A project born from OCCIware
XScalibur originates from OCCIware, a research and development project on the cloud led by the Spirals project team, and which was the subject of an “investment of the future” of 5.5 million Euros. “I joined Inria as a research and development engineer on this project, whose objective was to create a chain of software tools to manage any resource as a service”, Christophe Gourdin recalls. “I brought my cloud computing and software development expertise to the project. In November 2017, at the end of OCCIware, Inria researcher Philippe Merle and I had the idea of creating a start-up and have been working on this since January 2018.”
A multi-cloud management platform
XScalibur is therefore a software publisher. It develops an interface for the management of the resources and services of the different cloud providers. It is a two-in-one product which enables the different clouds to be designed and manipulated, but also the graphic representation of a whole multi-cloud infrastructure. “All of the technology is based on models, used to solve complex problems such as multi-clouds. We are proposing to represent them graphically with diagrams. This makes it possible to properly structure the design of a complex infrastructure, reduce the risk of errors and validate its design.” A tool that could revolutionize the work of the developers: “They use scripts but rarely have an overall view of the infrastructures. With the graphic interface, they immediately see the links between the different resources or services.”
This dual functionality is XScalibur's advantage compared to the competition: “Cloud management products exist, in the shape of forms, but without graphs. On the other hand, there are graph tools but without the capacity to manage or manipulate cloud infrastructures”, the project leader explains.
For businesses that use several cloud solutions, the XScalibur product has several advantages. It offers more security by reducing the risk of errors in the design of the different clouds. It will make the users and deployment systems more productive. XScalibur will also make it possible to follow and predict the costs of the different providers. Finally, the software will also be capable of disaster management: if a site crashes, it will be possible to reproduce the infrastructure on another cloud and to restart another site in another technology. “Our challenge: to graphically represent heterogeneous services in a homogeneous environment”, Christophe Gourdin sums up.
Support from Inria
In order to launch his company, the engineer is backed by the Inria Lille - Nord Europe center’s Technology Transfer, Innovation and Partnerships department (STIP). He has also received funding from EIT Digital, which has enabled him to recruit an engineer specialized in software development and two end-of-study interns. A business developer joined the team in September 2018. “We are in the first phase of building the product. We have an MVP (minimum viable product). We have carried out the feasibility studies. Henceforth, I am starting a qualitative study among regional clients to see if they show an interest for the product. And several have given me positive feedback.”
The project leader is also participating in Inria's digital start-up program, which allows him to follow business creation classes at the business school EM Lyon. The aim: to apply for i-LAB, the national competition to support the creation of start-ups, by the end of the year. Moreover, in the very near future, Christophe Gourdin hopes to raise funds and has joined the Serre Numérique incubator in Valenciennes. “They have close links with some UX design schools. This will help us to enhance the platform's ergonomics and will enable the design of software that is as close as possible to the users.”
Commercialization planned for 2019
If all goes well, XScalibur should therefore come to market at the beginning of next year. “We are going to start with local businesses, specializing in the retail sector in particular. And then we will aim for the international market.” It has to be said that the start-up is entering into a rapidly expanding market: multi-cloud management software is currently worth 900 million dollars worldwide and should reach 3.6 billion in 2021.
* Inria Spirals is a joint project team with the University of Lille within joint research unit UMR 9189 CNRS-Centrale Lille-University of Lille − Sciences and Technologies, CRIStAL.