The 10 Coolest Cloud Startups Of 2014

Reaching For The Cloud

The speedy pace of technological disruptions brought on by the cloud is leveling up the playing field and clearing room for innovative new startups to take on the big boys.

Those companies, many run by tech veterans who left large software firms, others by ambitious young Turks, are doing everything from offering cloud infrastructure and services to providing mobility, analytics and security solutions tailored to the whims of a rapidly evolving IT market.

It's a brave, new world, and these upstarts think they got what it takes to muscle their way into some major market share.

FireLayers: Guarding The Gateway

CEO: Yair Grindlinger

FireLayers CEO Yair Grindlinger and his partners were working on enterprise security projects a few years back when the cloud came along and ruined everything.

But the Israeli security specialists also recognized a tremendous opportunity, and pretty soon they were shifting gears to think about how to protect the enterprise within the new IT landscape.

FireLayers recognized that the security gateway, like applications, was moving to the cloud and started developing a layered solution for securing apps.

The company, with offices in Redwood City, Calif., and Herzliya, Israel, recently released a policy-based security gateway enabling security, compliance and governance controls across all cloud applications, for any user on any device.

Mirantis: Bringing OpenStack To The Masses

CEO: Adrian Ionel

If there's an uprising against the status quo fomenting in the cloud world, it is being driven by OpenStack, the open source IaaS platform that might pose the greatest threat to the dominant and proprietary public clouds.

Mirantis, once a system integrator building OpenStack clouds, now wants to be the world's leading OpenStack developer.

To achieve that goal, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company is looking to make its enterprise-grade OpenStack distribution easier to deploy, manage and upgrade. The company is winning enterprise clients, and the funding is following.

Shippable: Using Containers Before They Were Cool

CEO: Avi Cavale

Shippable isn't as prominent as some of the other startups on this list, but the continuous integration service provider deserves recognition because it realized the benefits of Linux containers before most of its peers knew what Linux containers were.

Luckily for the Shippable team, just as it started the arduous process of creating its own container format, a project called Docker came along and gave the team a prepackaged solution.

Shippable's continuous integration and delivery platform built from Docker containers allows developers to integrate and test their code before deploying it. The Seattle-based startup is looking to penetrate enterprises using either on-premises infrastructures or public clouds.

Docker: Disrupting DevOps

CEO: Ben Golub

This was the year of Docker.

Linux containers weren't exactly the hottest technology out there at the start of 2014; now it seems they're all the rage, especially when listening to the major cloud service providers.

The open source project launched its first enterprise-ready version in June, and by the end of the year was the star of the show at the Google and AWS cloud conferences. Its ecosystem is bursting with new projects and ventures.

What one Google executive called the "de facto standard for Linux containers" may disrupt the cloud more than any other technology in recent memory.

Xplenty: Simplifying Big Data Processing

CEO: Yaniv Mor

This Israeli startup backed by Waze's investors wants to make it so easy to use Hadoop for data processing in the cloud that you don't even really have to know how to use Hadoop at all.

Which makes sense, because while Hadoop offers a powerful open source platform for processing large data sets on distributed systems, it isn't something just anyone can pick up and start using right off the bat.

Xplenty offers those capabilities free of any coding and light on the tech jargon. A graphical user interface replaces all that nonsense.

DigitalOcean: Entering The IaaS Fray

CEO: Ben Uretsky

The cloud wars are getting downright vicious, and it's hard to see why any rookie would want to step onto that bloody battlefield. But DigitalOcean, a New York-based startup, has got some heavyweight investors on its side and believes it can make the cloud friendlier for developers by simplifying the complexities of web infrastructure and focusing on the user experience.

And DigitalOcean isn't shy about declaring its intention to take on the big boys with its scalable virtual private servers, called droplets. That includes you, Amazon Web Services.

CloudSigma: Offering An Eco-Friendly Cloud

CEO: Robert Jenkins

This Swiss IaaS provider offers highly available and flexible, enterprise-class hybrid cloud servers and cloud-hosting solutions in Europe and across the United States, including Hawaii.

And because it hosts its infrastructure in Equinix data centers, it can offer private, high-speed connections to its cloud, bypassing the public Internet to ease the security concerns of some customers and facilitating creation of hybrid clouds.

CloudSigma is committed to the channel model. And you got to love a cloud company that stresses environmental responsibility and offers carbon-neutral servers.

ElasticBox: Easing Application Development

CEO: Ravi Srivatsav

ElasticBox, like Docker, is staking its claim in the land of containerization.

The San Francisco-based startup wants to make it "insanely easy" for IT pros and developers to work together to build apps by bringing together all the components of the application stack in a modular, service-based application development process.

The DevOps-oriented technology focuses on reusable application components, and harnesses the power of popular orchestration and containerization tools like Chef, Puppet, Ansible, Salt and Docker.

Treasure Data: End-To-End Big Data Solutions In The Cloud

CEO: Hiro Yoshikawa

This Mountain View, Calif.-based company with strong ties to the Japanese market offers something akin to a SaaS platform for crunching big data in the cloud.

It's an end-to-end solution focused on collecting, storing and analyzing large data volumes sourced from just about anywhere, from mobile devices to sensors.

While Treasure's first wave of customers were primarily analyzing data coming from advertising and mobile devices, the emerging Internet of Things business holds promise down the road.

Treasure Data hosts its service on AWS in the U.S. and some other data centers in Japan.

Skyhigh Networks: Unveiling Shadow IT

CEO: Rajiv Gupta

This security startup based in Cupertino, Calif., focuses on contextual access control and application auditing.

Skyhigh's cloud-based security software can scan a corporate network and identify all cloud services used by employees, especially those in disregard of company policy. It's another weapon in the battle against shadow IT that is consuming CIOs across the corporate world.

While the company offers encryption and data loss prevention services, Skyhigh prefers to protect data, infrastructure and mission-critical apps by administering authentication and access control based on end-user location and other factors.

The startup has partnered with Palo Alto Networks and data encryption and tokenization vendor SafeNet.