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March 10, 2008

Lost and Found: United Devices’ Datacenter Push

Derrick Harris

If it seems like it has been a while since you’ve heard anything from United Devices, that’s because it has been a long time.

Last spring, the company made a bold strategic move to place its well-known Grid MP solution on the backburner so the company could re-focus its efforts on the datacenter. Then, before it really had a chance sow its datacenter seeds, United Devices merged with Univa, and Univa UD came to be. Given Univa’s grid/cluster pedigree (its counts no less than Ian Foster and Carl Kesselman among its founders), I was none too surprised to see the new company fully embrace UD’s grid prowess and focus Univa UD’s marketing efforts around being “the global leader in open source grid and cluster computing.” But what ever happened to the datacenter?

Just to make sure it still exists, I sought out Jikku Venkat, general manager of Univa UD’s datacenter business, to get confirmation. And based on his account, all seems to be well — and getting better by the day. Although the business has been somewhat under the radar, Venkat assured me time has been well spent honing the company’s Data Center One datacenter automation product, as well as its Service One managed services solution.

Concerning the latter, Venkat said the company is taking a service-oriented approach that allows service providers utilizing the solution to offer a users different hosting experience. Rather than selecting hardware setups, choosing how much memory they want, etc., users experiencing platform with Service One in the background will simply choose what type of application they want to run and what kind of service level agreement they want, and Univa UD’s software will take care of the rest. This area actually is where Venkat’s datacenter business is getting the most traction — mostly from telcos and hosting providers, and increasingly from general IT service providers that want to very rapidly deploy machines for various applications on demand.

That said, the company is continuing to make progress with its Data Center One solution, as well. More general purpose than its chief competitors (Fujitsu FlexFrame in SAP environments and DataSynapse FabricServer in J2EE environments), Venkat says it has a “much broader range of customers” running diverse applications. A big differentiator, he said, is that Data Center One is an application-oriented product that can on-board pretty much any type of application out of the box. Additionally, Univa UD is making sure the product can integrate easily into existing application environments — physical or virtual — via a heterogeneous approach to development. “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” Venkat told me, “so we will coexist with your existing tools.”

However quiet the datacenter business has been thus far, though, don’t expect that low volume to continue. Venkat said the company is hoping to hoping to have half a dozen deployed customers ready to go public this year (a goal that already looks to be taking shape), and Univa UD is planning to start re-branding efforts around the datacenter business yet this month. In the end, Venkat says the company views the datacenter business as a strategic advantage, and he expects it to grow into a large part of the company’s overall business.

Moving on to the contents of this week’s issue, I would be remiss not to mention Kurt Westerfield’s article on virtualization management. Sure, the author has some financial interests in drawing your attention to this area, but that doesn’t make it any less important – nor the article any less informative. A key takeaway, from my perspective, is speed at which virtualized environments can grow and the ease with which they can grow. After all, the author points out, organizations can create new servers with the click of a button; it doesn’t get much faster or easier than that. In fact, he notes, one social networking company is currently managing 15,000 servers and, thanks in part to virtualization, is seeing that number increase by 6 percent per week. “If it seems daunting to isolate the root cause of issues amid 5,000 physical servers,” summarizes Westerfield, “then 10,000 virtual machines … might be insurmountable.”

Although it was a pretty slow news week, there still are a handful announcements that should pique your interest. I might suggest: “Mobile Grids Nurture Virtual Organizations”; “Digipede Grid Solution Certified for Windows Server 2008”; “AT&T to Invest $1 Billion in Global Network, Services”; “Supermicro SuperBlade Servers Chosen for CERN LHC”; and “Urbancode Unveils New Automation Server.”


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