As more IT pros investigate their companies' cloud computing options, they run into a crowd of new, relatively unknown vendors. Appirio Inc. , Coghead Inc. , Kaavo Inc. , Mosso , ParaScale Inc. , and dozens of other startups are taking their places alongside Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN), Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), and Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: JAVA) in delivering IT resources as services rather than packaged products.
Why consider a startup when established players offer cloud services at seemingly lower risk? The cloud computing market is so broad -- comprising software, server capacity, storage, middleware, virtualization, security, and management tools delivered as services -- that even the biggest vendors can't excel at everything. Startups drive innovation and fill niches, often while pushing costs down and performance up.
"Every so often, you've got to start with a blank sheet," says consultant (and InformationWeek blogger) George Crump about the handful of cloud storage startups out there. "It's very hard to add a significant new capability to existing products."
Venture-funded ParaScale, founded in 2004, has just begun beta testing software, called ParaScale Cloud Server, for creating clustered storage using Linux servers. ParaScale's software can be used by other vendors to offer cloud services, similar to Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3), or by IT departments to create S3-like clouds inside their own data centers.
ParaScale specializes in bulky, unstructured data that's served up on request -- video, virtual machine images, and medical images, for example -- rather than structured or transactional data. In a typical configuration, ParaScale offers throughput of 100 MBps, which is roughly 10 times the performance of Amazon's S3 service, says CEO Sajai Krishnan.