Will Saleen Sing?

Former SAN Valley CEO Bob Coackley resurfaces at helm of clustered Linux software startup

July 30, 2003

4 Min Read
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As SAN Valley Systems seemed to be sinking faster than the Titanic earlier this year, company president and CEO Robert Coackley jumped ship, hoping that "Saleen" would keep him afloat (see SAN Startups on the Block).

No, not Celine Dion. We're talking about Coackley's new company, Saleen Systems Inc., which is so new its umbilical cord has hardly been severed. The company, conceived in March and incorporated in May, has yet to start looking for its first round of funding.

Still, it's not too early for Coackley to claim that (much like Celine's mesmerizing tunes of love and loss) Saleen's technology vision is inspired (see Saleen Forms Advisory Board). The company will soon start developing software for Linux-based clustered computing.

"Our software is aimed at solving the management problems and aimed at improving scaleability for clustered computing," he says. "I think when we do get it out there in beta, people will be thrilled with it."

The Pleasanton, Calif., company emerged as if from thin air this week, announcing that it has formed an advisory board that comprises Robert Chun, an associate professor at San Jose State University, and Hank O'Hara, VP of strategic programs at Bell Microproducts (Nasdaq: BELM). Chan will advise Saleen on technical matters, while O'Hara will help the company with its sales and marketing strategies as it attempts to bring its product to market sometime next year, Coackley says.Coackley, who was president and CEO of SAN Valley until that company was sold to Silicon Valley businessman Carl Berg in March, now holds the same titles at Saleen (see SAN Valley's Secret Sale). The company wasn't his idea, however: He was asked to join Saleen by two other former SAN Valley executives, Nael Atallah, its CTO and VP of architecture, and George Harris, VP of engineering. Atallah, who most recently worked for now-extinct Zambeel, had the original idea for the company (see Zambeel Znuffed Out).

But what exactly is the Saleen solution? Saleen is keeping its cards close to its chest, but Coackley reveals that the company is aiming to explode the traditional limits on the number of systems can be clustered together. "We're building what we call a third-generation clustered system software, [which] is intended to solve the scaleability problem," he says, adding, "Obviously there will be a limit at some very large number."

More importantly, perhaps, the software will supposedly allow administrators to manage entire Linux-based clusters as a single system, instead of on a per-node basis. "This is system software aimed at making clusters much more easy to manage than current technology," he says.

But there are plenty of established players in this market that will certainly prove to be tough competitors for Coackley & Co., if and when Saleen delivers a product. Companies offering server clustering or distributed file system software include Advanced Digital Information Corp. (Nasdaq: ADIC), IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), PolyServe Inc., Qlusters, Sistina Software Inc., and Sanbolic Inc. (see Sistina Makes Inalienable Writes and PolyServe Musters Reliable Clusters). In addition, companies like Platform Computing offer similar products for grid systems.

Could there be room for another player? Saleen believes there is. The company -- citing "various industry sources," including Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) -- claims the market for clustered servers will grow from about $2.9 billion this year to between $30 billion and $40 billion within the next five years. "The research is not very good on clustering," admits Coackley. "But the good news is they're big numbers." [Ed. note: If you're gonna rely on dodgy research, you might as well make it a huge market forecast!]But while Coackley asserts that Saleen's revolutionary technology [ed. note: i.e., "vaporware"] should give the company some traction, bringing an actual product to market is still a long way off. And it's not yet ready to reveal how many employees it has. "The main thing is to get the funding so we can get the product out," Coackley says. "The executives are paying the bill at the moment."

Eugénie Larson, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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