10 automation companies to watch

Established players, start-ups develop automation technologies designed to take the 'man' out of manual processes in today’s enterprise data centers

Run-book, IT process and data-center automation companies deliver products to help IT shops reduce manual work, eliminate repetitive tasks and speed problem resolution.

Aveksa

Founded: Late 2004

Headquarters: Waltham, Mass.

Management: Founded by Deepak Taneja, company president and CEO and former CTO and vice president of engineering at Netegrity

Funding: $6 million in June 2004. Investors include Charles River Ventures and Pequot Ventures.

What does the company offer?

The company’s Aveksa 3 software provides an identity- and access-management platform, which provides customers with automated monitoring, reporting, certification and remediation capabilities of use entitlements and roles across an enterprise organization. The Aveksa 3 Enterprise Access Governance Suite runs on the Linux operating system and Oracle’s database. The platform, which competes with similar tools from Vaau, Eurekify and Bridgestream, also comes as an appliance that includes the database. The software, also available packaged as an appliance, automates tasks that deliver critical information, such as who has access to what, how they got that access, whether they should have access and whether security and compliance objectives are being met.

Why is it worth watching?

As IT shops are required to allocate and terminate resources across distributed data centers, it will become more critical to ensure show had access to what and when for management, security and compliance reasons.

How did the company get its start?

Company aims to exploit fact that IT and security managers are struggling to incorporate governance technologies across distributed systems and developed a platform to automate the many tedious, mundane yet critical tasks associated with enterprise access management and auditing for compliance purposes.

Where did the company gets its name?

Aveksa is a Sanscrit word, translated into English it means “insight.”

BladeLogic

Founded: September 2001

Headquarters: Lexington, Mass.

Management: Dev Ittycheria, president and CEO, formerly an entrepreneur in residence at Bessemer Venture Partners and an officer and senior vice president at Breakaway Solutions.

Funding: $29 million in four rounds; the most recent was $7 million in September 2005. Investors include Battery Ventures,Bessemer Venture Partners, Globespan Capital Ventures and MK Capital.

What does the company offer?

BladeLogic offers a suite of software (see “Destination automation”) designed to automate the provisioning of data-center resources and ongoing management of virtual servers and applications.

Why is it worth watching?

Not only has the company added virtual support to its data-center automation portfolio, but BladeLogic also boasts an impressive customer list, including Wal-Mart, Weight Watchers, Merrill Lynch, eTrade, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Key Bank, to name a handful.

How did the company get its start?

Ittycheria brought his experience managing 11 data centers across four continents while working at application service provider Breakaway Solutions to BladeLogic. The experience planted the seed for what Ittycheria saw as a pressing need for a next-generation data center automation platform.

Where did the company gets its name?

Company founders believed blade servers would dominate next generation data centers and that the software they developed would provide the logic to automate and manage the environments.

Enigmatec

Founded: April 2001

Headquarters: London; and U.S. offices in New York and Redwood City, Calif.

Management: Indra Mohan, CEO, previously founded and served as president and CEO of Interweave before selling it to Cognos.

Funding: $6 million in September 2004, $4 million in March 2003, $2 million in May 2002. Investors include Amadeus Capital

Partners Limited, Intel Capital and Pentech Ventures.

What does the company offer?

Enigmatec’s Executive Management System (EMS) software uses policy-based management to automate the allocation of system resources to speed problem resolution in large data centers. EMS proposes companies define the steps that need to be taken to address a problem so its software can execute those steps without human intervention. The software includes its own network of agents and taps into existing management products to identify problems and deploy resources.

Why is it worth watching?

Company executives say the software was developed to address the complex transaction-heavy data centers of the financial ervices industry and today is designed to tackle the complexity of virtual environments. And winning customers such as JPMorgan Chase and Nationwide Insurance is no small task.

How did the company get its start?

CTO Duncan Johnston-Watt developed technology for the financial services industry, specializing in the development of large scale systems, and discovered the means to work with existing products to drive policy-based automation.

Where did the company gets its name?

The founders of Enigmatec turned to Alan Turing for inspiration when naming the company. Turing, a philosopher, mathematician and computer scientist, who in the 1930s laid the groundwork for modern computer sciences with his research. Specifically, Turing provided code-breaking insight on the Enigma machine during the World War II.

FastScale

Founded: January 2006

Headquarters: Sunnyvale, Calif.

Management: Lynn LeBlanc, CEO and founder, previously held positions at Cadence Design Systems, Octel Communications and iReady, after starting her career with IBM.

Funding: $6.5 million in March 2007. Investors include ATA Ventures, Leapfrog Ventures and Hunt Ventures.

What does the company offer?

FastScale Composer Suite promises to roll out the operating systems resources to servers based on specific applications needs, meaning the software promises to minimize the “bloat” in today’s data centers and help IT managers contain virtual server sprawl. The software can provision to bare metal servers or virtual environments, and uses application blueprint technology to deploy only the needed resources in an automated, less error-prone manner than traditional provisioning products.

Why is it worth watching?

As companies build up and tear down physical and virtual resources based on business demand, automation will ensure fewer errors sneak through to production environments and IT staff don’t fall victim to the complexity of virtual environments and roll out unnecessary software components.

How did the company get its start?

Company founders saw a need to address the mass proliferation of servers happening in part because of virtualization and developed technology to automatically provision stripped down images to help customers meets needs without overprovisioning their data centers.

Where did the company gets its name?

The origins of the company’s name are straightforward; its technology promises to help companies deploy data-center resources rapidly.

mValent

Founded: December 2002

Headquarters: Burlington, Mass.

Management: Joe Forgione, president and CEO, formerly vice president of solutions for Novell and president and CEO of content management vendor Eprise.

Funding: $6 million in December 2005, $9 million in December 2003 and $5 million in December 2002. Investors include Polaris Venture Partners, IDG Ventures and Charles River Ventures.

What does the company offer?

Integrity, mValent’s flagship software, captures information about infrastructure requirements for different applications and models how applications use infrastructure components such as Web, application and database servers. The captured information and models inform IT departments how to either write an application or configure infrastructure components for optimal performance.

Why is it worth watching?

Configuration management underlies multiple IT functions. Automating the detection of changes made to configurations and having a model of ideal application state at the ready will speed the process of rolling out new application environments.

How did the company get its start?

Swapnil Shah, founder and chief strategy officer, found while working at Inktomi saw the need to automate tasks associated with the application layer -- to help IT staff stop spending as much time and money on maintaining the status quo and move their organizations ahead. The software proposed collecting data from multiple layers and tracking changes to ensure uptime without additional manual efforts.

Where did the company gets it name?

Borrowing the chemistry term valency -- which is a measure of an atom’s tendency to stabilize its outermost orbits and how the configurations of that atom enables it to bond with others -- mValent representatives say the company based its name on its technology’s ability to stabilize chaotic IT infrastructure environments by automating configuration management with an application-centric approach.

Network Automation

Founded: 1995

Headquarters: Los Angeles

Management: Dustin Snell, founder and CEO, previously worked on product development team at FrontRange Solutions.

Funding: All company activities are self-financed.

What does the company offer?

AutoMate BPA (business process automation) Server includes business process workflows into the server-based software. The product includes tools to help IT managers build complex automation processes by drawing lines between prebuilt tasks within the administration console.

Why is it worth watching?

Though the company has been around for more than 10 years, its most recent releases incorporate business process management and enable IT managers to do more than automate simple tasks. Now the software lets IT managers build complex multistep automation processes that touch on business needs and not just IT operations.

How did the company get its start?

Snell launched Unisyn Software in 1995 with a focus on automation. He later relaunched the company in 2004 as Network Automation to more clearly convey the company’s product that automates tasks on corporate networks and business processes.

Where did the company gets its name?

Snell saw the opportunity for software designed to automate simple, repetitive computer tasks.

Opalis

Founded: 1999

Headquarters: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Management: Todd DeLaughter, president and CEO joined Opalis after heading up HP’s OpenView Business Unit.

Funding: $20 million in three rounds, most recent $8.5 million in November 2005. Investors include Sierra Ventures, VenGrowth, BDC and Royn at $8.15 million in September 2004

What does the company offer?

Opalis Integration Server software integrates with existing tools to orchestrate workflows and automate IT best practices. The software installs on a dedicated server and works with third-party management products, such as HP Service Center, or virtualization vendors, such as VMware, to automate tasks, including trouble-ticket creation and provisioning a new virtual machine. The software requires no agents be distributed, and it works with the APIs provided with third-party software and systems. Customers create tasks once, and the software can be configured to perform the tasks automatically based on triggers.

“We used to do scripting; now we strictly use Opalis,” says Marvin Stone, CIO at New Century Title Insurance in San Diego.

Why is it worth watching?

In its most recent release, Opalis incorporated the best-practice workflows laid out in the IT Infrastructure Library to help companies adopt and adhere to the industry standard framework. The company also boasts more than 1,100 customers, including Toyota, Woolworths, British Telecom and Bank of New York.

How did the company get its start?

The company started provided software for heterogeneous data centers in the late 1990s and has evolved its technology to automate tasks across distributed environments.

Where did the company gets its name?

Opalis is an acronym of sorts: Orchestrate Processes Automate Logic Integrate Systems.

Opsware

Founded: September 1999

Headquarters: Sunnyvale, Calif.

Management: Marc Andreessen, chairman, previously the co-founder and chief technical mind behind the Internet company Netscape.

Funding: Publicly traded

What does the company offer?

Opsware products include Server Automation System, Network Automation System, Process Automation System, Visual Application Manager, Asset Management System, Operational Management Database (OMDB), and later this year Opsware Application Storage Automation System.

Why is it worth watching?

Opsware earlier this year acquired automation start-up iConclude, which company offices say will equip Opsware to provide IT automation and integrated change management across network, server and storage environments. According to the company, iConclude technology complements the existing Opsware suite, working to accelerate and simplify automation projects. Industry watchers say the additional technology could make Opsware an automation powerhouse.

“Opsware can leverage iConclude’s integration into the big four management products to deliver more agnostic automation across heterogeneous environments,” Forrester’s Hubbert says.

How did the company get its start?

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