than some. By winning customer accounts with innovative approaches to reducing labor, improving performance and optimizing service delivery, rookies in the management market might earn scarce IT budget dollars. That's why despite venture capital investors being cautious, industry watchers say enterprise IT customers will continue to see new players in the management market.

"Innovation continues to occur for one because it is a large market -- there are a lot of applications and infrastructure that need managing -- and as technologies such as virtualization evolve in environments, we need tools to better manage and support the changes across environments," says Cameron Haight, research vice president at Gartner. "Historically the reasons to invest in management technology include reducing total cost of ownership, improving business and service quality, and responding better to customer demands. That value proposition holds true irrespective of the economic condition."

Here are 10 start-ups whose technologies hold the promise to improve enterprise IT management. (Here's our 2007 list and here's where those companies are now.)

Company: AppDNA 

Founded: January 2008

Headquarters: Chicago and London

Focus: AppTitude application-compatibility testing software helps IT professionals assess application version, operating system and virtualization options before it is deployed to a production environment. The software profiles and models various deployment scenarios and tells IT professionals the impact and technical changes the environment would undergo due to the application deployment without requiring extensive manual testing.

Why it's worth watching: As enterprise companies invest more in server and desktop virtualization technologies, products such as AppTitude will help IT managers determine which applications will perform better and maximize resource utilization on a virtual platform.

"People are trying to determine what the best delivery vehicle is for end-user applications. AppDNA checks dependencies and application attributes to gauge if an application would be suited to a Citrix thin client application, for instance," Gartner's Haight explains. "I've been somewhat surprised that there hasn't been more in the way of such assurance tools for the client environment as it evolves toward virtualization."

How company got its start: Spun out of IT consulting and software business Camwood Limited by founders hoping to develop commercial software that would ease corporate migrations on Windows platforms and promote the adoption of application virtualization technologies.

How company got its name: Reflects the idea of an application having DNA, or metadata, that can be used to help organizations best fit an application in their environment.

CEO: Mike Welling in 1999 founded Camwood and prior to that worked for GE Capital, commercially owning and delivering one of the company's largest global IT projects.

Funding: Foresight Group invested $3 million in April 2003, which Camwood used to develop the product and spin the company off earlier this year.

Who's using the product: AppDNA lists King's College London, Tube Lines (London Underground) and Newham Borough Council (host of 2012 Olympics) as customers.

Company: Apptio 

Founded: October 2007

Headquarters: Bellevue, Wash.

Focus: Developed technology, dubbed the Transparency Engine, that's delivered in a software-as-a-service model on a scheduled basis. The software measures how IT services are consumed and assigns financial metrics to the services to enable IT to establish charge-back programs or better communicate its value to the business, the company says.

Why it's worth watching: "Globalization, consumerization, new competitors and new service models are radically changing the shape of IT. IT leaders must develop greater transparency into the costs, utilization and operations of their IT services," says Barbara Gomolski, research vice president at Gartner.

Haight adds: "With virtualization, charge-back is percolating. IT is looking for ways to manage sprawl and proliferation, and charge-back can be used as a behavior-modification tool in that it makes it transparent to people what resources they are actually consuming."

How company got its start: Founded by President and CEO Sunny Gupta and CFO Kurt Shintaffer, who had previously worked together at iConclude.

How company got its name: Company officials say there is no deeper meaning to the name, but it sounded "crisp and no one else had it yet."

CEO: Gupta previously founded iConclude, a run-book automation vendor later acquired by Opsware for $62 million, which in turn was bought by HP. Prior to iConclude, Gupta ran the Java/.Net performance product management group at Mercury Interactive, also acquired by HP.

Funding: $7 million in Series A funding closed in November 2007 led by Greylock Partners and Madrona Venture Group.  Additional investors include: Ignition Partners; Shasta Venture Group; Marc Andreeseen (co-founded both Netscape and Opsware); Frank Artale (vice president of business development at Citrix Systems and former senior vice president at XenSource and CEO of Consera); and Ben Horowitz (co-founder and former CEO of Opsware).

Who's using the product: Alaska Airlines, Finlay Enterprises, HomeStreet Bank, Motricity, NYK Logistics and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City are listed among Apptio's customers.

Company: BlueStripe Software 

Founded: June 2007

Headquarters: Research Triangle Park, N.C.

Focus: FactFinder software, designed for VMware virtual server environments, performs an automatic discovery of the application and its components. It then details all connections and dependencies of the application, benchmarking normal behavior to enable the software to detect when performance anomalies occur.

Why it's worth watching: Industry watchers predict that application performance will become a key challenge for IT departments deploying virtualization.

"What BlueStripe proposed to do initially, the discovery of applications, is interesting, but what really would do the trick for the start-up is when they can effectively monitor applications within a container, something that very few products can actually do," says Jean-Pierre Garbani, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. "Anything that helps IT in measuring application performance in virtual machines will be very welcome."

How company got its start: Management industry veterans spotted the opportunity to develop technology that could address the performance problems virtualization can introduce into distributed environments.

"The loss of visibility [in virtual environments] is breaking the current management tools, and we've developed a technology that can manage the application wherever it goes, even if part of the application is on virtual systems, part on physical servers and even if part is tied to mainframes," says Vic Nyman, BlueStripe COO and former CEO of configuration management vendor Relicore, which Symantec acquired in 2006. Nyman also held positions with IBM Tivoli software and Wily Technology, the application management vendor CA acquired in 2006.

How did the company get its name: Two company executives graduated from Duke University and two others from rival University of North Carolina, inspiring the BlueStripe name and logo, which features the two college’s shades in "The Battle of the Blues."

CEO: Chris Neal formerly worked as vice president of field operations at Wily Technology (acquired by CA), as well as held positions at Oracle and NetDynamics.

Funding: Initially self-funded; $5 million in Series A funding from Trinity Ventures in December 2007.

Who's using the product: Square 1 Bank, First Vertex Inc. and Mi-Co have signed on. Additionally, BlueStripe is working with finance and telecom leaders.

Company: DynamicOps 

Founded: January 2008

Headquarters: Burlington, Mass.

Focus: Virtual Resource Manager, or VRM, is software that installs on a virtual or dedicated server and communicates with interfaces from hypervisor vendors such as Citrix, Microsoft and VMware. VRM queries the environment to find available resources and enables IT managers to use a console to allocate virtual resources and assign permissions.

Why it's worth watching: "Essentially DynamicOps is automating virtual machine provisioning in a way that really delivers a business service, rather than just an IT management tool," says Andi Mann, research director at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA).

Being a start-up, the company will be challenged to win budget dollars against myriad management competitors, but Mann adds: "It is very heterogeneous, with support for VMware, Citrix, Microsoft (Virtual Server and Hyper-V) and Solaris (LDOMs and Containers), across Windows, Linux and Unix. It also has a lot of functionality, controlled from a very clean GUI that appears to be extremely intuitive and easy to use. So it has an opportunity to grab a good deal of business."

How company got its start: The technology was developed by Credit Suisse's Global Research and Development Group. The software has been in production for more than two years, managing thousands of virtual desktops and servers at multiple Credit Suisse data centers in four locations worldwide.

How company got its name: Company founders based the name on the premise of dynamic operations in lights-out data centers.

CEO: Rich Krueger, formerly the executive vice president of business development and international sales at Incipient, a storage virtualization company. Prior to Incipient, Krueger served as vice president of business development for LightSpeed Software.

Funding: Funded by Credit Suisse's Next II venture group.

Who's using the product: Company officials say DynamicOps has about 10 customers, with another 20 in proof-of-concept trials. They declined to name any.

Company: Hyper9 (formerly InovaWave)

Founded: October 2007

Headquarters: Austin

Focus: Hyper9 search software is software that installs on a Windows server, though the company plans to offer it as a virtual appliance in the future. The product uses five data collection methods to gather configuration, patch and other data on virtual and physical machines. To collect data, Hyper9 inspects VMware VirtualCenter database, VirtualCenter via an API, host servers, virtual machines and the sessions within the virtual machines. The software aggregates data and presents it through a Web-based interface, coupling the search results with business intelligence metrics and potential actions to take in response to search results. The company makes the search platform available for free.

Why it's worth watching: "Hyper9 is addressing one of the biggest problems in virtualization -- the complexity that is apparent in virtual machine sprawl and inconsistent configurations," EMA's Mann explains. "Hyper9 allows operators and administrators -- even less skilled staffs -- to find and compare detailed virtual machine configuration information and even control the virtual machines themselves with stop, start, pause, migrate, clone, snapshot and other capabilities."

How company got its start: Company founder and CTO Dave McCrory, who formerly worked at virtual automation vendor Surgient, wanted to develop a system the would quickly deliver the relevant data IT managers needed to more quickly solve performance problems and better understand the components of their virtual infrastructure.

How company got its name: The hyper prefix means "over, above and beyond" and denotes the top layer or super level, as in hypervisor. Nine represents the top or limiting number, denoting the upper boundary.

CEO: Chris Ostertag, also president, formerly worked as vice president of worldwide sales and field operations for data encryption and compliance vendor Credant. Prior to that, he led Sun's worldwide team of more than 4,500 technical sales experts.

Funding: $8.5 million in funding from Matrix Partners and Silverton Partners in October 2007 and an undisclosed amount in an addendum to the earlier round from Maples Investments in August 2008.

Who's using the product: While they couldn't reference customer names publicly, company officials say they expect to have more than 100 companies using the product by year-end.

Company: New Relic 

Founded: January 2008

Headquarters: Menlo Park, Calif.

Focus: RPM, or Rails performance management, software is delivered as a service. IT managers install a plug-in on the Ruby on Rails application they want to manage and the application delivers performance data back to New Relic for presentation and correlation. RPM has three paid subscription levels (Bronze, Silver and Gold) and RPM Lite, which is free.

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