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Cloud management startup expands beyond the cloud to the enterprise

Application management firm Elastra is thinking outside the cloud -- despite its Amazon Web Services roots.

In a twist on traditional IT vendors racing to launch cloud-friendly versions of their products, application automation software provider Elastra is attempting to make money by taking its previously free application cloud deployment tool out of the cloud.

The San Francisco-based company launched its management software as a free tool for Amazon Web Services (AWS) that streamlines deploying application stacks (servers, storage and application software) on Amazon EC2. Elastra now offers three separate products: Elastra Cloud Servers, Elastra for Amazon Web Services and Elastra Cloud Servers (ECS) Enterprise Edition.

Elastra's move out of the cloud into the private data center is an interesting twist on software startups, but according to Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, it's a move that makes sense. Elastra has no way to make money on AWS, as its users can't pay enterprise prices, but running on the cloud allows the company to both showcase its technology without much investment and piggy-back on some of the cloud hype.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it
Elastra is aiming for a niche where cloud has proven successful -- testing and development of software. The company hopes it can bring the ease and agility of the cloud model into the enterprise while satisfying concerns about control from IT managers.

While Elastra admits that its test and development governance and provisioning technology isn't terribly novel, it's poised to bridge the gap between easily accessible cloud computing and the strict governance needs of traditional IT infrastructures.

This could work, analysts have said.

The ROI that the enterprise will realize is in saving time.
Stuart Charlton, CTO of Elastra,

Gardner said that the proliferation of tools, platforms, and sourcing options over the last decade has made management and governance the primary concern for enterprise-scale development. "One of the things many of us think is almost inevitable is complexity and governance."

Company officials claim Elastra will let operations and development teams standardize and automate computing resources within the data center or out in the cloud in ways that keep everyone happy and productive. Stuart Charlton, CTO of Elastra, said it can also help enterprises use public cloud infrastructures with existing governance rules.

The free-to-try Amazon version of Elastra, Elastra for Amazon Web Services, will remain available for experimenters, but the enterprise edition would be sold starting at around $30,000 - $50,000 for pilot projects, with more for complete installation and support.

Platform complexity, solved?
Elastra's latest initiative could also be successful because the company has chosen an issue that cloud is making worse: platform complexity. Charlton said that despite the marketing hype around cloud computing, what IT managers inside large enterprises think about when they hear cloud is more ways to lose control of operations and development processes.

"Developers are on the vanguard of how cloud is being defined and developed," said Gardner, "and yet it's the operations people who are responsible" for making IT reliable and cost-effective.

The governance and IT management market is already crowded with established adversaries as well as other startups. But Elastra's own executives come from the ranks of middleware software; Charlton, for example is a veteran of BEA Systems, which was acquired by Oracle in 2008.

"Elastra isn't revolutionary from a process point of view because IT already goes through these motions," he said. So enterprises may not be interested in governance and auditing, but the automation and self-service could capture attention, Charlton said.

"[Developers] want to be able to intelligently pick the capabilities we want," Charlton said, while IT managers can easily keep tabs on resource consumption.

Elastra's main pitch is efficiency. "The ROI that the enterprise will realize is in saving time."

Carl Brooks is the Technology Writer at Contact him at

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