Start Me Up: CloudSwitch in the Datacenter

Ellen Rubin's success with startups continues at CloudSwitch, a developer of a software appliance that enables companies to securely run applications in the cloud while remaining integrated with their datacenters.

In her latest guise, Ellen Rubin is co-founder and VP of Products for start-up CloudSwitch, developer of a software appliance that enables companies to securely run their applications in the cloud while remaining tightly integrated with their datacenters. It's a position that well suits her restless mind and entrepreneurial talents.

Prior to CloudSwitch, Rubin worked in Israel with a bunch of brilliant, highly motivated Israeli technologists, who logged incredibly long hours and -- according to her -- outworked anyone she has seen on either coast of the United States. The end result of her collaboration with those dedicated compatriots was Manna, which she founded in 1997 to produce personalization solutions for e-marketers.

Those were heady times for IT companies of all kinds, as one after another they hastily rode the dotcom boom to market, selling a wide range of new products to free-spending companies who were only too happy to spend their money. Call it the gilded age of doing more with more.

You couldn't blame anyone for thinking Manna (ominously derived from the Hebrew words "What is it?") was poised for success, but as Rubin remembers: "The company wasn't successful. I think we made every possible mistake there was to make in the whole world." Even though Manna had lost its mojo, she philosophically chalked it up as a learning experience and resumed course.

What she didn't do was lose her infatuation with early, early start-ups, in which, as she puts it, "a couple of people sit in a room with some ideas and try to figure out how to take something that you draw on a whiteboard and turn it into something that's real and fundable and turns into a real product that has value to potential customers."

Rubin's next opportunity to get involved on the ground floor came in 2001 with Netezza, an early stage Israeli-Boston company in the process of producing the Netezza Performance Server (NPS), which it called the world's first data warehouse appliance. NPS appliances integrate database, server and storage data in a single system.

At Netezza, Rubin became VP of marketing and played many key roles, creating marketing strategy, presiding over product marketing and heading up marketing communications. She stayed for six and a half years, and watched while the company amassed 200 customers, racked up $130 million in revenues and executed a successful IPO. "I kept staying and staying, and every year it kept getting bigger, and it was really exciting," Rubin recalls. "But the truth was, I really wanted to go back and start my own company."

Following her muse, she left Netezza in early 2008 and hooked up with David Skok, general partner at Boston-based venture capital firm Matrix Partners. Skok is a brilliant entrepreneur who started his first company when he was 22, and has since founded four more and performed one turnaround.

Skok connected Rubin with John Considine, formerly director of the Platform Products Group at Sun. Like Rubin, Considine -- who became co-founder and CTO of CloudSwitch -- was keenly interested in the challenges of integrating datacenters with cloud computing, so the two of them started brainstorming. "We sat together for several months at Matrix, incubating our ideas," she says. "We were either out at meetings or on the phone. Eventually, we were able to get it funded with David, and have since added some other investors."

Thus, CloudSwitch was born, and although it's still too early to call the company an unqualified success, it's on a fast track in a hot market, having rolled out version 2 of its CloudSwitch Enterprise Software a mere six months after taking the wraps off version 1. The energetic Rubin seems to be enjoying herself as she tirelessly flogs her latest project and thinks just a little about what comes next.

About the Author

Bruce Hoard is the new editor of Virtualization Review. Prior to taking this post, he was founding editor of Network World and spent 20 years as a freelance writer and editor in the IT industry.

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