Citrix Founder Gets $8.5M to Break Down Data Silos

VirtualWorks Group, a Boca-Raton, Fla.-based startup from Citrix Systems (s ctxs) founder Ed Iacobucci, has raised $8.5 million from Florida’s New World Angels investment group to tackle the problem of corporate data dispersed across servers, devices and clouds. The problem is easy to see — business data now lives not only on corporate servers but also within employees’ personal cloud service accounts and devices, and there’s no convenient way to view or access it — but the solution is a bit more tricky.

What Iacobucci has come up with is the Virtual Index Architecture, a platform for ensuring that companies, employees and even applications have access to corporate data wherever it’s stored. According to InformationWeek, the platform will include an architecture, cross-indexers and an API so applications, in the cloud or on-premise, can plug into the platform and allow VirtualWorks to federate the data that employees have stored there.

VirtualWorks says its product does “content virtualization,” which has a nice ring to it, but which isn’t an entirely new concept. Xeround, the MySQL-in-the-cloud company, began its life several years ago federating disparate stores of data for telcos, a solution it called “data virtualization.” Among the differences in their approaches, though, is scope: Xeround could have been broadly applicable but limited itself by focusing on telcos, whereas VirtualWorks is making the whole enterprise world its oyster.

The difficult part, as Iacobucci acknowledged in the InformationWeek article, is that “the index is only as good as how broad it is,” so getting as many partners (e.g., Google (s goog), Apple (s aapl), Microsoft (s msft), Amazon (s amzn), Dropbox, SugarSync,, etc.) on board as possible will be critical. The Virtual Index Architecture certainly has utility for intra-company data only, evidenced by the handful of customers that VirtualWorks already boasts, but the vision will fall short if the vendors that store data outside the corporate firewall don’t buy in.

If VirtualWorks is successful in its mission, though, it could have a broader effect than just easing its customers’ minds. It could be a step toward addressing data portability in cloud computing, in general. Even if the myriad options for cloud storage aren’t interoperable themselves, having a third-party platform that makes all that data accessible from a central location is a big deal. We’ll be discussing at Structure 2011 next month how more and more important data is making its way into the cloud, which makes VirtualWorks’ emergence all the more timely.