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Amazon EC2 creator launches private cloud start-up

Nimbula turns any data center into an Amazon-style cloud service

By , Network World
June 23, 2010 11:01 AM ET

Network World - The "private cloud" is a popular phrase in IT these days, but often a meaningless one, with tech vendors slapping the label on any old product that happens to make an existing IT function slightly more efficient.

Logically, a private cloud should act just like a public cloud service – such as Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud - but exist entirely within an enterprise's firewall. Few "private cloud" products actually recreate the functionality of a public cloud, but a new contender in the market called "Nimbula" has a product that, at the very least, can be called a private cloud without causing eyes to roll.

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Nimbula was founded by Chris Pinkham, who led development of Amazon's EC2, a service that greatly accelerated adoption of cloud computing by offering software developers access to raw computing power over the Internet.

Pinkham's start-up, which is emerging from stealth mode Wednesday and has ex-VMware CEO Diane Greene on the board, has built software that lets businesses create their own Amazon EC2-style cloud by pooling together existing hardware.

Pinkham was an Amazon employee between 2001 and 2006, and was initially in Seattle where he ran network operations.

"Through that experience, I decided there had to be a better way of building and scaling this kind of infrastructure," Pinkham says. He set out to build the service that became EC2, with the idea being "to focus on developers in a way that hadn't been done before," he says. "I initiated it and proposed it, and put the team together that built it. It started off as a reasonably independent project, but ultimately it belonged in the Amazon Web Services family."

Eventually, Pinkham moved back home to Cape Town, South Africa for family reasons, shortly before EC2 was announced to the general public in August 2006. The departure was amicable, and Pinkham says leaving Amazon was the right thing for him to do at the time, even though it was a difficult decision.

"I'm ultimately an entrepreneur, not a big corporate kind of guy," he says. "But in some ways I still regret not having been part of the [Amazon EC2] growth, which has just been phenomenal."

Nimbula – which was called Benguela when the company was in stealth – was founded in late 2008 by Pinkham and Willem van Biljon, who was part of the team that built EC2.

The company has $5.75 million in funding from Sequoia Capital and the virtualization vendor VMware. Former VMware CEO Greene is one of Nimbula's four board members, along with Pinkham, van Biljon, and Sequoia investor Roelof Botha.

The software is called Nimbula Director, and is in beta with about six "large international customers in the financial services, technology and healthcare industries," with general availability planned for the fall of 2010, Nimbula says.

Nimbula Director automatically discovers servers, lays down the virtualization technology and control pane software, automatically organizing the nodes into an EC2-style cloud.

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