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Cloud computing startups help admins manage containers, hybrid IT

As containers, open source and hybrid cloud move into the mainstream, tools to manage those technologies are in high demand. New companies have surfaced to respond to those needs.

A decade ago, not even the most enthusiastic cloud devotees anticipated the technology's rapid uptake, or the diversity of IT services that would accompany its growth. Today, the beat goes on, with new cloud computing startups appearing from week to week.

Three analysts -- Dan Conde at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass., Holger Mueller at Constellation Research in Cupertino, Calif. and William Fellows at 451 Research in Boston -- gave their takes on which cloud computing startups were especially worth watching in 2017. Each of the companies targets a different aspect of cloud deployment or management but, according to the analysts, seem to be making waves.

Here's a look at six cloud computing startups, and what their technologies could mean for enterprise admins.


Apcera is a container management platform for both cloud and legacy applications.

"What sets [Apcera] apart is the emphasis on policy control, since you need to put controls over apps when they are deployed in production," Conde said. The goal of the company is to bake policy controls into its basic container management system, as opposed to requiring those policies to be tacked on as an afterthought.

"Plus, they recognize that legacy apps won't evaporate overnight, so they support them, as well," Conde added. Apcera, based in San Francisco, is majority-owned by Ericsson.


More companies want the ability to mix and match multiple public and private clouds in a hybrid fashion, but networking challenges plague them. Today, some companies look to cloud computing startups for the answer.

Aviatrix, based in Palo Alto, Calif., creates a network that spans cloud platforms in a consistent way, avoiding problems like overlapping IP addresses. In addition to helping organizations extend their local area networks to the public cloud, the company offers Aviatrix Gateway, which features multicloud security and encryption capabilities.

"They provide a pragmatic solution to problems that people will eventually encounter," Conde said.


HashiCorp, based in San Francisco, creates open source tools that help bridge DevOps and cloud, according to Conde. Its tools enable admins to manage certain processes that are critical to create cloud infrastructure, such as provisioning, running containers and access control.

"It's a different approach -- almost UNIX-command-like in philosophy," Conde said.

HashiCorp's tools tend to do one thing well, as opposed to being an all-encompassing platform. For example, the company's Packer tool is used to create machine and container images, while its Vault tool helps admins manage access controls for tokens and APIs.

"The open source tools are individually well-known, but the company isn't," Conde said. "So it's the fact that there is an enterprise edition of many of these tools [that's] a well-kept secret."

Mueller also noted that HashiCorp is "quickly becoming the cross-platform provisioning standard."


Many developers are already familiar with operating system- and application-level frameworks and orchestrators aimed at containers like Google Kubernetes, but those tools aren't always enough, according to Conde. Mesosphere, a cloud startup in San Francisco, offers services that are critical for modern applications that support big data and containers. For example, the company offers services for aggregating data center resources into a single pool, container orchestration and network load balancing.

"If a platform provides these services, it relieves the IT organization from assembling them in a DIY manner," Conde said.

Mesosphere also sells a commercial version of the Apache Mesos open source software. "Think of it as a new definition of an operating system for modern applications," he added.

Service diversity outshines price in 2017

Despite a widely held perception that cloud leads to commoditization and a race to the bottom in vendor pricing, the opposite effect is actually in progress, Fellows and his co-authors wrote in 451 Research's 2017 Trends in Cloud Transformation report. The diversity of cloud services -- not price -- will differentiate cloud providers moving forward.


Platform9 offers a fully managed service that controls enterprise private clouds based on OpenStack or Kubernetes. "It's a way to run [these] systems on premises without the bother of DIY-based management," Conde said.

Platform9, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., originally started as a managed OpenStack provider, but has reached out to manage other platforms, such as Kubernetes. It is a "novel way to do [software as a service] for elements where you want to avoid doing it, and [to keep] control of components that cannot be placed in a public cloud," Conde said.


Weaveworks, based in San Francisco, helps reduce the complexity of working with containers through its Weave Cloud product, according to 451's Fellows. The company provides a way for microservices developers to interact with whatever assets they need to create applications, and quickly join them together.

Weaveworks, which has attracted substantial funding from a Google-affiliated venture fund, claims it has a simple-to-use and developer-friendly approach that boosts productivity, helping a developer, for instance, deploy containers to Amazon EC2 Container Services with less effort.

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