Tech start-ups that should matter

Technologies like virtualization, collaboration and security matter a lot in the enterprise these days, and these companies shine with innovative approaches to them

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In 2007,we designated more than 90 start-ups as worth watching. After a second look, we picked these 10 as offering what matters most in the enterprise -- agility, seamless integration and pervasive connectivity.

3Leaf Systems

Founded: June 2004

Headquarters: Santa Clara

What it offers: The V-8000 Virtual I/O server, an appliance that converts individual storage and networking interfaces from commodity x86 Windows/Linux servers into a single pool, operating on a 10G fabric.

Why we like it: The appliance makes virtual resources appear to servers as if they are locally attached, with full administrative support for network multipathing, port bonding and trunking. The appliance solves the I/O bottlenecks that occur as enterprises add more virtualized servers. "It's definitely a problem to scale up lots of virtual machines on a cluster and not be able to scale up the I/O at the same time. 3Leaf is addressing this," said John Abbott, chief analyst at The 451 Group in our original profile of the company  in August.


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Since then, 3Leaf Systems has made solid progress. It signed on a new CEO, B.V. Jagadeesh, founder of Exodus Communications and former CEO of NetScaler. It joined the VMware Community Source program for closer collaboration with VMware on technology development. It launched provisioning software for its V-8000 Virtual I/O device and was named to a few more "best" lists like this one.

How it got its start: 3Leaf was founded to solve such problems as the low reliability and resiliency of I/O spawned by virtualization. To come up with its name, founder Bob Quinn e-mailed company supporters for ideas. Clover Systems (playing off the idea of a shamrock and Quinn's Irish heritage) was one name suggested, and it morphed into 3Leaf Systems.

Management: Quinn, who moved from CEO to CTO and chairman with Jagadeesh’s arrival, founded and held executive positions with Network Virtual Systems and iMODL. Other co-founders include Scott Lurndal, who previously founded XML PKI company NanoBiz (acquired by VeriSign) and Isam Akkawi, who held lead technical positions at Unisys, nVidia and others.

Funding: $32.5 million in two rounds, from Alloy Ventures, Enterprise Partners, Intel Capital and Storm Ventures.

Who uses the product: Savvis, as well as several financial institutions and a number of Fortune 100 companies.

Interesting fact: John Kelley, former McData CEO, is on the board of directors.

Apatar

Founded: February 2007

Headquarters: Chicopee, Mass.

What it offers: Apatar open source software that lets customers integrate information from in-house applications, external data sources and applications hosted on the Web.

Why we like it: The Apatar tools help applications easily share data without programming. By creating a single data stream out of multiple back-end sources, Apatar also can eliminate storage of duplicate data. Since we first profiled Apatar in April, the company has been steadily growing customers and gaining attention for its tools, particularly for legacy CRM/ERP applications. In November, the tools became available on Salesforce.com's AppExchange directory and the same month the company joined the MySQL Enterprise Connection Alliance, a third-party partnership for the popular open source database. These tools have been likened to Yahoo Pipes for the enterprise — they use a visual interface that lets users drag and drop to build an application. No coding required.

Start-ups to watch

How it got its start: CEO Renat Khasanshyn previously headed Altoros Systems, a distributed product life-cycle management company that ran data integration projects for customers that needed to meld databases and applications but couldn't pay the steep price of tools offered from vendors such as IBM and Informatica. Altoros mostly hand coded each project, which was time consuming and vulnerable to errors, Khasanshyn says. He set out to create an open source data-integration tool that put the kibosh on manual coding. The company earned its name when Khasanshyn had about 20 friends vote on a list of about five short names, each starting with the letter "A."

Management: Besides heading Altoros, Khasanshyn, who emigrated to the United States from Russia in 2001, previously had been vice president of engineering at PriMed, a discount insurance company in Tampa, Fla.

Funding: $500,000 from Altoros, Khasanshyn and co-founder Andrei Yurkevich.

Who uses the product: More than 400 users, including Allianz, Alcatel-Lucent, Amgen, Autodesk, Credit Suisse, University of Massachusetts and WellCare.

Interesting fact: Like Khasanshyn, other company founders and senior managers are Russian.

Attune Systems

Founded: December 2003

Headquarters: Santa Clara

What it offers: The Maestro File Manager family of appliances, which virtualize file-level storage, particularly for unstructured data housed in files created by Microsoft products. The appliances discover the files and handle non-disruptive data migration, server retirement, data consolidation, tiering and global namespace across Windows file servers and network-attached storage.(Learn more about Storage Virtualization products from our Storage Virtualization Buyer's Guide.)

Why we like it: These appliances eliminate the hours IT managers can spend working out how to locate and archive critical files, plus it helps identify file owners, among other nifty management features. "Basically, it virtualizes the file server to the user," said Zak Khalil, MIS manager at Lessard Group, an architecture firm in Vienna, Va., in our original profile.  "It runs with any existing storage. . . . It's very easy to implement, and it works."

Since our profile in August, the company has been beefing up in all directions. It added a lower-cost member to its Maestro File Manager family. It has added new capabilities, such as a text-based interface, policy-based backup and forensic file search. Plus, it landed another enterprise customer, Nvidia.

How it got its start: Attune was founded in response to the explosive growth of unstructured file data and the need to manage such data better. The founders choose its name because they wanted to convey a sense of control and alignment among unstructured data and storage resources.

Management: CEO Alan Kessler held the same position at Intransa and previously was COO at Palm.

Funding: About $40 million from Alloy Ventures, GF Private Equity Group, Quicksilver Ventures, Rock Creek Capital, RWI Ventures, Shea Ventures and Shoreline Venture Management.

Who uses the product: Bluesocket, Central Florida YMCA, Granite Telecommunications, Insulet, Interwoven, Lessard Group, Nvidia, OceanAir, Temple Independent School District and others.

Interesting fact: In February, Attune scored a coup by hiring Thomas Wong as vice president of engineering. This NeoPath Networks’ co-founder has held jobs at Sun and Wang Laboratories, has 29 patents (granted and pending), plus has authored an ECMA International standard on recordable CD file systems.

mValent

Founded: December 2002

Headquarters: Waltham, Mass.

What it offers: The Integrity software tool for capturing and mapping application infrastructure requirements. Integrity models how specific apps use Web, application and database servers. The captured information gives IT the data it needs to tweak the applications for hardware, or vice versa. (Learn more about Application Performance Monitoring from our Application Performance Monitoring Buyer's Guide.)

Why we like it: Configuration management is key for optimal performance. Automating the detection of changes while modeling the configuration necessary for an ideal application state speeds the process of implementing new application environments. Since we profiled it in June, mValent has deepened its partnership with HP. It announced support for Opsware and HP Universal CMBD. Both will resell each others’ products and the integration of Integrity with HP's products means users can add application automation to HP server, network and storage automation wares.

How it got its start: While working at Inktomi, Swapnil Shah, founder and chief strategy officer, saw the need to automate tasks associated with the application layer — to help IT staff stop spending so much time and money on maintaining the status quo and move their organizations ahead. The company name plays off the chemistry term “valency,” which is a measure of the number of chemical bonds formed by the atoms of an element. MValent, representatives say, reflects the stabilizing effect on an IT infrastructure when configuration management automation is applied.

Management: Shah founded the company with James Tauber, known as one of the creators of XML. Tauber is chief scientist. Joe Forgione, president and CEO, is formerly a vice president for Novell and CEO of Eprise.

Funding: $20 million from Polaris Venture Partners, IDG Ventures and Charles River Ventures.

Who uses the product: Berlex, Circuit City Stores, National Grid, Pearson Education, Sandia National Laboratories and State Street Corp., among others.

Interesting fact: mValent was featured at Demo 2004, a Network World conference that showcases unique emerging technology.

NewStep Networks

Founded: January 2003

Headquarters: Toronto

What it offers: The Converged Services Node and other products that perform fixed mobile convergence (FMC). Comprising hardware and software, the company's systems offer a session brokering function that allows a call on a single device (such as a cell phone) to be handed off to Wi-Fi or vice versa. A call also can be transferred to a different device on a different network, for instance, linking traditional PBX calls to Wi-Fi handsets.

Why we like it: FMC allows companies to treat mobile phones like PBX extensions. NewStep gear expands connections to IP phones, softphones and other handheld devices, as well as traditional phones, without requiring a forklift of current hardware. Plus, NewStep says it supports Microsoft Live Communications Server, which means it doesn't simply route calls, but helps provide presence information for Microsoft Unified Communications shops. Since we first profiled the company in January, NewStep has been testing interoperability on a long list of technologies. These include tests of Code Division Multiple Access/Wi-Fi handsets with Kyocera Wireless, GSM/Wi-Fi handsets with Paragon Wireless, Linux handsets tests with E28, and dual- and multi-mode handsets with Hellosoft. It also has proved interoperability with IP PBXs from Asterisk, Avaya and Cisco.

How it got its start: Founders, who saw FMC technology as a “new step” for carrier voice services, spun the company out of Bell Canada to address the emerging market.

Management: The team includes CEO Neil Baimel, who is former CEO of Syndesis, maker of service-fulfillment software for service providers, and Lloyd Williams, vice president of engineering. Williams, formerly a researcher at Bell Canada, has authored more than 25 patents.

Funding: $27 million from Vengrowth Private Equity Partners, Newbury Ventures, BDC Venture Capital, B.E.S.T Fund and Bell Canada.

Who uses the product: Embarq, BT and Bell Canada, plus the company says enterprise customers in Europe are in various testing phases.

Interesting fact: NewStep has filed for more than 16 patents for its Converged Services Node software.

Palo Alto Networks

Founded: June 2005

Headquarters: Alviso, Calif.

What it offers: A different kind of firewall. The PA-4000 Series network devices, introduced in June,  use what the company calls an application-classification technology. This inspects about 450 applications traversing the PA-4000 hardware to apply security rules, regardless of port, protocol or SSL encryption. (Learn more about Enterprise Firewall products from our Enterprise Firewall Buyer's Guide.)

Why we like it: The technology is interesting to enterprises frustrated with perimeter security. The PA-4000 works with traditional firewalls to enforce security rules to important applications. Plus, the founders have security and networking industry pedigrees. CTO Nir Zuk worked on some of the earliest firewalls at Check Point Software and later founded OneSecure, which was acquired by NetScreen Technologies (now Juniper Networks). The company has continued to create market buzz since our October profile, and is being looked at by increasing numbers of enterprise users. Here's one example of what's being said about it in the blogosphere: "Prediction: Fortinet will have SSL inspection on their Fortigate line of products within 12 months. Why? Because their new competition, Palo Alto Networks, has it and Fortinet will need to add it or get kicked to the curb," says Jon Robinson, security industry watcher, on Jon's Network

How it got its start: Over time, CTO Zuk observed that the relationship between ports and applications was diminishing, and he devised a method to look at the content itself through a new type of firewall he had invented. He selected the company name for where he reportedly lives — Palo Alto, Calif.

Management: In addition to Zuk, co-founders include Dave Stevens and Rajiv Batra. Stevens was venture partner at Foundation Capital and previously CEO of Rhapsody Networks (acquired by Brocade). Batra was previously an executive at Peribit (acquired by Juniper), co-founder of VitalSigns Software and an executive at Bay Networks.

Funding: $28 million from Globespan Capital Partners, Greylock Partners and Sequoia Capital.

Who uses the product: Catholic Charities, Constellation Energy (a 2007 Enterprise All-Star Award winner), Mercy Hospital, the city of Seattle, the state of Pennsylvania, The Reserves Network, Nordson and others.

Interesting fact: Shlomo Kramer, one of the more famous founders of Check Point software, and currently co-founder and CEO of start-up Imperva, is on Palo Alto's board of directors.

Scalent Systems

Founded: January 2003

Headquarters: Palo Alto, Calif.

What it offers: Scalent makes real-time data center management software, called Virtual Operating Environment (V/OE). The software adds a layer of virtualization above the hypervisor, or as the company calls it, a "pre-boot" environment. This enables it to do fancy management tricks such as turn the physical hardware on, instantly move virtual machines between VMware ESX Servers even on different LAN switches, or port applications back to a non-virtualized state directly on to Windows, Linux, Solaris. It also works with AIX, Citrix, Windows and Xen systems.

Why we like it: Scalent targets disaster recovery, high availability and virtual machine management. V/OE lets servers — even virtual ones — retain their physical connectivity information to control the hardware and ensure when failovers or moves occur, applications have the right network address, storage access and other essentials. Scalent, profiled in August, has been hot over the past few months, signing on EMC, HP and Unisys as resellers. HP, for example, will resell V/OE to help make its c-Class blade server systems quickly recoverable from operating system or application failures.

How it got its start: The founders noticed the problems caused by manually shifting machines, cables, and network- and storage-access architectures whenever testing, disaster recovery or other changes are made. They named the company for the challenge they set out to solve: scalability.

Management: Benjamin Linder, CEO, was previously with Openwave Systems and Oracle. Andy Laursen, senior vice president of product development, held executive positions at Phone.com and Oracle. Ali Zadeh, former COO of NeoPath Networks (now Cisco) joined as president in October.

Funding: $37 million in three rounds, from Credit Suisse, Hummer-Winblad, JK&B Capital and Pequot Ventures.

Who uses the product: A sampling includes Ameriquest (now owned by CitiGroup), Blackboard, Carilion Health System and Wachovia.

Interesting fact: Laursen, a co-founder, owns one of the largest private photovoltaic (solar panel) arrays in the western United States.

Sipera Systems

Founded: November 2003

Headquarters: Richardson, Texas

What it offers: Internet Protocol Communications Security (IPCS) appliances, which provide VPN, firewall, intrusion prevention, compliance and troubleshooting functionality for VoIP/unified communications networks and protocols, such as H.323, Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), Cisco's SCCP, Wi-Fi/dual-mode phones, hosted VoIP and other technologies. (Learn more about VoIP Security products from our VoIP Security Buyer's Guide.)

Why we like it: VoIP technology is just as vulnerable to security threats as any other. As enterprises convert PBXs to server-based VoIP systems, and consumers cut their copper plain old telephone service lines for VoIP, protecting traffic will become increasingly important. Sipera uses sophisticated protection techniques such as behavior learning, signature and anomaly filtering, fingerprint verification, protocol scrubbing and rogue media blocking, and does so at throughput of 100M to 2Gbps depending on the device. Plus, the company has earned a strong reputation for its VIPER Lab, active in the VoIP security research community. VIPER researchers have been credited with finding more than 20,000 potential VoIP security threats.

In addition, Sipera has partnered with AGN with an aim of securing SIP trunking, and the IPCS has tested interoperable with systems from Avaya and Nortel.

How it got its start: Founder and CTO Krishna Kurapati sold IPCell Technologies to Cisco for $213 million in 2000, then pulled together a team of engineers to begin work on enterprise VoIP security out of a one-bedroom apartment in Dallas.

Management: The company has no CEO at the moment. Ben Scott, a venture partner from Austin Ventures, holds the chairman title. The name, Sipera, stands for the "era of SIP," referencing the popular VoIP protocol.

Funding: $29.5 million from Austin Ventures, Duchossois Technology Partners, Sequoia Capital and Star Ventures.

Who uses the product: Goldsmith Agio Helms (a 2006 Enterprise All-Star Award winner), plus others

Interesting fact: Sipera has a development center in Hyderabad, India.

Tango Networks

Founded: October 2005

Headquarters: Richardson, Texas

What it offers: An appliance named Tango Abrazo that performs fixed-mobile convergence (FMC), linking almost any mobile phone with any enterprise voice system, whether legacy TDM or IP PBXs or hybrids. No client code is needed, nor a wireless LAN connection, not even VoIP, although Abrazo supports it.

Why we like it: A flock of start-ups and big players are getting involved in this move to fixed-mobile phone convergence. The Tango appliance makes full use of features on the PBX itself. Also, the company has no limitations on the type of phone (or PBX) supported, while some rivals require the use of smart phones that have a Wi-Fi adapter and VoIP. Cell phones are registered and provisioned on the appliances, which talk to each other during the call set-up phase using a Tango SIP-based protocol. The mobile phone becomes an extension on the PBX. Tango announced support for IP Multimedia Subsystem, important for emerging advanced carrier services. In August, Tango inked a deal with Strata8 Networks that will provide Tango's FMC service to the enterprise market in nine states. The service is slated for the first quarter of 2008 in selected cities of Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

How it got its start: Founder Andrew Silver says he could never figure out why he couldn’t just connect his existing mobile phone to the corporate voice system already in place. So he created Tango to do that. As for the company name, Silver liked the word “abrazo,” Spanish for “embrace,” the opening move of the famous Tango dance that brings two partners together. In this case, the mobile network and the enterprise phone network are coming together.

Management: In October, COO Alastair Westgarth became CEO. Founder Doug Bartek, who had been CEO, will retain the chairman role. Founder Andrew Silver, an experienced wireless industry executive, is CTO.

Funding: $25 million from Motorola Ventures, Nortel, Signature Capital, TWJ Capital and Meridian Capital.

Who uses the product: Abrazo is in trials with several Tier 1 mobile carriers and in beta tests at select enterprise sites. The company anticipates releasing enterprise customer references in early 2008.

Interesting fact: Although Silver came up with the company name to convey two things — in this case, the mobile network and the enterprise phone network —coming together — as in the opening moves of the tango — he says he is not an exceptionally good dancer.

Xangati

Founded: June 2006

Headquarters: Cupertino, Calif.

What it offers: An appliance named Falcon that performs what the company calls rapid problem identification (RPI). The goal of RPI is not only to determine the cause of performance problems, but also to let IT be the first to know that a problem is occurring. The appliance taps into flow information from protocols such as Cisco's NetFlow, sFlow or cFlow, plus packets from other relevant applications. The technology discovers all IP endpoints and the applications running on them. This enables it to profile the endpoint, be it a desktop, server, storage device, VoIP phone or PDA. The RPI technology finds a baseline of normal behavior and can then alert staff when anomalous events occur.(Learn more about Network Monitoring and Management products from our Network Monitoring and Management Buyer's Guide.)

Why we like it: The appliance is simple to deploy — it merely plugs into an available network port and is seen by the infrastructure as just another endpoint. It needs no probes or agents and the discovery process is automatic. "Xangati helps us stop the finger pointing between the network and server team about where issues are happening," says Michael Gruen, IT project manager for Bernalillo County in Albuquerque, N.M., in our September profile of the company. "It performs endpoint performance analysis without having anything installed on the client and has an appealing price point. As a government agency, less work to deploy and lower price are two big selling points and two less headaches."

Xangati also is targeting VoIP performance management, an application that can't afford to suffer slow performance. Plus its customers are finding creative uses for it. Kerman Telephone uses the device to find, in real time, spammers who are usurping bandwidth.

How the company got its start: Founders Alan Robin and Jagan Jagannathan felt that little progress had been made over the past decade in helping network operations’ teams solve problems on the network, so set to work in building a product that did a one-up on traditional monitoring.

Management: Robin was previously president and CEO of netVmg. Co-founder and CTO Jagannanthan has held executive positions at Reactive Network Solutions, Xerox PARC and Sun. Founder and chairman Rangaswamy Vasudevan was previously CTO for CacheFlow (now Blue Coat Systems) through its IPO.

Funding: $18 million from Walden International and Alloy Ventures.

Who uses the product: Bernalillo County and Kerman Telephone

Interesting fact: Prior to his gig in the corporate world (as a distinguished engineer with Sun, co-founder Vasudevan was a professor of computer science at the University of Calgary.

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