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Virtual Instruments nabs Symantec ex-CEO

Mark Urdahl sticks around to advise

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

US business establishment great and good member John Thompson, the ex-CEO of Symantec, has become CEO of tiny Virtual Instruments.

Virtual Instruments (VI) is a tiny but fast-growing firm supplying products to monitor virtualised data centre infrastructures, such as NetWisdom and VirtualWisdom. It recently introduced a SANInsight TAP Patch Panel System, a pre-Tapped fibre-optic patch panel product, claimed to lower the cost and simplify deployment of network TAPs into Fibre Channel SANs and virtualised infrastructure.

The firm was started up as a private equity spin-out from Finisar in June 2008 and is headquartered in Scotts Valley, California. Its corporate blurb says: "Customers such as Barclay's Card Services, Kaiser Permanente, Lloyd's Bank, and Unilever achieve significant cost savings in virtualisation and SAN deployments by optimising availability, performance and utilisation of IT resources." Partners include IBM, HP, HDS, Dell and EMC - it all sounds blue chip through and through.

Mark Urdahl, no longer Virtual Instruments CEO, stays on as an advisor, continues as a director and, incidentally, has a large shareholding in VI.

VI revenues grew 100 per cent in 2009, the year that Thompson joined it as an investor and board member. Possibly he got bored on the board and wanted a more hands-on role, hence the CEO shuffle.

Thompson, now in his early sixties, was IBM's general manager for the Americas and was an IBM employee for a quarter of a century. He left to become Symantec's chief operating officer in 1999. When he assumed the CEO position he became the only African-American heading a major tech firm. Annual revenues grew tenfold during his tenure, rising from $600m to more than $6bn when he retired in April 2009.

VI revenues will be a fraction, a tiny fraction of that, and we guess investors will be getting excited about IPO or acquisition opportunities with golden effects on their shareholdings. Presumably Thompson will make this happen faster than Urdahl.

He was appointed by President Bush to serve on the USA's National Infrastructure Advisory Committee (NIAC), confirming his establishment status. The main event he'll be remembered for at Symantec is the $13.5bn purchase of Veritas in 2005, a purchase that still excites passionate debate about its beneficial or adverse after-effects on the Veritas products and technology. ®

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