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EMC Centera exec leaves for CAS startup

EMC’s Centera has been something of a question mark for many in the industry over the last 6-8 months. Rumors seem to continually swirl around a major overhaul or replacement for the first content-addressed storage (CAS) system to hit the market. Those rumors and speculation persist even after hardware and software refreshes, such as the introduction of CentraStar 4.0 software last week, and despite insistence from EMC officials that no further major overhauls to the system are planned.

So far Centera remains the leader in market share and the best-known CAS product in the industry, but as we all know, the archiving market is heating up like never before right now, and other big competitors like Hewlett-Packard and Hitchi Data Systems  have been refreshing archiving systems to compete better, to say nothing of archiving startups (or re-starts) popping up like mushrooms all over the industry.

Today, in an interesting twist, one of those startups, Caringo,  revealed that Centera’s director of technology, Jan Van Riel, has left EMC to be Caringo’s VP of Advanced Technology.

Execs leave EMC all the time, often for positions of higher responsibility at newer companies. But there’s a tangled, shared history between these players in particular. The founders of Caringo were also among the co-founders of FilePool, which became Centera when EMC acquired it in 2001. Van Riel was the CTO of FilePool prior to joining EMC as part of the acquisition.

Caringo’s CAS uses standard CIFS and NFS protocols to ingest data, rather than a proprietary API as Centera does. Caringo’s product can run on clusters of virtually any kind of hardware (one example they showed me was the software running on a Mac external drive). With this product, they find themselves in the strange position of launching attacks against what they view as the proprietary, hardware-bound nature of a competitive product that they themselves created.

Who knows if it really means anything that Van Riel has joined with his old buddies again, but he also made a public statement critical of EMC in the press release Caringo put out announcing the move: “With EMC scaling down the Centera unit and the future of Centera unclear, the chance to join Caringo, which understands the potential of CAS, and partner once again with Paul Carpentier was too good of an opportunity to pass up.”

The plot thickens…

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