The 10 Coolest Virtualization Startups Of 2014

Very Interesting Virtualization

The term "virtualization" has been subsumed to a large extent by cloud computing. But that's not to suggest there isn't still lots of cool innovation going on in the virtualization space.

Yes, server virtualization is a market that's pretty much owned by VMware, but many startups are doing interesting and innovative things with storage, management and networking. In some cases, these startups are run by execs who used to work at the big vendors and were hungry for new challenges.

CRN has tracked the virtualization market closely over the course of the year. Here, we present what we think are the 10 coolest startups of 2014.


CEO: Sirish Raghuram

Platform9, a startup co-founded by former VMware engineers, came out of stealth mode in August with a cloud-based management platform that lets companies run their private clouds with the automation and efficiency of public clouds.

During their time at VMware, the Platform9 team worked on vCloud Director, a cloud management platform that makes virtual resources available to users through a self-service catalog.

That product has seen slow adoption, and the Platform9 team believes their approach is better. Whether customers agree remains to be seen, but this startup has big ideas and isn't afraid to challenge the status quo.

Primary Data

CEO: Lance Smith

Storage startup Primary Data came out of stealth mode in November with a technology that virtualizes data to make it more easily accessible by the various types of storage found in today's data center.

The Los Altos, Calif.-based startup hired Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak to be its chief scientist, which is the same role he held in his last job at storage vendor Fusion-io. Primary Data CEO Lance Smith and CTO David Flynn also came from Fusion-io.

Storage is a thorny issue for many enterprises, and Primary Data could be one of the many startups in this space that brings some clarity to the confusion. Plus, most everyone loves Steve Wozniak.


CEO: Kumar Sreekanti

BlueData, a startup founded in 2012, pitches its technology as a way for big data analytics to run smoothly on private clouds.

One way BlueData handles this is by separating analytics processing from an organization's data storage, which makes it easier to scale server virtualization resources.

BlueData touts its technology as "the fastest virtualization platform for big data," and behind the scenes its proprietary IOBoost I/O optimization technology handles the heavy lifting involved.


CEO: Ben Golub

Linux containers have been around for years, but Docker was the first to really show the world just how useful they are for deploying and moving apps around between different clouds. And that's one big reason why Docker is probably the most important technology vendor to emerge in 2014.

Docker containers are popular because lots of application development is done on Linux, and containers also eliminate some of the performance overhead that comes with running apps in virtual machines. VMware and Amazon Web Services have both released products that support Docker, as have other vendors.

Docker raised $40 million in a Series C round in September and $15 million in a Series B round in January. Two funding rounds in one calendar year? Yeah, that's a pretty obvious sign of a startup that's going places.

Virtual (Acquired By Citrix in September)

CEO: Mark Templeton (Citrix)

Citrix Systems gave its enterprise mobility portfolio a shot in the arm in September by acquiring a small yet technically impressive startup that virtualizes iOS and Android on desktops for testing apps for bugs.

Testing apps is a huge concern for enterprises, and it's not easy to do considering all the different devices, operating systems and other variables that exist. Citrix is aggressively going after the enterprise mobility opportunity, and the Virtual deal added some well-regarded technology in this area.


CEO: Alex Polvi

CoreOS, which earlier this year launched a lightweight Linux distribution optimized for massive server deployments, isn't stopping there. In December, the scrappy startup said it would offer a more lightweight container virtualization alternative to Docker.

Called Rocket, the new container runtime is "designed for composability, security and speed," CoreOS Alex Polvi said in a Dec. 1 blog post.

While CoreOS isn't a virtualization vendor per se, it's showing an ability and desire to provide the same sort of simplification in the data center. If CoreOS can follow through on its pledge to make containers faster and more secure, then enterprises currently using Docker could start checking it out.


CEO: Jedidiah Yueh

Delphix, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based startup, sells technology that shares a single copy of a database across multiple cloud-based instances through the use of virtualization. It's a small yet important segment for enterprises that need to speed database provisioning times.

Delphix is Dell's official data migration partner for its public cloud program, and its technology is sure to continue getting attention for its ability to solve what has been a tough technical challenge.


CEO: Ash Ashutosh

Storage startup Actifio, which helps customers improve backups, recovery and disaster recovery, raised $100 million in VC funding in March, giving it a valuation in the neighborhood of $1 billion. Perhaps more important, Actifio helps organizations deal with what's known as "data pollution," or the costly tendency for storing multiple copies of data.

Actifio virtualizes copy data to make it available for backup, disaster recovery, test and development, analytics, and compliance use, and enables it all to run on industry-standard x86 server hardware.


CEO: Madhu Venugopal

Startup SocketPlane, which is still in stealth mode but announced its existence in October, is aiming to develop an open-source software-defined networking stack that works with Docker.

SocketPlane's team includes veterans from Cisco, Dell, Red Hat, HP and OpenDaylight, and it's funded by LightSpeed Venture Partners.

"We see the incredible value in the use of Linux containers evidenced by the popularity of Docker," SocketPlane CEO Madhu Venugopal said in a statement.

It might be too early to anoint SocketPlane as "cool," but given the collective knowledge of its executive team, it's definitely a startup that bears watching in 2015.

Pluribus Networks

CEO: Kumar Srikantan

Pluribus Networks, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based network virtualization startup that's aiming to steal some attention from Cisco and VMware, sees the channel as the key to getting there.

In November, Pluribus brought in Bob Layton, an industry vet who used to work at Cisco and Xerox, to be vice president of Americas enterprise and channel sales. Layton comes to Pluribus from Lumenate, where he was vice president of sales for the Western U.S.

It's still early days in the software-defined networking space, but startups that realize the important role channel partners can play in this business are cool in our book.