Skytap (formerly Illumita) leaves the stealth mode and enters the virtual lab automation market

The virtual lab automation market starts to become packed. It doesn’t reach yet the levels of the VDI market, but the number of startups in this space is growing at a good pace.

Today the US company once known as Illumita leaves the stealth mode as Skytap and announces Virtual Lab.

Skytap is based in Seattle and funded with $6 million from four VC firms: Madrona Venture Group, Ignition Partners, Washington Research Foundation and Bezos Expeditions.

The company, around 20 employees, is managed by several execs coming from companies owned by HP: Scott Roza as CEO (was in Opsware), Steve Brodie as CMO (was in Mercury Interactive) and John Janakiraman as CTO (was in HP Labs).
Additionally, there are a couple of other execs from Microsoft (Ian Knox and Jed Stafford) and from EMC (Matt Perrine).

Skytap has to compete with veterans in the space like VMware, Surgient and VMLogix, as well as with new entries like StackSafe.

Virtual Lab has the traditional features that a customer expects in a product in this category: a web-based console for hassle-free access, a virtual machine library, the capability to tie together multiple virtual machines in multi-tier configurations, instant sharing capabilities through URLs, granulary access permission and quota assignment system, etc.

There’s a difference anyway from products like VMware Lab Manager and VMLogix LabManager: Skytap hosts the backend virtual infrastructure on its own.

The only other company doing that at today is Surgient, which also offer an installable version of its VQMS.

This implies that customers don’t have to care about the backend configuration but just to create the virtual machine they need or upload the ones they already have: the product currently supports VMware ESX and Citrix XenServer but the company also plans to support Microsoft Hyper-V.

This model also implies that customers have to trust Skytap in uploading their software on the cloud.
Additionally, since they don’t have control on the hardware itself, it’s impossible to do performance or compatibility tests.

Skytap has published a pretty extended screencast (divided in four parts) to show how the actual product works in different tasks. It deserves a look.

Customers are and are billed per use (actually by paying a monthly subscription) and while the pricing doesn’t seem set in stone yet, the current amount is $100/month plus $1/hour per virtual machine usage.

The product can be tried immediately despite Skytap is starting with a small infrastructure probably and can only serve a limited amount of customers. Sign up here.

The Virtualization Industry Radar has been updated accordingly.