Brocade is putting the threads in place to weave a new tapestry. It has just bought Therion, a privately-held and stealthy company with nine employees, for $7-10 million. This follows close on the heels of its investment in Tacit Networks and decision to resell that company’s Wide Area File System (WAFS) product.
We know Brocade’s broad direction here; it’s towards selling products that manage software running on server farms, particularly blade servers, and ship the software between blade servers using shared storage. We’ve previously mentioned that Ian Whiting, Brocade's then VP Europe, now VP world-wide sales, has said the company will branch out from its SAN switch/director base: "Our business is changing. There's only so much growth in storage networking.... We're going to move from a storage networking company to add focus on servers and software ... to manage server farms, to dynamically allocate software between servers."
The Tacit deal implies Brocade will sell WAFS product based on a consolidated set of files and NAS-held data held centrally and served to remote branch sites.
The Therion deal gets Brocade access to software technology focussed on shared storage and software management. Here is the official Brocade view of the purchase from CEO Michael Klayko: “We have been working with Therion for more than a year on technologies that will leverage SAN infrastructure to address challenges in the enterprise data center.”
So Brocade knows the company, its technology, expertise and focus.
“This acquisition allows us to integrate a skilled team with expertise in shared storage and dynamic system management into Brocade’s engineering group, and accelerate several new product development programs.”
Here we have shared storage mentioned – and a SAN is not shared storage – and dynamic system management. That’s system management responding to circumstances and doing something about it.
Brocade plans to unveil new technologies developed as a result of the acquisition at its Brocade Conference 2005 on June 1 in Santa Clara, California.
It could be that Brocade will be showing Silkworm network switches or its multi-protocol router involved in serving files to connected local and remote servers from a Windows 2003-powered NAS box. That would be the Tacit WAFS product with Brocade switches being leveraged.
Brocade may also show blade servers being dynamically instantiated and provisioned with software and then having their operating state changed in response to altered situations. That would be a Therion technology.
It may also show its Silkworm directors running Therion technology and using a back end SAN as the base for its operations on a set of connected servers.
It makes sense for Brocade to leverage its installed Silkworms as a base to branch out into its new role of managing server farms, of dynamically allocating software between servers.
Frank Artale is, now was, CEO of Therion. He previously ran Consera and gave a revealing interview a year ago, in which he said: “The company was focused on solving a set a problems that every server customer faces. Those problems are related to allowing people to move processing that is running on one machine to another. A customer is running NT 4, and then they acquire a new server. They want to take the file sharing function from the NT 4 server and place it on the new machine. Before we came along, people had to find a way to manually transfer the system. This required them to understand exactly how the old server was configured and set up the new server in the exact same way. Any time you get a human involved in processes like these, then there tend to be errors.”
It seems likely that this explains one aspect of Therion’s technology. Artale went on to say: “We built out a solution that allows systems administrators to move processing from one server to another. The solution has additional bells and whistles that allow people to identify existing types of services they have running in an environment. Back to the earlier example, our system finds all of the file servers that are running through a system to be identified. Finally, we allow installations of a new class of servers. Customers can install a completely new server that acts like an old one that they have up and running.”
Consera was acquired by HP in 2004. It appears that Artale left and set up Therion.
Earlier in his career Artale was VP of Veritas’ Windows Business Unit, responsible for overseeing all strategic activities involving Veritas’ relationship with Microsoft. Before this he spent nine years at Microsoft. His tenure at Microsoft included leading early customer efforts with Windows NT. In 1994, Frank became a program manager on the Windows NT project, overseeing the bundling of VERITAS Software’s four components and leading efforts for Windows 3.51 and 4.0.
For his efforts on Windows NT adoption, Artale received the Microsoft Chairman’s Award for Top US Member of Technical Staff in 1993 and was also named the top systems engineer in the same year.
In February this year Realm Systems, Inc. announced that Artale had been appointed chairman of the board. Realm Systems is a privately-held company which provides a next-generation mobile computing platform that simplifies the secure delivery of desktop and enterprise applications and services to mobile corporate end users. There was no mention of Therion in the Realm Systems announcement.
In September 2004, Artale became chairman of Rendition Networks of Redmond. It makes network configuration control software. Marc Andreesen’s Opsware, a company devoted to automating IT, bought Rendition for $33 million in December last year.
Artale is a busy man. He is probably also a very wealthy man, what with Microsoft stock options, Consera’s purchase by HP, and Rendition’s purchase by Opsware. Now Therion has been bought by Brocade. There is no information we have gleaned about any relationship between Brocade and Realm Systems. Artale appears to be a serial start-up company seller. Based on this, the odds are that he won’t stay at Brocade – or that he’ll join the board.