BEA's Dietzen lands at groupware startup

Former BEA CTO Scott Dietzen has taken a position with enterprise messaging start-up Liquid Systems.

Nearly a year after quitting his job as chief technology officer at BEA Systems, Scott Dietzen has resurfaced. He is now serving as president and chief technology officer of little-known California, start-up Liquid Systems, a venture-funded software company that is focused on enterprise messaging and collaboration, according to sources familiar with the company's plans.

The company has developed client and server-side software designed to replace enterprise collaboration products such as Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange, the sources said.

A spokeswoman for Liquid Systems declined to comment for this story.

The company has already developed a prototype of the software, and Dietzen is scheduled to give one of his first public presentations as a Liquid Systems employee during a technical presentation at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in San Francisco, scheduled for Aug. 11.

Dietzen's session "will highlight and demo some of the major changes that will occur in enterprise messaging," according to a description of the talk posted on the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo Web site. Liquid Systems software appears to have an open source component as well: Dietzen will also discuss how "these changes are being accelerated by companies that can leverage the Linux community to build innovative new services," the abstract says.

Liquid Systems is run by Chief Executive Officer Satish Dharmaraj, who was formerly vice president of messaging products at mobile software provider Openwave Systems, and the company boasts a number of former Openwave executives among its senior management, according to sources. Dharmaraj is also known for leading the development of Java Server Pages while at Sun Microsystems.

Prior to founding Liquid Systems, he worked as Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Menlo Park, California, venture capital company Redpoint Ventures. According to Redpoint's Web site, he "worked closely with (Redpoint) incubating a concept around enterprise messaging, ultimately starting Liquid Systems which (Redpoint) funded in March of 2004."

In addition to Redpoint, Benchmark Capital, The Inventures Group, and Accel Partners have invested in the company, according to the Web sites of those companies.

Liquid Systems is entering into a crowded space. Other organizations, such as Scalix and the Lotus founder Mitch Kapor's Open Source Application Foundation, have already developed alternative messaging products, and new ventures such as Liquid Systems may have a hard time convincing enterprise customers to switch to their offerings, said Stacey Quandt, an independent industry analyst based in Santa Clara, California. "It's not clear that any newcomers will be successful there," she said.

Still, consumers have shown a willingness to embrace new messaging products such as Google's Gmail and Yahoo Mail, and Quandt believes there is at least some opportunity for change in the enterprise.

"There is going to be some low-hanging fruit of companies that don't need the requirements of Exchange," Quandt said. "There are only so many companies that are going to need to stay with Exchange."

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