As the cloud matures, many businesses are finding that not every application belongs in public clouds. Due to regulatory issues, security risks, data ownership concerns, and fears of cloud lock-in, many applications are stubbornly rooted in on-premises architectures.
The startups in this roundup understand that, and rather than trying to sweet talk enterprises into forklift upgrades, these startups are willing to work under hybrid-cloud constraints.
The startups below federate data, making it available from any cloud to any application; provide application virtualization software, which enables enterprises to move workloads to and from various clouds at will; provide cloud file systems that optimize and mobilize data, and much more.
One thing to note: We did include a few hybrid cloud storage startups, and even a data analytics one, because they all operate at infrastructure levels or they push infrastructure features up to the application layer. They are cloud-enabling tools, in other words, rather than add-ons, enhancements or cloud-delivered ones. Click here to see how we chose the 10 startups to watch.
The 10 startups below are redefining what the hybrid cloud is, enabling enterprises to quickly and cost-effectively adopt new data-intensive technologies such as IoT, AI, Big Data, machine learning and more.
What they do: Provide application virtualization and hybrid-cloud management software
Year founded: 2014
Funding: $6 million in seed and Series A funding from KPCB and Costanoa Ventures
Headquarters: San Jose, Calif.
CEO: Rahul Ravulur, who previously led the product management team for availability products at VMware
Problem they solve: Moving complex business-critical applications to the cloud is a challenging, labor-intensive process. AppOrbit argues that for most companies a full transition to the cloud is too expensive and time-consuming to justify the benefits. Migration, security, networking and data ownership issues, to name only a few headaches, undermine the perceived advantages of the shift.
How they solve it: AppOrbit eases the transition to the cloud by pushing virtualization up the OSI stack from the infrastructure layer to the application layer. “Just as VMware freed the OS from the underlying bare metal, AppOrbit frees applications from the underlying OS and bare- metal infrastructure,” said AppOrbit’s VP of Marketing & Strategy, David Morris.
AppOrbit provides three products to help enterprises virtualize and containerize business-critical apps to move them to the cloud:
- AppPorter is a legacy application modernization platform that analyzes and transforms legacy applications into containerized applications that can be transitioned into the cloud.
- AppVizor is an application management and development platform that facilitates the continuous development of modernized and cloud-native applications. AppVizor creates a layered container structure to accelerate the development and deployment of new features and functionality.
- AppSwitch virtualizes network and security configuration, control and management at the application layer rather than at the traditional infrastructure layer. This approach frees applications from the typical infrastructure/cloud lock-in efforts by existing vendors.
Competitors include: Docker, VMware, RedHat and Cisco
Customers include: Airtel, Ericsson, AutoDesk, Micron and Vodafone
Why they’re a hot startup to watch: AppOrbit has a strong senior leadership team with plenty of exit experience. CEO Rahul Ravulur participated in the due diligence for several VMware acquisitions, and David Morris, vice president of marketing and strategy, helped lead exits including Kazeon’s acquisition by EMC, Cetas’ acquisition by VMware, and EMC/VMware’s divestiture of Pivotal.
Even though AppOrbit has only raised $6M to date, they already have big-name customers like Ericsson and Vodafone. The company pushes virtualization up the stack to the app layer, freeing enterprises from the inevitable trade-offs that come with vendor-lock.
What they do: Provide a data-lake-intelligence platform for hybrid clouds
Year founded: 2013
Funding: $45 million from Wells Fargo, Industry Ventures, Storm Ventures, UMC, Comcast and XSeed Capital
Headquarters: San Mateo, Calif.
CEO: Chris Lynch. Prior to AtScale, Lynch co-founded and served as a general partner at Accomplice, a venture-capital firm that invests in early stage tech companies. Before that, he held leadership roles at tech startups including Vertica, Acopia Networks and Arrowpoint Communications.
Problem they solve: Hybrid clouds have a data problem. As businesses embrace Big Data, AI and automation, they still run into roadblocks when it comes to freeing data from application silos. Even if they are able to free data, the next obstacles they face are often security and privacy.
How they solve it: AtScale’s OLAP (online analytical processing) software is built on Hadoop and is designed to automatically federate disparate data silos into a unified data lake, helping enterprises use cloud architectures to modernize applications and accelerate AI, Big Data, machine learning and other data-intensive initiatives.
AtScale is a self-provisioned environment for customers who are either migrating to the cloud or running business intelligence (BI) across hybrid-cloud environments.
AtScale is deployed as a layer on top of application databases, creating a “universal semantic layer” that enables end users to query the newly federated data from BI tools (Tableau, Microsoft Excel, PowerBI), as well as from custom APIs. Data is shielded by several security protections, including encryption, masking and role-based access policies.
Competitors include: Dremio, Databricks, Arcadia Data and Xplenty
Customers include: TRAC Intermodal, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Home Depot, Visa, Toyota and GlaxoSmithKline
Why they’re a hot startup to watch: AtScale might fit more in a Big Data roundup, but its focus on creating a middle Universal Semantic Layer is compelling.
AtScale landed a capable new CEO Chris Lynch at the end of June. Before joining AtScale, he led Vertica to its acquisition by HP. After he left HP, he co-founded the venture firm Accomplice, where he invested in DataRobot (where he serves as Chairman), Sqrrl, Hadapt (acquired by Teradata), Nutonian, and others.
The startup has raised $45 million in funding, and named customers include several Fortune 500 companies.
What they do: Provide hybrid-cloud file storage for the enterprise
Year founded: 2013
Funding: $70+ million from Battery Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, CE Ventures and strategic investors including Dell EMC, Cisco, and Western Digital
Headquarters: Santa Clara, Calif.
CEO: Erwan Menard, who previously served as President and COO at Scality
Problem they solve: While cloud adoption in the enterprise continues to rise, many organizations struggle to embrace the cloud in ways that make sense for their particular use cases. Too often, cloud infrastructure feels like a one-size-fits-all proposition, and many organizations worry about releasing their sensitive data to third-party cloud providers.
How they solve it: The Elastifile Cloud File System (ECFS) is software-defined data infrastructure designed for the efficient management of dynamic workloads across heterogeneous environments. Elastifile’s data fabric allows users to dynamically shift data between on-premises and cloud environments, scaling storage infrastructure as needed. By exposing data in the cloud via an enterprise-grade file system, Elastifile enables customers to run existing applications in the cloud without needing to refactor them.
Elastifile also manages data tiering between its file system and object storage. Its cloud infrastructure can be dynamically spun up (or torn down) on demand, enabling enterprises to closely match infrastructure spending to business need, and it provides granular data monitoring and policy-based controls.
Competitors include: Incumbents like NetApp and Dell EMC as well as startups like Cohesity, Rubrik and Weka.IO
Customers include: eSilicon Corp., Silicon Therapeutics and HudsonAlpha Institute of Biotechnology
Why they’re a hot startup to watch: Elastifile is backed by significant VC funding from major organizations, and their senior leadership team has plenty of experience in the storage and cloud sectors, as well as a track record of successful exits. CEO Erwan Menard previously served as President and COO of both Scality and DDN Storage, and before that he was vice president and general manager of the Communications & Media Solutions Business Unit at HP.
Shahar Frank, Elastifile’s CTO and co-founder, was a co-Founder of XtremIO, where he served as chief scientist until the company’s acquisition by EMC. Roni Luxenburg, Elastifile’s vice president of R&D and a co-founder, was vice president of R&D and director of software engineering at Qumranet, which was acquired by Redhat.
Finally, Elastifile focuses on data to free it from app silos, while also serving as a cloud gateway (CloudConnect) between an enterprise’s on-premises applications and the cloud.
What they do: Provide hybrid cloud infrastructure automation tools
Year founded: 2012
Funding: $74 million raised in three rounds of funding from Mayfield, GGV Capital, Redpoint and True Ventures
Headquarters: San Francisco, Calif.
CEO: Dave McJannet, who was previously vice president of marketing at GitHub and Hortonworks
Problem they solve: One of the primary challenges of cloud adoption today is heterogeneity. How can operations, security, and development teams apply a consistent approach to provisioning, securing, connecting and running hybrid, multi-cloud infrastructures efficiently?
For most organizations, the move to the cloud means navigating the transition from a relatively static pool of homogeneous infrastructure in dedicated data centers to a distributed fleet of servers spanning one or more cloud providers. This means you have to rethink your approach to each layer of your infrastructure — provisioning, security, application runtime and connecting this all together.
How they solve it: HashiCorp’s solution to cloud heterogeneity is to provide cloud infrastructure automation products at each layer of the cloud stack, from infrastructure provisioning and automatic network configuration to cloud security and policy enforcement.
HashiCorp starts with open-source software and adds proprietary features – mostly focused on workflow automation, security and interoperability – to help enterprises control the often-chaotic shift to the cloud. HashiCorp argues that this approach allows the startup to focus on helping customers with workflows, rather than worrying about specific underlying technologies, which are constantly changing anyway.
According to a company spokesperson, HashiCorp software was downloaded 22 million times in 2017. The company offers the following products:
- Terraform automatically provisions cloud infrastructure (public, private or hybrid) for any enterprise application.
- Consul provides a distributed service-networking layer to connect, secure and configure applications across an enterprise’s clouds.
- Vault secures both applications and infrastructure, providing access control, identity management and encryption.
- Nomad is a cluster scheduler that helps an organization automate the deployment of any application on any cloud infrastructure.
Competitors include: AWS (CloudFormation), Microsoft (Azure Resource Manager), CyberArk, and IBM Cloud
Customers include: Barclays, Citadel, Pandora, Jet, Pinterest, Segment, Spaceflight and Cruise
Why they’re a hot startup to watch: HashiCorp has top-tier customers and has also secured $74 million in VC funding. When you’re basing your service suite around open-source projects, you can then use that funding to achieve interoperability, build out your sales pipeline, establish a solid brand identity and attract the talent needed to grab market share from incumbents.
The company’s C-level executive team has plenty of experience with successful exits, having helped lead IPOs from Hortonworks, New Relic and BEA, as well as the acquisitions of SpringSource by VMware (what became Pivotal) and Compose by IBM.
What they do: Provide a hybrid-cloud management platform
Year founded: 2016
Funding: $49 million in three rounds of funding including a $25 million Series C round on September 12. Backers include a new investor, HighBar Partners, along with previous investors Atlantic Bridge Capital and Acero Capital.
Headquarters: San Jose, Calif.
CEO: Nariman Teymourian, who previously served as SVP and GM for HPE
Problem they solve: Current IT stacks are siloed and difficult to connect. As enterprises migrate business-critical applications to the cloud, they discover that the must: rely on multiple vendors, which slows deployment schedules; recruit and retain highly skilled technical staff in a tight labor market; and either eliminate or automate a cascade of manual processes.
Moreover, once new applications are up and running, the typical hybrid-cloud-app ecosystem requires multiple platforms to manage it, which adds both complexity and cost.
How they solve it: HyperCloud is a software-defined, intelligent workload management platform for hybrid clouds. HyperCloud provides what the startup calls an Application Platform as a Service (aPaaS) layer that supports development and deployment environments through a set of application services that enables applications to be built, provisioned and scaled on-demand.
The platform helps enterprises transform existing virtualized applications to containers, or with built-in support for popular app frameworks (Java, Hadoop, MySQL, .NET, etc.), to build new cloud-native applications from scratch. Containerized apps can be deployed to any cloud, public or private, and the management console tracks all running apps, while also automating the patching and upgrading of apps throughout their lifecycle.
HyperCloud’s console manages resource and cost usage and applies consistent governance policies for all cloud resources to ensure that end users get access to the resources they need while meeting cost and compliance objectives.
Competitors include: AppOrbit, Apprenda, Cloudera, OpenShift and Pivotal
Customers include: IBM, U.S. Navy, MetricStream, Bukhatir Group and Lycamobile
Why they’re a hot startup to watch: The company’s $49 million in funding is more than enough to establish a beachhead in the wide-open hybrid-cloud app-development/management niche.
The senior management team has impressive experience. Chairman and CEO Nariman Teymourian came to HyperGrid from HPE, where he was SVP and GM. Prior to HPE, he was CEO and Chairman at Gale Technologies, guiding it to its successful acquisition by Dell, and before that he was Chairman and CEO at QuikCycle, which itself was acquired by Gale.
Other C-level execs formerly served in senior leadership positions at HPE, EMC, RSA, eMeter (acquired by Siemens), VCE and Cisco.
The startup was founded two years ago and has already put together a lengthy list of on-the-record customers.
What they do: Provide a cross-cloud data management platform
Year founded: 2016
Funding: JetStream is backed by an undisclosed amount of seed funding.
Headquarters: San Jose, Calif.
CEO: Tom Critser, who previously served as general manager of data-center software solutions at SanDisk
Problem they solve: The multi-billion-dollar market for data protection is rapidly moving from on-premises hardware and software to cloud-based services. However, the tools available to service providers for workload mobility and data protection are largely based on legacy solutions originally designed for on-premises backup operations, not cloud services.
How they solve it: JetStream Software helps cloud service providers move workloads to the cloud without interruption. JetStream also provides data protection as an enterprise service.
JetStream Data Protection continuously captures data in motion for replication, capturing it as it’s being written to storage. Using high throughput, low-latency data management capabilities to connect the on-premises environment to the cloud, the solution enables virtual machine failover (business continuity), full data recovery (disaster recovery), and point-in-time rollback (continuous data protection).
JetStream Software has entered a partnership with VMware to protect cloud data. In VMware environments, JetStream captures and replicates data through an IO Filter. Through native vSphere APIs, JetStream is able to provide a comprehensive data protection service that’s integrated into vSphere without software agents, virtual appliances or other workarounds. This means that the cloud service provider can offer data-protection services that support every virtualized workload and any on-premises compute and storage infrastructure, from shared storage to HCI, with a fully supported solution certified VMware Ready.
Competitors include: Veeam, Zerto, Veritas and Rubrik
Customers include: JetStream does not yet have on-the-record customers.
Why they’re a hot startup to watch: Tom Critser held important positions at SanDisk – when it was acquired by Western Digital in 2016 – and at FlashSoft (acquired by SanDisk) and RNA Networks (acquired by Dell). Other senior leaders held vice-president and above roles in companies acquired by Iona Technologies, Western Digital and SanDisk. Rich Petersen, co-founder and President, was vice president of marketing at Interwoven during its 1999 IPO.
The company has a close relationship with VMware, giving it the ability to deliver certified VMware Ready data-protection services as a white label offering to cloud service providers.
These pluses overcome its lack of VC funding and on-the-record customers.
What they do: Provide a hybrid-cloud platform that helps enterprises automate IT operations
Year founded: 2013
Funding: $251 million. Backers include Andreessen Horowitz, T. Rowe Price, KDT, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Microsoft.
Headquarters: San Francisco, Calif., and Hamburg, Germany
CEO: Florian Leibert. Prior to founding Mesosphere, Leibert held lead engineering positions at Airbnb and Twitter.
Problem they solve: Mainstream enterprises are increasingly using public-cloud infrastructure to scale their operations. However, cloud platform service costs can be unpredictable and surprisingly high. Building applications using public-cloud platform services creates business and architectural risks, due to potential competition with cloud providers’ businesses and the inevitable vendor-lock.
Another problem is that public-cloud services may not be accessible in certain regions and/or edge computing environments.
How they solve it: Mesosphere completely automates platform-technology implementation, deployment and operations on commodity infrastructure, so enterprises can adopt new business-changing technologies (AI, machine learning, containers) at the speed cloud providers offer them. With Mesosphere, however, enterprises are able to granularly control costs, matching spend to business goals while also avoiding vendor lock-in.
Mesosphere automates implementation and operations for modern application tools, including Kubernetes, machine learning tools like TensorFlow, and data services that include Apache Kafka, Cassandra and Spark.
IT organizations using Mesosphere software can deliver cloud platform services to developers and business units, running these services on any cloud infrastructure in any datacenter or at any edge location.
Competitors include: AWS, Microsoft Azure, Pivotal Cloud Foundry and Red Hat Openshift
Customers include: Netflix, Uber, Verizon, Yelp, Cisco, Tommy Hilfiger, NBCUniversal and Royal Caribbean
Why they’re a hot startup to watch: In four rounds of funding, Mesosphere has raised an eye-popping $215 million in funding. Its team has an impressive background with both unicorns (Airbnb, Twitter) and exits (Marin Software and Shutterfly IPOs), and Mesosphere’s customer list is long and features multiple Fortune 500 companies.
Mesosphere’s vision is to turn cloud infrastructure into a utility. They may never use the term “utility,” but if you eliminate vendor-lock, drive down costs, and make cloud infrastructure and services something you just flip on and off like a light switch, well...
What they do: Provide a public edge cloud platform
Year founded: 2015
Funding: $118,000 in seed funding
Headquarters: New York, N.Y.
CEO: Antonio Pellegrino, who previously founded LSQ.io, Circles.io and Electronic Revolution Network
Problem they solve: As next-generation, data-intensive applications such as IoT, Big Data, and AR/VR evolve and mature, an emerging problem is network latency. If the network is congested or if the data center that the edge device must communicate with is too far away, performance suffers, and a number of real-time applications become impractical.
How they solve it: Mutable’s Public Edge Cloud platform provides a low-latency, high-security edge cloud platform for application developers, cloud providers and cable/telco operators.
The Mutable Public Edge Cloud platform combines networking with a container orchestration system. Developers provide Mutable with a container image, their code for an application or service, and a policy that states the maximum latency and type of resources it requires. From there, Mutable automatically deploys the application based on end user requests.
When a user or device requests the application, Mutable runs a new container near that user or device on demand and then removes it when it is not in use. This approach delivers lower latency via end user proximity.
Mutable’s software is deployed as a software layer that sits on top of existing servers and cloud solutions with partners that include cloud service providers (such as AWS) and regional datacenters (like Packet.net) run by wireless and cable operators, creating a unified, federated cloud for developer customers.
By moving cloud operations to the edge and lowering latency, Mutable argues that such technologies as IoT, AI, and AR/VR are now available to a broader market.
Competitors include: Cloudflare, Zenlayer, Microsoft Azure and AWS
Customers include: Hevo Power, Owal
Why they’re a hot startup to watch: Despite only raising seed money, Mutable has already earned a couple of named customers. and founder and CEO Antonio Pellegrino has a track record of success with startups.
Mutable competes indirectly with startups such as Cloudflare and Zenlayer as well as incumbents like Microsoft and AWS. Against the incumbents, Mutable has the advantage of offering a cloud-native “Public Edge Cloud,” rather than extending legacy on-premises platforms to the cloud. Against the other startups, Mutable has built out an all-software platform that runs on existing server infrastructure within existing cloud datacenters, which lowers costs, boosts agility and overcomes latency issues by directing end users to the closest data center, which is typically within 25 miles.
Mutable’s Public Edge Cloud concept brings to mind SD-WAN, but rather than buying space in regional data centers and building out its own software-defined network, Mutable piggybacks on the operator’s existing server infrastructure. This offers a compelling deployment model for application and cloud developers, who no longer have to maintain their own public or private cloud footprint in order to get their apps and services close to end users.
What they do: Provide hybrid-cloud data management for enterprise applications with large datasets
Year founded: 2014
Funding: $8.5 million combined seed and Series A funding from Accel Partners, Partech Ventures, Exfinity Ventures
Headquarters: Los Altos, Calif.
CEO: Kumar Ganapathy, who previously founded Virident and served as its CEO and COO
Problem they solve: Businesses would be best served by cloud vendors if they could pick and choose various deployment models based on application needs and business goals. Legacy apps tend to get in the way of this vision, however, as do data-intensive ones.
As a result, “hybrid cloud” often means in practice that enterprises must cobble together incompatible private and public cloud applications in sub-optimal ways.
Another problem is that the highly valuable information stored in data-intensive, business-critical apps tends to attract other closely related apps, a process engineers refer to as “data gravity.”
Before enterprises can overcome data gravity to move critical applications with large datasets to the cloud, they must first map the app’s dependencies with core services, databases and security practices, establishing data-lifecycle practices. And, of course, any dependencies impacting application performance to the point that they require data forklifts will create cloud migration delays, increase costs and create cloud lock-in risks.
How they solve it: PrimaryIO’s Hybrid Cloud Data Management (HDM) software helps enterprises create hybrid-cloud environments capable of running applications in any cloud anywhere but with the data remaining on-premises and under enterprise control. HDM decouples compute and storage to remove the data-gravity barrier, improve application performance and extend security to the cloud.
HDM is architected to help enterprises manage the entire data-management lifecycle, in the process unlocking many use cases that were previously cost-prohibitive. Enterprises can now test drive apps in public clouds, for instance, rapidly migrating workloads to public clouds for testing or rolling them back in-house just as quickly. This also means that enterprises can temporarily extend critical applications with large datasets to public clouds for seasonal spikes or one-time events, rather than being forced into all-or-nothing cloud commitments.
Competitors include: VMware, Cisco, Nutanix, HPE and Dell EMC
Customers include: This startup does not currently have on-the-record customers.
Why they’re a hot startup to watch: Kumar Ganapathy’s track record successful exits is impressive. He founded Virident and served as its CEO and COO until its acquisition by HGST. Before that, he founded and served as CTO for VxTel, which was acquired by Intel. Other members of the senior team held management positions at HGST, Western Digital, HP and Intel.
The company’s VC backing should be enough to establish a beachhead with early adopters, and its concept of pushing the boundaries of hybrid clouds by focusing on data first puts the task in proper perspective.
What they do: Provide a parallel file system that enables companies to run AI-based and data-intensive applications in hybrid clouds
Year founded: 2013
Funding: $42M from Qualcomm Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Gemini Israel Ventures, Viking Global Investors and Walden Riverwood Ventures
Headquarters: San Jose, Calif.
CEO: Liran Zvibel, who previously founded and served as vice president of R&D for Fusic. Before that, he was a principal architect for the hardware platform at XIV, IBM’s grid-based storage system.
Problem they solve: As businesses attempt to base decisions on data, many are running up against performance limitations posed by legacy computing infrastructures. For instance, many enterprises adopting next-generation AI and machine learning applications see limited returns because when using legacy systems, they cannot access the immediate and constant flow of data necessary to achieve peak performance.
Weka.IO argues that applications tethered to legacy storage systems cannot deliver the necessary throughput needed to support AI and machine learning workloads because they were engineered during a time when slower networking technologies were the standard. As a result, the data gets bottlenecked between the storage and compute layers.
How they solve it: Weka.IO’s low-latency flash-optimized parallel file system is designed to accelerate compute-intensive applications by ensuring a constant supply of data to the applications.
Weka.IO’s Matrix is a software-based, scale-out storage solution that provides all-flash performance on NVMe, SAS or SATA storage. The software can be run on commodity X86 server infrastructure, deployed on-premises and in public or hybrid clouds.
With Matrix, enterprises are able to dynamically scale performance independent of capacity based on application needs. The software can be deployed as a dedicated storage appliance or hyperconverged with the applications on Ethernet and InfiniBand networks.
Competitors include: IBM, Dell EMC, Elastifile, Hedvig and ioFabric
Customers include: TuSimple, Zebra, Mellanox, Innoviz, and ICarbonx
Why they’re a hot startup to watch: Weka.IO has ample funding and a solid senior management team in place. Liran Zvibel (CEO) and Omri Palmon (COO), two of Weka.IO’s co-founders, previously led engineering and marketing at storage startup, XIV, which was acquired by IBM, and the startup already has a handful of named customers.
That should give the company enough runway to carve out a viable niche in the hybrid-cloud infrastructure market. Their early targets – compute-intensive niches that include AI, machine learning, life sciences and manufacturing – are fast-growth, land-grab markets that offer reasonably level playing fields against incumbents.