Startup Cassatt Draws Up Plan Of Attack For Systems Management

Bill Coleman, co-founder and former CEO of BEA Systems, is back in the game. Coleman recently launched Cassatt, which promises to deliver next-generation systems management tools designed for utility computing architectures. In an interview with Editor in Chief Michael Vizard, Coleman argues that a new era of commodity-based computing means greater opportunity for business-savvy solution providers and doom for incumbent vendors such as IBM.

CRN: What is driving all the interest in utility computing?

Coleman: In the overall market—and I don't care whether it's the SMB or enterprise market—the big drivers are to rationalize operational expense and capital expense and generally figure out how to do better with what you have.

CRN: What impact will this overall trend have?

Coleman: This is about the commoditization of computing. We're starting with the commoditization of the hardware. But ultimately, probably in the next decade, we'll see the commoditization of software around Web services and not applications. On the software side, it will be the disintegration of monolithic applications.

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CRN: What impact does that have on vendors, then?

Coleman: On the hardware side, only the commodity players win. When an infrastructure can be simple enough to use, and powerful enough to scale, it eliminates all of the problems of high-scale management while providing guaranteed quality of service and business agility. That will eventually be provided by the most commoditized players, which are the ISPs and the telco service providers. We'll be talking about buying the equivalent of a mainframe for $50 a month. And that basically will drive the large server guys out of the server business. And it will drive the large companies out of the IT operations outsourcing business. So it totally compromises IBM's business model. It destroys the server model. What it does is it makes the business a price-driven battle among the service providers selling capacity on demand.

CRN: What opportunity does that mean for VARs creating managed services?

Coleman: There is a chance for new guys to come in because, in the next few years, the capital expenditure to actually provide these kinds of services is going to be really low. The real place to do it is in vertical markets, where you become the backbone ASP for a hospital and you provide the whole thing. You help them to configure and customize the actual applications.

CRN: What role do you see Cassatt playing in all this?

Coleman: What we need for this is what I call an operations system: something that automates IT operations, eliminates the cost of IT, enables scaling of commodity computing, while providing guaranteed quality of service on an application and allowing your business policies to dictate where the resource is employed. It has to attack all three at once: the scaling in operations costs, the quality of service and the business agility. What we're doing is providing a software infrastructure that virtualizes the hardware world and allows a company to set policy against how they use their applications. Then we'll use what we call dynamic provisioning independently of hardware and software to change workflows based on the policy and what's happening in the real business world.

CRN: Are you going to launch a channel program?

Coleman: We're going to start a channel program early next year, probably first in the federal market. We're also going to certify a lot of configurations over time. We're going to actually specify in our documentation literally down to the part numbers what to order and how to assemble it. I actually think there's a huge opportunity because it's something partners can get started on pretty quickly without gobs of training and technology.

CRN: How did this offering come together?

Coleman: We realized that virtualization should work the way that Cray had done on their MPP systems back in the early '90s. So I bought a company called Ultimate Scale that had been the architects of that at Cray. They were building a Lintel version of the virtualization, and we took that and spent a little over a year generalizing that for Windows.