A good way to spot the next big technology trend is to keep an eye on the businesses and organisations venture capitalists (VCs) are pouring their billions into. After all, they're about making money, so they look for ideas and trends that will lead to guaranteed profits.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, VCs invested a total of $57bn (£28.5bn) in startups between 2005 and 2007, and most of those were tech companies.

We've rounded-up the ten biggest tech startups that we think will revolutionise some aspect of IT. Whether its through a completely new technology, an innovative approach within existing areas or a new way of applying a technology to solve an age-old problem, these companies could well change the way you use technology.

NEXT PAGE: Aerohive Networks

  1. We chart the ones to watch in the future of tech
  2. Aerohive Network
  3. How Cohesive Flexible Technologies will feature in the future of technology
  4. The technology being employed by Earthmine
  5. Montego Networks
  6. Perceptive Pixel - a name to remember
  7. Why Ribbit will feature in the future of technology
  8. The importance of StackSafe
  9. V-Kernal

We've rounded up the ten most important tech startups that are creating new technologies or utilising existing systems in ways that are guaranteed to change your life.

Aerohive Networks

Founded: 2006

Tech breakthrough: A centrally managed wireless network built around a controllerless architecture that can scale to thousands of access points.

Problem addressed

As wireless networking becomes more central to the enterprise, wireless LANs need to become much faster, more scalable, and more resilient at a reasonable price point. By incorporating authentication, access control, and other functions into the access point, Aerohive promises greater flexibility and lower deployment costs than controller-based wireless LAN solutions.

What the technology does

There's long been a gap between so-called fat and thin access points in the world of wireless LANs. The earliest wireless LANs, in which fat (a.k.a. intelligent) access points handled every facet of communication between the client and the network, were quickly supplanted by a different configuration or thinner (a.k.a. dumb) access points managed by a centralised controller. That's the architecture in general use today, and most IT staffers would assume that it's a given. Vendors have beefed up the intelligence of access points over the years, enabling them to carry out an increasingly sophisticated range of marching orders, but those marching orders continue to come from a wireless LAN controller. Enter Aerohive, which has developed a hybrid architecture that features intelligent, linked access points without the use of an expensive controller. Even without that hardware, Aerohive offers centralised management, and the company says its Cooperative Control Wireless LAN Architecture can scale to thousands of access points. Furthermore, the decentralised architecture reduces the number of failure points. Aerohive access points are more expensive than conventional access points, but because there's no controller to pay for, the total cost of the network is lower, the company says.

How it works

The control element of the network, which has lived in the controller for the past few years, goes back into the access point, which Aerohive calls a HiveAP. Simply stated, a hive is a network of access points, generally in the same building. Each access point is aware of the other access points in the network.

Along with distributed control comes fully distributed data, allowing the HiveAP to route data directly to a desired destination without sending it first through a controller. How does this work in practice? When a client logs into the network, the access point builds a quick profile, including its identity, permission rights and so on, using a technology Aerohive calls predictive roaming. Predictive roaming is really an educated guess about which access point a client is likely to access next. When it makes that guess, the access point passes the client's profile on to a number of nearby access points, which are then ready to accept the client without dropping the signal.

Expected: Aerohive expects to ship 802.11n products in July.

NEXT PAGE: How Cohesive Flexible Technologies will feature in the future of technology

  1. We chart the ones to watch in the future of tech
  2. Aerohive Network
  3. How Cohesive Flexible Technologies will feature in the future of technology
  4. The technology being employed by Earthmine
  5. Montego Networks
  6. Perceptive Pixel - a name to remember
  7. Why Ribbit will feature in the future of technology
  8. The importance of StackSafe
  9. V-Kernal

We've rounded up the ten most important tech startups that are creating new technologies or utilising existing systems in ways that are guaranteed to change your life.

Cohesive Flexible Technologies

Founded: 2006

Tech breakthrough: Software that builds a base image of a server and reformats it into a chosen virtualisation configuration without first building a physical server.

Problem addressed:

How to manage and quickly deploy servers in a complex environment.

What the technology does

Patrick Kerpan, CTO of Cohesive Flexible Technologies, calls it the "more of everything problem." He says: "Open source, open standards, virtualisation, SOA and clouds are proliferating, needing countless components. An enterprise in the financial sector may have as many as 100 different application stacks." CohesiveFT's 'Elastic Server On Demand' assembles virtual machines and deploys them to Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) or creates an implementation of major virtualisation formats including EMC VMware, Citrix XenSource and Parallels.

CohesiveFT claims that a deployment can be completed in hours or even minutes. Using CohesiveFT's management system, IT can then track the deployed component assemblies throughout their lifecycle and log all configuration changes. The server can later be provisioned to another platform.

How it works

The company maintains libraries of components, including those from the open source community and software vendors. Customers may add their own proprietary components to the library (for their use only) and construct the image of a virtual application stack. The resulting images are built, encapsulated, given a unique identity and injected with management and integration services. CohesiveFT calls the completed stack an 'elastic server'. CohesiveFT uses an add-on to OpenVPN (open source virtual private network) that can connect multiple servers (both physical and virtual) located in various datacentres and hosted at different providers into a single address space.

Expected: At the moment, Amazon's EC2 is the only cloud with a direct connection to CohesiveFT, but expect to see more clouds supported fairly soon, Kerpan says. The company also plans to add management tools as well as support for virtual Linux.

NEXT PAGE: The technology being employed by Earthmine

  1. We chart the ones to watch in the future of tech
  2. Aerohive Network
  3. How Cohesive Flexible Technologies will feature in the future of technology
  4. The technology being employed by Earthmine
  5. Montego Networks
  6. Perceptive Pixel - a name to remember
  7. Why Ribbit will feature in the future of technology
  8. The importance of StackSafe
  9. V-Kernal

We've rounded up the ten most important tech startups that are creating new technologies or utilising existing systems in ways that are guaranteed to change your life.

Earthmine

Founded: 2006

Tech breakthrough: By using eight cameras that are calibrated in pairs, and processing the images with an algorithm developed by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Earthmine produces a dataset with many times the information contained in images produced by competitors.

Problem addressed:

How to create street-level, photographic maps containing information that is rich enough to accurately convey the actual spatial relationships between objects on the image.

What the technology does

Earthmine builds photographic images of urban environments. But these aren't ordinary images. Because they contain so much data, the images can be used to accurately locate any point in the image in relation to any other point in the image.

A microwave network provider, for example, used Earthmine to determine exact lines of sight between towers. "Every square inch of the city is designed, built, maintained, and destroyed every 50 years on average. And for every step of this process, people need information to help guide them when making expensive decisions - such as why should I build a residential unit here, or turn this hotel into a parking lot there," says Anthony Fassero, founder and co-CEO of the startup.

How it works

Like Google Earth, Earthmine mounts cameras on cars and takes pictures of every street and alley in an urban environment. But the Earthmine cars sport eight cameras, synched in pairs, to Google's one, snapping pictures every 10 metres.

Earthmine collects a base layer of 3D panoramic images and builds libraries of the area. Behind each pixel is data that precisely describes latitude, longitude, and elevation. Because the dataset contains information in three dimensions, everything within an image can be accurately located, measured, or modeled using points, lines, or polygons. This data mine can be accessed by users through a web-based interface that lets them identify, view and extract geospatial data. The data can be integrated into other applications, such as a GIS (geospatial information system) program, or combined with objects such as an architectural drawing or a map of pipelines in a refinery.

Expected: Earthmine hasn't mapped much of the world yet, but it hopes to venture further from home. The more cars it uses, the faster the images are captured and processed. One car can map about 90 miles of streets in one day. The company expects to license data and share APIs with customers who will then write their own applications.

NEXT PAGE: Montego Networks

  1. We chart the ones to watch in the future of tech
  2. Aerohive Network
  3. How Cohesive Flexible Technologies will feature in the future of technology
  4. The technology being employed by Earthmine
  5. Montego Networks
  6. Perceptive Pixel - a name to remember
  7. Why Ribbit will feature in the future of technology
  8. The importance of StackSafe
  9. V-Kernal

We've rounded up the ten most important tech startups that are creating new technologies or utilising existing systems in ways that are guaranteed to change your life.

Montego Networks

Founded: 2007

Tech breakthrough: Montego's hyperswitch (software plus firewall) uses policy-based switching to route traffic to third-party security applications within the virtual network.

Problem addressed

Provide security within a virtual network.

What the technology does:

Montego regulates traffic among virtual machines and between the virtual environment and the physical environment. Policies determine which virtual machines may communicate with one another. The product features virtual network partitioning, a firewall, and virtual network discovery capabilities.

How it works:

Virtual servers are connected to each other via a switch (called a v-switch in VMware environments), which in turn is connected to Montego's hyperswitch. The switch intercepts traffic from the v-switch and matches the traffic against its security policies. If the traffic is acceptable, it is then routed back to the v-switch and delivered to its final destination. Using proprietary algorithms, the hyperswitch defines policy controls and also routes traffic to third-party security applications. Because each third-party application must only scan selected traffic, instead of all traffic, the application uses fewer resources to do its job, and that improves performance. Identity-based controls can allow or deny a user access to a specific virtual server or allow access to a virtual machine but not to certain content on that machine. Supported security apps include those from Blue Lane, Catbird, Reflex and StillSecure.

Expected: Montego says it will add support for Citrix, Microsoft and Virtual Iron virtualisation technologies in the third quarter of this year.

NEXT PAGE: Perceptive Pixel - a name to remember

  1. We chart the ones to watch in the future of tech
  2. Aerohive Network
  3. How Cohesive Flexible Technologies will feature in the future of technology
  4. The technology being employed by Earthmine
  5. Montego Networks
  6. Perceptive Pixel - a name to remember
  7. Why Ribbit will feature in the future of technology
  8. The importance of StackSafe
  9. V-Kernal

We've rounded up the ten most important tech startups that are creating new technologies or utilising existing systems in ways that are guaranteed to change your life.

Perceptive Pixel

Founded: 2006

Tech breakthrough: Light injected into acrylic forms the basis for a breakthrough in touch-screen technology.

Problem addressed

Improving touch screens to enhance collaboration and improve data display.

What the technology does

Perceptive Pixel's biggest customers work in US national defence. Details of those deployments are secret, but it's not hard to imagine a group of combat officers viewing a display of battlefield data. A tap of the finger and the view of a division zooms down to the company level. On the peacetime front, Perceptive Pixel is teaming with a CAD vendor to develop interactive displays of engineering or architectural data on a big screen.

How it works

The touch screen on most devices is an ingenuous but relatively simple bit of technology. A transparent material sits over a set of circuits; when touched a circuit closes, sending a signal to the logic. The limitation: the standard touch screen can determine only one point at a time, greatly limiting the amount of information that can be manipulated with each tap. Han, a researcher at New York University, took a very different approach: light is injected and trapped in an acrylic sheet. When touched, the screen leaks light, which is picked up and measured by an image sensor that then sends data to the logic. Processing, of course, happens off the screen on standard hardware.

Expected: How scalable is the technology? After all, very few of us can afford a $100,000 (£50,000) display. Han says we can expect to see smaller versions of his touch walls sold as monitors in the not-too-distant future. Theoretically, the technology could scale down to the size of a handheld, but in addition to the obvious problems of engineering, there is also the problem of input, Han says. Large screens allow for broader motions with each tap; the touch of a palm, for example, can convey much more information then the tip of a finger.

NEXT PAGE: Why Ribbit will feature in the future of technology

  1. We chart the ones to watch in the future of tech
  2. Aerohive Network
  3. How Cohesive Flexible Technologies will feature in the future of technology
  4. The technology being employed by Earthmine
  5. Montego Networks
  6. Perceptive Pixel - a name to remember
  7. Why Ribbit will feature in the future of technology
  8. The importance of StackSafe
  9. V-Kernal

We've rounded up the ten most important tech startups that are creating new technologies or utilising existing systems in ways that are guaranteed to change your life.

Ribbit

Founded 2006

Tech breakthrough: A multiprotocol, Class 5, soft telephony switch with a development environment for business app integration.

Problem addressed

Integrating voice and data into business workflow

What the technology does

Ribbit's founders like to call their two-year-old startup 'Silicon Valley's first phone company'. But that label hardly tells the story. Ribbit is a software platform that lets developers create voice and telephony applications in a familiar web application development environment. Once built, those applications can be linked to other web apps, including SaaS-based CRM from Salesforce.com and other companies.

"Our premise is that cheap dial tone such as VoIP has a place, but it doesn't solve the business needs of companies to put voice-based data into the workflow," says co-founder and CEO Ted Griggs. A Salesforce.com developer, for example, used Ribbit's API to build a mashup that converts voice messages to text and then drops the data into Salesforce CRM. Users can also call into the application remotely to add information or view data. An application engine running on top of Ribbit's core APIs provides tools to enable features such as single sign-on, billing, or ordering.

How it works

Underlying the development environment is a soft telephony switch that allows calls to be initiated and answered on multiple devices, including landlines, mobile phones, VOIP, or a Flash widget on a user's desktop, and run across standard communication protocols such as SIP, Skype, Google's XMPP, and the Salesforce Connector. Ribbit's APIs are open; the switch was tested and certified by Lucent.

The Ribbit API currently delivers more than 40 methods for connecting to the Ribbit service. Developers can use scripts prepared by the company that allow quick development of functions including making calls, receiving calls, listening to, reading, recording, and sending voice messages.

Expected: Expect to see Ribbit go beyond sales force automation; integration with vertical applications in finance, real estate, medical, and others is on the way. The company claims that more than 4,000 developers have downloaded the APIs. It will make money through revenue-sharing deals with developers who create viable commercial applications.

NEXT PAGE: The importance of StackSafe

  1. We chart the ones to watch in the future of tech
  2. Aerohive Network
  3. How Cohesive Flexible Technologies will feature in the future of technology
  4. The technology being employed by Earthmine
  5. Montego Networks
  6. Perceptive Pixel - a name to remember
  7. Why Ribbit will feature in the future of technology
  8. The importance of StackSafe
  9. V-Kernal

We've rounded up the ten most important tech startups that are creating new technologies or utilising existing systems in ways that are guaranteed to change your life.

StackSafe

Founded: 2005 (as Revive Systems)

Tech breakthrough: The first virtualised staging and testing solution that allows meaningful testing of infrastructure changes in a safe environment.

Problem addressed

Helping determine how changes to infrastructure software affect production.

What the technology does

It tests changes to infrastructure and operations such as patching, infrastructure software upgrades, and changes to settings, but not applications. In effect, it is a virtual sandbox.

How the technology works

StackSafe imports x86-production systems into virtual partitions by performing a full-disk copy during a planned downtime period. It uses the Xen hypervisor to create the virtual partition. Physical and virtual systems are imported and test scenarios composed of open source and proprietary offerings are run. The scenarios test readiness, connectivity, configuration security, and performance. StakeSafe Test Center includes predefined tests and templates. "Test and reporting scenarios, as well as the focus on [infrastructure and operations] groups, are the main differentiators between StackSafe and virtual lab management solutions," says Gartner analyst Donna Scott.

Expected: StackSafe recently added support for Windows Server 2003 environments; at launch only Linux was supported. More environments will be added in the future, says the company.

Vertica

Founded: 2005

Tech breakthrough: Vertica combines a column-oriented data structure with a shared-nothing architecture plus aggressive compression to speed queries.

Problem addressed

Pulling analytic information out of large databases takes too long.

What the technology does

Vertica's database is structured for analytics and data warehousing in environments with large amounts of non-transactional data. It generally runs with, not instead of, major OLTP databases such as Oracle. Queries run many times faster than in a traditional database.

How it works

Traditional databases organise information by row. Vertica organises data into columns. Organisation by column means that when a query needs to access just a few columns of a particular table, only those columns need to be read from disk. By contrast, in a traditional row-oriented database, all values in a table are typically read from disk, which wastes I/O bandwidth, says founder and CTO Michael Stonebraker, the main architect of Postgres and other database innovations. Because Vertica and, say, Oracle structure data differently, a company that oriented its data in a row-oriented database must first use an ETL (extraction, transformation and loading) application to match its data to the Vertica schema. After the old data is copied to Vertica, subsequent changes to the original database are trickled to the Vertica database.

Expected: Vertica has just launched a cloud-based offering of its database. Customers can now access, create, and run a Vertica database through Amazon's EC2 computation service. Data may be stored in Amazon's S3 storage cloud.

NEXT PAGE:V-Kernal

  1. We chart the ones to watch in the future of tech
  2. Aerohive Network
  3. How Cohesive Flexible Technologies will feature in the future of technology
  4. The technology being employed by Earthmine
  5. Montego Networks
  6. Perceptive Pixel - a name to remember
  7. Why Ribbit will feature in the future of technology
  8. The importance of StackSafe
  9. V-Kernal

We've rounded up the ten most important tech startups that are creating new technologies or utilising existing systems in ways that are guaranteed to change your life.

V-Kernel

Founded: 2007

Tech breakthrough: Algorithms that analyse data collected on virtual machines and predict future problems based on performance trends.

Problem addressed

Managing and balancing virtual servers and billing users appropriately for consumption of specific resources.

What the technology does

V-Kernal offers a suite of Java- and AJAX-based appliances to manage virtual servers in EMC VMware ESX environments. Virtual machines, by definition, share hardware resources such as CPU, memory, storage, and network controllers. Resources have to be allocated and often billed. V-Kernel's software produces a chargeback report that measures the amount of hardware resources consumed by each virtual machine and allocates those costs to users based on cost metrics chosen by administrators. V-Kernel's Capacity Bottleneck Analyser predicts shortages of resources on hosts, resource pools, and clusters, and it produces maps showing where virtual machines can be safely added to physical servers.

How it works

V-Kernel integrates with VMware's Virtual Center, pulling data on virtual machines from it, and updating itself as changes are made. (If necessary, the data can be pulled directly from the virtual machine, though that process is more difficult.) It can group services to resources by using VM IDs, and it uses an algorithm to proportionally allocate resources when multiple applications or services share multiple machines. As historical data accumulates, V-Kernel's algorithms spot and monitor performance and usage trends, and produce reports. Reports can be extended with custom fields.

Expected: V-Kernel currently supports only VMware, but other hypervisors, including those from Microsoft and Citrix, will be supported in the future. V-Kernel plans to release five to 10 new virtual appliances this year.

Xangati

Founded: 2005

Tech breakthrough: Rapid problem identification technology gathers information on all IP end points and applications by tapping into flow information from Cisco's NetFlow, or similar protocols, to create behavioral profiles.

Problem addressed

Reducing the amount of time for IT support to diagnose network problems.

What the technology does

Typical network management packages offer a bottom-up view, from the network to the user. Xangati has turned that paradigm on its head, offering a top-down view, from the user to the network. That's significant because a slowdown affecting only one or a few users often goes unnoticed by IT, which is instead getting a broad view of network performance. Xangati can be used alongside Hewlett-Packard's OpenView or IBM's Tivoli to provide a more granular view in a dashboard.

How it works

Effectively, Xangati is an appliance with its own IP address. Rather than gather network information through probes or software agents, Xangati taps into data produced by routers and switches using the Netflow (or similar) protocol. The appliance discovers all IP end points and applications running on them and profiles the end point, including desktops, servers, storage devices, and networked handhelds such as the BlackBerry. The information is put into a database, which then creates a profile of baseline performance over time. Xangati compares the baseline to real-time performance and notifies administrators of problems. The software creates fixed identities, including dynamic ones, for clients.

Expected: "Emerging technologies, such as VoIP and video in various forms, are creating new challenges for network management," says Xangati CEO Alan Robin. His company is working to add problems related to those new technologies to its diagnostic arsenal.

  1. We chart the ones to watch in the future of tech
  2. Aerohive Network
  3. How Cohesive Flexible Technologies will feature in the future of technology
  4. The technology being employed by Earthmine
  5. Montego Networks
  6. Perceptive Pixel - a name to remember
  7. Why Ribbit will feature in the future of technology
  8. The importance of StackSafe
  9. V-Kernal