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Microsoft Open Source Advocate Joins Startup

Sam Ramji, former head of Microsoft's Open Source Labs is now VP of strategy at Sonoa Systems, a startup focused on a key measure of how the Web 2.0 will operate.

Sam Ramji, the open source advocate who sometimes stirred up controversy inside and outside Microsoft, has joined the Silicon Valley startup Sonoa Systems. The four-year-old firm has 65 employees, or a little more than half of the 120 Microsoft employees that Ramji previously supervised as director of platform strategy. He was hired as director of its open source interoperability lab and worked under Windows Server marketing general manager Bill Hilf, a former director of IBM's Linux strategy.

Ramji became VP of strategy and business development at Sonoa Systems on Monday; he still lacked a business card as he showed up that afternoon for an interview at InformationWeek.

Ramji is rejoining several members of a team he worked with at BEA Systems in 2002-04 as it drove WebLogic middleware into a market-leading position. Chet Kapoor, the former general manager of the Integration Group at BEA, is the CEO of Sonoa. Ramji previously worked for Kapoor as director of product strategy at BEA. Brian Mulloy is a former director of marketing at BEA, now manager of Web products at Sonoa. Another BEA associate was Scott Regan, now head of marketing at Sonoa.

Ramji said he also looked forward to working with Ravi Chandra, noted for architecting the SmartEdge Service Gateway and his earlier work on the Border Gateway Protocol. He is a cofounder of Sonoa, a company based on supplying analytics on application programming interfaces, a future guide to interactions on the Internet.

"It just seemed like a good group of people," Ramji said.

The feel of a young company is quite different from 91,000-employee Microsoft. "There's a very, very different sense of being responsible for your own success or failure... Three of us sat in a room, we made a decision, and went out and implemented it," he noted.

Sonoa makes use of open source software, including Apache, Java, and Eclipse, and Ramji expects the firm to have its own open source strategy further down the road.

At the moment, it's engaged in offering an online service, Apigee, launched to the general public Wednesday. Apigee applies analytics to the message traffic passing through APIs to reach services or applications on a Web site. It can put a proxy in front of the API traffic, sniffing out the origins of the traffic, the nature of the incoming message, and what sort of load it will place on the application, all valuable information to e-commerce and Web site managers.

Sonoa wants its service to become to Web site APIs what Google Analytics represents to Web traffic, a fundamental measure of how the site is doing and the nature of the demands being placed on it.

Ramji said he found Seattle to be a fine city to live in, but he and his wife, Sioban, and their son and daughter wanted to return to the Bay area. The main lesson he's taken away from Microsoft is that "nothing is impossible."

By that, he means he felt he made headway in transitioning Microsoft away from opposition to open source code and into greater interoperability with it. He was scarcely the only open source sympathizer in its ranks; many developers understand how open source projects work and what they try to accomplish, he said.

Now he says he wants to apply that "nothing is impossible" lesson to the next challenge: building Sonoa into a force to be reckoned with as a supplier of infrastructure to the next generation of operations on the Web. Web 2.0 will be characterized by software working with software. Understanding what's happening with the APIs that allow that to happen will help turn the Web into more of a computer serving users' needs, he said.


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