Cloud Computing Leaders: Ten to Watch

Cloud computing visionaries, start-ups and established giants, all vying to win a larger share of the emerging cloud market.


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Last month, in the first article about cloud computing leaders, we looked at a few of cloud computing’s usual suspects (Amazon, Google, Salesforce.com, Microsoft), a surprise entrant (CA), and some startups driving the cloud-adoption push, including Rackspace, Eucalyptus and GoGrid.

This time around we investigate some additional big players, more up-and-coming startups, and a company on the brink that may well fail, yet still be considered a cloud pioneer.

As with the last round, the criteria used to determine our leaders mixes the objective (customer traction, experience, market cap or financing) with the patently subjective (ability to innovate, ease of use, how well cloud computing ties in with the company’s broader portfolio).

As always, if you feel we’ve missed someone, let us know in the comment field below.

1. IBM

Why they’re a leader today? As a result of operating more than 8 million square feet of data centers, “we know the data center and have decades’ worth of service level agreements behind us,” an IBM spokesperson noted. Moreover, the technologies supporting cloud computing – virtualization, self-service provisioning, Web-delivered services, open standards and Internet-scale computing – are right in IBM’s wheelhouse.

“IBM started delivering remote services to mainframes in 1968, so we have an extensive resume and have been building our assets and skills in preparation of this new computing model for decades,” the IBM spokesperson said.

Why they could be on top in years to come? IBM has one of the most comprehensive cloud portfolios, with the cloud integrated throughout its many lines of business. Moreover, IBM’s consulting arm has put them in touch with numerous early adopters and special use cases – all of which helps the company stay ahead of competitors.

For instance, the U.S. Air Force recently awarded IBM a contract to design and demonstrate a secure cloud computing infrastructure capable of supporting defense and intelligence networks. The project will introduce advanced cyber security and analytics technologies developed by IBM Research into the cloud architecture.

Advanced “stream computing” analytics will be a key design component. This technology, coupled with sensors, monitors and other detection devices, would enable the Air Force to perpetually analyze the massive amounts of data flowing through its network to get fast, accurate, and actionable insights about possible threats, such as cyber attacks and network, system or application failures, while automatically preventing disruptions.

If IBM can deliver that sort of capability to the Air Force, the only question mark for the enterprise is cost.

Key executive: Erich Clementi, VP, Strategy and GM, Enterprise Initiatives, has been with IBM since 1984 and has held several executive-level positions.

Customers: U.S. Air Force, La Perla, PayPal, Dept. of Interior, Spencer Trask Collaborative Innovations.

2. AT&T

Why they’re a leader today? While most of our cloud leaders have more traditional computing and Internet backgrounds, don’t count out the telcos. Sure, many of their traditional services are being eroded by the Internet, but their large, complex, built-out infrastructures present them with plenty of fresh opportunities, such as delivering rich media and cloud-based services.

AT&T’s Synaptic family of cloud services includes hosting, Compute as a Service (CaaS), Storage as a Service (StaaS), and the recently launched Email Gateway Service, which is part of their Security as a Service portfolio (which has the confusing acronym of -- you guessed it -- SaaS).

Why they could be on top in years to come? AT&T is convincingly building out its cloud portfolio to appeal to everyone from SMBs to large enterprises to multi-national behemoths.

“As companies increasingly move to cloud-based environments, AT&T Synaptic Compute as a Service provides a much-needed choice for IT executives who worry about over-building or under-investing in the capacity needed to handle their users’ traffic demands,” said Steve Caniano, VP, Hosting and Cloud Services, AT&T Business Solutions.

The company recently poured $3 billion into building out its global network. The investment includes five “super IDCs” (Internet Data Centers) in the United States, Europe and Asia, each of which serves as a regional gateway to the AT&T network cloud.

With that kind of investment, the company is clearly serious about being a major cloud contender for years to come.

Key executive: Steve Caniano, VP, Hosting and Cloud Services, has been with AT&T for more than 20 years. During his time with the company, he has held positions in sales, operations, program management, product management, strategic planning, supplier management and systems development.

Customers: The company declined to name actual customers of its cloud services, with a spokesperson telling me that “while we don’t reveal customer names, we can say that cloud services have proven popular with customers in all industries and markets, from startups looking for quick, easy access to compute and storage resources . . . to multi-nationals looking to re-engineer their backup or archive operations to replace aging, capacity-constrained tape environments with scalable cloud storage.”

3. Joyent

Why they’re a leader today? Joyent has been providing Infrastructure as a Service since 2004 and claims to be one of largest providers of cloud computing services. Joyent says that its platform powers web, mobile and server applications for “thousands of applications providing services to billions of end users every month.”

“With our complete stack of Smart Technologies for IaaS and PaaS, Joyent is the only company that runs a major public cloud infrastructure, [having] built the technologies that power that infrastructure, and licenses those technologies to any third party who is interested in building their own public or private infrastructure,” a Joyent spokesperson said.

The company is backed by an undisclosed amount of funding from Intel Capital and Greycroft.

Why they could be on top in years to come? Research firm Gartner predicts that the market for SaaS and cloud-computing services will exceed $14 billion by 2014. Joyent is well positioned to carve out a slice of that market.

“Joyent has developed its own data-center virtualization technology that creates a flexible multi-tenant cloud,” said David Young, CEO. “As a result, Joyent’s technology delivers more than 70 percent utilization, which is eight times more than industry averages, and produces unprecedented performance, security and savings.”

Dell recently licensed Joyent’s technology for their private cloud solution for web applications. Joyent expects to expand to Europe later this summer, opening a data center there soon, which will extend the offerings currently based in North America and China.

Key executive: David Young, CEO and founder, was formerly co-founder and CTO of manageStar, an enterprise services management software company.

Customers: Dell, Traffic Marketplace, LinkedIn, Country Life and Gilt Groupe.

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Tags: cloud computing, Cloud, SaaS, Cloud network, cloud content management

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