A startup called Cloudkick today announced its first commercially available cloud monitoring and management tools, which can help speed up the deployment of development environments in the public cloud. Behind today’s announcement is the libcloud project, started by Cloudkick to build an open-source library for interacting with cloud provider APIs.

Cloudkick won the Best in Show and Audience Choice awards at the Under the Radar technology startup conference last summer, and it has since garnered attention for its free cloud monitoring and migration tools. The company was founded to help cloud users quickly migrate from one provider to another based on price. Today’s announcement marks the first time Cloudkick has offered commercial products, as its management tools are offered for free.

Alex Polvi, one of the three founders of Cloudkick, said that the company’s new array of tools is aimed at filling in the holes that exist in cloud management and monitoring systems, regardless of the cloud provider. For developers running test labs and deployments in the cloud, Cloudkick’s management tools can simplify the mundane installation and configuration duties required every time a new test environment is required.

“The problem we’re fundamentally solving is that it’s still really difficult to run a sever in the cloud,” Polvi said. “It’s much easier to get a server in the cloud; you can have them instantly. But the output is just a server, and you still have to manage that server. We are providing the common tools people need to manage that infrastructure.

“There’s a new monitoring agent that allows us to monitor things on the host and query it on the fly when it’s connected to Cloudkick. We can, on a per-node basis, generate charts of CPU and memory usage of all the processes on the machine.”

All of these capabilities are offered across eight cloud providers, including Amazon, GoGrid, Rackspace and Terremark. This cross-cloud compatibility comes as a direct result of Cloudkick’s use of libcloud, {http://incubator.apache.org/libcloud/} a library of cloud access and administration API code.

“Each cloud vendor has their own dashboard and API. Because they have their own API, you have to have your own independent tools for that API,” said Polvi.

Libcloud keeps all the code needed to deal with those various APIs in one place, and that place is now the Apache Foundation’s Incubator. Polvi said that libcloud, which is written in Python, has taken on a life of its own beyond Cloudkick now, but his company continues to contribute to the project.

Sometime later this year, Polvi said, Cloudkick will offer Cloudshift, a tool for allowing Amazon Machine Images (AMI) to run on non-Amazon clouds. That tool is currently still in private beta, and he said that much of the work remaining to be done is in the hosting side of the project.

Polvi said that the AMI format is popular primarily because there is no standard for machine images, currently.

“None of the other hosting providers even have an image format,” he said. “There is OVF [Open Virtualization Format], that’s seeing some traction. It’s just too early. Image format standards is a very interesting topic: It’s still a problem to be solved.”