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7 hot cloud companies to watch

Getting data onto the cloud is one thing; managing it is another

By Brad Reed, Network World
September 12, 2011 06:00 AM ET

Network World - By now we're all familiar with the big names in the cloud computing industry, such as Amazon, Rackspace and VMware. But there are also a whole host of cloud startups that are coming online to help you manage your cloud services provided by the big players. In this piece we'll profile seven of the top up-and-coming cloud companies that are helping customers do everything from keeping their cloud costs low to implementing their own private clouds to meeting security and regulatory needs.

2010's IT COMPANIES TO WATCH: Where are they now?

IN PICTURES: Cloud companies to watch: A product sampler

Citrusleaf

Focus: NoSQL database management system

Founded: 2009

Location: Mountain View, Calif.

CEO: Brian Bulkowski

Product availability: Version 2.0, now

Why it's worth watching: Citrusleaf wants you to associate its NoSQL database with both reliability and low latency. And while those two qualities are important for most data centers, they're particularly important for a company such as Citrusleaf that powers real-time bidding applications for the advertising industry.

"What is crucial about the advertising business is that you can't go down, you must have extreme reliability," says Citrusleaf founder and CEO Brian Bulkowski. "For instance, say if we were just down for 10 minutes -- that could cost you $20,000. So the fact that we have never had an outage at any customer sites is why people go to Citrusleaf."

The company's latest database product, dubbed Citrusleaf 2.0, launched this past spring and currently has around 10 customers using it. The company says that "the most common deployments" for the database are "terabytes of data, billions of objects, and 200K plus transactions per second per node, with sub-millisecond latency." In other words, Citrusleaf 2.0 moves a lot of data with virtually no latency.

One of the major applications that Citrusleaf 2.0 performs is real-time bidding, a process that the company says "allows advertisers to analyze a site's users individually and to determine in real-time the right ad to serve based on a split second look into that user's buying habits and personal information." So if you're an advertising company that needs to get ads individually placed on sites depending on individuals' tastes and needs, you'll be able to get it up in real-time as the user is loading the page.

The company does this by combining traditional database technologies with a distributed system architecture that contains three key layers: a Client Layer that stores client libraries, a Distribution Layer that Citrusleaf says "is responsible for the cluster communication and cluster management operations," and a Data Storage layer that, unsurprisingly, is responsible for data storage.

"We've built a distributed database where each individual database server works together as part of a distributed system," says Bulkowski, whose company received seed funding in March from Alsop Louie Partners. "That's why this is a cloud-oriented system. If the load is a certain level and you only have four servers they just don't go that fast. That's where distributed technology comes in because you can add servers to handle the load now."

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