EMC Gobbles Up Pi, Gets Ex-Microsoft Exec For Dessert


The acquisition of Seattle-based Pi by EMC, expected to close later this quarter, is part of the Hopkinton, Mass.-based storage giant's strategy to develop a cloud computing infrastructure.

Pi, a startup which is now in the process of beta testing its first products with a select group of customers, has about 100 engineers in the U.S., Canada, and India.

Pi has been working on next generation software environments to allow users to "create, repurpose, store, share, and access personal information in novel ways," according to information from Pi's web site.

Pi is developing two products, an EMC spokesperson said. One enables end-user consumers to access, organize, and protect data from anywhere. The other offers similar functions, but is aimed at corporate environments.

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Once the acquisition closes, Paul Maritz, Pi founder and CEO, will join EMC as president and general manager of the company's new Cloud Infrastructure and Services Division. That division is slated to official open when EMC closes the acquisition. Maritz will report to Joe Tucci, EMC president, chairman, and CEO.

In that position, Maritz is expected to continue to oversee the development of the Pi software and other EMC cloud computing offerings, including the EMC Fortress SaaS infrastructure and the Mozy online backup service.

Maritz stepped down as group vice president of the platforms and strategies group at Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Wash., where he was a key member of the executive inner circle and played significant roles in several key initiatives during his 14-year tenure.

EMC last month unveiled its EMC Fortress software as a service (SaaS) strategy. EMC Fortress will eventually be used to provide a variety of online services, including data security, IT application, and trusted data services.

The first service, MozyEnterprise, is an online backup service based on EMC's recent acquisition of Berkeley Data Systems, the developer of the technology behind the Mozy online backup business. EMC acquired Berkely for $76 million in October, giving EMC its first foothold in the online services market.

EMC is also in the early stages of a program to develop a cloud computing infrastructure with SAP, of Walldorf, Germany, according to recent news reports, a program which EMC did not deny.

Pi is no stranger to acquisitions. The company in July of 2006 acquired Smart Desktop.

Smart Desktop was set up to commercialize the results of the "TaskTracer" project of the Intelligent Information Systems Laboratory at Oregon State University, according to information on Pi's web site. That project developed technology to use machine intelligence to automatically classify, sort, and organize information by observing and learning from how users interact with their PCs. Smart Desktop had an exclusive worldwide license to the TaskTracer technology, patents, and intellectual property from Oregon State University.

Tucci in a statement said, "The proliferation of information in the hands of consumers, businesses and organizations of all sizes has brought about massive digital information growth on a scale never imagined. As the leading provider of information infrastructure, we are positioned to set a new standard for organizing, accessing and deriving value from this information. Pi's technology is very complementary to our emerging cloud infrastructure strategy. Paul Maritz and his team will provide invaluable vision and leadership as we position EMC at the leading edge of cloud computing and personal information management."

EMC did not disclose the terms of the transaction other than to say that the acquisition will be an all-cash transaction.