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"Using CloudSwitch, existing applications run securely in a public cloud while remaining tightly integrated with enterprise data center tools and policies, and are managed as if they were running locally," CloudSwitch founder and vice president Ellen Rubin explains. The CloudSwitch software appliance creates a secure data path between a company's data center and its cloud vendor, while ensuring that applications in the cloud "operate with sufficient performance and reliability by automatically selecting the appropriate combination of processor, memory, and storage," she continues.

The idea of a "private" or "internal" cloud is gaining currency with some customers, who want the flexibility and scalability of cloud services without the risk of placing data and applications into a public cloud. That's where companies like Eucalyptus Systems come in.

Eucalyptus is based on an open source platform which aggregates servers, storage and network infrastructure into a private cloud that allows self-service provisioning of computing resources. Eucalyptus is compatible with Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud, providing an easy bridge between internal and external cloud resources.

Eucalyptus is a promising company, Staten says, but will have trouble competing against VMware, which is positioning itself as a private cloud vendor and already has gained widespread adoption of its hypervisor. But open source software could help ensure compatibility with multiple cloud platforms, he notes.

"It's absolutely something customers need," Staten says. "The question is will they want an open source solution for this."

As if CIOs didn't have enough to think about with virtualization, IT security and the cloud, there are also growing concerns about how best to manage iPhones, BlackBerries and other mobile devices.

"A lot of companies are finding mobile harder to manage than laptops," says Ojas Rege, vice president of products for MobileIron, another company to watch. "All of this data that used to be on the laptop is now on the smartphone. A lot of it is driven by the end user, people bringing phones into the enterprise. IT doesn't have much visibility into what's on the phone and how they're being used."

MobileIron's Virtual Smartphone Platform provides IT visibility into mobile devices and their data by creating and storing phone clones -- mirror images of a smartphone's content, activities and applications. The system helps enterprises identify spikes in usage and thus control costs, and offers ways to remotely wipe sensitive data without deleting a user's personal applications.

The visibility problem MobileIron is targeting "really hasn't gotten enough attention," because there haven't been major data breaches related to mobile phones the way there have been with laptops, says Gartner analyst Michael King. But as the amount of company data stored on smartphones grows, "the importance of these devices and the associated risks is going up as well," he says.

Another key mobile issue is how to take advantage of the unique capabilities of Apple's iPhone. One company to watch in this space is MeLLmo, whose Roambi technology takes business intelligence data and transforms it into interactive visualizations for the iPhone.

Viewing a big spreadsheet on a smartphone is tedious, so Roambi takes spreadsheet data and makes it easier to understand and navigate. "Instead of seeing raw numbers for quarters of sales data, you can see bar graphs that show relative growth or decline, click to see in graph form the trends for one or several sales representatives, and so on," Network World's John Cox reports.

Additionally, users can view trends in interactive pie charts that take advantage of the iPhone's touch capabilities - simply click on a pie chart segment to display associated data.

Network World's Mark Gibbs raves about Roambi, saying the spreadsheet display tool "makes the process of publishing your data painless and creates a dynamic presentation on the iPhone that is simply gorgeous."

Our final three companies to watch tackle three of the core issues facing IT shops today: Web security, network management, and energy use.

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