Cloud

10 disruptive cloud companies we’re excited about

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cloud-companiesThere is so much happening right now in emerging cloud computing — the entire economy is being disrupted by the trend.

With publicly-traded giants like Amazon, Google, VMWare, Microsoft, Cisco and Salesforce lurching around with new and improved services that can help businesses with cost and efficiency gains, sometimes it’s easy to miss the hot players that are up-and-coming.

We’ve assembled a list of ten private cloud companies that we think are particularly intriguing — they’re focused on massive opportunities and leading the disruption in the sector they’re targeting.

Any venture capitalist would be psyched to have invested early into this portfolio of ten. Frankly, there are hundreds of exciting companies that could have made this list — we’ve seen and like a lot of them — but as editors, we’ve forced ourselves to winnow it down to ten. Seven companies on the list improve the way things work in the enterprise. Three give consumers better services via the cloud. VentureBeat has covered all of them fairly recently.

As a bonus, with our first-annual CloudBeat 2011 conference coming up quite soon, this is be a great time to show off some of the innovators. Many of them, including Box.net, Workday and Zendesk, will be represented at the conference. You can sign up here.

Here are the top ten cloud companies:

Box.net

Box.netLed by young, charismatic CEO Aaron Levie, Box.net is a leading provider of cloud storage services for the enterprise. To date, the company has more than 7 million users and 77 percent of the Fortune 500 have deployed its service in some form.

Box recently raised a recent $81 million extension round of funding, and also has launched the Box Innovation Network — a network for third-party developers who work on enterprise apps. The Innovation Network includes strategic partners Heroku, Rackspace, Cloud Foundry (a division of VMWare), Appcelerator, SnapLogic, and Twilio. We eat our own dog food too; VentureBeat uses Box and couldn’t be happier. We can save our docs — any kind of docs — in a single place, and share everything easily.

Dropbox

Cloud storage startup Dropbox is on quite a roll. It now has over 45 million users in 175 countries that save upwards of a billion files every three days, and the company just closed a $250 million round of funding in mid-October. A report earlier in the year suggested the company was valued a staggering $5 billion.

While the company had a widely reported security snafu back in June, Dropbox’s basic philosophy of helping consumers (and businesses) with file management and syncing folders across computers and mobile devices is catching on. The service said recently that it is on track to triple its user base by the end of this year. It’s often considered comparable to Box.net, and we also use Dropbox for some of our files. Its user interface is incredibly simple. But we went with Box company-wide because of its focus on the enterprise and security features. Dropbox, amusingly, declares it is not a cloud company, and is going after consumers and small businesses (not enterprises). But we’re calling it a cloud company anyway.

Evernote

Evernote, logoMulti-platform note-taking service Evernote helps its customers with keeping notes organized and synced across various operating systems. It is super easy to use, and it’s pretty fun to see it in action. It has a community of over 5,000 third-party application developers and offers apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Windows, Mac, and more.

Back in June, Evernote reached 10 million registered users, with more than 400,000 of those customers paying $5 a month for a premium plan that enables bigger uploads and better collaborative tools. The company has raised $95.5 million in total funding to date, with a $50 million round in July.

Marketo

Marketo is a marketing automation firm that offers software and services focused on improving and managing sales lead generation. While that might sound a little dull, it’s a surprisingly fast growing and important type of service that can help enterprise sales teams succeed. The company also recently launched Spark by Marketo, a lead-generation engine for small businesses rather than its typical enterprise and mid-size clients. The company has raised $107 million to date, with its most recent round this month worth $50 million.

In the marketing automation category, we also want to give a shout out to Eloqua, the SaaS company that filed for an estimated $100 million IPO in August. The company helps its clients with analytics to help predict revenue performance. And its IPO, which may happen in the next few months, could help validate just how important and big marketing automation is right now.

OnLive

OnLive is easily the most consumer-focused cloud company on this list, and that’s OK because it’s pretty freaking cool. The company uses the cloud to provide games in an on-demand fashion over the Web, allowing users to play A-class titles like Deus Ex: Human Revolution with no locally stored content.

Its service has been available in the U.S. about a year, and in mid-September OnLive launched in the U.K. with more than 150 games. The service is available on web-connected TVs, PCs, Macs and tablets. OnLive has raised $56.5 million, with $40 million coming from HTC.

Panzura

PanzuraPanzura equips enterprises with cloud storage hardware that’s faster, more advanced and more secure than typical “tier 1″ storage solutions. The company’s aim is to simplify the way file-based storage is deployed, managed, and protected using its multi-site file system and PanzuraOS. Additionally, it emphasizes its ability to encrypt data so it can be sent over networks safely. It scored a $12 million round last December, with funding led by Khosla Ventures.

RightScale

rightscale_logoRightScale takes a software-as-a-service approach to cloud management with a browser-based interface to help businesses manage their cloud resources through a “single pane of glass.” Its service works with Amazon Web Services, Cloud.com, Rackspace, Eucalyptus and more, and it incorporates third-party apps like Alfresco. Its customers include Zynga, A&E, Patheos, Loggly, Coupa and Break.com. The company has raised about $43 million total so far, with a $25 million round in September 2010.

Tidemark

Tidemark came out of stealth mode in October with its take on cloud-based enterprise performance management apps. Its apps help decipher critical enterprise data and extract information that can help managers, strategists, operations planners and forecasters with judging business performance and overall health. CEO Christian Gheorghe told us previously that business intelligence hasn’t kept up with the advances of the cloud, but Tidemark helps solve that problem. The company has raised a total of $11 million in two rounds, with backing from the likes of Greylock Partners and Andreessen Horowitz.

Workday

Workday provides more than 230 companies with cloud services for human resources, payroll and financial management. Although it could be considered a “cloud 1.0″ style SaaS, Workday’s depth of customers and resources are impressive — those 230 companies account for more than 2 million users. It helps accommodate users through most web browsers and in mobile with native applications for iPad and iPhone. The company has raised an eye-popping $250 million total, with its most recent $85 million funding round happening in October. The company is reportedly valued at $2 billion and will most likely go public in the next year.

Zendesk

Zendesk provides on-demand help desk services that greatly assist with managing customer support, including tools like email-ticket integration, online forums and widgets. In August, the service opened a new office in Denmark and gave several startup incubators its customer support software to build word of mouth and goodwill.

In September, the company launched the Twilio-powered Zendesk Voice, which lets customers set up cloud-based call centers for much less money than old-school call centers. The company has raised $25.5 million in three rounds of funding, with a $19 million round in December 2010.

Cloud photo via Kevin Dooley/Flickr

CloudBeat 2011CloudBeat 2011 takes place Nov 30 – Dec 1 at the Hotel Sofitel in Redwood City, CA. Unlike any other cloud events, we’ll be focusing on 12 case studies where we’ll dissect the most disruptive instances of enterprise adoption of the cloud. Speakers include: Aaron Levie, Co-Founder & CEO of Box.net; Amit Singh VP of Enterprise at Google; Adrian Cockcroft, Director of Cloud Architecture at Netflix; Byron Sebastian, Senior VP of Platforms at Salesforce; Lew Tucker, VP & CTO of Cloud Computing at Cisco, and many more. Join 500 executives for two days packed with actionable lessons and networking opportunities as we define the key processes and architectures that companies must put in place in order to survive and prosper. Register here. Spaces are very limited!


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