Monday, May 4, 2009

Disruptive Early Stage Cloud Computing Start-ups

I was invited as a guest blogger to the Under The Radar conference organized by the Dealmaker media. This year's focus was to track early stage start-ups in cloud computing. The format was simple - each start-up gets six minutes to pitch their company and a panel listens to the pitch and provides feedback. It was a blast! The place was filled with the venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and curious bloggers. I would highly recommend to check out the conference blog, Twitter updates, and watch some of the pitches. I wish I could blog about all the companies that participated in the conference. I have picked few companies - Twilio, Boomi, Zuora, and Cloudkick - based on their potential to cause some serious disruption in the cloud computing space. At the conference, while interacting with several people, the cloud computing felt to be nascent space bursting with energy and enthusiasm. The venture capitalists were drooling for the leads. It felt 1999 all over again.

Twilio commoditizes the telephony skills and uses the cloud to allow the companies to easily build and scale the voice applications without upfront capacity planning and expensive contracts with telco. Twilio has potential to revolutionize how developers build voice applications and allow companies to add a voice channel, by leveraging cloud-as-a-utility, to enhance the customer experience.

Watch Twilio's pitch:

Twilio's presentation:

Boomi's tag line "Connect Once Integrate Everywhere" is a riff on Java's tag line "Write Once Run Anywhere". Boomi is positioning their product Atomsphere as an integration middleware for the cloud that works across SaaS and on-premise systems. Boomi chose a hub-and-spoke architecture against an ad-hoc point-to-point integration. This not only allows Boomi and the partners to continue adding integration connectors without disrupting the core product and customers' deployments but it also allows the SaaS vendors to tap into Atomsphere to connect to other SaaS and on-premise vendors. The revenue model is based on integration-as-a-service - how many systems an organization wants to connect to. This allows Boomi to extract the maximum value out of the integration efforts that can be reused and resold.

Watch Boomi's pitch:

Boomi's presentation:

Zuora wants to be the Amdocs for SaaS and they are getting there much faster than I originally thought. In addition to commoditizing the billing for SaaS they also demonstrated that the cloud is a great platform not only for the edge applications but also for core applications such as billing that the organizations never thought of putting it on the cloud. Organizations are increasingly looking for a payment system and not just a billing system. Zuora does a great job by combining their billing domain expertise with an integration with PayPal. Zuora seems to be an acquisition target for eBay. I can't help notice that the typeface for "Pay" in Zuora's marketing collateral is identical to the typeface that PayPal uses. Coincident? I don't think so.

Watch Zuora's pitch:

Zuora's presentation:

I have used many management consoles but haven't seen a holistic design approach and simplicity in a management console that Cloudkick demonstrated. Three founders built the entire company in four months with $20k investment from Y Combinator and launched it to support other 40 Y Combinator companies to help manage their EC2 instances. Instead of waiting for the cloud vendors Cloudkick solved the interoperability problem by allowing the customers to get an AMI out of Amazon and put it on other cloud provider such as Slicehost. This is certainly encouraging for the organizations who see lack of interoperability as an adoption issue. The cloud management start-ups do run into risk of getting steamrolled by Amazon, but the fast and agile approach of Cloudkick could bring in some great innovation in the cloud management and interoperability domain that we may not see from the big cloud providers in the near future.

Watch Cloudkick's pitch:

Cloudkick's presentation:

1 comment:

cneal said...

excellent post. 3 companies that in different ways demonstrate the opportunities of cloud computing.