The 10 Coolest Startups Of 2013

Creme de la Cool

The IT industry is certainly never dull. New companies seem to spring up every day, both in new, or at least newish, areas like big data, virtualization and cloud computing, and in more mature, yet ever-evolving technologies like security, networking and data storage.

Here's a look at what we considered to be the most intriguing companies that were either started in 2013, came out of stealth mode, launched their first product or somehow came to everyone's attention.

Big Switch Networks

CEO: Douglas Murray

The dynamic nature of virtualized and infrastructure-as-a-service cloud data centers demands a new generation of networking technology. That's why software-defined networking startup Big Switch Networks, which made its debut in 2012, was so busy this year.

In March, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company launched Switch Light, an open-source thin switching platform aimed at accelerating the adoption of the OpenFlow communications protocol and SDN. The platform, according to Big Switch, frees customers from what it called the largely proprietary networking infrastructures of today. In November, former Juniper Networks executive Douglas Murray was hired as Big Switch Networks' new CEO, taking over from co-founder Guido Appenzeller who is now chief technology officer. And earlier this month, former Cisco executive Jeffrey Wang was brought on board to oversee the company's engineering operations.

ClearStory Data

CEO: Sharmila Mulligan

ClearStory Data launched its platform and application software for big data analysis and exploration in October. The company's Data Intelligence software is designed to make it easier to access internal and external data sources, including corporate databases, Hadoop and the Internet, and use that data to uncover trends and patterns.

The company's software, which has visual discovery capabilities, is designed to bring big data analysis to a broad range of information workers.

ClearStory Data, based in Palo Alto, Calif., received $9 million in first-round financing in December 2012 with venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers leading the way.

Insieme Networks

Chief Executive: Mario Mazzola

This was a big year for startup and Cisco "spin-in" Insieme Networks, which launched its flagship application-centric infrastructure (ACI) in November.

ACI, Insieme's and Cisco's answer to the much ballyhooed software-defined networking (SDN) trend, is touted by both companies as being the next evolution beyond network overlays, a common type of SDN deployment that involves running a separate, software-based layer on top of existing network infrastructures.

Insieme is so cool that Cisco decided to fully acquire the startup in November, making it a wholly owned subsidiary. Insieme will anchor Cisco's broader SDN strategy moving forward, as the networking giant looks to take on rivals including VMware and Hewlett-Packard in the increasingly crowded SDN market.


CEO: Sam Glines

Security threat intelligence services have been attracting a lot of attention this year. One of the most visible is San Mateo, Calif.-based Norse, which offers IPViking, a platform designed to provide just such actionable threat intelligence. The IP traffic monitoring tool takes data from a global network of sensors to create a blacklist of high-risk IPs -- 3 million, at last count. In addition to tracking live attacks, it can identify malware, enabling IT teams to add blacklists to security appliances for additional protection.

The company's chief technology officer, Tommy Stiansen, has roots in the intelligence community where he worked on various projects, including architecting platforms used in cyberwarfare scenarios.

Earlier this month Norse obtained $10 million in Series A funding from Oak Investment Partners to expand its engineering, product development, and sales and marketing efforts.


CEO: Matthew G. Harrigan

PacketSled develops a next-generation security analytics platform that leverages big data to detect, contain and respond to security threats in real-time.

With today's growing range of IT security threats, the old ways of identifying threats, such as relying on data generated by network perimeter devices or full-packet systems, just won't cut it.

In July San Diego-based PacketSled, founded in 2012, launched its Toboggan technology that offers real-time alerting and performs root-cause analysis to provide the full context of a security incident.


CEO: Poojan Kumar

Flash storage startup PernixData, co-founded in 2012 by former VMware veterans Poojan Kumar and Satyam Vaghani, came out of stealth mode in February.

The company's flagship product, PernixData FVP, introduced in August, ties the flash storage and solid-state drives of multiple servers into a cluster to provide a high-performance storage tier for virtualized environments. That lets customers keep their existing shared storage infrastructure while taking advantage of server flash to increase storage performance.

The "Pernix" name comes from Latin and means "agile, nimble, brisk and quick," reflecting how the San Jose-based startup intends to compete with bigger, more established storage technology vendors.


CEO: Nand Mulchandani

Providing cloud-management solutions for enterprises, ScaleXtreme helps its clients and partners manage across private cloud systems and 15 different public clouds. The biggest benefit of ScaleXtreme is that it lets clients move to the cloud as fast or slow as they are able, instead of having to go all in at once, CEO Nand Mulchandani told CRN.

Right now, San Mateo, Calif.-based ScaleXtreme sells 40 percent through resellers and 60 percent direct, but as the company establishes itself more, it hopes to push toward a more channel-centric model, Mulchandani said.


Co-Founders: Izzy Azeri and Dan Belcher

Monitoring the performance of applications running in corporate data centers is relatively easy. Monitoring applications running in public clouds? Not so much.

To help businesses adapt to cloud computing, Stackdriver provides cloud-native application monitoring technologies for public cloud environments with the goal of making monitoring-as-a-service as accessible to solution providers as software-as-a-service is today.

Stackdriver launched its StackDriver Intelligent Monitoring product in September. The software fills the gap between Amazon Web Services infrastructure-level analytics and a need for application-level analytics. Stackdriver Intelligent Monitoring helps to flag problems before they occur, recognize unwanted function redundancies and improve performance.

Also in September, Boston-based Stackdriver received $10 million in Series B venture capital financing.

Sqrrl Data

CEO: Mark Terenzoni

Sqrrl Data was quietly started in 2012, but it's been getting a lot of attention this year. Some of that has to do with its pedigree: Sqrrl's founders came from the super-secret National Security Agency and helped develop that organization's massive database.

The Sqrrl Enterprise database software offers column, graph and document store capabilities to power big data applications. The product's real forte is its ability to scale up and provide data security at the cell level. The 1.1 release in June moved the product from limited release to general availability, as well as added advanced security tools and enhanced analytic capabilities.

The Cambridge, Mass.-based company raised $5.2 million in first-round financing in October, with investors Atlas Ventures and Matrix Partners leading the way.


CEO: Joe Arnold

SwiftStack, a developer of software-defined storage technology, came out of stealth mode in March when it raised $6.1 million in Series A financing. And in July, it launched its private cloud storage offering based on OpenStack Swift technology.

San Francisco-based SwiftStack was founded in 2011 by a team of developers with experience in the Web infrastructure business. The company designed its software-defined storage for object storage technology to make it easier for customers in the Web, mobile and software-as-a-service markets to run a public storage cloud inside their own data centers.

SwiftStack is the core contributor to the OpenStack Swift open source project for developing a highly available, distributed object store.