Cassatt

Painting the new data center’s future

Cassatt San Jose

Location:San Jose

Company name: Named for impressionist painter Mary Cassatt, the sole American woman who made a name for herself in late 19th century France among peers Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro and Edgar Degas. Like the painter, the software company hopes to break the mold in its endeavors.

How did the company start? Last spring, venture capitalist firm Warburg Pincus asked Bill Coleman, former CEO of BEA Systems, to help investigate a server-clustering company. Coleman thought the technology didn't on its own warrant investment, but thought topping it off with virtual LAN capabilities would make it sell. The more Coleman looked into the idea, the more he wanted to be a part of the company, which launched in September 2003 with him at the helm.

Funding: Coleman won't specify, but reportedly a first round of between $35 million and $50 million that closed last September.

CEO: Coleman, who had been BEA's founding CEO.

Product: Unnamed infrastructure software.

Painting the new data center's future

Cassatt's marketing spiel uses more than a few buzzwords - autonomic computing, service-oriented architecture and grid computing. But what really interests the software company is the eventual convergence of these technologies.

Cassatt is designing for an IT environment that will emerge over the next decade as more users adopt virtualization technologies, Coleman says. Today, users can begin to scale their IT environments with Linux clusters or blade servers. In a few years, software and hardware will mature enough that utility computing can become practical, he says. The problem is utility computing requires the metering of processing, network and storage capabilities, and the software doesn't exist to do that today, he adds.

"Imagine if we scale the number of hardware components that are operating from a couple of hundred to tens of thousands, and we take the few dozen applications being managed today and break those into tens of thousands of Web services," Coleman says. "If all this is really going to happen, then the world needs an operations system, something that takes on most of the manual operation and the real-time administration of this technology, and takes out the need for a human to be in the loop."

That's what Cassatt intends to deliver with a hardware-, software- and operating-system-agnostic approach. This puts Cassatt in line to complement technology from vendors such as BEA, HP and IBM, Coleman says.

Cassatt operates from three sites: its corporate headquarters in San Jose, where most of the executive team resides; St. Paul, Minn., and Colorado Springs. The St. Paul site is staffed by former employees of Unlimited Scale, which made the Linux-based server-clustering technology that Warburg Pincus first asked Coleman to examine. The Colorado Springs office is staffed by 19 ex-Sun engineers, whom Coleman and company convinced to defect from Sun as a team. The Sun group was working on a remote distributed management console for Sun's N1 initiative, Coleman says. Today, the group is developing Cassatt's management console and management services, while the St. Paul group is developing runtime software.

No Cassatt products are commercially available yet, but a handful of companies are testing early versions. Pilot users come from the financial services and government industries, Coleman says.

A second generation is due this summer, at which time the company plans to announce its first product and the names of its beta customers.

Cassatt's software initially will run on Linux. Cassatt eventually will provide vendor-specific Unix implementations and support for Microsoft platforms.

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