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Isilon's Focused on Feds

Isilon Systems wants Uncle Sam. It's aiming to make the government a prime customer by enlisting retired generals and a founding administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency for advice and contacts.

Isilon CEO Steve Goldman says that even though his firm has no federal customers yet, the prospects are huge. "The U.S. government is the single largest purchasing entity on the planet," he maintains. "Federal business could be 10 to 20 percent of our total revenue within the next couple of years."

Like the entertainment and broadcasting verticals, Goldman says the federal sector has growing needs for mission-critical digital content, particularly with new security and record-keeping projects underway. Also, a lot of agencies are willing to take a chance on a startup -- especially if the introduction is made by someone they know.

That's where Isilon's appointment of William D. Ruckelshaus to its board of directors comes in. Ruckelshaus, who has no direct personal investment in Isilon, is a director at Madrona Investment Group, which helped finance Isilon and backed Dantz before its acquisition by EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC). (See Isilon Raises $15.5M, Supplies LexisNexis and EMC Dances With Dantz.) But he's also a corporate honcho with a jaw-dropping government background.

A lawyer with degrees from Princeton and Harvard, Ruckelshaus, 73, was active in the Indiana House of Representatives in the 1960s and later became the first administrator of the EPA. He was also an acting FBI director and then deputy attorney general at the Justice Department in 1973. He followed then-attorney general Elliot L. Richardson's footsteps by refusing to dismiss Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox during Richard Nixon's "Saturday Night Massacre" -- a move that cost him his job and helped grease the wheels of impeachment.

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