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Startup Cloud Cruiser Provides Cloud Financial Management Tools For Hybrid IT

If you’re in enterprise IT, there’s a good chance you’ve moved at least some of your company’s infrastructure to the cloud. By the same token, however, it’s natural that some of your IT infrastructure is still in its traditional, non-cloud format.

If you’re in enterprise IT, there’s a good chance you’ve moved at least some of your company’s infrastructure to the cloud. By the same token, however, it’s natural that some of your IT infrastructure is still in its traditional, non-cloud format. In fact, many larger enterprises increasingly have a mix of public cloud, private cloud, virtualized server instances and traditional infrastructure. 

The question then becomes, with all these different types of platforms, how can IT manage it all? If this sounds like a challenge your IT department is facing, then one startup that may well have the right answer for you is Cloud Cruiser. Founded in 2010, Cloud Cruiser provides IT with a set of simple to use cloud-based financial management tools specifically designed for what they describe as this type of mixed, “hybrid IT” environment. Taking the time to share some insights on what Cloud Cruiser is doing is Deirdre Mahon, Chief Marketing Officer for Cloud Cruiser.

IT Specialist Thank you for sharing some insights Deirdre. To start with, can you provide some brief background on Cloud Cruiser, such as what year you were started and the background of the founders?

Deirdre Cloud Cruiser, headquartered in Silicon Valley, California, was founded in 2010. The company offers an innovative cloud financial management software solution, architected and built from the ground up to manage the economics of hybrid cloud and traditional IT for the enterprise. Cloud Cruiser is focused on providing a neutral “platform” for IT and business users to maximize freedom of choice with service providers by delivering financial intelligence on usage and users. With automated billing or chargeback across heterogeneous IT environments, customers get clarity, cost control and ultimately competitive advantage for their business.

Dave Zabrowski and Greg Howard founded our company.

Dave, our founder and CEO, filled an important need in the cloud market back in 2009, when he founded the company by creating the industry’s first cloud financial management software product. Post initial funding in 2010, Cloud Cruiser Inc., launched and has grown to be a recognized leader delivering unique capabilities to better manage the move to the cloud, enabling customers to realize cost efficiencies and ultimately run a more agile business. Prior to Cloud Cruiser, Dave spent 16 years with Hewlett Packard where he held positions of Vice President and General Manager for HP's Enterprise Computer Organization, in addition to GM of several successful start-up businesses within HP. Dave left HP to become CEO of Neterion where he led the company from early stage startup to the market share leader in networking virtualization and secured OEM contracts with HP, IBM, EMC, Hitachi and Fujitsu. Dave earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University and an MBA from UCLA. - See more at: http://www.cloudcruiser.com/company/leadership/

Greg is our Chief Architect & VP Engineering, and  is widely acknowledged as an industry expert in financial software.  With more than two decades of leadership experience in IT, Greg architected and developed two chargeback products that paved the way for two successful corporate acquisitions. As Director of Development for CIMS Lab in 2001, Greg led the effort to create and implement the CIMS Server resource accounting and chargeback product. Adopted by numerous Fortune 100 companies and public sector organizations, the product is now installed in many of the world's most demanding data centers. Greg has a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Information Systems from Colorado State University and an MBA from St. Mary's College of California.

The company’s strategic partners include: Microsoft, HP, Cisco, VMware, Amazon, OpenStack, and Rackspace. Cloud Cruiser is proud to partner with leading IT organizations and CSP’s providing the most comprehensive Hybrid IT end-to-end consumption-based management product in the market.

IT Specialist At a high level, can you provide Cloud Cruiser’s overall perspective on the state of the cloud market - are there any other macro-trends you could highlight?

Deirdre KPMG forecast cloud spending at $58B in 2013 and top $119 by 2020. Other research conducted in early 2015 shows that 86% of enterprises have adopted some form of cloud into their operation. Even though most are still in early stages, there is every reason to believe the move to hybrid cloud operations will grow. When you consider the rapid expansion of SaaS applications, Big Data, IoT, BYOD and Mobile apps, there is no doubt that technology transformation is taking place at a greater pace now compared to the pace even in prior decades. Large enterprises are seriously adopting technology innovations in the past 5-10 years and that shift has caused disruption to business processes. Going digital and more virtual also demands a better way to manage the economic impact of such technology change.

All of this change puts pressure on the CIO and the entire IT team to adapt and therefore change operations.  The culture of IT must change across the board-- from how resources are provisioned and managed -- to how the CIO communicates value to all business functions.  The only way to be successful in the long term is to gain greater control and have a solid understanding of how business users are leveraging IT assets – whether on-premise or externally in the cloud.  By becoming more virtual and outsourcing to 3rd party providers, IT must maintain control and capture usage at a granular level, associating that usage with the exact IT asset, which department and specific function.  IT must then invest in the same types of processes the rest of the business is implementing – business analytics – to manage the information efficiently and then communicate to all those it serves.

IT Specialist What would you describe as Cloud Cruiser’s core value-proposition for enterprise IT?  I see you frequently refer to “hybrid IT.” What do you mean by this phrase?

Deirdre First, let me define hybrid IT.  Hybrid IT refers to the operational topography of resources being managed by the CIO.  No longer will centralized IT be the sole focus.  Instead, the resources needed to support the enterprise will consist of a mix of public cloud, private cloud, virtualized server instances and traditional infrastructure.  This means there are many more providers to be managed, beyond the traditional on-premise data center that has been historically managed by the central IT function.

Cloud Cruiser offers an innovative financial management product that was designed to better manage enterprise IT assets as they migrate to public and private clouds. It maximizes freedom of choice for customers as they transition to the cloud by providing dynamic financial intelligence, built-in chargeback, and multi-tenant cloud billing across heterogeneous IT environments. Some points about Cloud Cruiser's capabilities I'd like to highlight:

  • Architected for end-to-end consumption tracking, Cloud Cruiser’s Enterprise product
  • Automates the collection and aggregation of IT costs (or rates) across any public cloud, private cloud or traditional IT environment
  • Delivers clear, actionable financial intelligence via self-service, pay-as-you-go cloud billing, hybrid IT showback or charge back, granular P&L analytics, proactive cost controls, and agile pricing models
  • Enables innovative IT-as-a-Service models, private cloud funding models, and moving from allocation-based budgeting to a consumption-based model

IT Specialist Turning now to your products, I gather that your product; Cloud Cruiser Enterprise includes Foundations™ and Insights™, is that correct? Could you highlight the key features of each of these?

Deirdre That’s correct.  Our product consists of two unique sets of functionality - Cloud Cruiser Foundations™ and Cloud Cruiser Insights™.  Let me explain the capabilities of each.

Cloud Cruiser Foundations™

Automated Data Collection: You extract data from all of the IT data sources in your hybrid environment. Cloud Cruiser provides a large number of out-of-the-box, agentless collectors for the most popular public and private cloud services, as well as VMs, popular database platforms, and cloud applications. Custom collectors are also provided and we work with customers to deliver those capabilities during implementation. If you can connect it, Cloud Cruiser collects it!

Data Transformation and Mapping: The raw data collected is enriched with organizational and service cost information, which is highly flexible. You can map to business group, department, geography, datacenter, tower, and even by project.

Cost Management: By inputting your service rates and costs for each IT service, you proactively track and manage trends, variances, and budgets. Additionally you can produce invoices for your downstream customers and conduct showback or charge back to control all IT spend.

Cloud Cruiser Insights™

Insights is the analytics, single-pane dashboard for alerting, graphs and reports that enables decision-making. Dashboards are highly customizable allowing you to focus on what is important to you.

Executive Insights: High-level insights into top costs, overages, spending, and capacity alerts.

Demand Insights: Understand demand for IT services. Proactively deliver the right services at the right price.

Service Insights: Match service supply to demand to proactively monitor over-provisioning and under-allocation of IT resources.

Forecast Insights: Understand demand trends and accurately forecast future demand to maximize supply efficiency.

‘What-if’ Insights: Conduct rate modeling, cost comparisons, and what-if scenarios to achieve lowest cost.

IT Specialist What are the actual outputs that the Cloud Cruiser solution will show IT specialists, for example, what format does this information come in and what types of business and data insights and analytics are provided?

Deirdre Using Cloud Cruiser, you get a clear, up-to-date picture of IT demand; services supplied; and forecast to meet future needs. The basic output of the product is the standard invoice, a bill of IT.  The invoice can be accessed through the web and is fully secured, allowing an organization to view only their data.  Drill-down capabilities allow the viewer to perform self-service analysis of the invoice.

The fully customizable dashboards provide a holistic view of the hybrid operation, complete with real-time alerts to enable proactive decisions and actions.  Dashboards show financial data from multiple sources, compare usage across supply, forecast future demand, and display events for over provisioning or under allocation.

 

 

IT Specialist On the technology side, could you explain how your solution actually works? Is there an API that connects your software to the actual cloud solution the customer is using?

Deirdre Cloud Cruiser is prepackaged to access and process data from a variety of data sources.  We include the greatest number of out-of- the-box collectors that integrate to leading public and private cloud management systems, hypervisors, databases, applications, and storage management systems in the industry.  This out-of-the-box data collection enables rapid and simple implementation.  With wizard-based installations, Cloud Cruiser can be operational in less than an hour. 

Cloud Cruiser collects any measurable data that can be associated with an organization's accounting structure. Typically, collectors will extract data using REST APIs, databases, and log files; however, other file structures can be manipulated to fit the unique needs of customers. In addition to IT usage data, Cloud Cruiser imports financial data from reports, spreadsheets, and other sources.

Using Cloud Cruiser you can SEND information (if required) via many kinds of export mechanisms that customers can then import to their GL/ERP system including reports, email, API, direct DB query, etc. 

Cloud Cruiser offers flexibility in how it manages the cost mapping function. Supporting vertical, horizontal, and hierarchical organizational structures, users can either define their organizational hierarchy within the system or can provide rules to identify where the application can find that information on the customer site. This option gives customers the benefit of maintaining their accounting structure in a single location for low maintenance. 

Cloud Cruiser also offers the ability to define multiple views of your data. For example, when you create a customer invoice, you'll want to organize your cost data by customer name or account number. If you want to see how much you are spending on a particular type of technology (say, servers), you'll want to organize your data by resource group. Cloud Cruiser provides unlimited flexibility so you can make your data work for you.

IT Specialist What role does the enterprise IT professional play in implementing and managing a Cloud Cruiser solution – how easy is it to get started and then manage going forward?

Deirdre The average deployment time for our solution ranges from 1-2 weeks.  This can obviously go up or down based on aspects like the number of services you track, the number of data sources or providers you have and the complexity of your reporting structure, etc.  In a few cases where the requirements are straightforward (AWS for example) customers can be up and collecting data within 48 hours.

One of the big advantages of Cloud Cruiser is that once you go through the initial configuration process, you actually automate the process of collecting the data, transforming it, and also make it available for the purpose of billing automation and driving business decisions.  Typically, customers tell us that the time they were spending on manual processes prior to implementing Cloud Cruiser (spreadsheets, manual reconciliation etc.) was reduced by 80-90% due to process automation.  As a result they reallocate these resources to higher value activities for the business.

IT Specialist Are there any customers or case studies you’d like to highlight for our readers – I gather that your solution is geared towards both enterprise IT as well as cloud service providers?

Deirdre Cloud Cruiser has been deployed worldwide in enterprises spanning a wide range of industries.

Cloud Cruiser in being used as a billing engine for a multi-region, multi-tenant, OpenStack cloud service provider.  The solution was deployed using a hub and spoke model, pulling data into a central server from 8 data centers with over 10,000 virtual machines and petabytes of virtual storage.

In another case, a global managed service provider delivers high-value production applications for large enterprises.  The IT environment includes VMware, vCloud, EMC and Cisco.  The previous manual processes were cumbersome and error prone.  The provider chose Cloud Cruiser to support enhanced billing and performance tracking. Data collection and invoicing were automated and the quality of usage metrics greatly improved.   Business-level dashboards guide supply and demand management.  The greatest benefit:  Downstream customers now receive timely, accurate bills.

Thirdly, one of our enterprise customers has a large, hybrid IT organization providing services to internal departments and wanted better management and control of resources and to avoid any shadow IT.  Cloud Cruiser automated the data collection across three data centers for private cloud, public cloud, and virtualized instances: Windows Azure, AWS, VMware, and Cisco.  The granular usage data was mapped by geography, business function and product offering in order to get the full picture. Using a single control plane for resources gave the customer the ability to identify over-provisioned VM’s and re-allocate workloads across data centers and avoid acquisition of unnecessary hardware.  Overall savings of 7% of the IT spend were realized within the first year.

Lastly Cloud Cruiser is the billing engine for HP Flexible Capacity private cloud in addition to billing for Microsoft Windows Azure Pack (WAP) environments.

IT Specialist Turning now to the corporate level, can you tell us how much money has you’ve raised and who are your core investors?

Deirdre Our core investors are Onset Ventures, Wavepoint Ventures, and ICCP Venture Partners.  Cloud Cruiser was founded five years ago and has raised $20m in total.

IT Specialist Finally, for people who may be interested in testing your solution or beginning a dialogue with you, what is the best way for them to start working with you?

To learn more or request a demo, please contact us at  www.cloudcruiser.com or email: info@cloudcruiser.com

IT Specialist Thanks much for your time Deirdre, and best of luck going forward.

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