Microsoft's Ramji Joins Sonoa Systems

The mystery of where Sam Ramji is headed is over. The former senior director of platform strategy at Microsoft has led Redmond's open source efforts since 2006. Now Ramji is reuniting with his erstwhile BEA Systems colleagues to head product strategy and business development at Sonoa Systems.

Sonoa provides API management, allowing developers to add policy management, security, governance and scale to enterprise applications running in the cloud. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company delivers the technology via appliances and through a services-based offering.

Ramji announced that he was leaving Microsoft three weeks ago, in conjunction with the launch of the CodePlex Foundation, a non-profit 501.c6 organization with a stated mission to enable "the exchange of code and understanding among software companies and open source communities." Microsoft seeded the CodePlex Foundation with $1 million in funding. Ramji agreed to serve as the foundation's interim president during its first 100 days as it seeks to establish itself. During his final weeks at Microsoft, he was primarily focused on getting the foundation off the ground.

"I had very little time for anything else," Ramji said in an interview. "I was dealing with very mundane logistics like getting a tax ID and opening a bank account and all the things required of creating a startup that you don't necessarily associate with a non-profit foundation." See also, Exit Interview: Sam Ramji Assesses Microsoft's Open Source Ascent.

While Ramji had disclosed his decision to relocate back to California and indicated he would be joining a Silicon Valley cloud infrastructure startup, he declined to reveal the new company until after leaving Microsoft. Ramji's last day at Microsoft was Friday and he joined Sonoa this week. Ramji's decision to join Sonoa came as a surprise to Steve Coplan, an analyst at 451 Group who has followed the company.

"Sonoa has not made a big bet in open source to this point," Coplan said in an interview. "His experience will come in handy in developing relationships with platform-as-a-service vendors, and particularly in terms of controlling access to development platforms in the cloud"

Ramji acknowledged that Sonoa to date has not made any major open source bets. But he said that engaging a larger developer community is key to developing more services. "A sensible way to do that includes an open source offering," he said. "The more we can enable developers to build secure and scalable cloud services quickly, the more services will be available as part of this cloud service economy."

Sonoa, founded in 2004, offers technology that Ramji said will be critical to enterprises looking to deploy applications in the cloud with the same scale, security and service level as on-premises systems.

"It's hard to produce a performance-neutral cloud API gateway that can do the kinds of packet inspection and routing and transformation that is required to build a scalable cloud service and enable those things to operate within service level agreements, performing in real time," Ramji said.

Key to developing the gateway is Sonoa vice president of products Ravi Chandra, who like Sonoa CEO Chet Kapoor and Ramji worked at BEA Systems (now part of Oracle). The three helped build a developer-focused business based on BEA's WebLogic and AquaLogic Web services integration technologies.

Among other things, Chandra was a key architect who helped create the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), the core routing protocol of the Internet. "He has incredibly strong networking and low level core protocol chops, as well as the kinds of insight required to take application semantics into the network," Ramji said. "It's rare to find people who are good at applications and networks."

Sonoa offers its gateway as hardware- and software-based appliances, as well as through a service hosted on Amazon's EC2 cloud service. Ramji didn't rule out the possibility of supporting other cloud services over time. "I don't see anything preventing us from getting there," he said. Likewise, he hopes to play some role in promoting cloud interoperability. "It's been a point of personal interest and it's going to continue to be," he said.

In August, Sonoa launched a preview of Apigee, a service that provides Web analytics of mashups and API usage. Apigee creates a dedicated API proxy that can be used within an app, according to the company.

As Ramji embarks on his new assignment at Sonoa, he said he is satisfied that he accomplished his goal of seeing Microsoft embrace open source technology.

"I am not saying it happened overnight, it was pushing on four years or so but more and more people have gotten on board with it and it started to go faster and faster," Ramji said. "What I expect to see from Microsoft in the coming 12 months would probably be conservatively twice as much open source contribution activity than we saw in the previous 12 months. The open source concept is really spreading across the engineering teams inside the company. It's really becoming part of the DNA"

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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