Two of the people synonymous with the start of the internet are Marc Andreessen and Jim Clark, the co-founders of Netscape.
Clark, who also founded Silicon Graphics, went on to start other web businesses, most notably Healtheon, and a new venture targeting the digital photo market, called Shutterfly.com.
Now Andreessen is back in the public spotlight. The 28-year-old who helped build Mosaic, the world's first commercial internet browser, has made public the ideas behind his second internet startup, Loudcloud.
Prior to starting Loudcloud, Andreessen held the job of chief technology officer at AOL, which he took up when AOL bought Netscape Communications for $10bn early in 1999. Many of Andreessen's former colleagues have joined the startup - all four founders are from Netscape/AOL - which opened its doors for business on 9/9/99.
According to Scott Dunlap, vice president of product management at Loudcloud: "We chose that date because we thought the whole thing will either collapse or succeed. It's been a wild ride for the last few months."
Layers of support for ecommerce
Now that the dust has settled on the Loudcloud launch, the company described how it is building an infrastructure to support ecommerce on business-to-business websites. Loudcloud has called its offering Smart Cloud Services, a set of services powered by software built internally.
Loudcloud has a pool of talent from Excite, Infoseek and Netcenter. Andreessen brought in former Netscape server vice president Ben Horowitz as CEO. His co-founders, Tim Howes and In Sik Rhee, were AOL ecommerce specialists. The vice president of operations is 23-year-old Jonathan Heileger, who developed web-host architecture and ran a $100m venture fund for Global Crossing.
Essentially, Andreessen & Company is providing a three-layer help suite that sits between a company's application and the data centre. The solution will be built for a hosted environment, where customers can realise rapid time to market. And the solution will be billed on a 'pay-as-you-go' monthly basis.
The top layer of Smart Cloud Services is a packaged solution that includes application servers, databases, web servers, mail servers, staging servers and load balancing features.
The second layer, Opsware Technology, includes underlying automation technology like configuration, bandwidth provisioning and application scaling, monitoring and versioning. Opsware technology is automated software that runs in the background, making sure that Smart Cloud runs smoothly.
The third and final layer, dubbed the 'Operational Environment', includes supplying and running the hardware, which usually sits at an outsourced data centre.
Dunlap said most customers have signed up for the three, although there are two additional cloud services - the Mail Cloud for outbound mail services, and a Staging Cloud for a miniature copy of the entire production of the environment.
Connecting the Centres in Europe
Though the services are currently only available in the US, Dunlap says they expect to be operational in Europe by the end of the year. "We are working with companies to connect the Centres over there," he confirmed. He added that European growth trends are similar to those in the US in the never-ending flow of dotcoms that need to get to the market faster and which need reliability.
Loudcloud is a brand new company hosting a variety of different things that a company would otherwise do on their own, said Kazim Isfahani, an analyst at Giga Information Group. "The services seem to have the ASP bend to them, but basically everyone is an ASP these days." He also said the fact that Andreessen brings his name to the company is a very large catch. "You immediately have a positive view of the company in that sense."
Isfahani pointed out that the whole market is huge, and any services offered along those lines are bound to succeed in some way, as long as they're managed correctly. According to figures from Giga, the ASP market is expected to grow from $150m up to $2.7bn for this year and reach $30bn by 2000.
Internet firms reach for the Clouds
Seven internet businesses are already taking advantage of Loudcloud's ability to power their sites, including HomeGain.com, Wish.com, Acteva, DreamLot, SkillsVillage, CFOWeb and Catapulse. The company said price structures will vary by the requirements of each client.
In addition, the company has signed on such prominent software industry giants as Oracle and Microsoft, as well as hardware giants Sun Microsystems and Hewlett Packard.
Competition will come from rivals such as hybrid internet integrators/application service providers, which are also building infrastructure frameworks for hosting applications. USWeb/CKS, for example, recently announced a partnership with Microsoft to launch its iFrame app-hosting framework. Others, like Xuma and Breakaway Solutions, are also building app-hosting infrastructures for rapid deployment.
As far as expansion plans go, Loudcloud will open an office in New York or Boston within the next few weeks. The company has has amassed $68m in financing from Benchmark Capital and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.
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