Greg McElheran, the new CEO of Liquid Computing, explains the recent decision to replace the company's former CEO as being a shift in focus from product development to sales. Having spent four years building its fabric-computing system, Liquid Computing needs to find customers willing to pay for its fancy box.Liquid Computing's LiquidIQ system is a disruptive technology in the sense that it's a replacement for conventional data center servers and switches -- two products in one, in effect. But its promise of "software-defined, real-time infrastructure" requires a leap of faith. Would you rather buy servers from HP, IBM, or Dell and switches from Cisco or Brocade -- leaders in their respective markets -- or Liquid Computings' promising-but-unproven alternative, at a starting price of $80,000?
"It sounds like we're trying to take on the entire planet," admits McElheran. "As we venture into the mainstream data center, we're moving into turf that's dominated by a few companies." Other vendors in its space include Fabric7 and Egenera.
Therein lies the challenge. While the concept of fabric computing -- with its flexibility and seeming simplicity -- sounds great to any CIO, putting it into action is more daunting. Liquid Computing has a few early adopters, but it hasn't named a new customer in months. "Our focus really needs to be on driving sales," says McElheran. That means expanding from high-performance computing, where it started, into enterprise and service-provider data centers.
Liquid Computing also needs to navigate the competitive landscape. McElheran talks of developing partnerships along the lines of last year's work to build support for Oracle's VM technology into LiquidIQ. Earlier this week, Liquid Computing announced that it had joined Linux-based networking vendor Vyatta's partner program. It's now racing to build in support for Intel processors, Windows Server, and VMware.
It's also possible that Liquid Computing is being groomed for acquisition. McElheran is a lawyer with a background in such deals. "We're venture backed, so we were for sale from Day 1," he says with a laugh, adding that "people shouldn't read anything into" the fact that he's got a background as a dealmaker. Too late, it's impossible to ignore.
Liquid Computing still hasn't publicly announced that McElheran replaced former CEO and founder Brian Hurley earlier this month. Here's my original post on the management change.