February 4, 2013
While in Israel last week, I took the opportunity to meet with Ravello, a company just coming out of stealth that aims to ease the process of development and deployment of enterprise applications. Founded by the creators of open source hypervisor KVM, Ravello aims to enable the replication of existing applications, with no changes, such that they can be deployed to any public or private cloud. I spoke with Ravello before my trip and, frankly, their claims felt like oft-told tales of unicorns and rainbows – my interest was piqued and I had to learn more.
The idea of Ravello is to eliminate the contention caused by limited enterprise resources – by allowing replicas of production instances to be created in cloud environments, Ravello offers developers and indeed the enterprise itself the opportunity to create anywhere/run anywhere. Blueprints can be created and developers can provision as many replicas as they need for both development and test. In addition, Ravello can be integrated into an enterprise’s continuous integration system to automatically provision multiple replicas every time code is checked-in.
This idea of a consistent environment, across public, private and traditional infrastructure is something of a holy grail – often alluded too, sometimes promised but rarely delivered. Beta tester Ideamine Technologies is one customer who is using Ravello today to bypass their lack of internal capacity for development and testing. When attempting to use the cloud to bypass this issue they were faced with extensive application changes and essentially two distinct environments. With Ravello however Ideamine is able to use exactly the same environment in the cloud as it uses on-premise.
Ravello is powered by their so-called “cloud application hypervisor” which consists of three components:
- a new nested hypervisor, HVX, the engine behind Ravello’s ability to normalize application environments across any cloud without any changes
- an IO overlay that consists of software defined networking and storage, enabling any networking topology on top of any cloud
- an application framework that enables a monolithic definition of an end-to-end multi-VM application including all of its infrastructure
And it seems that Ravello’s story has attracted a host of big names – today the company is announcing, alongside it’s beta release, that it has secured $26M in funding from such big names as Sequoia Capital, Norwest Venture Partners and Bessemer Venture Partners. Part of the justification for this funding likely lies in the pedigree of the founders – it reads like a who’s who of infrastructure smarts:
- Rami Tamir (Co-Founder, CEO) – Prior to founding Ravello, Tamir was VP of engineering at Red Hat. He joined Red Hat through the acquisition of Qumranet where he was the co-founder and president. Previously Tamir held senior key management positions at Cisco which he joined through the acquisition of Pentacom where he was co-founder and head of software.
- Benny Schnaider (Co-Founder, President and Chairman of the Board) – Prior to founding Ravello, Schnaider was VP of business development for Red Hat. He joined Red Hat through the acquisition of Qumranet where he was co-founder and CEO. Prior to Qumranet, Schnaider founded Pentacom and served as its CEO. He also co-founded P-Cube, (acquired by Cisco in 2004). As a board member, Schnaider played a key role in other companies including B-Hive (acquired by VMware in 2008) and Traffix (acquired by F5 in 2012).
- Navin R. Thadani (SVP, Products) – Thadani joins Ravello from Red Hat, where he ran the virtualization (KVM/ RHEV) business line. He joined Red Hat through the acquisition of Qumranet in 2008 which he led as the VP of products. Previously, Thadani held several senior management positions at Cisco Systems
Ravello reminds me somewhat of Bromium – another company founded by an all-star cast of hypervisor big-names. Like Ravello, Bromium picked up a significant funding round and, like Ravello, it seeks to change the way enterprises think about their environments – in Bromium’s case it’s the security of distinct operations on user’s machines while, in the case of Ravello, it is the bigger opportunity around the creation of applications. As an aside, both companies share a PR agency – Heather Fitzsimmons from Mindshare PR is rapidly becoming the agent of choice for smart high-flying cloud startups.
Anyway, back to the product. Clearly the disconnect between an enterprise’s desire for agile software delivery, and the grinding pace of their IT department makes a solution like Ravello’s attractive. Of course the difficulty lies in the fact that, to an extent, Ravello offers developers an opportunity to sidestep IT and “acquire” their own environments. As such they face a big challenge – while building out a technical solutions is a problem in and of itself, perhaps the bigger challenge is walking the tightrope between developer enablement and IT control. The jury is out on the best way to meet the needs of both these camps and it will be interesting to see how Ravello positions itself going forwards as it tries to secure tier 1 customers. Mean time, there’s a bunch of rainbows with unicorns flying over them, and they’re wearing saddles emblazoned with the Ravello logo. If the company can deliver on it’s technological promise, there’s going to be some very impressed cloud pundits around the traps.