There’s a flood of vendors out there looking to make infrastructure management as smooth and as manageable as possible. Stackpop is a cloud-based service that helps enterprises analyze and optimize their IT infrastructure spending. Its pitch is that its easy to use and brings in real savings. The New York-based company addresses the disconnect between finance and IT, helping track contracts and spending, and providing useful intelligence when it’s time to renegotiate or shift vendors and technologies. It also acts as a comparison tool and marketplace for buyers and sellers, pitting it against colo brokerages in addition to spend tracking and aggregation.
While its appeal is obvious for the end users of infrastructure, for the infrastructure providers themselves, StackPop has the potential to become a very potent marketplace to drive sales. It aids in comparing, configuring and buying from over 450 infrastructure providers in 40 countries and wants customers to never buy blind again. As it grows this part of what it does, it stands to gain insight to general buying and infrastructure trends across the world, so users can see what is being paid on average.
The challenge lies in making infrastructure services like colocation as transparent as cloud or hosting. As hybrid infrastructures continues to gain traction, a management platform like StackPop stands a good chance of becoming something of note. It already touts some large customers like gaming site IGN, social check-ins provider Foursquare, and online fashion retailer Gilt Groupe.
A large part of what StackPop does is analagous to personal finance and budgeting tools, such as personal finance portal Mint.com, only for IT infrastructure. Mint.com, now owned by Intuit, is an application that helps people understand their finances. It gives a user the ability to aggregate and monitor all financial accounts from one simple, attractive, and mobile-friendly app. It drew a large crowd of users as a startup and was soon acquired by the financial software giant Intuit. Mint.com and Stackpop are similar in terms of what they hope to achieve, although Stackpop's features go beyond the "read-only" data aggregation seen at Mint.
Roots at Panther Express
Stackpop was founded in October of 2011. The co-founders were infrastructure guys, network and systems engineers. Co-founder and CEO Jason Evans says the talent behind the company grew its global chops at content delivery network Panther Express, where they started with 10 servers and, grew the company to 45 global locations before being acquired by CDNetworks.
Evans moved to MediaMath, a real-time bidding platform that had a handful of servers on Rackspace upon arrival, which built out to 6 global data centers including Asia Pacific and Europe, Middle East and Africa.
"We’ve always had the idea of creating better tools to help grow and scale the infrastructure," said Evans. "The original idea for Stackpop came from we had an unused cage we had purchased on a 2-year agreement at Panther, and it was a big waste. We tried to sublease it but couldn't."
That unused IT purchase highlighted a problem, and an opportunity. "The idea came out of the question - 'How do we create a second level marketplace for space capacity at a discounted rate?'” said Evans. In April of 2011, Stackpop was formed to pursue solutions.
Evans teamed with Stackpop CTO, Aram Grigoryan, also a Panther Express alumni, and put together a seed round of funding in the fall of 2011. The beta for the serviced came out March of last year, and has closed $1.2 million in transactions through the platform and through its partners. Provider feedback has been positive.
Infrastructure Spending Insight That Goes Beyond Cloud
There are a lot of web sites that provide information about infrastructure. However, there’s no one transactional platform that drives and dominates infrastructure spending. “There’s a need for a more transparent and transactional platform," said Evans. "We had to get a little more involved from a personal level."
The StackPop management platform helps manage and optimize IT infrastructure spend. It's playing in the same space as Cloudability which helps track spending on Amazon Web Services. While Cloudability is focused on how a customer makes an Amazon dollar go further, Stackpop seeks to address a broader cloud economics question: Is that dollar being spent on Amazon being optimized at all?
Stackpop seeks to track spending across all infrastructure – a more complete, personal and easy experience for the user. “The goal is to give the IT director full control and visualization over what his current contracts are," said Evans. "A lot of folks will use spreadsheets, reminders (or) SAP integration, but this is complicated, messy, not user-friendly and dangerous."
StackPop has two goals - helping its customer get all of their data under one roof, and closing the gap between finance and IT. A lot of companies don’t have advanced collaboration between finance and IT. Often it boils down to a stack of invoices that folks sign, and they hope the amounts are right. The next phase of the product is truly integrating the Mint.com model for infrastructure, and creating confidence in the staff about their choices and spending.
Provider Participation is Crucial
There are potential hurdles and problems. The first is that Stackpop relies upon providers providing detail into on pricing. It’s not easy getting pricing data and maintaining a database.
Data center providers also don’t want commoditization, and have very different offerings, so there might be a problem in convincing the high-end providers to participate in StackPop. “But we give the providers a way to display what’s important to a buyer at a data center," said Evans. "We show why they can be 25 percent more expensive.”
The company tracks at well over 500 locations now. “If we don’t have a relationship, we want to build one,” said Evans. The company also mines the data for cloud and hosting, which is already more readily available.
As hybrid infrastructure becomes more common, StackPop should become more valuable.
"It’s a pitch that resonates with the data center guys," said Evans. "Amazon is eating your lunch. No one ever starts in data centers anymore. We’re big believers in transparency. These 25-year-olds with the start-ups have never seen the inside of a data center. We tell them what a Gigabyte costs them on hosting, cloud, or colo. That's real money for any sized organization."