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January 7, 2008

Voltaire Enlightens the Market in 2007

Nicole Hemsoth

From its Nasdaq IPO to partnerships with industry-leading financial services ISVs to a pairing of its GridVision software with Cluster Resources’ Moab job scheduler, Voltaire had a big 2007. We spoke with senior vice president of marketing Patrick Guay to get his thoughts on the highlights, as well as what we can expect in the year to come.

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GRIDtoday: Voltaire had a big 2007, bringing a lot of products to market, engaging in partnerships, and even experiencing its Nasdaq IPO. From your perspective, what were the highlights in terms of products?

PATRICK GUAY: In terms of new products, in June we began shipping our new 288-port 20 Gigabits-per-second (Gbps) InfiniBand switch. These switches serve as the cornerstone for deploying high-performance unified fabrics, doubling available bandwidth and further improving application performance. The product has been very well received and some of the customer deployments we announced for this product include Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories and the Department of Energy’s new 438-teraflops Tri-Laboratory Linux Capacity Cluster (TLCC07).  We’ll begin shipping the 96-port version of this switch in Q1 ’08.

In late October, we introduced the Voltaire SR4G High Performance Storage Router. By providing seamless connectivity between 20 Gbps InfiniBand and 4 Gbps Fibre Channel, just one of these routers provides 1,500MB per second of storage throughput and enables a single server to gain up to a 200 percent improvement in throughput over a 4 Gbps Fibre Channel connection. This is a great solution for storage intensive applications because now they can use 20 Gbps InfiniBand performance in combination with the existing FC infrastructure. It also eliminates the needs for Fibre Channel HBAs, which means there is a significant cost savings.

We also brought to market some important solutions with partners, including: InfiniBand for Windows with Microsoft; solutions for Oracle Real Application Clusters 11g; and solutions that improve the performance of market data by 50 percent with Reuters, HP and Intel.

Gt: What were some of your best customer wins over the last year? How does JPMorgan Chase choosing Grid Backbone and Grid Director products for its datacenter fabric stack up?

GUAY: As a company, we believe one of our core differentiators involves our focus on specific vertical markets. This focus allows us to develop strong ties between applications, server platforms and, of course, the interconnects we develop. We had a number of key wins in our government and education verticals, specifically at the U.S. Department of Energy and Department of Defense and announced large deals at University of Kentucky and the International Center for Automotive Research at Clemson University. In addition, we had a great year in terms of expanding our presence in several other vertical markets including financial services, energy, manufacturing and media and entertainment. We now have customers in the financial services arena that boast the ability to execute a roundtrip trade in under a millisecond, and we provide solutions to almost all of the world’s major automotive manufacturers and to double-digit numbers of the world’s leading oil and gas companies. We also provide solutions to a number of well-known broadcast networks and media companies, to name a few.

JPMorgan Chase’s deployment is exciting because they are using Voltaire solutions to improve IT efficiency for a datacenter grid environment, rather than strictly to improve performance of one or two siloed applications. We believe this is indicative of the growing adoption of Voltaire solutions in the mainstream datacenter.

Gt: Can you discuss your partnerships with Wombat Financial Software, 29West and TIBCO? What makes Voltaire products such natural allies with low-latency messaging solutions?

GUAY: Our partnerships with Wombat, 29West, TIBCO and Reuters focus on delivering higher performance and lower latency to market data, trading and other financial services messaging applications. For example, the solution we’re bringing to market with Reuters, HP and Intel reduces overall system latency by 48 percent and provides a 50 percent increase in messages per second at 1 millisecond when compared to solutions using GbE. We spend a lot of time working with these partners to tune our software stack to deliver the lowest latency possible. InfiniBand is an inherently low latency technology and combined with our customized middleware applications, we reduce the latency even further.

Gt: What are your thoughts on the big move toward low latency in financial datacenters (and datacenters, in general), and what kinds of roles will Voltaire and other InfiniBand providers play in the process?

GUAY: Reducing transaction latency may be the most important objective in the financial markets today. There are well-known studies that have shown a 1-millisecond advantage in trading applications can be worth $100 million per year to an exchange or financial services firm. It’s also a way to maintain a competitive advantage. And with the ever-increasing amounts of market data and trading volumes financial services firms are experiencing, we see this as a tremendous growth area for our company. Voltaire will continue to work with the key independent software vendors in this space and our OEM partners — HP, IBM, SUN, SGI and NEC — to deliver comprehensive solutions that address this need.

Gt: Can you speak a little about Voltaire’s GridVision Enterprise management software? What capabilities does it bring to users, and how do these capabilities compare with those currently being labeled “cloud computing?”

GUAY: GridVision Enterprise is a critical element of Voltaire’s complete solution for building “unified fabrics” in the next-generation datacenter. Unified fabrics provide seamless, high-performance networking services between InfiniBand fabrics, Fibre Channel SANs and Ethernet LANs over a single high-performance fabric with multiple virtual interfaces replacing actual physical adapters. Voltaire Grid Director switches along with Voltaire I/O Gateways can be used to consolidate and virtualize multiple communication and storage networks onto a converged high-performance fabric. GridVision Enterprise management software enters the picture to provision each application’s required network and storage connectivity in the form of virtual LANs and SANs. The result is that servers can be wired once and then dynamically reconfigured in order to eliminate the cost and complexity of manually deploying parallel networks and physical network cards.

This is very much in line with “cloud computing,” or the move to consolidate, virtualize and automate the datacenter.

Gt: Speaking of partnerships, you also announced a partnership with Cluster Resources and its Moab scheduling software. How do these two products (GridVision and Moab) work together, and how should enterprises view solutions like GridVision in relation to their existing grid or cluster environments?

GUAY: The integration of Voltaire’s GridVision Enterprise software with Moab’s scheduler and orchestrator produces a powerful provisioning and management solution for unified server and storage fabrics. Customers can now use the products together to dynamically form multiple “application environments” from shared pools of physical or virtual compute, software, network and storage resources. These application environments can be scheduled and scaled dynamically to meet specific application and organization service level objectives. Moab determines when application resources are needed and in what capacity, based on requests, policy and workload, and instructs GridVision Enterprise — which acts as the resource manager — to create, virtualize, re-allocate or alter the infrastructure.

Together, we are able to offer a more complete resource management application set improving the usability as well as the efficiency of the grid environment.

Gt: Finally, as far as news from the past year, can you discuss what it meant for Voltaire to begin being traded on Nasdaq? What does this say about the company, and about the high-performance InfiniBand/datacenter management software market, in general?

GUAY: Voltaire has been on a tremendous growth track for the past several years. Becoming a public company means that our investors and the financial markets also see the great need and demand for our solutions, and they have confidence that we can deliver. In addition to the IPO, we’ve received some prestigious awards this year that showcase Voltaire’s growth, as well as the growth of this market. In November, Voltaire was named the No. 1 company on the 2007 Deloitte Technology Fast 500 EMEA because of our 500X growth rate between 2002-2006.  

Gt: Looking forward into this year (2008), what can we expect to see from Voltaire? Where is it headed and where is the market as a whole headed?

GUAY: You will see greater adoption of Voltaire solutions in the enterprise as IT begins to architect their next-generation datacenters. These next-generation datacenters need to look at consolidation, virtualization, efficiencies and costs pertaining to power and cooling. Voltaire fits in with all of the key trends and needs for the datacenter.

You will also see more and more enterprises using InfiniBand for high-performance storage because of both the performance boost and cost savings it provides. Customer response so far to our new storage router product has surprised even us.

Gt: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

GUAY: Despite the popularity of Ethernet, InfiniBand and Voltaire solutions are gaining meaningful traction in the datacenter because of the high performance, low latency and efficiencies the technology can provide today.