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Enabling Ecological Data Centers: Rackable Systems CEO Mark Barrenchea (Part 1)

Posted on Thursday, Nov 27th 2008

Mark Barrenechea is president and CEO of Rackable Systems. Before joining Rackable he served as executive vice president and CTO for Computer Associates. Prior to CA, he was senior vice president of Applications Development at Oracle and reported directly to Larry Ellison. Earlier, he served as vice president of Development at Tesseract, which was purchased by Scopus, where he maintained the same role.

SM: Tell us where your story starts.

MB: I was raised in New York City. I lived in New York for most of my childhood. I then moved to Stamford, Connecticut where I went to middle and high school. My father was in metals trading, and we definitely had a New York mentality in my family.

I went to college in Vermont. I went to St. Michael’s College and then moved west as soon as I could. I studied computer science and was not sure what was out west. I took a few trips out to California and just fell in love with it. I settled in Santa Cruz and was part of an early team at a small compilers company.

SM: What year are we talking about?

MB: This was in 1986. That was early for startups, but it was in the days here floating point arithmetic and integer arithmetic were not integrated on the same silicon. There were companies that sold math co-processors. You had to open a machine, put in a processor without bending the pins, and you could then turn your integer machine into a floating point machine.

We did something unique. We were a high performance compiler company. If you were looking to really have a math application which was in C or Pascal, you would have come to us. Borland was in their heyday and their compilers were built on our compilers. Greenhills was built on us and some of the world’s fastest and most important scientific applications where built on us. We just focused on our niche, which was getting as much out of silicon through math co-processing.

As I got integrated into California I met up with some venture capitalists. I got some introductions to Jeff Walker, whom I got to know extremely well. I also met Woody Hobbs. They were teaming to carve a company out of Prudential called Tesseract. That business was their mainframe application business. They had clients like IBM, Prudential and John Hancock.

I joined their team, carved the business out and stood up a standalone company in San Francisco. We bought the product and then built a sales team around it. I ran engineering.

SM: Did Prudential have equity in that company?

MB: No we bought it outright. They had preferred licenses but no equity stake. We extended the mainframe product and built a client server version. It was built for hosting which allowed multiple customers to be supported off of a single database.

SM: What year was this?

MB: It was 1989.

SM: There was no Internet. What was the point of doing anything other than single enterprise?

MB: We thought we could save disk space, partitions and regions on a mainframe. I think it would be hard for me to say we had a vision of multi-tenancy at the time as it was more around efficiency on the mainframe.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Enabling Ecological Data Centers: Rackable Systems CEO Mark Barrenchea
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