Cloud Veterans Launch Big Data System Management Service

Key VMware employees, including founder Diane Greene, recently launched CloudPhysics -- cloud-based datacenter operations management service.

CloudPhysics, which describes itself as the Google of IT operations management, launched its namesake service aimed at simplifying the administration of virtual machines by using a vast real-time analytics engine that aggregates and analyzes billions of data points. 

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company also said it has raised $10 million in a second round of venture capital financing from Kleiner Perkins. The company's first round came from Mayfield Fund.

CloudPhysics operates a cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) consisting of what it described as a sophisticated real-time data analytics engine. This knowledgebase, which constantly takes in new data feeds, diagnoses and troubleshoots thousands of issues that might affect the function of a VMware ESX virtual server cluster environment such as incorrectly configured scripts, network configuration errors, and memory and IO utilization issues.

"The administrator has multiple questions, literally thousands of questions that are very well-defined explorations or responses to very well-defined problems," explained Founder and CEO John Blumenthal, who is among the VMware veterans who helped launch CloudPhysics in 2011.

Blumenthal described the service as a big-data repository that collects more than 80 billion pieces of data each day from a variety of sources, ranging from technical blogs to configuration data from customers and other sources. The data is all "anonymized" and used to create patterns that are subsequently analyzed.

Data fed from customer datacenters and other sources are kept anonymous by using sophisticated cryptography to debunk concerns about the privacy and security of data, Blumenthal said. While I didn't dispute the wisdom of those measures, especially with heightened concerns about surveillance, I asked Blumenthal why an organization would be worried about their memory utilization getting into the wrong hands.

"It's more of a policy issue than anything else," Blumenthal said. "When you talk to users, they make extensive uses of SaaS services, including, where actually the most sensitive data in a corporation is now off-prem in the form of the customer contact list. Usually, in most of our discussions with our users who raise these concerns, they back down from it very quickly when they stop and think it through."

More than 500 enterprises globally tested the service, which is hosted on the Amazon Web Services EC2 service, though Blumenthal said it can easily be moved to another Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

"It's not tied to Amazon in any way," Blumenthal said. "Amazon's back-end provides the running infrastructure for compliance and security."

Customers install a virtual appliance on their VMware ESX clusters, which function as an agent. Administrators can discover and troubleshoot hundreds of operational problems using specific analytic components that CloudPhysics calls Cards, available from an app store-type environment also launched this week. In addition to accessing cards that offer pre-configured reports, a customer can create their own with a tool called Card Builder.

The analytics engine is designed to help administrators optimize storage, compute, network and other components using various modeling methods that can address performance and cost benchmarks. A planning component lets administrators simulate the effects of adding new hardware, software and other components.

Given CloudPhysics' roots and dominant installed base, it's not surprising that the inaugural edition is designed for VMware environments. But the company also plans to support other virtual machines, including Microsoft's Hyper-V, Citrix Xen and Linux-based KVM.

CloudPhysics offers a free community edition. For a standard edition with more features and e-mail support, pricing starts at $49 for customers signing a one-year contract or $89 for those who opt to go month by month. An enterprise edition is available for $149/$189 per month and offers telephone support and the full menu of features.

As for Greene's roll, while she's an investor, she also advises CloudPhysics on technical direction, though she doesn't serve in an operational capacity, Blumenthal said.

"She occasionally sits down with us to talk over strategy and helps with team culture development," he said. "She's both an inspiration and an investor to this company."

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.