This post is written by our regular contributor Natasha Starkell, the CEO of GoalEurope, the outsourcing advisory firm and a publication about outsourcing, innovation and startups in Central and Eastern Europe. Twitter @NatashaStarkell. Gplus.to/natashastarkell.
Jelastic, a U.S./Ukrainian/Russian provider of a cloud-based deployment platform for Java apps, has closed a $2 million Series A funding round from Russia and CIS-focused Almaz Capital Partners and Foresight Ventures, a global fund with a bias towards Russia and the US.
Jelastic, which competes with Heroku and Google App Engine, offers developers of Java applications a hosted platform based around standard software stacks, which it says helps avoid lock-ins and code changes. The company launched its public beta in October 2011, and since then has picked up over 15,000 unique users.
Jelastic’s basic idea is to take a different approach to the hosting and deploying of Java apps: Normally, in order to host an application, one goes to, for example, Amazon Web Services, but configuring virtual machines manually takes time. This means developers have to install and maintain an operating system and application servers, instead of spending time on improving the core product.
According to Jelastic COO Dmitry Sotnikov and its Chief Evangelist Judah Jones, what developers want to do is create an app, publish it, quickly iterate over the application to improve it based on customer feedback and make a lot of money. This means spending time on admin tasks every time the application needs to be changed, or when different servers were required to serve the demand. Before Jelastic, in most cases server administration and scaling had to be done manually.
With Google App Engine or Heroku, one gets locked in, says Sotnikov, because the application code has to be written so that it works with one or the other. The only way out is to rewrite the application for another platform. For example, Google App Engine has its own custom app servers, and using them means reducing application compatibility. If the application developer is located outside of the US, using either service means hosting in the US, which leads to roadblocks such as compliance with the US Patriot Act. (See further comparison of Jelastic with Heroku on the Jelastic blog here, and with Google App Engine here.)
Amazon offers basic configuration automation capabilities via AWS Elastic Beanstalk, but according to the recent statement by its CTO Werner Vogels at Cloud Expo Europe, Amazon does not plan to create a major PaaS product, but rather to concentrate on providing the hosting infrastructure instead.
Jelastic may be offered by any hosting provider as a hosted service to avoid lock-ins to a particular supplier. One can choose standard software stacks and an autoscale option, and the Jelastic platform does it all automatically, without pushing developers into any particular way of doing things. The company supports all the main software stacks and different databases. As for time savings, according to the new investor, the co-founder and the managing partner of Almaz Capital Alexander Galitsky, Jelastic cuts deployment time from hours to minutes.
Another platform-as-a-service in application deployment is Open Source Cloud Foundry from VMWare, which is offered for a number of programming languages including applications written on Spring Java. Cloud Foundry is not available commercially yet.
According to Foresight Ventures general partner Andrey Kazakov, the PaaS market is expected to be worth $9.8 billion over the next five years.
Jelastic’s co-founders Ruslan Synytskyy, Constantin Alexandrov and Alexey Skutin created their business out of necessity: the three had been working together remotely on a different project, but what they found was that an ever-increasing amount of their time was spent on hosting tasks. Google App Engine put restrictions on the tools they could use, and even on the code itself. So the team pivoted into the direction of developing tools for application deployment.
In 2010, Runa Capital, the global venture fund with origins in Russia, invested $500,000 into the company. Interestingly, it was in the office of Runa Capital that the founders of Jelastic first met in person.
Runa’s founding partner, Serguei Beloussov, is also a founder of Parallels, one of the leading global virtualization technology companies, and an advisor to Jelastic. The fund helped the team understand the hosting market, and define its distribution channels.