Where are they now? 2007's IT management start-ups to watch

Virtualization, application and security management companies still cranking in 2008

An update on 2007's picks for 10 IT software management companies to watch: Which vendors took off; which maintained the status quo; and which ones seem to have run out of steam.

A few years back, Network World began its annual tradition of searching the high-tech industry to find promising start-ups that stood out because the companies approached IT application, network and systems management in innovative ways.

The newcomers chosen often become common names across IT organizations, and many others go the way of acquisition when the bigger players catch wind of their advanced technologies. Yet some don't survive the competitive market and simply fade away.

Here's a brief look at what these companies have done in the management market since winning the title of "one to watch" in 2007.  And here's our 2008 list as well as a slideshow highlighting their products: 

Akorri 

Why it made the list: Akorri garnered attention not only with technology to manage storage and servers in virtual environments, but also by bringing in close to $40 million in venture capital funding. The company's BalancePoint software suite collects information about using server and storage resources, and analyzes it to determine how well applications will perform under various conditions. CEO Tom Joyce, appointed in November 2007, managed to win over customers such as CareGroup Heathcare Systems, Monster.com, Northeastern University and John Hancock with the company's premise that storage is not an island and cross-domain management is a must-have in virtual environments.

Highlights from past year: Akorri capitalized on the rush to virtualize with both partner and customer news. For instance, the company signed a global reseller agreement with Dell in which Dell's worldwide direct and channel sales forces are authorized to sell Akorri BalancePoint software. Akorri also secured a contracts with the U.S. Government General Services Administration for IT software and grew its customer base by 200%. A few new customers include AutoTrader, Cambridge Trust Company and the County of Sacramento, Calif.

Aternity 

Why it made the list: Aternity's approach to application management focused on the end-user experience, a metric industry watchers say is more valuable than disparate IT systems statistics. The company's Frontline Performance Intelligence (FPI) platform can help IT and business managers determine when performance slowdowns are due to IT or the business and better prioritize how to fix problems.

Highlights from past year: Since making the list in 2007, Aternity announced a set of packaged FPI products tailored for specific enterprise applications, which the company says will help customers using such applications get more relevant results faster. For instance, Aternity worked to develop products for SAP, Oracle, Siebel, Remedy, Documentum, Microsoft Office/Exchange, Lotus Notes and Halliburton's Landmark. The company also secured contracts with three Israeli insurance companies -- Menora Mivtachim Group, Migdal and Clal -- which Aternity says represent more than 70% of the Israeli insurance market and manage more then $44 billion in assets.

Centromeric 

Why it made the list: Centromeric Data Center DNA platform automates life-cycle management of physical and virtual servers. The software can work with existing management tools and homegrown scripts, and the company offers its technology in both licensed and hosted models. The business model and technology resonated with industry watchers, considering HP paid $1.6 billion for Opsware and BMC laid out $800 million for similar capabilities with its BladeLogic buy

Highlights from past year: While the company's Web site seemed mostly static, it did include information about several partnerships Centromeric established. Companies such as Red Hat, Sun, eGenera, Fujitsu and GridApp Systems were listed among Centromeric's partners. Telephone and e-mail requests for more information on Centromeric's activities in the past year had gone unanswered at press time.

Great Bay Software 

Why it made the list: Great Bay Software's Beacon Endpoint Profiler discovers and profiles all devices attached to a network, which is essential to deploying network-access control (NAC) technologies from Cisco and others. The software packaged as an appliance discovers how each device is attached to the network, for instance which port on which switch or router, and how a device uses the network. Profiler tracks device behavior over time. And Cisco signed an OEM agreement to sell the newcomer's technology as part of its NAC line.

Highlights from past year: Great Bay continued to work with network giants Cisco and Juniper and publicly announced the city of Greater Sudbury in Ontario, Canada signed on with its product to help in the network discovery phase of deploying Juniper's 802.1X security solution.

Indicative Software 

Why it made the list: Indicative's software of the same name performs proactive IT service management -- including end-user experience monitoring -- such as offerings from competitors BMC, CA, HP, IBM and Managed Objects, which was recently acquired by Novell

"The company's true differentiator is that they are actually providing a solution, which quickly installs, monitors and manages right away," Evelyn Hubbert, a senior analyst with Forrester Research, said last year when queried about Indicative's potential strengths.

Highlights from past year: Indicative's promising approach to IT management drove another player to acquire the company in April 2008. Nimsoft officials said they believed the combined company and integrated technologies would enable it to better compete with the larger management players. Industry watchers saw the merger as a chance for Nimsoft to broaden its appeal to larger customers by incorporating Indicative's software into its portfolio.

"Nimsoft has been very successful in the midsize enterprise space, Indicative sells mostly to the largest enterprises, this gives them technology suitable for all sizes of customers," said Dennis Callaghan, an analyst with the 451 Group via e-mail at the time of the acquisition.

MokaFive 

Why it made the list: The company's desktop virtualization technology and LivePC products simplify desktop management for enterprise customers by working with virtualization products. The software provides features such as central management of operating systems and applications and enables desktop systems to be restored to the last best state quickly.

Highlights from past year: MokaFive hired a new CEO, Dale Fuller, who previously served as the CEO of Borland for five years and the interim CEO at McAfee for one year. Also the company enhanced is flagship product, MokaFive 1.5, which includes features that let end users carry their virtual desktop on a USB stick or phone without worrying about security issues such as data loss. And at VMworld in September, the company introduced its application for iPhone, which lets end users carry and run their desktops from an iPhone.

Optinuity 

Why it made the list: Optinuity entered the market alongside companies such as iConclude and RealsOps. The three separately developed run-book automation technologies that the management market desperately needed and that bigger players were ready to acquire. For instance, iConclude was acquired by Opsware, which was later acquired by HP. Then BMC bought RealOps, leaving Optinuity one of the few remaining pure-play automation players.

Highlights from past year: Optinuity enhanced its flagship C2O product with automated policy-based management capabilities and renaming it Oasis. The company says the updated software can enable IT infrastructure to automatically fix itself based on predefined policies in Oasis. Also in early 2008, Optinuity technology was selected by France's Gendarmerie Nationale, a national police force comprised of more than 100,000 people, to assist with the creation of a new data center failover site.

StackSafe 

Why it made the list: StackSafe managed to be included in last year's tally of hot start-ups to watch based on the promise of its technology, which was still in beta testing at the time. StackSafe Test Center, launched at DEMO in January 2008, was designed to provide operations managers with a virtual staging and testing environment that would enable them to understand the impact of proposed changes before rolling them out into production. Because application downtime can cost companies thousands of dollars and the process of building test environments requires too much time, StackSafe's approach of using virtualization appealed to industry watchers.

Highlights from past year: StackSafe has caught the attention of research firms Gartner and Forrester Research, landing on both analyst groups' list of companies with promising technology.

"StackSafe Test Center's unique selling proposition (USP) is based on the concept of the rapid duplication of the existing production environment to provide a test bed in which IT can apply changes and evaluate their impact. The keyword of this USP is 'rapid.' " reads a June 2008 Forrester report. "To emphasize the point, StackSafe packages its Test Center as a turnkey software appliance available under a software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscription licensing model, which effectively minimizes some of the obstacles to adoption: capital investment limited to one server, no dedicated resources, and on-demand availability."

Also the company in September announced it had expanded testing and reporting capabilities for Windows in its product.

Veeam 

Why it made the list: Veeam built its ESX Virtualization Management product suite up from a freeware application, FastSCP, and the ex-Aelita executives heading up the company recognized the value of management in virtual environments.

Highlights from past year: Veeam developed a suite of commercial software applications that built upon its free utility's foundation and also acquired more technology with Nworks in June 2008.

"The acquisition expands our functionality and bridges the gap between virtual and physical management. Nworks' technology connects the physical and virtual world," said Ratmir Timashev, CEO of Veeam, at the time. "If the customer needs to integrate with Microsoft or HP, we have that tool. If the customer just wants to manage VMware ESX Server, we have those tools as well. [The acquisition] enables us to provide a range of capabilities, but our technology doesn't overlap."

Xangati 

Why it made the list: Xangati, with its rapid problem identification (RPI) technology, offered to speed mean time to resolution for network managers. The product, packaged as an appliance, pinpoints the source of problems by using flow information, such as Cisco's NetFlow, sFlow or cFlow. Early adopters reported the product saved them time and energy when troubleshooting performance issues,.

"Xangati helps us stop the finger pointing between the network and server team about where issues are happening," said Michael Gruen, IT project manager for Bernalillo County in Albuquerque, N.M., last year. "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."

Highlights from past year: Earlier this year, Xangati made available its Virtual Task Manager (VTM), an application that provides IT managers visibility into the networked application activity of every end user. The technology brings advanced problem resolution capabilities to help desk operators, the company says, by improving their response times and increasing service staff productivity.

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