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9 Startups That Will Change The Way You Think About Cloud

  • Today cloud computing has become ubiquitous. According to the IDC, 58% of organizations are "embracing" the cloud, which means using it for more than just one or two workloads, and companies expect to increase their cloud spending by an average of 44% over the next 2 years.

    Three major players -- Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform -- currently own the bulk of the market. And usage appears to be growing dramatically. In its most recent quarterly report, AWS reported revenues of $2.6 billion (a 64% year-over-year increase), while Microsoft said its commercial cloud business is on track to bring in $10 billion for the year.

    Despite the dominance of the cloud giants, quite a few startups are carving out niches by offering technology that makes cloud computing faster, easier, or more secure (or all of the above). In this piece, we focused on startups with unusual or interesting approaches. Hot trends for this group include hybrid clouds, container technology, cloud security, mobility and open source technologies. Quite a few have already won significant industry awards, while others are only just now emerging from stealth mode. All are noteworthy for their unique approaches that could help usher in the next generation of cloud computing.

    (Image: buchachon/iStockphoto)

  • Bracket Computing

    Bracket Computing has recently won several awards, including Cloud Computing Magazine's 2015 Cloud Computing Product of the Year Award. The company offers an innovative approach to securing hybrid cloud environments. Its Computing Cell technology wraps applications and data in a set of security protocols designed to run in any cloud environment. The company claims that its always-on encryption capabilities are "strong enough for Wall Street to deploy workloads in public cloud environments."

    Founded in 2011, Bracket has raised more than $130 million in funding.

  • CloudPhysics

    CloudPhysics software performs big data analytics on IT operations data. Delivered on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) basis, the technology was specifically designed for vSphere environments. According to the company, it "continually analyzes your vSphere environment, tracking changes, projecting trends, and proactively surfacing the hot spots you need to pay attention to now – before they cause problems."

    So far in 2016, the company has been named to CRN's Virtualization 50 List and its Data Center 100 List. Founded by former VMware storage engineers, it has racked up more than 25 awards and accolades since its launch in 2012.

  • CoreOS

    Although it is probably the most well-known firm in this list, CoreOS has only been around since 2013. It counts well-known companies like Viacom, CA Technologies, Salesforce and Verizon among its users. It offers several open source solutions all centered around containerization; the most well-known of these is its CoreOS Linux distribution which integrates Docker technology.

    The company also offers commercial enterprise products under the Tectonic and Quay brand names, having acquired Quay in 2014. So far, it has raised $20 million in venture capital from investors like Andreessen Horowitz, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Sequoia Capital and Y Combinator.

  • Nextbit

    If you've ever run out of storage space on your smartphone, Nextbit has a technology for you. This startup makes a cloud-integrated Android phone called Robin that intelligently stores data, apps and photos in the cloud so that users never run out of space. It learns how you use your phone, moves what you don't use often to the cloud, and restores information to your device seamlessly when necessary. It also offers security features like fingerprint identity, encryption and optional two-factor authentication. It began as a Kickstarter project, but devices are now available for sale on the website.

  • Platform9

    Platform9 takes cloud computing to a whole new level by offering cloud computing software that runs in the cloud. It provides cloud infrastructure, management, and automation tools for setting up and maintaining a private cloud environment, and it delivers that software on a SaaS basis. It describes itself as "an easy way for organizations of any size to implement an OpenStack private cloud that delivers agility and self service."

    Founded in 2013 by VMware veterans, the company has raised $14.5 million in funding. It has won numerous accolades including being named a Gartner Cool Vendor in the Cloud for 2016 and one of 10 Cloud Startups Worth Your Attention by InformationWeek.

  • Skyhigh

    Calling itself "the undisputed #1 cloud access security broker," Skyhigh tackles the difficult issue of securing "shadow IT" -- the cloud computing solutions that employees run without the knowledge and/or approval of the IT department. It claims that its more than 23 million users include 25% of the Fortune 500. It offers a general "Skyhigh for Shadow IT" product, as well as specialized offerings for Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, Salesforce, ServiceNow and Office 365.

    The company was founded in 2011 by a group of former Cisco employees, and it has raised $66.5 million in funding. So far this year, it has unveiled a cloud security reference architecture, started a cloud security technology partner program, and announced partnerships with Check Point and Zscaler.

  • Twistlock

    Organizations are increasingly looking to container technology, most often Docker, as an alternative to traditional virtualization for their cloud workloads. But how to secure those containers is still a thorny problem.

    Enter Twistlock. Co-founded by a veteran of the elite Israeli Intelligence Corps, this San Francisco-based startup offers vulnerability management, runtime defense, compliance and access control products for Docker, Kubernetes and other container technologies. It has been featured in several recent news articles and was also named to Momentum Partner's Watch List and Dark Reading's 20 Cybersecurity Startups to Watch in 2016.

  • Velostrata

    Velostrata puts its focus on hybrid clouds, more specifically on moving workloads among various cloud environments. The company mission is "to enable frictionless, no-compromise hybrid clouds." It decouples storage and compute, making it much easier, faster and safer to do cloudbursting into the public cloud at times when workloads spike, according to the company. Its technology is also useful for other cloud computing scenarios, such a data center extension, hybrid disaster recovery, storage consolidation and dev/test environments.

    Founded in 2014, the company emerged from stealth mode in August 2015. Velostrata has raised $14 million in funding to date, and it has facilities in Israel and Palo Alto, Calif.

  • Zerostack

    Zerostack promises "the world's first zero touch private cloud" and aims to marry the convenience of public cloud services like AWS with the control available in a private cloud. It offers two key pieces of technology: the ZeroStack Cloud Building Block hyperconverged infrastructure, and the ZeroStack Cloud Portal SaaS platform for self service, monitoring and analytics. According to the company, its technology allows organizations to set up a private cloud in just minutes.

    Founded in 2014, Zerostack reached general availability status in March 2016. It has received $21.6 million in funding from Formation 8 and Foundation Capital.