Infrastructure Overview, Q2 2010

1 Summary

The first quarter of 2010 was all about established vendors making their plays in emerging fields like cloud computing, but the second quarter once again belonged to the little guys and the new guys. Almost across the board, from processors to virtualization to cloud services, relatively small vendors and startups had the market cornered on innovation and mindshare.

In cloud computing, although large providers like AWS, Google and Microsoft made their fair share of headlines, startups like Engine Yard and Heroku grew their offerings significantly and showed customer growth to match. And in the internal cloud space, startups almost completely stole the show. Companies like Eucalyptus Systems,, MorphLabs, Nimbula, GridCentric and Makara all launched new products, raised significant funding and/or signed up impressive new customers.

In the data center, it was startups (and everyone not Intel and AMD) driving innovation in energy-efficient processors and servers. SeaMicro released its low-power 512-processor server, Tilera, and Quanta announced a 512-core server built on Tilera’s new 64-core x86 alternative. Marvell and SmoothStone, meanwhile, vowed to bring ARM processor-based servers into web-scale data centers.

The data analytics and database markets also belonged to startups and, in some cases, open-source projects. Hadoop kept marching toward mainstream acceptance thanks to companies like Cloudera, Karmasphere, Datameer and several niche software vendors. NoSQL databases attracted some high-profile customers — including CERN, Zynga and Mozilla — but the biggest database technology innovations might have come from non-NoSQL startups Clustrix and VoltDB.

Even in the CDN space, where Akamai handled the lion’s share of traffic, smaller competitors raised upward of $30 million in venture capital.

In terms of technological shifts, the second quarter brought an increased emphasis on PaaS over IaaS in cloud computing, and demonstrated that solutions targeting big data management and analytics will only become more important with each passing day. After all, we’re generating significantly higher volumes of data every year, and there are all sorts of insights to be drawn from that.

The second quarter also brought further proof that the long-dominant x86 architecture might be on its way out. Intel and AMD won’t let this happen without a fight, of course, but the increased focus on data center efficiency, combined with the aforementioned new server offerings, are no small matter. Where there’s tinder in the forms of customer demand, products, funding and a greater societal movement toward environmentalism, something is bound to catch fire.