10 Open Source Companies to Watch

With the Open Source Conference (OSCon) and IDG's LinuxWorld show in the rearview mirror of 2008, it is clear that open source is no longer just a trendy conversation.

What has happened is a clear evolution of a community that has grown up and produced intelligent, cutting-edge technologies with an eye on making computing faster, smarter and cheaper for corporate users. Companies like Openmoko are challenging the mobile device market with its notion that users should control what applications are installed. Others like XAware and SnapLogic are opening up data integration possibilities, and still more are tangling with virtualization, databases, and trading systems. Along with a company accurately called Untangle, the companies' point is to make computing less complex.

The decision is no longer a question of open source, but about what product is best at solving computing problems regardless of how it was built.

Here is a look at 10 companies to watch.

Company name: Kickfire

Founded: June 2006

Location: Santa Clara, Calif.

What does the company offer? Analytics appliance based on MySQL featuring the industry's first SQL chip.

Why is it worth watching? Kickfire combines software and hardware to create fast database query performance using the MySQL database. Also provides data warehousing and reporting features lacking in MySQL. The SQL chip moves query processing to a single powerful chip.

How did the company get its start? The company's founders saw current instruction-centric von Neumann architecture as inefficient for processing large data volumes so they sought to minimize the operation set and maximize the data throughput. A key was having an open architecture available via MySQL.

How did the company get its name? A combination of "kickstart" and "fire" was used to convey a new approach in the database market.

CEO and background: Raj Cherabuddi, CEO/president/co-founder. He also was the founding CEO of Sanera Systems, which eventually was bought by McData. He also served as lead architect for Sun's UltraSPARC IIIi processor.

Funding: Series A funding of $10.75 million and Series B at $20 million backed by Accel Partners, Greylock Partners, The Mayfield Fund and Pinnacle Ventures.

Who's using the product? Kickfire is in beta with interest coming from marketing, telecommunications and software service providers, network management, retail, media and government organizations.

Company name: Marketcetera

Founded: April 2006. The 1.0 product will launch by the end of 2008

Location: San Francisco and New York

What does the company offer? The company has developed the financial industry's first open source platform for automated trading systems.

Why is it worth watching? Marketcetera gives trading companies an open platform that translates into more flexibility and control, and faster deployments which can result in considerable cost benefits.

How did the company get its start? Founders Graham Miller and Toli Kuznets worked for years as software developers and executives in hedge funds and found themselves repeatedly implementing the same trading systems. They tapped the rise in algorithmic trading and the acceptance of open source in the financial services industry to create a platform and offer services.

How did the company get its name? The company thought "Market" + etcetera" was a clever wordplay.

CEO and background: Graham Miller has more than 10 years of experience in the finance and software industries. He recently was director of electronic trading strategies for a New York-based hedge fund and worked for Jane Street Capital, which included overseeing the development of several high-throughput black box trading systems. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees in computer science from Stanford University, with a concentration in artificial intelligence.

Funding: Led by Shasta Ventures, the company received $4 million in January 2008.

Who's using the product? Hedge funds and investment banks of all sizes.

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