5 Open Source Startups to Watch in 2012 # 3: Joyent

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This year we picked five startups commercializing open source projects that look especially strong going into 2012. The list is in no particular order.

Joyent is an IaaS provider and sponsor of Node.js, the open source server side JavaScript system. It also offers a Node.js platform-as-a-service, its private cloud stack SmartDataCenter and its open source operating system/hypervisor SmartOS.

Strengths

Joyent has often played second fiddle to Amazon Web Services and Rackspace, at least in terms of public awareness. But the company has built a solid offering with its own base of customers. It differentiates its service with features like its real-time performance analytics service Cloud Analytics. It also has a strong strategy offering both private and public clouds and both IaaS and PaaS solutions, a strategy that, as I’ve mentioned, is becoming standard.

Joyent is more expensive than AWS and Rackspace, so it gets less attention from small startups. But that could keep it from being dependent on fly-by-night startups and experiments, building instead a base of customers with real revenue and a real need for the level of support and service provided by Joyent. Companies like Servus, Turkey’s largest system integrator, and Canadian telecom Uniserve aren’t exactly household names, but they do make for a solid customer base.

Correction: Joyent took issue with my characterization of Joyent as more expensive than AWS and Rackspace. The company does not offer a free tier, but according to this comparison chart Joyent’s prices are comparable to AWS’ when you get into comparable resource tiers. And Joyent’s prices are far less when you take into account AWS’ support costs (something I looked at last year).

Acquisition Candidate?

One of my failed predictions last year was that Adobe would make a play for Joyent. This may have happened secretly, but I doubt it. Adobe is winding down its enterprise plays, and doesn’t show signs of getting into IaaS level cloud services.

Dell is a more likely acquirer. Last year when I predicted that Adobe would at least try to buy Joyent, I didn’t realize that Dell was a Joyent reseller and is also rumored to be an investor in Joyent. Rumors of Dell chumming Rackspace have been floating for years, and Rackspace has yet to take the bait. Meanwhile Dell launched its own IaaS and has started releasing open source software. Maybe Dell will take a look at Joyent? One challenge that would pose is that Joyent has its own OpenStack alternative SmartDataCenter, and Dell has been backing OpenStack heavily. A Joyent acquisition could also strain Dell’s relationship with VMware and Microsoft.

We’ve also seen three IaaS providers get snapped up by telecoms in the past year (Terremark by Verizon, NaviSite by Time Warner Cable and Savvis by CenturyLink), so that’s a possibility as well. Also, Intel invested an undisclosed amount into Joyent and has been eying the cloud as well.

Node.js

Joyent hired Node.js creator Ryan Dahl in 2009 and has funded the projects’s development ever since. Interest in Node.js has skyrocketed since Dahl introduced it at JSConf 2009 thanks to the system’s fast performance and the fact that it uses a language many (most?) Web developers already know. It’s been used by Web startups like Voxer and Yammer and by HP to power data synchronization in WebOS. Microsoft has partnered with Joyent to bring Node.js to Windows.

SiliconAngle is a sponsor of NodeSummit, a forthcoming conference on how Node.js is being put to use. Expect more coverage to follow.

Highlights this year

More Open Source Startups to Watch

Puppet Labs

Revolution Analytics

Joyent

Opscode

Talend

About Klint Finley

Klint Finley is a Senior Writer at SiliconAngle. His specialties include IT services, enterprise technology and software development. Prior to SiliconAngle he was a writer for ReadWriteWeb. He's also a former IT practicioner, and has written about technology for over a decade. He can be contacted at angle@klintfinley.com.