12 cloud computing companies to watch

As venture capital market returns to healthy levels, investors flock to cloud startups

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For enterprise customers, IT managers gain visibility into what documents are stored across cloud storage platforms. nCrypted wants to be the platform that will allow companies to enable employees to continue to use those systems, but in a secure way.

pernixdata

Company: PernixData

Focus: Flash virtualization

Management: Co-founder and CEO Poojan Kumar most recently served as head of data products at VMware;

Founded: Co-founder and CTO Satyam Vaghani was VMware's Principal Engineer and Storage CTO.

Founded: 2012

Based: San Jose

Funding: $27M

Investors: Lightspeed Venture Partners, Mark Leslie, John Thompson, Lane Bess, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Investor

Fun Fact: John Thompson is now Microsoft’s Chairman of the Board.

Compute and server resources have been virtualized and network virtualization is underway as well. But what about storage? As cloud computing has become more pervasive in the enterprise, users are running into storage bottlenecks.

“The fundamental problem is how to get storage performance that can keep up with your private cloud and virtualization,” says CEO Kumar. The solution to this problem has been replacing traditional spinning media storage devices with flash, including solid state drives (SSD). But Kumar says that’s not enough. “Just using SSD creates another box that leverage flash,” he says. PernixData instead takes a software approach.

Similar to how compute virtualization works, this “flash hypervisor” essentially decouples the storage management from the hardware. PernixData software currently supports VMware – co-founder Satyam Vaghani was one of the first VMware employees and was CTO of the company’s storage division before leaving to start PernixData with Kumar – but does plan to support additional hypervisors in the near future. The software runs atop any flash storage too, so it’s hardware agnostic, meaning that it doesn’t require any new hardware investments for users to get up and running.

Veritas founder and CEO Mark Leslie, an investor in PernixData and an adviser to the startup, says he was attracted to the ease of use of PernixData.

“It’s a simple software installation drop-in and it allows you to get huge operational performance boost,” he says. “The economics are compelling.”

Salsify

Company: Salsify

Focus: Cloud-based Product Information Management and Exchange for e-commerce websites

Management: All three co-founders formerly worked at Endeca, an e-commerce search and navigation software purchased by Oracle for $1.1 billion in 2011. Salsify CEO Jason Purcell was Endeca's 24th employee and ran its e-commerce business. VP of products Jeremy Redburn ran product management and marketing for Endeca's business intelligence unit. VP of Marketing Rob Gonzalez ran marketing and product management for Cambridge Semantics.

Founded: 2012

Based: Boston

Funding: $8M series A financing; the company had been bootstrapped by its founders before then.

Investors: North Bridge Venture Partners, Matrix Partners

Fun Fact: The salsify plant is a cousin to the dandelion and is the namesake of the company. “It is beautiful, low maintenance, and spreads like wildfire -- all qualities we think the worlds of product content management, syndication, and distribution need,” the Salsify website says.

While working at eventual Oracle $1 billion-plus acquisition Endeca, the three men who would go on to start Salsify were amazed about how much of a problem inventory management was for many e-commerce companies they were attempting to optimize their search results for. There are other businesses out there that will help companies manage product information – Hybris, for example, was snapped up by SAP for $1.5 billion -- but Salsify says offerings from such companies can cost up to a half million dollars to set up. There had to be a better way. And it was through the cloud.

Having product information of e-commerce websites in the cloud is a no-brainer, says Marketing VP Gonzalez. E-commerce companies log all of the products they sell on their website into Salsify’s software, and the system automatically tracks everything that’s needed to know about the products for the consumer. The real value though is how it makes it easier for e-commerce companies to expand the products on their website. If many different e-commerce companies place their products into Salsify’s cloud, then it will be as easy as point and click for another e-commerce outfit to resell a partner’s product on its website. Retailers can upload products directly into the Salsify cloud, and instantly thousands of others retailers will have access to that product.

“There are two sides to this: brands & manufacturers need a way to prepare product information for many different downstream channels, each with unique requirements (images for one must be 500x500 jpgs, for another 1500x1500 .jpgs, one needs a 50-word description, another a 200-word description, etc.),” Gonzalez explains. “On the other side, retailers and distributors are receiving data from hundreds of suppliers and need to be able to quickly validate the information and nag about any errors. Both sides are done largely by hand right now, which is incredibly time-consuming.”

The company just began actively selling Salsify in the summer of 2013 after being founded in 2012, but it’s already raised $8 million from North Bridge Venture Partners and Matrix Partners. “E-commerce isn’t slowing down, it’s speeding up,” says Skok, the North Bridge Venture capitalist who is also an investor in Salsify, explaining the market opportunity for the company. Skok was attracted to the team that is building Salsify given their previous $1.1 billion exit. Skok calls Salsify a core piece of infrastructure to enables transactions in the e-commerce world.

Senior Writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing for Network World and NetworkWorld.com. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW. Read his Cloud Chronicles here.

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