50 Comments

Summary:

In five short years, cloud computing has gone from being a quaint technology to a major catch phrase. For the first time, we’ve decided to condense our knowledge into The Structure 50, a list of the 50 companies that are influencing the way the cloud/infrastructure evolves.

Structure50.2

In five short years, cloud computing has gone from being a quaint technology to a major catchphrase. It all started in 2006 when Amazon began offering its really Simple Storage Service and soon following up with its Elastic Compute service.

Just like that, the concept of on-demand, programmable infrastructure that could be accessed over the Internet became a reality. Infrastructure as a service has been talked about, alternatively in hushed and gushing tones. Grid computing, utility computing, on-demand computing — they were all ways to describe what Amazon Web Services had delivered.

Fast forward to today, when Amazon and others are moving at Internet speed, trying to offer better security, faster networking, more compliance and a host of other products that are attempting to meet the demands of startups, consumers and enterprises alike. It’s not perfect, as Amazon’s two-day outage earlier this year attests to, but it’s certainly good enough – and getting better.

We launched our Structure conference in 2008 because we saw the cloud-based infrastructure revolution was going to create new opportunities. As observers, we’ve talked to hundreds of people about cloud computing and its ecosystem. On our Structure channel, we cover the gear and software that comprises the cloud, the services and the people who are changing the industry.

Now for the first time, we’ve decided to condense that knowledge into the Structure 50, a list of the 50 companies that are influencing how the cloud and infrastructure evolves.

These are the ones to watch — at least in 2011. You’ve heard of some – such as Amazon or Dell. Others – such as Nicira or Boundary – are probably not yet on your radar. But they should be. All of these companies, big or small, have people, technology or strategies that will help shape the way the cloud market is developing and where it will eventually end up.

To the companies who made it on the list, congratulations. For others who missed out, in the future anything is possible. And for those who are still drawing their plans on a piece of paper, we are patiently waiting for you to change the world.

For a PDF version of the list (to print out and take with you) check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required).

Om Malik, Katie Fehrenbacher, and Cortney Fielding contributed to this report.

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  1. Dave Henderson Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    You left of Skytap Cloud a leading SaaS + IaaS provider yet you included Facebook?

    1. Dave

      As an FYI, do you represent Skytap is some capacity? If yes, why don’t you send a formal email to the editors.

      1. No. I was also going to comment about Terremark? You have Verizon on there and even though Terremark was acquired by Verizon, Verizon sells both offerings today. Just seemed odd that you would have Facebook in the ranks? Also, no mention of Savvis or CSC? I just don’t get it.

    2. Facebook is in there because of the influence its Open Compute project could have on cloud hardware deployments. Verizon/Terremark led the crowd in and Verizon has also innovated on pricing and some networking elements. It’s always a difficult process to winnow these things down, but we think this is a great list.

  2. Derrick Harris Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    As Stacey noted, the process of choosing 50 companies out of hundreds that touch the cloud space is very difficult. It would have been very easy to just list every IaaS and PaaS provider, but that’s not what we’re aiming for.

    We wanted a broad list of companies that are doing new things in the cloud, regularly pushing the bounds of existing technologies, or that are influencing how the cloud is taking shape. I’m sure there are strong arguments to be made for other companies — and I’ll gladly listen to them — but we think we have a good list.

  3. Joshua Goldbard (ThePBXGuy) Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    Hey folks,

    Really enjoyed this post. It looks like you guys put a lot of effort into this list.

    I feel like we’re in a very specialized ebb of the iterative development cycle. I believe we’re going to see more specialized data center configurations before some new technology disrupts the field at which point we’ll return to more generalized data center implementations.

    Read more of my conclusions here: http://thepbxblog.com/2011/05/18/top-50-cloud-innovators/

    Cheers,
    Joshua

    P.S. Keep up the great work!

  4. Dang, didn’t have enough time to reach out to you guys about http://blitz.io from @mudynamics. Great list though and congrats to all those that made it! It’s an exciting time to be on the cloud, for sure.

  5. Was there a nomination system for this list, or was it solely decided by editors?

  6. josephmartins Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    With all due respect, if you’re going to do a Top 50 list (of anything) you might as well just include everyone Derrick. Offering a Top 50 is all but meaningless or useful.

    It’s a bit like telling us about the top 50 sports cars of the new millenium or the top 50 coupon sites.

    1. Joseph

      I would like to answer you but I am not even sure what the comment is. Have you heard of Fortune 500, Forbes 500 etc.

      1. Katie Fehrenbacher Om Malik Wednesday, May 18, 2011

        + 1 to that. Or the old Red Herring 100, or 30 under 30? What’s the numerical cut off line?

      2. I thought the comment was pretty clear, Om. It’s a pointless list that accomplishes nothing at all, at least not from my point of view.

        Let’s not equate it to Forbes and Fortune. Forbes ranks based on “sales, profits, assets, market value, and employees.” Fortune’s list is “ranked by gross revenue after adjustments made by Fortune to exclude the impact of excise taxes companies collect.” All hard numbers.

        And your list? What is it based on? Perhaps revealing that information would help your readers understand how your team chose the Top 50. The value is in the metrics, not in the list.

    2. I have to agree. What are the criteria? Even Forbes and Fortune use objective data to do their ranking. Your list appears to be completely subjective. What are then innovations that put these 50 companies on the list? Does making a server qualify Dell? Then why not HP? And, is that really relevant? If enterprise capability is important to Cloud then why is Oracle not on the list?

      Next time around you might refer to NIST’s definition of cloud computing and use that to conduct evaluations.

    3. Joe,

      Given the number of companies that touch cloud computing in some respect, 50 seems like a perfectly fair list size. There are probably 20-30 IaaS and PaaS providers alone, only we didn’t constrain ourselves to that group of companies.

      1. I agree. However as I (and others) pointed out earlier it isn’t the size of the list but its lack of transparency that destroys/diminishes its value.

        The only appropriate response from GigaOM would be an explanation that helps site visitors understand the specific criteria (whether objective or subjective) used to calculate the ranking.

        If you truly care to offer a valuable ranking of any type, it is imperative that you accompany it with a description of GigaOM’s criteria and methodology.

  7. Katie Fehrenbacher Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    @LB, There wasn’t an official nomination list this time around, but please feel free to send us suggestions for next year’s list.

  8. Scott Maxwell Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    This seems like a somewhat random list to me, although I do like how you set it up to get more advertising clicks by requiring me to click through to see your (really weak) rationale for some of the companies on the list and I like how you included some larger companies that don’t seem to be driving innovation but could become advertisers and drive your revenue. (Unfortunately, lacking a good explanation of why they are on the list, I can’t help but wonder why they really are on the list and I have learned that “following the money” is a reasonable possibility).

    You have some great content, but this list is not a very good example…while some of the companies should be on the list, it really isn’t clear why you chose others (instead of their competitors) and your lack of clarity doesn’t help. Really makes me wonder what is going on?

    Scott Maxwell
    OpenView Venture Partners

    1. Scott

      Thanks for your comment. I understand that your company, Skytap is not on the list and you might have a reason to be unhappy. However, to make wild acquisitions and casting aspirations on other people’s business is not a wise strategy and definitely not a place to start a discourse and a reasonable exchange of ideas.

      Thankfully, the world is a large place and we shall meet and have a reasonable conversation. However, next time, do remember, it is easier to reason than sling mud.

      1. OM, Good point on slinging mud and you are right to point out that I was wrong to guess your intentions. The question that I actually have is how you arrived at your list, as it could be a good learning opportunity since I can not come up with a set of filters that gets to it. We have several portfolio companies not on the list, but I have a much longer list of what I consider to be really interesting cloud related companies that are not on your list and companies that are on your list where your rationale is not clear. The interesting thing about lists like this is at least partially the criteria for getting there (i.e., what is it that you find important?). If you don’t publish you criteria then I will look forward to meeting and having a reasonable conversation.

        Scott

    2. Hi, Scott–

      Please do share your thoughts on what companies you think are the most innovative. I’m sure our readers would love to hear them. (I would.) We didn’t mean for this to be the be-all end-all list (see my explanation below), and it would be fascinating to find out what you, as a VC, are looking at when you choose which companies to invest in. (But please do disclose it if you’re recommending one of your portfolio companies.)

      Also, we went back and forth on the formatting of this to make it as reader-friendly as possible. In the past, we’ve treated similar lists as one big long post, but that requires readers to either read it all sequentially, or to constantly hit “Back” to get to the TOC at the top of the page. We heard from readers that that was a frustrating user experience, and with so many more companies, we felt it would be even more frustrating. So this time, we tried the multi-page approach. We’ll learn from what worked and what didn’t with this formatting and apply it to the next one.

      All best,
      Nicole

      1. Nicole,
        Thanks for the clarification in your note below. Frankly, I find what most companies are doing to attack the cloud infrastructure quite interesting and there is a significant amount of innovation going on right now. (There are a number of different angles that companies are pursuing and that number is getting larger every day.) I couldn’t begin to prioritize some of the great companies and their attack angles, and frankly I wouldn’t because I don’t want to have to respond to all the comments that might be generated!

        I would still be interested in your thought process for what you find important in your list and not on your list, however, even if it is somewhat intuitive (which isn’t a bad thing, but would be good to understand). Perhaps OM will tell me if I buy him lunch?

        Scott

  9. What? No Nimsoft on the list?!

  10. Graeme Wright Thursday, May 19, 2011

    Seems like a very US centric view of the cloud world.

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