Brocade Founder Has New InMage

Fibre Channel switch pioneer moves into backup software arena

September 14, 2004

3 Min Read
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One of the guys who launched Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) is a founding father again. This time, Kumar Malavalli has shifted his sights to software with a new backup and replication startup (see Kumar Malavalli, Cofounder, Brocade Communications and Top Ten Storage Networking Stars).

Malavalli, who helped launch Brocade in 1995 and take it public in 1999, today revealed he is CEO and major financial backer in Santa Clara, Calif.-based InMage Systems Inc. The name is short for Information Management, which gives a hint about the companys product.

“This is my second baby after Brocade,” Malavalli says.

He kept this baby under wraps for a long time and still hasn’t totally uncovered it. Malavalli says he actually started the company in late 2001 with $1.3 million of his money, securing another $6 million last December from Hummer Winblad Venture Partners.

Malavalli says InMage’s software is already being used by three paying customers. It won’t become generally available until next year, though, and Malavalli says he still considers InMage in stealth. Malavalli says his unnamed customers are helping to “validate and define” the software, which means it will probably be modified before general availability.He says the company is currently at 15 people, and he hopes to hire 20 more by the end of the year, mostly in engineering and sales and marketing.

InMage founders Malavalli, president Anup Tirumala, CTO Rajeev Atluri, and sales VP Srihari Kumar say they spent a year talking to companies about their pain points before coming up with their product. Not surprisingly, they found backup a major headache (see Backup Still a Pain in the Neck). So that’s how a company whose CEO and CTO come from Fibre Channel switch companies decided to get into software. Atluri is a Gadzoox vet (see Gadzoox Networks and Broadcom Switches on FC).

“I wanted to take care of the data continuity problem,” Malavalli says. “There’s a lot of noise, a lot of buzzwords in the industry, but still a lot of holes to be filled in around data protection and continuity.”

Will InMage fill those holes, or merely add to the noise? InMage management is convinced current products from Veritas Software Corp. (Nasdaq: VRTS), EMC Corp./Legato (NYSE: EMC), CommVault Systems Inc., and others aren't totally satisfying customers.

He says InMage will have two key differentiators. First, the application installs as one agent for replication, backup, and recovery, adding to efficiency. Also, it allows companies to roll back to major events (such as end of quarter, large deals, etc.) in doing backup, as well as the common method of rewinding to defined points in time.While Brocade walked into a wide open Fibre Channel switch market when it started, InMage is challenging established incumbents.

“Their pedigree is flawless, but the market is crowded already,” says analyst Arun Taneja of the Taneja Group. “The integrated approach they describe is hard to argue with and certainly will be a differentiating feature versus the legacy players such as Veritas and Legato. But I am concerned there are too many players in this market already, and many will be history by the end of 2005. So InMage needs to have something really exciting to be entering the market now.”

It’s too soon to gauge InMage’s excitement, but Malavalli certainly brings credibility. That’s why so many storage companies seek his involvement and capital. He’s an investor in LightSand Communications Corp., InterSAN Inc., and Cloverleaf Communications Inc., and an advisor to Intransa Inc.(See LightSand Buys SANcastle, Who's In at InterSAN?, Cloverleaf Climbs Out, and Intransa Appoints Two Advisors.)

The Brocade Website also still lists him as a key strategic advisor, but Malavalli says he no longer has any real role with his old company.

“I’m not a Brocade Boy anymore,” says the 62-year-old. “I’ve moved on to my next life.”— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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