Patrick Eaton, the Berkeley PhD. who architected EMC’s Atmos cloud storage product, left EMC about 3 months ago. He joined a Boston-area search firm, Endeca, where he is a software architect working on a team to scale Endeca’s core MDEX search engine.

Dr. Eaton co-authored a couple of key papers on the computer science underpinning Atmos.

The StorageMojo take
The Atmos project is having a rocky time of it inside EMC. The sales force, which traditionally has had a lot of autonomy as long as they deliver the numbers, isn’t excited about selling much lower-cost/GB storage. Conservative enterprise IT buyers are as leery of unproven technology from EMC as they are from anyone else. And EMC hasn’t been crowing about Atmos either.

I recall a quote from Patrick where he commented on the all the resources Atmos was getting – dozens of people, exec attention – and I thought that might be a mixed blessing. Trying to solve hard problems to meet the CEO’s deadline is no one’s idea of a good time – especially a newly minted PhD.

Kudos to EMC for the Atmos effort and I wish them success. Yet several former EMC’ers have told me that EMC is not the most congenial place to do software. Given the enterprise sale force’s focus on hardware I find that easy to believe: the temptation for sales to discount “free” software to close a big hardware deal is almost irresistible.

And Atmos is a far step beyond EMC’s traditional management and data protection software. It is a whole new product family whose economics and implications are not well understood.

The bottom line: it is rarely a good sign when a company can’t keep the architect of a new product on board. Yes, there are other architects out there, but it usually means that some decisions were made that people now wish were made differently. Only time will tell what the case is with Atmos.

Courteous comments welcome, of course. EMC doesn’t brief me on Atmos or anything else since I won’t sign the non-disclosure agreements (NDA) they require of all analysts. Why brief people who talk and write for a living and then require them not to talk or write about the briefing?