Santa Barbara cloud-computing company RightScale is continuing to expand its operations and next month will take over the 26,000-square-foot Santa Barbara Business & Technology Center. For RightScale, the move is a return to its roots, literally.
“We were running out of space,” said Michael Crandell, CEO and one of three co-founders of RightScale, which got its start in the tech center at 402 E. Gutierrez St. before outgrowing it and moving in 2009 to 136 W. Canon Perdido, in the former headquarters of CallWave.
“We found out the owners of the technology center had decided to put the whole thing on the market and, of the eight to 10 locations we looked at, in terms of location it’s the best.”
Since launching in May 2007, RightScale has been an industry leader in cloud-computing management. In the simplest of terms, cloud computing takes services and tasks traditionally performed by computers to the Web. For picture-hosting sites like Flickr and Snapfish, photos can be accessed from anywhere there is an Internet connection.
RightScale took hold in the right place and right time, said Crandell, adding that quality employees have driven business.
“We were fortunate in terms of our timing starting RightScale,” he said. “We got invovled in a market that was growing extremely fast and is timely for cloud computing because it’s becoming more effecient and less expensive, which fared well even during the economic downturn.”
RightScale provides automation for companies that have a constantly changing consumer demand, powering its service through elastic compute cloud (EC2) technology.
For instance, when Animoto, a Web application that combines user images and music to automatically create professionally produced video slideshows, launched a Facebook application, its demand jumped to 750,000 requests from 25,000. RightScale’s technology not only efficiently managed the demand swing, but remains cost-effective and conserves server space when demand is low.
“It builds on the idea that you can get and compute storage resources almost instantly and only pay for what you use,” Crandell said. “In the old way, you would dedicate a server to do something and it would work and then sit there and be idle. This is a denser utilization model that’s more agile in the sense that you get a solution when you need it.”
RightScale works with global organizations like The Associated Press and Netflix and local companies like Eucalyptus Systems, a Goleta cloud-computing IT service. Some of today’s most popular games also run on RightScale, including Zynga products such as FarmVille.
“We work with quite a range of companies, but our growth has been a virtue of focusing on customers and what they want to use with cloud computing,” Crandell said.
The new trend has been in private clouds, in which individuals create a cloud-like architecture out of their own data centers, he said. The evolution also has given way to hybrid models that allow RightScale to view servers in Amazon and private data centers from one pane of glass.
“There will be innovations in the cloud that no one has thought about today,” Crandell said. “This is just the beginning of the third revolution in information technology. This is a huge, decade-long movement or longer that we think is unstoppable.”
Crandell and his RightScale co-founders — chief technology officer Thorsten von Eicken and engineering vice president Rafael Saavedra — now have more than 150 employees worldwide. But having already moved once, they know the difficulty of changing scenery — particularly for small companies and startups, which have been the tech center’s primary clientele.
Each of the tech center’s 50 tenants — which included Noozhawk and Crandell’s father, “Mr. Santa Barbara” Larry Crandell, who has maintained an office in the facility since it opened — was given 30 days to leave the converted slide rule factory, according to officials of SIMA Management Corp., which operates the building. Dubbed “the incubator,” the center is fully furnished with semi-private offices, cubicles, telephone, Internet, 24-hour security, conference rooms, restrooms with showers and month-to-month leases.
Juggling day-to-day operations of a small business while finding a new office has proven to be no easy task, said Steve Francis, CEO of LogicMonitor, one of the displaced tenants.
“We spent two or three days looking for furniture and I’m just now handling billing today that I needed to do a week ago,” he said. “It’s a headache.
“The biggest constraint we have is time, and with an office in the incubator, we didn’t have to deal with anything extra.”
Rent was expensive at the incubator, Francis noted, but the low-key environment made it conducive for a startup. With a team of about seven people, LogicMonitor has been looking for an office space of around 600 square feet.
“We helped two or three (from the incubator) already secure new locations and are attempting to help as many more as we can,” said Brian Johnson, general manager of Radius Group. “There is still a good number of small office locations available in Santa Barbara.”
Johnson said the draw of the incubator was that it was short-term and small — not easy conditions to replace.
“One of my biggest wishes would be for the city to step up and build something like the Ventura Ventures Technology Center,” Johnson said. “It would be beneficial for startups or small businesses who expect to grow.”
There is the 37,000-square-foot Castilian Research and Technology Center — at 55 Castilian Drive in Goleta — that offers “ready-to-work” business space for small businesses. But there are small office spaces scattered along State Street and the latest moves will tighten up the vacancies and have a positive impact on the economy, Johnson said.
“(The Hutton Parker Foundation) has lots of buildings but no vacancies,” said foundation executive director Pam Hamlin, who said several business had reached out to the organization for office space.
“Moving is always a hassle, especially when you’re not expecting it, but it’s just how business works. If we had space available we would’ve welcomed them.”
The Hutton Parker Foundation recently handled a similar disruption when it purchased the Anacota Building so Antioch University Santa Barbara could move in. A number of Anacota office tenants were displaced from the property at Cota and Anacapa streets.
Francis settled on a 1,000-square-foot office that was more affordable, but many of the smaller companies that will be displaced don’t have that luxury, he said.
“If you were a small place in the incubator (two or three people), moving into an office (with one tenant) would be fairly prohibitive,” Francis said.
Noozhawk itself has moved to another SIMA property, a 700-square-foot office at Victoria Court, 1227-A State St.
Dave Proffer, founder of Tamada Technologies, said he and a group of displaced tech center businesses are trying to establish a facility similar to the incubator.
“As I understand it, most folks — similar to what Noozhawk did — ended up in individual locations,” Proffer wrote in an email. “There were a couple of others trying to get small groups together to rent space in a pool, but they are still working on getting commitments.”