Under The Radar 2012 Recap & Analysis – Summing Up Some Secret Startup Sauce (Part 2)

May 3rd, 2012 by - 7,953 views

I recently attended Under the Radar 2012 as GoGrid was a sponsor of this event. As there were several tracks, Michael Sheehan and I split the tracks and I covered Infrastructure, Database Scalability and Big Data. Michael covered Mobile Access, Infrastructure, Performance Monitoring, PaaS in Part 1.  Overall, the presenting companies have some compelling ideas and it gives an indicator as to the new thinking happening in Silicon Valley. The trends that I noticed were: a continued interest in private clouds, the increase in adoption of Openstack and the prevalence integrating Big Data.


If you never attended Under the Radar, the format is to have four startups that already have a real product present for 6 minutes and are then judged by a panel of experienced executives at more established companies. The presenters had to be companies that are actual startups with a unique value proposition and a real product that they are able to monetize. Alumni or companies that are already more established can also present as a “Grad Circle” member but they are not included in the awards presented at the end of the show. And like American Idol, the audience also has a vote on their favorites for each category.  I included the Judge’s choice and Audience choice for each category but also added my own choice which reflects my own opinion and not that of GoGrid.


This category focused on companies that are delivering infrastructure or infrastructure management products. So this would include services that could offer up infrastructure components (like compute, network, and storage) or even tools for managing configurations and deployments. Not surprisingly, nearly all of them focus on the cloud as the operating model of choice.

Cloudscaling – This company focuses on delivering an amazon-like cloud using Openstack. Their solution is comprised of Open Cloud OS, which is a product grade version of Openstack, Cloudblocks, a comprehensive architecture for cloud services and Hardware Blueprints, which are templates for physical hardware. Customers can leverage this solution to deploy a public or private cloud in their own DC.

Nodejitsu – Sticking with the Japanese-theme of cloud automation companies (a la Heroku), this company makes it easy for customers using Node.js to deploy and automate services on the cloud. While Heroku’s strength is Ruby, Nodejitsu focuses on Javascript which they believe to be faster and to have greater staying power than other higher level languages.

Piston Cloud Computing – Its core product, Piston Enterprise OS is a massively scalable private cloud operating system build on Openstack and is designed for any company tackling Big Data and for 1/4 the cost of VMWare.

Zadara Storage – Focused on providing low cost, block storage as a service inside the cloud. Zadara provides an easy to use and flexible storage solution on multiple leading public clouds. The product operates as a virtual private storage array.

Puppet Labs (Grad Circle) -  A former best in show company, Puppet Labs manages the open source Puppet configuration management tool, one of the leading products used  at companies like Zynga and Citrix.

Judge’s Winner: Audience Winner: My Choice:
Piston_logo Piston_logo Piston_logo

Providing competition for VMWare is compelling, especially if can be done leveraging open source technologies, so Piston Cloud is also my choice in this category. Enterprises have great interest in private clouds but providing one that is based on an open technology gives more flexibility for hybrid clouds and a path to the eventual migration to the public cloud.

Database Scalability

This category focused on companies that are building out products that are designed to handle large scale datasets. This would include enhancements to open source products to better handle scale or new designs for handling larger datasets that need to be delivered faster and more efficiently. I felt that there is some overlap in this category with the Big Data category since they are interrelated. For example MongoLab can be used to solve for Big Data problems and the Big Data presenters can argue that they can also offer some form of database scalability.

Drawn to Scale – Builds a database called Spire that leverages Hadoop, Hbase and their own software to provide real-time Analysis for Big Data. This helps to solve for use cases where users already use Hadoop but need the ability to do real-time SQL queries from the data.

MemSQL – A Y combinator startup that offers an OLTP database that lives in memory. In combination with MySQL, this gives users a way to have high through-put transactions while also having persistence of data on disk.

MongoLab – Provides MongoDB as a service that is designed to better work with object-oriented development. It removes the operational and administration layer from developers and provides monitoring and backups for MongoDB.

ScaleArc – Sits in between the database and the app servers and helps with optimization and performance of MySQL-related databases. It operates like a load balancer for databases.

NuoDB (Grad Circle and formerly known as NimbusDB) – A new SQL and ACID compliant relational database that is designed to run on a distributed architecture like the cloud.

Judge’s Winner: Audience Winner: My Choice:




In this category, I would pick MongoLab. With MongoDB’s adoption growing in the marketplace, it’s an important alternative to have services that enhance the database, especially if it can be delivered via a public cloud.

Big Data

This category offered companies that are solving problems around Big Data. This could involve technologies that are used to better handle Big Data or services that ease the collection, transformation or analysis of Big Data.  It seemed that most presenters generated or provided large amounts of 3rd party data in addition to providing products and services for Big Data. – Makes charting and analytics easy for non-technical users. Able to connect to MySQL, Postgres, Google Analytics and Oracle (in the near future). provides an alternative to heavyweight on-premise business intelligence products.

Datasift – Helps customers extract, analyze and gain value from social networks. Although it can pull from over 30 data source, it is one of two exclusive re-syndicators of Twitter data. Datasift operates in a SaaS model so companies can be up and running in minutes.

Infochimps –  Provides a full Big Data platform for processing and analyzing data from their own data marketplace or anywhere in the web. This makes it easy to source data leveraging Hadoop and providing services on top of that platform.

Metamarkets – Provides data science as a service, providing for data exploration, decision support and operational awareness. Using their own technology, the product is able to process large volumes of data at speed and scale.

Judge’s Winner: Audience Winner: My Choice:
mmxlogo mmxlogo infochimps1

Having the ability to pull 3rd party data or any data from the web and analyze it without investing in your own infrastructure is a valuable product. Hadoop is difficult to wrangle although it is currently one of the leading technologies for running Map Reduce jobs. Providing the data and services on top of Hadoop makes Infochimps a key solution in my mind.

Top Winners

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the top winners for the day:

Venture Beat People’s Choice Winner: Best in Show – Judge’s Winner: Best in Show – Audience Winner:
appfog1 cloudability1 Piston_logo

Overall, all the companies that presented were very interesting, showing the kind of innovation and creativity that we have come to expect from early stage startups. While cloud is still a strong theme here, I think that the future is moving towards Big Data. I think we will see the two themes start to converge as users start to see the power of using Big Data solutions in the cloud for performance and cost-effective deployments. The enthusiasm and effort given by these startups bode well for the technology industry and are a harbinger of the great things to come.

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Rupert Tagnipes

Director, Product Management at GoGrid
Rupert Tagnipes is Director of Product Management at GoGrid who is responsible for managing and expanding the company’s multiple product lines. His focus is on leveraging his technical background and industry knowledge to drive product innovation and increase adoption of the cloud. He has extensive software product experience at technology companies in Silicon Valley solving data analytics and cloud infrastructure problems for customers across multiple industries.

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