Open source companies to watch

Open source companies to watch

Open source companies and projects are expanding past Linux, to offer alternatives for everything from databases to disaster preparedness

Open source software is a given in most enterprise data centers, so it's not surprising to see the ranks of open source companies and projects swell. It's not just Linux anymore - community-developed software is offering alternatives for everything from databases to application servers to network management to disaster preparedness. How do you know which open source approach is right for you? We've pulled out a few start-ups that you might not be familiar with, but we think should be on your radar.

Here are ten open source start-ups to watch:

Company name: Cleversafe

Founded: November 2004

Location: Chicago, U.S.

What does the company offer? The Linux File System, which lets Linux computers store information on a dispersed storage grid called the Cleversafe Research Storage Grid. The company plans to offer commercial dispersed-data storage services and software. Why is it worth watching? As companies start taking a closer look at building grids, Cleversafe provides an open source platform to serve as the foundation for commercial dispersedstorage grids that provide secure storage because data components are scrambled and stored in separate locations.

How did the company get its start? The founders were looking for a better way to secure the world's data.

How did the company get its name? A clever approach to secure computing.

CEO and background: Christopher Gladwin, formerly of MusicNow.

Funding: Private, plus angel investors, amount not disclosed.

Who's using the product? There have been nearly 800 downloads of the software from, where the project is hosted, since the grid was announced in April.

Company name: Digium

Founded: 1999

Location: Alabama, U.S.

What does the company offer? Asterisk, the industry's first open source PBX, and Asterisk Business Edition, a professional grade version of the software.

Why is it worth watching? The open source Asterisk software is making it easier and more cost-effective for companies to launch VoIP projects. "What [Digium] can do for telephony is incredibly powerful and disruptive," says David Skok, a general partner at Matrix Partners.

How did the company get its start? Mark Spencer was 21 when he built a telephone system for his Linux Support Services company, using the Linux operating system. Spencer contributed the code he developed to the open source community, and the project became known as Asterisk.

How did the company get its name? It was just one of the names tossed out by Spencer and a few colleagues.

CEO and background: Spencer was a computer-engineering student at Auburn University when he created Asterisk for Linux Support Services. He shifted his business focus from Linux support to supporting Asterisk.

Funding: $13.8 million from Matrix Partners in August 2006.

Who's using the product? Discovery Research, Sam Houston University.

Company name: Hyperic

Founded: March 2004

Location: San Francisco, U.S.

What does the company offer? Hyperic HQ, an open source platform for managing heterogeneous IT environments, including operating systems and Web, application, database, middleware, and virtualization technology. The company also provides subscription-based services and support, as well as advanced features.

Why is it worth watching? Application and Web monitoring from big vendors such as CA, IBM and BMC Software can be bulky, complex and difficult to deploy. Hyperic takes a different approach to Web infrastructure management and has created a simpler tool that lets IT managers monitor commercial and open source technologies from a single portal. The company's extensive open source experience - the founders helped develop the Apache Web server - adds to its appeal.

How did the company get its start? Company founders originally developed management technology while at Covalent Technologies, a firm that provides enterprise support for Apache deployments, and decided to spin off from Covalent to create a company focused strictly on the management software.

How did the company get its name? The company's name originally was to have been Hyperica, but one of the founders "mysteriously left out the 'a' in the company incorporation documents and Hyperic was born," says Javier Soltero, Hyperic's CEO. He notes that Hyperic is a derivative of hypericin, the active ingredient in the St. John's Wort herbal antidepressant. Maybe Hyperic will turn out to be the antidepressant for over-taxed systems administrators.

CEO and background: Soltero was chief architect at Covalent Technologies and a senior engineer at Netscape.

Funding: $3.8 million from Accel Partners & Benchmark Capital in May 2006.

Who's using the product? eHarmony, National Semiconductor, Ogilvy & Mather, La Quinta Inn.

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