Illumita Lights Up With Series A

Secretive startup clinches $6M to roll out Internet virtualization

August 18, 2007

4 Min Read
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Stealth-mode startup illumita, which is backed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, is developing a new form of virtualization that it claims will ease the strain on CIOs and IT managers.

The Seattle, Wash.-based firm recently completed a Series A funding round, backed by Madrona Venture Group, Ignition Partners, the Washington Research Foundation and the Amazon supremo's Bezos Expeditions investment fund.

Born out of a project of the computer science department at the University of Washington, the firm is developing a form of Internet-based virtualization. "It's helping organizations move some or all of their data center virtualization operations off-site," explains CEO Steve Brodie, adding that this will encompass both server and storage virtualization.

"There's a number of different places where companies could leverage this technology to increase efficiency [and] to reduce cost," he said.

The CEO refused to reveal specific details of what the company's products will look like, although he did confirm that illumita's core technology involves remote support for virtual machines (VMs). This will be offered as some form of Internet-based managed service.Recent months have seen a frenzy of activity around virtualization technologies, which let users share compute and storage resources across their standing hardware, culminating in VMware's headline-grabbing IPO and Citrix's $500 million acquisition of XenSource earlier this week. (See VMware IPO Nearly Doubles the Goal, The Other Side of VMware's IPO, Citrix Bags XenSource for $500M, Desktops' Virtual Dance, and Users Talk Virtual Tension.)

Despite the current level of hype surrounding virtualization vendors, Brodie says that illumita is a different type of animal. "Our stuff is not really a core hypervisor or a base virtualization technology," he explains, referring to the software that lets multiple operating systems run on the same physical hardware. "We're not competing with VMware ESX server, XenSource, or Microsoft Virtual Server -- it's really services that layer on top of that."

The startup is not the only vendor dabbling in Internet-based managed services tied to servers and storage. Last year, for example, Amazon unveiled its S3 service, a Web services interface to the vendor's own back-end storage where users are charged 15 cents for every Gbyte of data stored. (See Amazon Takes Aim at Hosted Storage, and SmugMug.)

Google is also rumored to be making moves in the managed storage space with a service called GDrive, although its long-term roadmap is still unclear.

With the backing of Bezos, closer links with Amazon seem a distinct possibility for illumita. "Amazon has a third leg, Amazon Web Services, where they are looking to expose the systems they have built in-house," says Brodie. "We're working very closely with that group, and there is a way that [our technology] could be very complimentary."At the moment, illumita's technology is not even at the beta stage, although about 10 customers are preparing to test it. Brodie would not name any of those customers, but he was a little more forthcoming on the startup's personnel.

"Right now, we're around 10 [employees], but we're looking to at least double by next year, maybe more," he says, explaining that the Series A funding will help finance this expansion. In particular, the firm is looking for engineers with virtual machine and operating system experience.

The startup was founded last year by two computer science professors at the University of Washington, Brian Bershad and Hank Levy, along with PhD student David Richardson, who now serves as illumita's CTO.

Three months ago, former HP and Mercury Interactive exec Brodie arrived, taking over the CEO's reins from Bershad, whose university sabbatical has ended. Brodie had been responsible for running Mercury's performance testing product line, but left six months after the firm was acquired by HP. (See HP Purchases Mercury, HP Finalizes Mercury Buy, and HP: Hot Prospects?) "I am not a very large-company kind of guy," he says. "I prefer startups and medium-sized companies."

The startup recently added another former Mercury exec to its roster, appointing Jonathan Weeks as vice president of engineering. During his time at Mercury, Weeks led engineering for the software vendor's performance diagnostics product line.

  • Citrix Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CTXS)

  • Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • Ignition Partners

  • Illumita

  • Mercury Interactive Corp.

  • Madrona Venture Group LLC

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)

  • VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW)

  • XenSource Inc.

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