9 hot technology startups to watch in 2012

These networking and IT startups could hit the big time in 2012 with game-changing innovations in a wide array of fields

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Let's say you've built a mobile application that's taken off like gangbusters and is being downloaded and used by thousands of new users each day. Your app's success has caught you by surprise and you quickly find that its performance isn't keeping up as more and more people use it. What can you do to fix it?

Typesafe CEO Donald Fischer thinks he has the answer, since his company's primary mission is to help developers create applications that can effectively scale in a world where machines now have multicore processors and where applications now have to run on thousands of computers and on public clouds. The Typesafe software stack uses the open-source Scala programming language at its core while using the Akka platform for its middleware framework that serves "a similar role to traditional Java middleware."

As for Scala, Fischer notes that Twitter has been one of the programming language's biggest success stories in terms of giving it the ability to scale. Twitter's migration to Scala for its back-end message queue from Ruby has been one of the main reasons that the microblogging site has improved performance under increased traffic.

"The scalability limits of the Ruby language was one of the leading causes of the 'Fail Whale,'" he says. "Since adopting Scala, Twitter has scaled somewhere around 10,000 times."

The other big advantage to using both Scala and Akka, says Fischer, is that his company has been able to launch its stack extremely quickly since it's based on open-source standards. So while other companies might still be fiddling around with their beta versions at this point in their existences, Typesafe has been ready to go from the start.

"We've had a product available from day one because a lot of the technology already existed," he says.

Founded: 2009 CEO: Edward Iacobucchi, co-founder of Citrix Systems Headquarters: Boca Raton, Fla. Funding: $8.5 million in Series A funding led by New World Angels

VirtualWorks CEO Edward Iacobucchi never intended to get into the field of enterprise search. It was just something that happened to him by accident.

"I had just finished shutting down a previous company that I was associated with and I was asked to take a look at an enterprise search company," he explains. "As I looked more into the market itself, it dawned on me ... that the problem for enterprises isn't with searching, but with, how do we manage all the type of content that sits in an enterprise? It became obvious to me that everybody has data sprawl issues but they can't really address them with standard enterprise search."

Iacobucchi, who co-founded Citrix Systems in 1989, decided that his enterprise search company needed to make an acquisition in order to meet his goals of dealing with data sprawl. To that end he bought up Norwegian company InfoFinder, which he said had already built the core framework for what was to become VirtualWorks' Virtual Index Architecture (VIA).

VIA creates a Universal Index for companies to find data across multiple platforms without building a large-scale and disruptive data warehouse. Instead, the company says that VIA "leaves content where it naturally lies, working across all apps and platforms." The system is based on distributed architecture and is optimized for virtual environments and is designed to integrate cloud-based applications.

Iacobucchi says that the company is planning to make VIA available to the general public sometime in the first quarter. When it's eventually released, he hopes it will take away a lot of headaches for workers across locations.

"Today we have Lotus Notes, Symantec Enterprise Vault, MS SharePoint, MS Exchange and more than 300 different file types," he says. "From a search standpoint we're proposing an application that would let you aggregate all data sources."

Founded: 2011 CEO: Nat Friedman, who co-founded Ximian, a maker of Linux/Unix desktop apps, with Xamarin CTO Miguel de Icaza Headquarters: Cambridge, Mass. Funding: Entirely self-funded thus far

One of the biggest pains for mobile application developers is ensuring their programs work across the latest versions of iOS, Android and Windows Phone.

Xamarin CEO Nat Friedman wants to remove this particular headache for developers by giving them the tools they need to share their code across all three platforms. Xamarin's development kit, known as MonoTouch on iOS and just Mono on Android, lets users write applications in C# language using the .Net Framework. It also provides access to thousands of native iOS and Android APIs and support for rich integrated development environments (IDE).

The key to Xamarin's cross-platform capabilities is its use of Mono, open-source software that was designed ten years ago to run Microsoft .Net applications across multiple platforms. Xamarin strongly benefits from having longtime Mono project director Miguel de Icaza as its CTO. De Icaza, who co-founded the GNOME project in 1997 and has been writing open-source software since 1992, has overseen the Mono project since its inception in 2001 when he was working at Ximian. De Icaza later launched Mono's desktop, server, and mobile offerings while at Novell.

Xamarin's development kit is available on the Android Market and the Apple App Store and costs $400 for the Professional edition, $1,000 for the Enterprise edition and $2,500 for the Enterprise Priority edition. The company has yet to release a development kit for Windows Mobile application stores. So far the kit has been used to develop several high-profile mobile apps and games, including Chillingo's Zombie Party for iPad, Tibco's Spotfire and Rumination Software's CRUX Crosswords. Friedman says his goal for the company in 2012 is to build its community to more than 250,000 developers. He says that upward of 450 different users download Xamarin's product on a given day.

"We have a lot of customers who have found us and said that instead of having four separate code bases, I can now save myself hours of engineering," says Friedman. "We want to build the most powerful and simple platform for mobile developers. It's going to be a mobile world and all software will have a mobile interface."

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

This story, "9 hot technology startups to watch in 2012" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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