Last week’s Under the Radar 2012 conference (UTR) provided me and other attendees with a glimpse of what’s going to be hot in the coming year from a startup and technology standpoint. Take your pick from the following hot-list of terms: Big Data, analytics, mobile, enterprise, private cloud, security and platforms. They are all intertwined in some way or another.
The format of UTR is fun, one of the MC’s described it as the American Idol for Startups. Basically, each startup (which have been in stealth mode and only just coming from behind the curtains) had 6 minutes to do an “elevator pitch” describing their product or service, how it works, why it is important and what they are looking to achieve. The startups were grouped by a theme (Mobile Access, Infrastructure, Performance Monitoring, PaaS, Database Scalability, Cloud Services and Big Data) and there were 4 companies being judged within each category. And what about the judges? Akin to the American Idol style, they were a collection of industry experts who asked poignant and humorous questions to drill deeper into the presentation pitch. The judges then selected their choice as the winning company, and the audience got to weigh in as well via a mobile text vote.
This marked the 3rd year that GoGrid sponsored UTR and the 2nd year having GoGrid CMO Jeffrey Samuels as a judge on one of the startup panels (“Performance Monitoring”). And several of us from GoGrid (including Rupert Tagnipes who provides his analysis of the Infrastructure, Database Scalability and Big Data sessions he covered in his Part 2 article) attended the sessions to see what upcoming technology trends were emerging, what companies were concerned about and what direction we are all heading. Personally, I attended the Mobile Access, Performance Monitoring and PaaS sessions and my analysis and personal winner choices for these sessions are below (note: my choices are my own opinion and not that of GoGrid.)
From the sessions that I saw, there seemed to be a clear trend of enterprise mobility, security, data analysis and simply “making things easier.” Also, a majority of the companies presenting seemed to have well vetted business plans, were monetizing and actually have customers and users. This is obviously a big difference from those wonderful “dot-com” days when you really didn’t need anything and VCs simply threw money at you. Conversely, while supposedly coming out of stealth-mode, most of these presenting companies were well down the path of success. The sections below include the Judge’s Winner, the Audience Winner, and My Choice.
Mobile Access is a HOT category, in my opinion, and I believe that it was a good move by the UTR staff to have them be the first session to present. Bitzer Mobile kicked things off, grabbing attention through the fear of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) within the Enterprise. Their premise? Mobile devices are not locked down by IT, unlike other technology devices within an organization. Their solution focused on installing a server on the DMZ then creating an app tunnel via VPN with seamless integration for private and public access. Next up was Duo Security, whose service brings two-factor authentication easily via mobile devices. Their goal is to do away with security keyfobs and put this authentication in the hands of users via mobile phone notifications for authentication as the second factor. After Duo Security came Framehawk which marries virtualization and HTML5 to provide enterprise-grade content and application delivery on mobile devices. Essentially, a secure connection is opened to applications behind the firewall when needed (e.g., for confidential data, documents or application) and you interact graphically, but not as an app on your device. And last up was ionGrid, which was another on-prem service that enables enterprise tablet uses to have a secure solution for their behind-the-firewall content.
It seems to me that the mobile space is becoming more complex and enterprise requirements are pushing the technology envelope. Ensuring that your corporate data is protected and secure, yet accessible on the road, is a hot value proposition that I believe many companies (developers and end users) will be creating and adopting in the coming year. For me, Framehawk provided the most interesting service (and eye-candy) through their use of virtualization and secure transport of confidential data to mobile devices.
Building the next hot social or business service is compelling. The cloud enables rapid scalability of infrastructure and, consequently, applications and services residing within it. As your success booms, so does all of your infrastructure sprawl. Interconnected networks and server architecture means that while you can scale, the possibilities of something going wrong scales as well. Consequently, you need to have a looking glass into how your application and its underlying infrastructure is performing, where errors are being thrown and where optimizations can be made.
While it seems that the judges and the audience both deemed Sumo Logic as the winner, I personally found the service by Tracelytics to be compelling simply because I view the integrated approach to monitoring all aspects of an IT footprint to be critical to the success of an infrastructure stack.
PaaS (Platform as a Service) has sort of been the “sleeper” layer of the Cloud Pyramid for a few years, in my opinion. There is plenty of attention being paid to Software as a Service (being probably the most explosive and extensively used layer) and the fact that SaaS and PaaS can be built upon the Infrastructure layer makes IaaS a critical component to any business’s IT environment. But I believe that PaaS is “the next hotness” and we should expect to see many more emerging companies developing services around platform delivery. This is particularly critical around the mobile space, which as I mentioned, is another hotness that is growing exponentially. If there are aspects of mobile development that can be shored up using a platform service, those are the initiatives to watch. However, this is not just limited to mobile, but also to other development frameworks that are gaining traction within the development community.
Kicking off this session was AppHarbor who positions themselves as a .NET PaaS and an alternative to Microsoft Azure. AppHarbor claims that Azure is simply a bit too “Microsoft-heavy” and that Microsoft seems to innovate a bit more slowly than market demands dictate. Consequently, AppHarbor offers a fully-managed .NET stack with a robust 3rd party add-on marketplace. The next presenter was Cabana who provides a browser-based mobile application development platform and API. Capitalizing on the “mobile development sucks” (it’s to hard, expensive and slow), their visual designer allows mobile developers to create HTML5 mobile applications via a GUI. This means faster iterations and time to market, a critical component to successful deployments of mobile services. Up next was CloudBees, which is a Java application delivery services in the form of a PaaS. Touted to be one of the fastest ways to build and deploy Java applications, their service streamlines not only the development process but also its deployment and delivery. Like other PaaS offerings, CloudBees abstracts the underlying infrastructure and allows corporations to focus on the core Java app development needs. Last up was StackMob, which is a PaaS targeted towards mobile app developers using a coupling of HTML5 and back-end services to build mobile apps using APIs and custom code while providing analytics, application management, social integration and notifications to round out the stack.
As I mentioned, mobile, especially in the enterprise, is going to be a category to watch in the coming years. A couple of these PaaS providers have streamlined the process to make this go-to-market strategy and execution just a little bit easier. Personally, I found Cabana’s offering to be the most compelling and interesting simply because they are looking at both ends of the equation, content creators and content users, in crafting their platform.
Here’s a recap of the overall winners:
I have always been wowed by the next “bright and shiny” product or service that comes out of stealth mode and what I saw at UTR 2012 is no exception. I do feel that many of these emerging companies are much further along in their business plans than those of yesteryear, having fully functional and monetized services. Cloud computing still seems to be an underlying theme, with many of these companies’ services built using some sort of cloud technology. The cloud is an enabling service that is allowing business to push the “what if” scenarios that many up-and-coming companies are striving to conquer with new and exciting services. However, cloud is more of a background service, in my opinion, a simple requirement that is needed to produce the next Platform as a Service, Mobile App development and delivery mechanism, or Big Data or analytics service. Using cloud as a foundation, I expect to see explosive growth around many of the categories presented at Under the Radar 2012.
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