Technology

Building the 'cheeseburger' of file servers:

September 19, 2005

Afile server that longtime tech guru Kim Brand developed from open-source software offers a more affordable alternative to large competitors such as Microsoft Windows.

As managing partner of Server Partners LLC, the 52-year-old Brand is the inventor of FileEngine, a Linux-based file server he markets as a simpler and more "worryfree" platform for sharing files.

"Servers are expensive," Brand said, "and when they break, they cost a lot to fix, and that's wrong."

Brand founded Server Partners in 2001 but began installing his FileEngine technology two years earlier. In the ensuing years, the company has grown annual revenue to $1 million. The recent hiring of a full-time salesman, who joins eight employees at the downtown office, should boost sales, Brand said.

Because Linux is open-source software-meaning one can see the computer code and modify it-programmers around the world are constantly tweaking it and sharing their work with others in the programmer community.

And because Linux is free and can be installed on a wide array of hardware, Brand has used it to configure servers for a number of local private schools, saving them the expense of a software license.

Clients pay on average of $235 a month for Brand's handiwork, which can be found at schools such as Immaculate Heart of Mary School, Saint Jude Catholic School and Nativity Catholic School.

Others, such as the Scottish Rite Cathedral and attorney Richard Waples, refuse to replace it, Brand said. He described the FileEngine as "scary reliable" and said the server at the Firefighter's Credit Union of Greater Indianapolis has been operating 630 days without the need to be rebooted.

Brand has been self-employed nearly 30 years and said his only "real job" was at Union Carbide following graduation in 1975 from Purdue University, where he earned a degree in engineering technology.

He later invented an electronic backgammon game called Aristotle that defeated the world's highest-ranking player seven matches to one in Monaco in 1978.

Brand earned $5,000 for the victory and began to manufacture the game that retailed for $2,500. But a lack of funding ultimately helped kill the project.

The experience taught him a lot about software, though, and he quickly wrote an application for the funeral industry that is still used by Crown Hill Cemetery. His former company he founded to create the funeral home software, Association Computer Services Inc., still exists under different ownership.

Today, his goal is to provide a practical file server at an affordable price.

"It ain't fancy," Brand said. "It's a cheeseburger, fries and a Coke. I want to be the McDonald's of file servers."


Kim Brand embraced open-source software to develop his products.
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