Network World's 25 New IT Company to Watch include companies that improve the performance of cloud-based applications and storage, add extra layers of security to e-mail and Web sites, accelerate network traffic, relieve the data access logjams that mar virtualization and other IT projects, create Amazon-like private clouds behind the firewall, and provide disaster recovery optimized for virtualized data centers. Others tackle the data center energy problem with software tools that monitor energy use, and new server chips based on low-power architectures.
One startup is even building its own LTE-based 4G wireless broadband network to fuel the next generation of smartphones for consumers and enterprise customers. That would be LightSquared, which has more than $3.5 billion in debt, equity financing and assets contributed by Harbinger Capital Partners, as well as deals with Nokia Siemens Networks and Nokia itself to build the network and devices for it. LightSquared services will debut next year in Denver, Baltimore, Phoenix and Las Vegas. Satellite coverage will extend nationwide, and the wireless broadband network is expected to cover at least 92 percent of U.S. consumers by 2015.
The data center energy crisis
Let's take a look at the rest of the 25 startups in more detail, starting with two vendors building server chips with the aim of solving the data center energy crisis: Smooth-Stone and SeaMicro.
Backed by plenty of venture capital and a $9.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, SeaMicro says its servers consume 75 percent less power and space than traditional machines. The SeaMicro SM10000, which goes for $139,000 and up, uses 512 low-power Intel Atom processors connected by a fabric that provides throughput of 1.28 terabits per second, along with a design that decreases the number of motherboard components by 90 percent. The servers are "specifically optimized for the workloads and traffic patterns of the Internet," the vendor says.
The stealth mode Smooth-Stone, meanwhile, has $48 million in venture funding and is building low-power alternatives to Intel and AMD chips that use smartphone microprocessors. Low-power chip development is frequently targeted at the mobile phone market, since the devices rely on short-lived batteries.
"It's not a proven concept yet," Armstrong says of using smartphone chips in servers. But there is a huge unmet need in the area of low-power servers, and while Intel and AMD are jumping on the bandwagon, the power problem has increased faster than expected, he says.
"The incumbent vendors have been less fast than you would expect in providing provide people with a solution to this problem," Armstrong says. "The limitation in many data centers at this point, in terms of ability to process information quickly, is not the computers -- it's literally the power cord going out to the grid. It's literally 'we can't get enough electrons into this room.'"