CenturyLink Cloud has raised a $8.5m series A round to help solve the enterprise PaaS problem. The network engineer- and developer-designed PaaS solution has been built for and is aimed strictly for the enterprise, taking into consideration many factors that other developer- and SMB-focused PaaS providers tend to ignore, mainly considerations in the areas of security and compliance. There’s a lot of value-add in CenturyLink Cloud’s treatment of the platform layer, backed by four years of IP and some serious talent in the industry. It’s an up-and-coming firm worth noting.

How CenturyLink Cloud PaaS cracks the enterprise

There is a three-pronged approach when it comes to entering the enterprise, founded on automation, abstraction and environments. CenturyLink Cloud automates the best practices associated with setting up and scaling front- or back-office infrastructure. It aims to remove dependency on physical hardware. And in terms of environments, it offers deployable, optimized business environments in addition to APIs and infrastructure optimization. Currently in two datacenters, it’s mapped out two more for the fall. The company takes a zone approach to North America, dividing by West, East and Central. The first East Coast datacenter will be added later this year, as well as another in the Central zone – which might be more of a consolidation. The last time T1R checked in, the plans were for more datacenter expansion, but the company is finding software efficiencies, coupled with high connectivity, is slowing down its need to build out more.

The names in this round - and company - are worth noting

The round was led by Ignition Partners and Madrona Venture Group – two big guns in the PaaS world, known for overall acumen when it comes to this space. Ignition was responsible for the Heroku acquisition, while Madrona was behind the recent acquisition of Isilon Systems, which was acquired by EMC for $2.4bn. Matt McIlwain will join the CenturyLink Cloud board from Madrona; he played an integral role in Isilon’s acquisition, as well as having previous involvement with some of the more interesting companies in the space, such as Apptio and Skytap. From Ignition, John Connors is joining the board as well. Connors is the ex-CFO of Microsoft, has high credibility and is well known in the industry. Overall, the minds behind this company have great experience and knowledge, so we expect good things going forward. T1R spoke with CEO Adam Wray, who stepped into the CEO position after nine months on CenturyLink Cloud’s board, is also formerly of Limelight Networks. Wray had high praise for CTO Jared Wray (no relation), whom Adam Wray credits for the culture surrounding CenturyLink Cloud. Jared Wray has long focused on virtualization in an enterprise setting. The bottom line is the company is centered around an agile IT methodology, centered on efficiency. CenturyLink Cloud doesn’t look to replace the IT group, just provide the platform to make it efficient and secure, making the IT group’s lives easier.

Why the round?

The company has been cash flow positive for a while and this round seems purely to help drive a serious growth push into the enterprise. So far, CenturyLink Cloud has seen high gross margins equivalent to SaaS company growth margins – another piece PaaS providers have historically gotten wrong. The company has a decent base of customers primarily driven by word of mouth, but this funding will help that big push into the enterprise. It is investing in sales and distribution on a high level, including investing heavily on its partners – the consultants and systems integrators that are a major channel in getting into the enterprise. The money will also be used on increased research and development.

T1R take

This is a great time to go after the enterprise with PaaS, and CenturyLink Cloud is specifically tuned for the enterprise. The round is money that it doesn’t necessarily need, but will provide CenturyLink Cloud with support as it undertakes a major push into the enterprise world. Ignition Partners Madrona Venture Group