Analyst: Owen Rogers
16 May, 2014
With over a year of development and proof-of-concepts, platform performance management company Krystallize enters its private beta phase. With seed funding secured, the company hopes to match workloads to platforms, and audit platform providers on performance and cost on an ongoing basis.
The 451 Take
As cloud providers face increasing price pressure, they may be forced to seek cost savings in new ways. Fitting more revenue-generating virtual machines onto fixed-cost physical servers is one way of doing this. The result: inconsistently performing cloud resources. The effect: consumers get less value for money. Krystallize Technologies hopes its technology can ensure that consumers are getting the performance their applications need for a cost they understand, thereby improving value for money.
Krystallize has been in stealth mode for over a year while building its cloud comparison and audit tool and running customer proofs of concept. Its founder, Clinton France, has been self-funding the enterprise during this stage, having previous experience in running large IT infrastructures for the likes of HP, Microsoft, Boeing and BP. Based in Austin, Texas, the company has 11 employees.
Having secured two rounds of seed funding valued at about three quarters of a million dollars, the company is now entering its private beta phase. The beta will run for about seven months, after which Krystallize hopes to secure round A funding as it goes into general availability.
In the Cloud Wars series, we discussed how virtual machines are beginning to homogenize across the industry, but that there are still differences among equivalent services. As a result, although virtual machines are commodifying, they are still only partially fungible. One of the catalysts for full commodification are cloud comparison tools exactly like Krystallize’s – its tool measures the performance of platforms (cloud and on-premises) and compares them to an expected baseline performance. Over time, cloud providers will increasingly wish to compete, consumers will increasingly want best value and virtual machines will more closely align and creep closer toward full fungibility.
‘Platform’ is the key term that distinguishes Krystallize Technology from its competitors; its technology sits between infrastructure and application management with its value is in assessing how the underlying platform is performing, virtual or physical.
Delivered through a SaaS service, Krystallize’s service allows the performance of a range of virtual machines from a range of cloud providers to be compared with the baseline derived for a specific application. The basis of this comparison is CloudQoS, an index of performance data of a number of cloud platforms that has been compiled over a six-month period and includes IBM/SoftLayer, Rackspace, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft’s Azure.
Krystallize believes a platform’s performance can be measured using 15 metrics derived from 81 statistics, covering CPU utilization and performance, network connections and bandwidth, disk performance and memory. These metrics are related to how the infrastructure, hypervisor and operating system are working together to support an application, thereby providing a platform view. An application’s profile of metrics is called the CloudQoS Baseline, which is visualized as an
A-Diagram, a radar chart showing a shape that defines the performance of the application. Consumers can define their own baseline by specifying required performance metrics, or can choose a predefined template based on the application type (e.g., analytics, database). Consumers can also assess their own applications using the PlatformQoS profiler, charged at $250/assessment. Krystallize has applied for a number of foundational patents and is in the process of applying for further patents for its technology.
There are a number of purposes for this comparison. On a one-off basis, consumers can use the tool to align workloads to instance sizes and providers such that a high level of performance is achieved, without spending on unused capacity. On a recurring basis, the tool can be used to audit virtual machines to ensure they are delivering performance as required.
The company believes that as cloud demand increases and providers’ margins are squeezed, virtual machine capability will become more contended and performance more inconsistent. It has a valid point: if the price of virtual machines can’t increase due to competitive pressure, the natural way of making more profit is to reduce costs by providing less. In fact, Krystallize states that consistency –where performance varies over time – is a common issue seen in its assessments, likely as a result of ‘noisy neighbors’ taking resources from a shared host. It is also seeing evidence of rate limiting, where workloads that take consume a high quantity of resources over a sustained period are automatically restricted to a smaller quantity.
The ongoing audit capability is achieved through Krystallize’s SmartApp, which is deployed to the virtual machine being audited, and collects usage data roughly every five minutes. The audit capacity is typically charged at list price around $10/VM/month.
Krystallize inevitably wants to use the cloud profiling and selection use case as a way of gaining customers, and the audit capability as a recurring revenue. As a result, the company’s main market is enterprises considering the cloud, but has realized a secondary market in the past few months: cloud providers, looking to differentiate, are keen to use Krystallize to show consumers they provide better performance. In fact, SLA performance monitoring could provide cloud providers with an upsell opportunity. This issue also extends to hardware manufacturers and wholesale cloud providers, which wish to demonstrate to channel partners that its clouds are performing to SLAs.
Ensuring the performance of private clouds, particularly where the IT department is operating its own profit-and-loss as a supplier of IT, is also gaining interest – There is also an opportunity for SIs looking to consult on cloud migration to use the service to help consumers choose a platform.
As performance and cost are inexplicably linked (after all, the value of a virtual machine is in its performance), Krystallize is able to compare the costs of different cloud providers, and show the relative cost per performance metric.
A large apparel manufacturer is one of the private beta customers that have been in proof of concept over the past year. Its primary objective is to reduce its Amazon Web Services spending by eliminating underperforming services. CloudQoS is being used to ascertain underperforming services, which are subsequently turned down (pruned) or consolidated, resulting in a 15% saving on its $1m a month spending.
A large energy company has invested $20m in its private cloud, acting as an internal IT supplier to its business units. IT infrastructure management is keen to ensure it is making a return on its investment, and also to show business units that its IT department – essentially a monopoly – is delivering high-quality, reliable and cost-competitive (price/performance) services.
A number of cloud providers have interacted with Krystallize and are seeking ways to leverage its services, including IBM, Microsoft, Tier 3, Rackspace and Intel.
Krystallize’s services play across a number of areas. Cloud benchmarking and comparison tools include those provided by RISC Networks, Cloudamize, RightScale, CloudHarmony and Cloud Spectator. Infrastructure monitoring is provided by companies such as New Relic, Opsview, SolarWinds and uptime software. Application monitoring is provided by the likes of AppDynamics and AppNeta. Apptio is a financial management software vendor. Many of these companies have similarities in their product portfolios, providing features for cost, performance and monitoring.
The likes of HP, IBM, CA Technologies and BMC also play across these areas.
Krystallize has a clever method for comparing platform performance to an expected baseline, using proprietary patented technology. It has a number of large deployments in the works.
Noisy neighbors and inconsistent performance are only likely to get worse as cloud providers are put under competitive pressure to reduce costs. As cloud matures, enterprises will be increasingly keen to understand what they are paying for, and to ensure they are realizing best value for money.
The product is yet to be fully released, and it needs named case studies to demonstrate its potential.
More experienced and well-known monitoring companies could potentially add platform monitoring to their product portfolios, using a different measuring and comparison process.
Reproduced by permission of The 451 Group; © 2014. This report was originally published within 451 Research’s Market Insight Service. For additional information on 451 Research or to apply for trial access, go to: www.451research.com