The IT Press Tour: Meet ThousandEyes, CloudPhysics and Coraid

Jane McCallion reports from the second day of the San Francisco IT Press Tour.

The IT Press tour is a five-day event taking place this week in San Francisco that seeks to introduce the UK media to tech firms doing some interesting things in Silicon Valley. IT Pro's Jane McCallion has joined the fray and here's her round-up of the second day's events...

Day Two: The cloud was the order of today's events in San Francisco, but not perhaps as you might initially think of it.

Cloud is a phenomenon, of that there can be little doubt, but an interesting thing that grows around a technology boom like this is the supporting ecosystem.

The organisations visited today by the IT Press Tour press pack all form part of this halo of technologies that support and provide extra functionality to the cloud.

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First up was ThousandEyes. Founded in 2010 but launched in June 2013, the company bills itself as an IT performance management technology vendor for the cloud era. In short, if you are experiencing service degradation or disruption when you are trying to use any given SaaS offering, ThousandEyes can tell you where the problem is, be it your side, the vendor's side, or somewhere in the middle.

It is not just enterprises that are getting in on the action though. ThousandEyes' client list includes Zendesk, Okta, Zynga, Dropbox and Twitter.

This is done through "private agents" and "public agents" virtual machines that are installed in an enterprise's data centre and across the internet, incorporating all geographies except Africa, which monitor the performance of nodes.

According to the firm's co-founder and CEO, Mohit Lad, ThousandEyes' technology addresses three problems: normally, neither party, be that the service provider or the customer, has full visibility across the network joining the two, they can only see to the edge of their own network. Similarly, there is a disconnect between application and network performance because of a lack of joined up thinking about the relationship between the two. Finally, if there is a problem, and you can only determine it is not on your side, you are then dependent on third parties to identify and fix it.

Lad claims his company's products return some of that visibility and control to the customer through simple visualisation of often complex environments and the ability to share information with suppliers once you have identified the origin of the problem, allowing it to be resolved quickly.

 IT Pro did take Lad up on his challenge to visualise the connection between any websites the journalists present worked for and got a peek at sister site Cloud Pro's remarkably complex network. Thankfully, it was performing well, sparing our blushes.

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It is not just enterprises that are getting in on the action though. ThousandEyes' client list includes Zendesk, Okta, Zynga, Dropbox and Twitter.

While it would be easy to imagine service providers could resent receiving support tickets from clients that don't just say there is a problem, but that "it's this router of yours right here", Lad claims the opposite is the case, saying it can help them to resolve problems quicker, as they don't have to take time to identify the origin of the issue within the network.


Next stop was CloudPhysics, a SaaS provider that claims to help commercial mid-size companies make decisions about their data centre using analytics. This could be using a simulation to test new policies or configurations that could affect mission critical processes before they take the action for real, or working out how many virtual machines can fit onto a piece of hardware before the business increases its estate.

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To say the company has its roots in VMware probably doesn't go far enough. The CEO, John Blumenthal, describes himself as "a storage geek" who began thinking about what would become CloudPhysics when he was working for VMware. Other VMware veterans include CTO Irfan Ahmad, VP of engineering Balaji Parimi and VP of marketing Melinda Wilken, as well as Carl Waldspurger, the inventor of DRS, who acts as a consultant.

Unsurprisingly, given its heritage, the firm is very tightly integrated with VMware. Currently, it can only run analytics on vSphere, although Blumenthal claims support for OpenStack and Microsoft Hyper-V will be coming soon.

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The data analytics the company does includes the aggregation of large quantities of scrubbed data from across a number of sectors in order to divine trends, common problems and solutions. It has been common in other sectors for decades, according to Blumenthal, who seemed somewhat surprised, although happy, that it had not occurred in the IT market before.

Fundamentally, CloudPhysics' value proposition rests on the majority of mid-sized businesses not moving to the cloud, which is an odd conundrum for a cloud service provider. However, Blumenthal maintains he is not seeing companies of this size move any significant number of workloads to the cloud. "I see more test and dev going on there," he told IT Pro. "But these are temporary workloads, not permanent moves.  I think it will take up to an entire generation before we will see the migration of enterprise infrastructure to the public cloud. It's not happening now."


The last stop on today's journey was Coraid. The executive team at the ethernet storage provider has recently welcomed a number of new additions, including CEO Dave Kresse, who took over the company reins three months ago, and Keith Carpenter, VP of worldwide sales, who has only been in his job a month.

The vendor's customer base is made up primarily of SaaS, IaaS and hosting providers, whose storage requirements can be unpredictable due to the nature of their own clientele. Coraid claims it can help simplify planning and scaling for these organisations, as well as reducing costs, by taking some of that unpredictability out to help them more efficiently manage their data.

The organisation has also integrated its EtherCloud platform with OpenStack Grizzly, which, according to Kresse, will enable customers "to serve up cloud storage like Amazon".

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However, in an echo of what IT Pro heard yesterday, Kresse and Blumenthal both damned OpenStack with faint praise. Blumenthal cited problems of fragmentation in the community, telling IT Pro there are disagreements between contributors and that the number of different vendors offering their own version of the service could be confusing.

Kresse, on the other hand, admitted that, while Coraid is OpenStack ready, only one of its clients, Shutterstock, is actually using the technology.

Tomorrow, Jane will be meeting with Atlantis Computing, Nimble Storage and Coho data.

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