10 start-ups to watch in '09

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These 10 companies offer interesting twists on everything from managing application performance across a virtual infrastructure to adopting public Web 2.0 technologies for use in the enterprise.


Flip through a slide show of these start-ups and their product highlights.


Arista Networks

Founded: October 2004

Location: Menlo Park, Calif.

What it offers: The Arista 7148SX, a high-density, 10 Gigabit Ethernet data-center switch with a customizable network operating system. (Get results of our 10Gbps access switches.

Why we're watching it: Arista is as notable for its people as for its technology. Andy Bechtolsheim, Sun co-founder and former chief architect, co-founded Arista and serves as the company's chief development officer. Arista CEO Jayshree Ullal most recently ran Cisco's $10 billion Data Center, Switching and Services Group - experience that could prove crucial as Arista (formerly known as Arastra) challenges Cisco for switching supremacy. Arista will try to lure customers with blazing-fast switches that pack 48 10Gig Ethernet ports into one rack unit for a relatively inexpensive $400 per port. Arista's founders expect such products as the company's switches to become more important over the next year with the development of next-generation servers capable of taking full advantage of 10Gig Ethernet speed and new applications requiring greater bandwidth and lower latency. (He continues his relationship with Sun in a part-time advisory role.

How the company got its start: The founders saw a need for high-density, cost-effective 10Gig Ethernet products that could provide such benefits as improved network performance and lower latency.

How the company got its name: Arista is from the Greek word meaning "the best."

CEO: Ullal left Cisco in May 2008 after 15 years at the company. An industry icon, she was named one of Network World's 50 most powerful people in 2005.

Funding: Undisclosed amount from Bechtolsheim and David Cheriton, a Stanford University professor of computer science and electrical engineering who is widely known in networking and distributed systems.

Who uses its product: Customers include BitGravity, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Northwestern University.

Axxana

Founded: September 2005

Location: Tel Aviv, Israel

What it offers: Phoenix, a 400-lb. "black box" designed to protect an enterprise's most critical data from terrorist attacks and natural disasters, then transmit that data wirelessly in the wake of such an event. Axxana is expected to deliver Phoenix early this year.

Why we're watching it: Using flash memory in a box designed to survive anything short of nuclear attack, Axxana's Phoenix represents a new mode of data protection and disaster recovery. "It's very telling of the times that we would consider products of this type," says analyst Arun Taneja, founder of Taneja Group, who says Axxana's approach impresses him but notes that the company faces a big challenge in convincing enterprises that its product is as reliable as it claims. After all, if a disaster happens and "it doesn't work, it's too late," he says.

How the company got its start: Founders wanted to solve problems inherent in synchronous and asynchronous mirroring. While asynchronous mirroring allows replication of data to another site no matter how far away, some bits of data get lost. Synchronous mirroring transmits data without loss, but the technology is limited to a distance of about 45 miles, affects application performance and is expensive.

How the company got its name: Axxana means storage in Hebrew.

CEO: Eli Efrat is a serial entrepreneur who co-founded Axxana and Veon, a digital video and Internet company acquired by Philips Electronics. He also served as CEO for mobile instant-messaging vendor MessageVine.

Funding: $5 million in one round, closed June 2007, from Gemini Israel Funds.

Who uses its product: Companies in the financial, government, healthcare, manufacturing and retail industries have expressed interest in Phoenix, which also could be attractive to data-center service providers, Axxana says.

BlueStripe Software

Founded: June 2007

Location: Morrisville, N.C.

What it offers: FactFinder, software that helps IT manage application performance and availability when a company uses VMware virtual servers.

Why we're watching it: FactFinder automatically details all components and processes an application connects to and depends on, following an application through physical and virtual environments and detecting performance problems. With virtualization gaining adoption in both large and small businesses, this capability will become ever more crucial. The BlueStripe technology works only with VMware, but the company plans to add support for Citrix Systems and Microsoft virtualization products. BlueStripe's technology is promising, but the vendor may find it difficult to cut through the widespread hype about virtualization. For example, the most recent VMworld conference attracted more than 200 sponsors and exhibitors. (View a slide show on 10 ways to get blazin' apps.) 

How the company got its start: By making visible the relationships among applications and their underlying physical and virtual infrastructures, the founders hoped to alleviate common concerns about moving business applications onto virtual machines.

How the company got its name: The founders attended rivals Duke University and the University of North Carolina, so they placed the colleges' team colors (two shades of blue) in the company's logo.

CEO: Chris Neal, a co-founder, was vice president of field operations at Wily Technology. While there, he helped guide the company through a major growth period culminating in Wily's 2006 acquisition by CA.

Funding: $5 million in one round, closed December 2007, from Trinity Ventures.

Who uses its product: Square 1 Bank, among other companies in the financial, insurance and telecom industries.

FastSoft

Founded: March 2006

Location: Pasadena, Calif.

What it offers: FastSoft E Series, an appliance that accelerates the speed of data transmissions over the wide area.

Why we're watching it: At first glance, FastSoft might be confused with other WAN-acceleration wannabes, writes Larry Chaffin, a consultant and Network World Cisco Subnet blogger. FastSoft, however, distinguishes itself in part by requiring that only one box be installed in the data center, he notes. FastSoft's technology requires no hardware or software at the data's destination points, and accelerates transfers by optimizing the TCP protocol to be more intelligent in pacing and maintaining the flow of the data, the vendor says. FastSoft promises to improve transmission speeds by as much as a factor of 30, without requiring that the data's endpoints be controlled or that caching or compression be used. (Compare Application Acceleration and WAN Traffic Optimization products.) 

How the company got its start: The founders wanted to solve the problems related to TCP's packet-loss limitations, noting that "the transfer of large files is seriously hindered by TCP, the protocol that governs more than 90% of Internet traffic."

How the company got its name: Derived from "fast software," referring to the company's first product, software called FastTCP.

CEO: Co-founder Steven Low is acting CEO. He is a professor of computer science and electrical engineering at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), where he developed FastSoft's technology with fellow co-founder Cheng Jin.

Funding: $4.3 million in a first round, closed June 2007, from angel investors, Caltech and Miramar Venture Partners.

Who uses its product: Customers include Getty Images, Technicolor's digital distribution division and Honda, which uses FastSoft to transfer large files between Los Angeles and Tokyo.

RingCube Technologies

Founded: October 2005

Location: Mountain View, Calif.

What it offers: vDesk, desktop virtualization software that gives users remote access to a personalized desktop from any computer, through such devices as USB drives or BlackBerry PDAs. (View a slide show of desktop virtualization tools.) 

Why we're watching it: RingCube's unique architecture improves the mobility of desktop virtualization and reduces storage requirements, says Chris Wolf, a Burton Group analyst. Unlike VMware's desktop virtualization offering, which creates a separate Windows operating system installation for each desktop instance, vDesk uses the existing Windows operating-system kernel, reducing storage needs and Windows licensing costs, Wolf says. In the future, RingCube will have to show vDesk's scalability and integration with such management platforms as HP OpenView, he says.

How the company got its start: The founders wanted to free users from being tied down to a single PC containing all their applications, data and personalized settings.

How the company got its name: Originally it was called RingThree, referring to the outer protection ring in x86 processors. Then the founders replaced "three" with "cube," referring to the mathematical process of raising a number to the third power.

CEO: Pete Foley, chosen for his success in expanding start-ups and small companies, was most recently CEO of security vendor Port Authority Technologies (now WebSense).

Funding: $16 million, including a $12 million second round closed March 2007, from New Enterprise Associates and Mohr Davidow Ventures.

Who uses its product: Adobe, Intelligent Software Solutions, Regis University and Southcoast Community Bank.

Skytap

Founded: August 2007

Location: Seattle

What it offers: The Skytap Virtual Lab Platform, an Internet-based virtual laboratory for application development and testing or IT-operations testing. With just a Web browser, users can upload their own virtual machines and run them on Skytap's service or access "prebuilt virtual-machine images of major operating systems, databases, applications and test tools," Skytap says.

Why we're watching it: Skytap offers more lab-testing options than existing cloud-computing services such as Amazon.com's Elastic Compute Cloud, says John Bass, a Network World tester and technical director for Centennial Networking Labs at North Carolina State University. "With EC2, it's more like 'here are the things you can do,'" Bass says. "With Skytap, you have the ability to modify the images that run on the virtual machines. You can change the browser and the operating system parameters. It's much more flexible." An appropriate Skytap package might cost considerably more than EC2, Bass says, but could eliminate a company's need to buy a bunch of servers for testing a large-scale application deployment.

How the company got its start: Skytap was founded by University of Washington professors who wanted to make virtual machines easily accessible over the Internet and simplify the process of running an IT lab.

How the company got its name: Meant to suggest tapping into the unlimited computing resources available through the cloud.

CEO: Scott Roza, who was chosen for his strong track record with start-up companies, as well as his technology and marketing expertise, the company says. He was previously vice president of worldwide OEM and channel sales with Opsware, then at HP, which acquired Opsware in October 2007.

Funding: $6 million in one round, closed August 2007, from Bezos Expeditions, Ignition Partners, Madrona Venture Group and Washington Research Foundation Capital.

Who uses its product: AdmitOne Security, Building i, Resolute Software, Savvis and VDIworks.

Soonr

Founded: May 2005

Location: Campbell, Calif.

What it offers: Soonr is a Web-based service that lets mobile workers access and use documents from their office computers through other Internet-connected devices, computers, BlackBerries and iPhones.

Why we're watching it: Soonr promises to make sharing, reviewing, revising, printing and sending documents easier for on-the-go workers. "Soonr is trying to address the issue of anywhere and anytime access to information. It's very easy to state that, and it's very hard to actually do it," says Gerry Purdy, a Frost & Sullivan mobile and wireless analyst. Soonr is helping enterprises inch along the path toward giving users a "cloud" of information they can access from anywhere, but it can expect heavy competition, particularly if traditional backup vendors move in this direction, he says.

How the company got its start: While working for NetObjects, co-founder Martin Frid-Nielson faced numerous communications and collaboration challenges managing five offices on three continents. He felt these challenges could be solved through the better use of mobile technology.

How the company got its name: The service lets mobile workers get their work done sooner.

CEO: Patrick McVeigh has extensive experience with mobile technology, having been CEO of PalmSource, a maker of mobile-handset operating systems; and founder and CEO of OmniSky, which provided wireless data services to such carriers as AT&T Wireless and Verizon.

Funding: $16.5 million, including a $10.5 million second round closed January 2008, from backers Cisco, Clearstone Venture Partners, Intel Capital and Presidio STX.

Who uses its product: CSL, Meltwater and Telia. Soonr's technology also is delivered as part of Cisco's WebEx PCNow remote desktop access product.

Symplified

Founded: September 2006

Location: Boulder, Colo.

What it offers: Symplified Access, a Web-hosted, subscription-based access-management program that offers single sign-on (SSO) and compliance capabilities for software-as-a-service (SaaS) and in-house Web applications.

Why we're watching it: As SaaS takes on a greater role in the enterprise, Symplified will help allay concerns about using software that's outside the firewall by controlling who may use applications and how. "What is interesting about its approach is that it uses a SaaS framework itself," says Jeffrey Kaplan, who runs the consulting firm ThinkStrategies. "You buy it on a subscription basis . . . and scale it up or down based on your needs," he says. Symplified's biggest challenge is competition, with such companies as Conformity, OutProtect, Ping Identity and Tricipher also tackling SSO control of access to software-as-a-service applications, he says.

How the company got its start: Founders wanted to solve the problem of providing identity and access management for Web applications without great cost and complexity. (Read about SSO best practices.) 

How the company got its name: "Symplified" was chosen because co-founder Eric Olden believes that "the single biggest barrier to enterprise IT is complexity."

CEO: Olden founded Securant Technologies, which made the Web access-management product ClearTrust and was acquired by RSA Security in 2001. He co-authored the AuthXML standard, which forms the core of the Security Assertion Markup Language standard.

Funding: $7 million, including $6 million in a second round closed October 2007, from Allegis Capital and Granite Ventures.

Who uses its product: Symplified is targeting large enterprises that use multiple SaaS applications; several are in pilot tests, the company says.

WorkLight

Founded: February 2006

Location: New York

What it offers: WorkLight, a series of server software products that securely transfer corporate data to popular consumer Web-based applications, such as Facebook, and devices, such as the iPhone.

Why we're watching it: WorkLight will make it easier for enterprises to adopt Web 2.0 technology by connecting them to existing collaboration technologies widely available on the Web. Instead of buying and installing a separate social-networking software package, for example, London's Standard Chartered Bank settled on WorkLight because it enables the secure use of Facebook - which many of its workers already used. WorkLight lets businesses use such Web tools as Facebook in such a way that sensitive data is never visible to non-employees and is not stored on public servers.

How the company got its start: The founders wanted to bridge the gap between business computing and the enjoyable, easy-to-use aspects of home computing in the Web 2.0 era.

How the company got its name: The founders believe work should be easy, or "light," with the use of lightweight applications that solve persistent business problems.

CEO: Shahar Kaminitz, a co-founder, was previously a senior executive at Amdocs, where he started that company's e-business applications group.

Funding: $17 million, including $12 million in a second round closed April 2008, from Genesis Partners, Index Ventures, Pitango Venture Capital and Shlomo Kramer, a security industry executive.

Who uses its product: Undisclosed.

Zscaler

Founded: November 2007

Location: Santa Clara, Calif.

What it offers: Zscaler's Web-based security service, the Global Security Network, eliminates the need for multiple point-security products by redirecting an enterprise's Web traffic to one of Zscaler's data centers and blocking or allowing traffic based on policies determined by that company.

Why we're watching it: With data centers distributed throughout the United States and worldwide, Zscaler has done an excellent job building a scalable infrastructure to support customers without a noticeable performance hit, says Peter Firstbrook, a Gartner analyst. "Obviously, Web threats are very hot right now, and so is outsourcing and reducing IT spending. All those things play into its favor," he says.

Businesses based in a single physical building may not need Zscaler, but the service is ideal for customers that have to support mobile users, home PCs or branch offices, Firstbrook adds.

How the company got its start: Founder and CEO Jay Chaudry wanted to simplify the typical enterprise gateway, which he says is cluttered with too many hard-to-manage security products.

How the company got its name: Z stands for "zenith," signifying the highest levels of scalability.

CEO: Chaudry is a longtime entrepreneur and technology executive who launched the companies Air2Web, AirDefense, CipherTrust, CoreHarbor and SecureIT. He also has held executive roles at IBM, NCR and Unisys.

Funding: Zscaler is funded privately by its founders.

Who uses its product: AirTel, The Weather Channel, Wipro and Xoriant.

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