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Life after IBM is all green for ISS co-founder Tom Noonan

Noonan's JouleX seeks to redefine energy management technology

By , Network World
April 28, 2010 10:00 AM ET
Tom Noonan

Network World - It was 2006, and Tom Noonan had it all. Internet Security Systems (ISS), the company he co-founded and led as CEO, was pulling in $400 million in annual revenue and on the verge of being acquired by IBM for a whopping $1.3 billion.

But instead of reveling in IT vendor glory, if there is such a thing, Noonan was reminiscing about the early 1990s when fellow ISS co-founder Christopher Klaus lived above Noonan's garage in Atlanta, and the two started building what would become one of the biggest organizations in tech security.

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"All the damn Sarbanes-Oxley meetings and discussions with lawyers and CFOs," Noonan says now, when looking back at ISS's final days. "It wasn't nearly as fun. It was much bigger. We were much more famous. We were much richer. But it wasn't as much fun. I mean right now, this is where the fun is."

The thing "right now" for Noonan is a green IT company called JouleX, which is attempting to change the way businesses monitor and manage the power used by IT equipment and other devices connected to computer networks.

As CEO, Noonan is putting in nearly 90 hours a week, and brought his team to the Interop conference in Las Vegas this week to launch JouleX, which had been operating in stealth mode. (Take our Interop history quiz.) 

Until about 20 months ago, Noonan was a senior executive at Big Blue, helping integrate ISS into the mammoth, 350,000 employee-strong IBM. It wasn't for him.

"We sold ISS to IBM. I had integrated the company and [completed] my commitment to IBM," Noonan says. "It's a different experience. It's not stifling for them because all that protocol is the way they operate a company of 350,000 people and I completely understand it, but it's not a game I wanted to play. At 45 years old I did not want to start a career at IBM."

Since leaving IBM, Noonan has started a venture firm called Tech Operators that is investing in 27 companies, and helped start Endgame Systems, which makes software vulnerability analysis tools and other security technology.

But Noonan's main focus is JouleX, which has 12 employees. Although Noonan is president and CEO, he says the credit for building JouleX's technology goes to chief architect Josef Brunner and CTO Rene Seeber, Noonan's fellow co-founders.

Seeber, previously the ISS chief scientist for content security products, and Brunner initially founded JouleX in March 2008 to solve a security problem, but a sequence of events caused them to switch their focus to energy management.

"They were working on a security problem for a large smart meter company in Europe," Noonan explains. "The more they looked at data, the more they realized that the power consumption of an unoccupied, unproductive building is about exactly the same as a productive, occupied building. The thought changed from security to power management. Clearly, something inside these buildings was consuming huge amounts of power and it didn't take a rocket scientists to figure out it was the IT infrastructure."

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