Speaking with CloudPhysics Founder and CEO John Blumenthal, you get the sense that the modern data center, which supplies all that cloud-computing power, is a total mess.
“The [management] tools are primitive,” he says. “Nobody really knows how much capacity they have.”
This is important, because business software is increasingly migrating to the “cloud” — data centers that can be accessed by the Internet — because then businesses don’t have to worry about managing the software or the networks that host these applications. But somebody has to worry about them. And Blumenthal says until this point, nobody has provided the managers many software tools for this task.
That’s where startup CloudPhysics comes in. It’s looking to change the way data centers are monitored and managed with a unique software platform — which is cloud-based, of course.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based company has received $12.5 million in venture funding from top-tier names including Kleiner Perkins and the Mayfield Fund, as well as many individual angel investors. It launched an initial version of its product in August, which it demonstrated at VMworld, VMware’s global user conference.
Blumenthal is a VMware (VMW) alumnus, where he spent many years watching the explosive growth of the company as it created server virtualization software that enabled the cloud revolution. He says that after watching the process of data centers being built and managed, he noticed that as his customers frantically added servers and storage, they rarely had time or ability to map out exactly how these resources were being used.
“At VMware I saw my customers frantically adding servers and storage. What was surprising was the waste and overprovisioning [in data centers] when people go out and buy. They would just throw hardware at the problem, which was interesting. People thought they’d need it, or they didn’t know. There was no quantitative reasoning behind it.”
CloudPhysics hopes to provide that reasoning. The software plugs into the VMware environment, which has become standard in most data centers. It places sensors on virtualized servers and monitors what’s going on with server and storage resources in real time. The platform then lets its community of customers “plug in” to the platform and use anonymized from data centers to build applications including models and simulations. The apps supplied by the community of users are then available on the network in addition to a standard set of applications provided by CloudPhysics.
These apps are presented as “cards” on a management dashboard (see image below), which enables the community to aggregate the knowledge it gathers from data centers world wide to solve problems. Think of it as a sort of data-center artificial intelligence — a better dashboard to tell you what your data center is doing, or what it will do.
This edgy approach to data-center management is confirmed by several analysts, who say the company is a leader in the area of data-center management software.
“I don’t think there is anybody out there that does exactly what they do,” said Senior Analyst Wayne Pauley with Enterprise Strategy Group, in a phone interview.
Another analysts agree. “The fascinating prospect of leveraging collective knowledge for operations management is that customers receive the opportunity to proactively learn from their peers,” wrote Enterprise Management Associates analyst Torsten Volk in August, after the product launched.
In other industries, capacity planning and management software is commonplace. For example, Blumenthal gives the example of Nielsen, in media, which is constantly monitoring and analyzing what users are doing. In healthcare, companies have robust software for managing their resources and eliminating risk. He says that these basic functions hadn’t been available in IT management of data centers.
CloudPhysics has built an impressive team, and it’s gaining a reputation as an innovator an area — management software — that has been pretty boring for a while.
“They have a super-bright management team with lots of experience from VMware,” says Pauley.
In addition to Blumenthal, the team includes CTO and founder Irfan Ahmad, a 9-year veteran of VMware; founder and Chief Scientist Xiaojun Liu, who worked at Sun Microsystems and Google (GOOG); and founder and VP of Operations Jim Kleckner, who previously worked at Currenex, a foreign exchange platform that was sold to State Street bank.
An initial version of CloudPhysics platform launched in August. Users can log into the Cloud Physics cloud with a free trial, or pay a monthly licensing model to watch the action in their cloud.