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Network World - Egenera CEO Pete Manca says the company was 10 years ahead of its time in targeting the converged data center infrastructure, but its smooth transition from a hardware-focused company to a software-oriented one in recent years has enabled it to stay in the thick of what's now a booming market pursued aggressively by Cisco, HP and others. As part of our ongoing IDG Enterprise CEO Interview Series, IDGE Chief Content Officer John Gallant spoke recently with Manca about Egenera's strategic shift, its partners and competitors, and a big new product announcement.
PRODUCT ANNOUNCEMENT: Egenera jumps into cloud management
What's Egenera's mission today?
The mission from day one, and now we're 12 years old, has been to simplify the data center, and we do that through converged infrastructure. 12 years ago when we were pushing converged infrastructure, everybody kind of scratched their head and said, "What do you mean? What is it?" Now with products like Cisco's UCS [Read Network World's review of UCS], IBM's PureFlex and HP's Matrix there are a lot of examples in the market. But it's really the technology that we invented 12 years ago, and very simply, what it is is the combining of resources connected to a common networking fabric. In our case it's Ethernet, which is really the case for most places now, most vendors. And it's the pooling of storage, networking and server resources so they can be dynamically assembled at the time when you need them. You do that by inventorying your resources with a little magic of virtualization, and not necessarily server virtualization like VMware, but I/O virtualization, really virtualizing the fabric so you can piece together those resources when you need them. It reduces your costs significantly from a hardware point of view, you need less resources, less port counts. It reduces your admin costs significantly because you need fewer people to manage these machines. And it gives you a much more dynamic environment. So our vision, really, is delivering converged infrastructure to the market, helping the customer simplify their data center. The real differentiator for Egenera is we are really the only open converged infrastructure player in the market.
Open meaning what?
We run on everybody's hardware: IBM, HP, Dell, NEC and Fujitsu. We apply our converged infrastructure management software to those platforms and we can turn those into a converged environment.
Let's take a step back, because I think people who know Egenera from the beginning know it was essentially a hardware company. How has that mission evolved, and did you drive that change?
One of the things that I did, my main goal when I came in here, was to transition us from hardware to a software company. We had been a hardware company for the first nine years of our lives and were very successful. We had several hundred customers, we ramped the business very quickly to $100 million, but we could never attain profitability. We couldn't get the business model correct. As other vendors got into the market and blades became more of a commodity, it became even more difficult for Egenera as a hardware company to get the business model to work correctly. So we had to change something dramatically. That was my job when I took over as CEO two and a half years ago. What we did is we took the core IP of the company, which was PAN Manager software, which ran on our proprietary systems, and we poured it into open systems. We started with Dell and added Fujitsu, then we added HP, NEC, then IBM. So now we've been able to take that, really the crown jewels of the company, and provide that capability on open platforms. Since then I'm very happy to be able to say that we've been profitable for the last two years. We've got the business model corrected. We're generating cash, profit, and now we're looking to really extend the functionality.