Intel's Red, White and Blue Bets: Cloud Computing and Cleantech

Intel has announced its latest crop of patriotic investments from its Invest in America Technology Fund. The winners? Software and chip-design businesses focused on cloud computing, data centers and cleantech.
Intel has announced its latest crop of patriotic investments from its Invest in America Technology Fund. The winners? Software and chip-design businesses focused on cloud computing, data centers and cleantech.

Intel Capital has made a new set of red, white and blue investments through its $200 million Invest in America Technology Fund. The latest recipients include four software and chip-design businesses that have collectively received more than $30 million from the patriotic fund, which launched in February to back U.S. companies.

The money is going to Joyent, Adaptive Computing, Nexant and Ciranova, and those choices reflect Intel's keen interest in cloud computing and data-center management and services. While Intel doesn't sell computers or software, the world's largest chip maker is always looking for new markets for its chips. And these portfolio companies all are developing products that can broaden the use of computers, communication equipment or consumer electronics -- all of which use chips.

Cash for the Cloud

Joyent, for example, runs cloud-computing services, competing with companies such as Amazon. Cloud computing is a way for companies to store, manage and distribute data over the Internet (the "cloud" being a metaphor for Internet). Instead of storing and managing information stored on a local computer that only a few people can access, cloud computing stores data in servers that can be accessed via the Internet anywhere.

This method makes it possible, say, for an online retailer to set up a virtual shop and manage its sales and shipment without owning its own servers or hiring its own IT people to run them. Instead, the retailer could turn to cloud-computing firms to manage the data. In the case of San Francisco-based Joyent, its customers include business-networking website LinkedIn, online seller of luxury goods Gilt Groupe and social-game developer Kabam.

Intel didn't break out how much it's put into each of the four companies, but Joyent said Tuesday that Intel's funding is part of a $15 million Series C round, which also includes money from Greycroft Partners and Liberty Global. Joyent runs data centers in California, Texas, Massachusetts and China.

Data Center Automation

Adaptive Computing, based in Provo, Utah, is developing software to automate the process of running data centers and supercomputer centers, where powerful computers crunch numbers for scientific studies or engineering projects. Adaptive says Intel's funding is part of a $14 million round it has raised to boosts its business in the cloud-computing market.

Adaptive was founded in 2001 as Cluster Resources and changed the name in 2009. Its customers include Yahoo, IBM, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Boeing, ExxonMobil and Merck.

Energy-Saving Software

Nexant provides a long list of software and services for energy audits, which evaluate where energy is being used, how much energy is being used and where it is being wasted, and for LEED certification, a U.S. Green Building Council designation for natural-resource-efficient homes and office buildings.

The company, founded in 2000, also works with its customers to sell and buy energy certificates and credits, which companies can buy to offset their carbon footprints. Nexant lists Nth Power, IBM, Morgan Stanley Global Energy Group and Energy Software and Consulting among its investors.

Nexant also sells software to companies in the energy market, such as utilities and electric grid operators, who use the software to manage their customer billing and track the fluctuation in wholesale energy market prices.

Communication Chips Software

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Ciranova provides software to help design communication capabilities, such as WiFi and Bluetooth, into chips that are then used in a variety of consumer electronics and communications equipment.

Designing these type of chips can be tricky, particularly as gadgets such as smartphones and tablet computers grow ever more sophisticated and come with the ability to hop between different types of wireless networks.

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