In recent years, companies led by Amazon, Microsoft, and Google have helped usher in the era of cloud computing, in which businesses and individuals lease access to computing on demand, paying only for as much processing power as they need. And as often happens when a new industry emerges, there’s been a flurry of startup activity in the cloud-computing industry over the past year or so.
One startup, called Cloudkick, hopes to provide a simpler way to manage data stored across several different cloud-computing services. Cloudkick provides a unified, Web-based interface for monitoring data regardless of the cloud provider hosting it.
Another feature launched recently by Cloudkick, called Cloudshift, lets customers transfer data between different cloud-computing providers with just a few clicks. It makes it possible to shift an application from Amazon’s servers to those of competitors, such as Rackspace, with surprising ease. This means that businesses using Cloudkick can avoid being locked into one provider–a feature that could help save money if a different provider suddenly offers a cheaper service.
“A lot of companies are afraid to move into the cloud because they don’t want one company to have all their data,” says Dan Di Spaltro, cofounder of the startup. These companies worry that it will take significant time and resources to move data between providers because, as yet, there is no cloud-computing standard. Moving from one provider to another requires technical tricks, including converting data between file types used by different providers. “We tackle that interoperability problem,” says Di Spaltro.
Cloudkick presented its product last month at the Under the Radar conference in Mountain View, CA, where it won a best-in-show award and best in category, by audience vote. The startup, founded by the venture firm Y Combinator, came out of stealth mode in March, has 1,600 customers, and manages about 12,500 servers. The company’s management service and its new migration service–currently only available to a small number of customers–are both free, although it intends to launch payment plans in the future.
After signing in to the Cloudkick website, a user can add different cloud-computing accounts by entering the necessary log-in information. A dashboard then shows each of these services and the status of the servers being used. A person can set up e-mail alerts to warn if traffic dips below a certain level or if it spikes, for example. The company also provides graphs to visualize the average load on a machine–an indicator of the overall health of the system.
When designing an embedded system choosing which tools to use often comes down to building a custom solution or buying off-the-shelf tools.