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October 7, 2009

ClusterVision Spins Off Cluster Management Software Company

by Michael Feldman

While most of the industry has gone through an enormous consolidation over the past year, Amsterdam-based ClusterVision is defying the trend by spinning off its ClusterVisionOS HPC management software into a separate company called Bright Computing. The new business launched itself this week, along with its flagship offering, Bright Cluster Manager. The product is literally a rebranded version of a new ClusterVisionOS release that has been under development for some time.

ClusterVision is a Linux cluster integrator that builds commodity HPC systems for the European market (more broadly, the entire EMEA region). The company uses hardware from a variety of manufacturers — white-box manufacturers, but also IBM and Dell — and packages the clusters with its home-grown Linux-based ClusterVisionOS and software stack. As of this week, though, ClusterVisionOS is replaced by Bright Cluster Manager, which makes ClusterVision just another reseller of the software.

In fact, the newly branded software has already been shipped to European customers as part of ongoing ClusterVision deployments. Since Bright Cluster Manager is already an established product with a revenue stream in place, the company was able to launch without outside investment, and for the time being, even without a CEO.

The impetus behind spinning off CluserVision’s cluster management product was the desire to make it available to other system integrators and OEMs, thus paving the way to penetrating the global market. According to Matthijs van Leeuwen, commercial director and co-founder of ClusterVision, since showcasing the latest version of ClusterVisionOS last year at SC08, they have received a good deal of encouraging feedback from other OEMs and integrators to make the product more widely available.

No reseller deals were forthcoming at Bright Computing’s launch, but several are apparently in the works and will be announced in the months ahead. Bright Computing is based in San Jose, Calif., which suggests the importance of the North American market to the company, but the idea is to cover the EMEA and Asia-Pacific regions as well.

Going global means they’ll be running into a lot more competition, especially from the likes of Platform Computing, Adaptive Computing (previously Cluster Resources Inc.), and Clustercorp, but van Leeuwen says they took a different approach with their offering. Most Linux cluster management suites are based on a number of open source packages that are stitched together under a common interface, but the original ClusterVisionOS was built from scratch and designed specifically for HPC cluster management.

“If you take the example of a distribution that makes use of packages like Nagios and Ganglia, what they say is that they have a single Web-based interface,” says van Leeuwen. “But very often it’s a matter of loading the interface to each package, which may achieve some level of a similar look-and-feel. Under the bonnet, it’s different applications. That’s why I think it’s very difficult to achieve a truly intuitive easy-to-use interface if you base yourself on all these third-party solutions.”

In a nutshell, that’s what Bright Computing is selling: an easy-to-use, purpose-built cluster management tool with a consistent interface. They support the whole range of cluster sizes, from workgroup-level systems up to supercomputer-sized machines (As of November 2008, they had five systems in the TOP500.)

According to a company spokesman, the ease of use is especially appreciated in the oil & gas sector, where a simple management scheme is desired for the large clusters they maintain. The fact that they can remotely access those clusters with the Bright Computing solution is also a big plus. For example, a user could manage a cluster in Nigeria and another one in Houston from a laptop in London. “We’re also seeing our approach fitting into some HPC trends, where users are looking to move up from workstations to HPC deskside systems,” said the spokesman.

Systems like the Cray CX1 and SGI Octane III fit into this category, and may be the vanguard of a new breed of HPC office-based computers. Ease of use is especially important in this setting since these deskside systems are targeted to a user segment that typically doesn’t have the Linux expertise nor support staff to deal with complex management software. It’s worth noting here that Cray has already partnered with ClusterVision, which resells the CX1 product in Europe equipped with ClusterVisionOS (now Bright Cluster Manager).

If you peruse the product description on Bright Computing’s site, you’ll see a full feature set, from cluster monitoring to security and more. The company offers two versions: the Standard Edition and the Advanced Edition. The former is geared for small and medium-sized clusters, that is, up to 128 nodes, while the latter is aimed at machines up to 100,000 nodes and beyond. The big features missing in the Standard Edition are support for multiple load-balancing provisioning nodes and redundant failover head nodes. Prices are not available on Bright Computing’s Web site, but ClusterVision and other soon-to-be-announced resellers will presumably provide quotes for customers.