Founder of Citrix and much more, Ed Iacobucci dies at 59

Versatile tech pioneer oversaw OS/2 at IBM, formed a jet startup and of late targeted data sprawl at VirtualWorks

Ed Iacobucci, whose work on OS/2 at IBM helped fuel the PC craze and whose efforts at Citrix and VirtualWorks aimed to bring computing back under control, has died at the age of 59 from pancreatic cancer.

Iacobucci, who is survived by his wife and three children, has left a huge mark on the network and computing industries.

[ IN MEMORY: Most notable tech industry deaths of 2013 ]

Born in Argentina and schooled in systems engineering at Georgia Tech, Iacobucci got his career start in 1979 at IBM, where he held architecture and design leadership roles involving PC operating systems OS/2 and DOS, working closely with Microsoft in doing so (and actually turning down a CTO of networking job from there). Iacobucci was also heavily involved in IBM's development of Systems Network Architecture and NetView net management technology.

He left IBM 10 years later to start Citrix, the multifaceted company that began with OS/2-based products and carved out a niche in the thin-client market, which was what virtualization looked like before people were calling it that. The increasingly acquisitive company went public in 1995, and has expanded its reach into mobile and the cloud.

Mark Templeton, president and CEO of Citrix Systems, issued the following statement regarding Iacobucci's passing: "We are deeply saddened by the loss of Ed Iacobucci and we send our sincerest sympathies, thoughts and prayers to his family. Ed's spirit of entrepreneurship, creativity, passion and persistence will always remain at the core of Citrix. We are proud to carry his wondrous torch forward."

Iacobucci retired from Citrix in 2000, and two years later started DayJet, an on-demand jet travel company with sophisticated back-end technology to optimize scheduling and routes. The business, which operated in Florida, shut down in 2008.

But Iacobucci popped back up on the tech scene in 2009, forming VirtualWorks, a company dedicated to containing the sort of big data sprawl that some of his earlier companies enabled their customers to create. Iacobucci stepped down as CEO in May due to his declining health.

As if this resume isn't proof enough, Iacobucci was smart. David Strom, a veteran industry watcher, has published a heartfelt tribute to Iacobucci in which he emphasizes this point.

"Back in the early PC era, I just loved people like Ed: smart, articulate, open, funny, and did I mention smart? Tech reporters soaked up the information about their products, their worldview, their 'vision' (although that term is overused now). We could always count on the ilks of Ed to 'splain somethin' and give us a pithy quote that actually shed some light on a tricky tech topic. I have forgotten more about operating system design that I learned from Ed than most reporters even know today."

As word of Iacobucci's death circulated on Twitter, terms such as guru, visionary and legendary were being used to describe the man.

Ed Iacobucci was a great guy. We went to the same conferences for a decade, always hung out and talked 1s and 0s. Sweet dude. Big laugh.

— Dave Winer ☮ (@davewiner) June 21, 2013

Iacobucci's life wasn't all work and no play, either, though. He also enjoyed photography, horse breeding and boating.

In a press release issued by VirtualWorks is included a quote attributed to Iacobucci during an award ceremony in 1998: "Every human being has his own vision of what's happening in the future. I was lucky in that what I thought would happen did happen. When we know we can do it and the rest of the world doesn't -- that's when things get interesting."

Memories of Iacobucci can be shared and read here.

Bob Brown tracks network research in his Alpha Doggs blog and Facebook page, as well on Twitter and Google +.

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