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CloudBees collects $4 million from Matrix Partners

Posted by Scott Kirsner  November 29, 2010 07:30 AM

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CloudBees Logo.pngOK, let me be straight: as someone who is not a software developer, there is much I do not understand about CloudBees. The company is involved in cloud computing, as its name implies, but also Nectar, and Hudson, and virtualization, and platform-as-a-service, and continuous integration. CloudBees is excellent at generating buzzwords.

About all that is utterly clear to me is that they've raised $4 million in funding, mainly from David Skok at Matrix Partners, and they are setting up shop somewhere in the Boston area, though the CloudBees crew is currently strewn across the globe.

I sat down with Skok last week for a quick explainer.

Skok had been an investor in JBoss, an open source middleware company that was acquired by RedHat for $350 million back in 2006. CloudBees founder and CEO Sacha Labourey was the chief technology officer of JBoss, and individual investors in the new company include two other JBoss veterans, Marc Fleury and Bob Bickel.

CloudBees, Skok explains, is a development, testing and production environment for Java code that can be rented by the month. "The benefit for start-ups is that it's a way for them to reduce their IT staff," he says. "In even a small company, you usually have one or two people who focus on setting up maintaining the infrastructure for Java development." Key is that the production environment provided by CloudBees is an exact mirror of the development environment, so code doesn't need to be tweaked when it migrates from testing to real-world use. As with other cloud-based services, a customer can start small and scale up as demand dictates. The CloudBees investment fits into Skok's thesis that "more and more of computing is being outsourced to the cloud."

The company was founded in January of this year, and only emerged from stealth mode in August.

Labourey says that Java development is the company's first focus, but that CloudBees may eventually support other programming languages. He writes in an e-mail:

The cloud as we know it today enables great things, but is still way too focused on "virtual machines," "servers," and is pretty raw. While you don't need to walk around with servers and cables anymore, you end up actually doing more IT operations in the cloud than you use to on-premise, since you essentially have to find ways to stabilize an environment that is highly dynamic by definition — and this in a fully automated fashion. That's still IT. Let's get rid of that. What matters are applications, that is the unit of work that eventually delivers value, not whether you installed the right Java virtual machine or how you do your backups. It is only when the cloud infrastructure will be abstracted away with application-level constructs that the true cloud revolution will take place for companies — big or small — as it will significantly impact their ability to innovate, faster and cheaper.

It sounds like the CloudBees deal was fairly competitive, with General Catalyst, Atlas, and Benchmark also in the hunt.

Skok says the company will soon hire a chief operating officer and lease some office space in the Boston area. "This is a great place to find marketing and sales and support talent — people who really understand deep technologies," he says.

Labourey works out of Neuchatel, Switzerland, and doesn't have plans to move to the U.S. Other CloudBees team members are based in New Zealand, Australia, France, Texas, and California. Labourey writes, "We have a chance to hire the best of the best, keep them where they like to live, and we then extensively rely on tools (Skype, IRC, etc.) to work together." But Boston, he's clear, will be the central hive for CloudBees. "...While a lot of innovation takes place in California," he writes, "I think a lot of the *consumers* of that technology (enterprises, etc.) are actually on the East Coast: this helps East Coast companies to be very much customer-focused."

Today's press release suggests that the $4 million round is only the first in a "multi-stage investment." My favorite quote in it comes from JBoss founder Fleury: "Just as JBoss provided a streamlined and usable alternative to BEA and IBM, CloudBees will be providing innovation and ease-of-use compared to VMWare's bloated cloud stacks."

Sounds like fightin' words...

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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