Eric Brewer, 32
One way for a search engine to cope with the Web’s explosive growth is to employ a cluster of cut-rate computers, since more machines can easily be added to keep pace with increasing demand. Eric Brewer took this scalable approach in forming Inktomi, a startup that went public (very lucratively) last year. Brewer straddles academia and entrepreneurship; the technology underlying Inktomi was developed with one of his computer science students at the University of California, Berkeley. Inktomi’s system not only scales up easily, it can also keep running in the face of massive processor and disk failures--qualities that have persuaded HotBot, FindWhat and other Web search engines to use Inktomi technology. Recently, Brewer has led Inktomi to develop the Directory Engine, which for the first time allows a Yahoo-like catalog to be built and maintained automatically, after humans set up categories and put sample documents in place.
Wearing his academic hat, Brewer designed a wireless system, GloMop, that enables handheld devices to draw computing power and network access from a stationary machine. "Brewer is one of the rare individuals who has the analytic, design and experimental skills required to make a truly great computer systems innovator," says Berkeley computer science professor Randy H. Katz.
Internet search engines and wireless communications will be two of the hottest information technologies in the coming years, and Eric Brewer is at the leading edge of both.