Meanwhile, the University of Wisconsin-Madison beta-tested the system but never actually bought one. "The unit left at the end of the beta test," says Tim Czerwonka, an IT administrator at the university. He says the university didn't buy the Zambeel system because the box supported only the Network File System (NFS) protocol, whereas its network runs the Andrew File System (AFS), a distributed file system.
Why wasn't Zambeel able to get more traction? For one thing, the startup launched its product in mid 2002 amid an absolutely terrible IT spending climate. But an industry source points out that Zambeel's system didn't support the Common Internet File System (CIFS) protocol, meaning it wouldn't work with Windows servers (see Zambeel Slams Windows Shut).
"If you're a startup, you can't take anything off the table -- it has to work with the existing infrastructure," he says. "Zambeel took CIFS off the table."
Zambeel was headed by ex-Compaq executive Darren Thomas, who joined Zambeel in June 2001 as its president and CEO. Thomas is a brash former U.S. Air Force pilot -- a credential touted by Zambeel's PR team -- who left Compaq to try to cash in on the storage bubble. Previously he was VP of advanced technology and business development for Compaq's enterprise storage group, which Thomas claimed he "built to a multibillion-dollar leader" (see Khosla's Back, Backing Stealth Startup).
But this might not be the last we hear from Zambeel. A source familiar with the company says Zambeel is expected to file for bankruptcy, after which its investors will attempt to salvage the technology it developed.