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TurboLinux chairman leaves for storage start-up

Cliff Miller steps down to become chief executive of Mountain View Data, a company that will sell storage services on the open-source InterMezzo file storage software.

TurboLinux chairman and co-founder Cliff Miller has stepped down to create a start-up focusing on storing other companies' data.

Miller now is chief executive of Mountain View Data, a company that will sell storage services on the open-source InterMezzo file storage software.

Miller handed the TurboLinux CEO reins to Paul Thomas in June amid layoffs at the company. Thomas also is now chairman of TurboLinux, one of the top sellers of the Linux operating system and related software, spokesman Lonn Johnston said today.

Miller's wife, Iris, another TurboLinux co-founder and board member, is executive vice president of international development for Mountain View Data. The third founder is Peter Braam, chief technology officer and lead programmer for The InterMezzo Project.

"I have resigned from TurboLinux," Miller said in an interview today, saying he and Iris prefer the challenge of a start-up. "Certain people are good at certain things. I believe we're pretty good at doing new things. We like the excitement of a new company."

Mountain View Data was founded in September and has about 10 employees, Miller said. The company hopes to differentiate itself from competitors such as StorageNetworks by having storage data centers in both the United States and Japan.

The Millers faced some dilution of their control over TurboLinux in recent months, as the San Francisco-based company's initial public offering schedule stretched and outside companies invested in the Linux seller. A $57 million corporate investment round in January sealed partnerships with major computing corporations, but the company also had to secure a further $30 million earlier this month.

The Millers remain the largest stockholders at TurboLinux, Cliff Miller said.

TurboLinux still faces plenty of risk as the company tries to become profitable and convince the world that Linux is a solid business proposition.

Giga Information Group analyst Stacey Quandt said the most significant aspects of Mountain View Data are the inclusion of Braam and the Asia-Pacific connections that served TurboLinux well. "The focus on the Asia-Pacific could give them an advantage," she said.

Miller recognizes the fact that Mountain View Data isn't the only company trying to make a buck by storing others' data. "There will be a lot of competition in the market. We're not kidding ourselves here," he said.

InterMezzo software, which Braam and Michael Callahan began in 1998, builds on the file system of Linux but can be added to other operating systems as well. It's open-source software, meaning that anyone may contribute to the programming effort. The project development has been hosted at VA Linux Systems' SourceForge site since September.

Using InterMezzo will enable rapid replication of data across several sites, Miller said. The start-up is focused on storing data for companies such as television broadcasters that have very large files that must be copied to different locations across the world. The company also wants to help companies that want to send streams of video over the Internet, he said.

Other customers could include financial services companies that must keep track of many files, including different versions of the same file as it gets updated.

InterMezzo still is in beta testing. The company plans to begin offering services in early 2001.

Mountain View Data has headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., and an office in Beijing with another office scheduled to open in Tokyo in coming weeks. Data centers will be in Japan and the United States, Miller said.

The Millers resigned from the TurboLinux board Oct. 16, Iris Miller said.

TurboLinux CEO Thomas' tenure as chairman took effect in July, Johnston said, and TurboLinux will fill the vacant seats on its board. "We're talking to some terrific candidates right now. There's no real sense of urgency," he said.