Cloud-Device Startup Nebula Takes Aim at Seattle Engineers

It’s not just the Silicon Valley giants of technology who are moving into the Seattle area to raid technical talent from Microsoft, Amazon, and others. These days, you’re just as likely to see some well-financed startups wooing the big-company guys with promises of changing the world.

A prime example is Nebula, a cloud computing startup that has about half of its roughly 30-person staff in Seattle. As Xconomy’s Wade Roush wrote in this detailed profile of the company, Nebula is selling a smarter version of a networking switch, one that is integrated with the open-source cloud computing platform OpenStack. Specifically, the Nebula device contains a 10 gigabit Ethernet switch along with access to the OpenStack software platform—a combination the company is calling a “cloud controller.”

Nebula’s device, which is just now being tested by potential customers, will allow companies to cheaply build private cloud computing systems. Nebula’s device uses customized OpenStack software and works with inexpensive, commodity servers, including hardware from the Facebook-sponsored Open Compute Project.

Chris Kemp, Nebula CEO

It’s worth mentioning that Nebula’s CEO, Chris Kemp, is one of the co-founders of OpenStack. He helped get the project off the ground when he was the chief technology officer for IT at NASA, working out of its Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA.

Kemp’s also no stranger to Seattle. He was a key employee at, and co-founded the vacation rental management startup Escapia before heading to NASA. Another veteran of Escapia and NASA, Devin Carlen, is a Nebula co-founder and its engineering vice president, based in the Seattle area.

When I visited Nebula’s temporary digs recently, Carlen and Kemp were in that tired-but-excited phase of developing a new company and getting the first versions of their product out to testing. Their conference room was peppered with notes and diagrams, piles of hardware, and the occasional wine bottle, as engineers worked intently in an office down the hall. The company’s current hiring plans will put it at about 50 people in the next six months or so, and a bit more than half of the team will probably be based in Palo Alto, CA. But “all the cool kids are in Seattle, of course,” Carlen says with a smile.

“Seattle’s actually been our secret weapon,” Kemp says. “We found it very difficult to bring folks on in the Bay Area. And, as it turns out, Amazon’s a great place to recruit from. Microsoft’s a great place to recruit from.”

Those hires include a pair that Nebula boasted about in a recent press release: principal engineer Tres Henry, a former lead in developing the Amazon Web Services Management Console; and Matt Gambardella, who … Next Page »

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