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April 16, 2013

Middleware Is Cool

Tiffany Trader

There was a quote that made the rounds during Adaptive Computing’s annual user conference, MoabCon, last week in Park City, Utah. Upon his departure from Facebook last year, founder of the social media behemoth’s data analysis team, Jeff Hammerbacher, stated: “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads…[and] that sucks.”

During his keynote address, Adaptive Computing CEO Rob Clyde shared these words and then addressed the roomful of HPCers.

“Well, I can tell you that’s not what we do in this business,” he stated. “We are trying to cure cancer and perform rocket science, and do amazing things with predicting the weather, and ocean currents, and seismic research – some of the most relevant things that are happening in the world, and our industry is involved in that.”

Adaptive’s Cool Cred

Despite the long list of impressive accomplishments that middleware enables, it generally fails to elicit the same excitement as, say, brand-new leadership class hardware. But middleware is cool and you don’t have to take Adaptive’s word for it. This newfound status was issued by none other than technology analyst firm, Gartner, Inc., which included Adaptive in its “Cool Vendors in Cloud Management, 2013″ report.

The report, which covers five vendors who are providing cloud management platform and/or cloud migration capabilities, is aimed at “CIOs, vice presidents (VPs) and directors of IT, as well as enterprise and infrastructure architects looking to deliver cloud-based, on-demand services that require infrastructure optimization (workload balancing).” Gartner notes that “service providers may also be interested in this solution, due to its ability to optimize the infrastructure, thus dropping service delivery costs.”

The Adaptive CEO was honored by the recognition. As he shared with HPCwire, the company’s cloud management product, Moab Cloud Suite, enables IT architects and the enterprises they work for to realize cloud’s promise of maximum return on investment through the optimization of resource utilization.

At its core, Adaptive’s cloud solution relies on the same Moab intelligence engine as the vendor’s HPC suite, which supports ground-breaking science and technology by delivering policy-based governance to the largest systems in the world, the ones engaged in hero problems, like curing deadly diseases and protecting our nuclear arsenal.

On the analyst’s website, Gartner Vice President Michele Cantara describes the qualities of a Cool Vendor. “A cool vendor is a smaller lesser-known vendor – someone who provides innovative technology or services,” she says. “And they’re lesser known because they’re less mature and they haven’t gotten attention from the media or Gartner.”

The Adaptive CEO agrees with the assessment, noting that Adaptive’s commitment to innovation is reflected in the company’s extensive patent portfolio, one of the largest related to private cloud computing. “We work hard to push the envelope of what is possible and have invented many of the core concepts behind HPC scheduling and private cloud optimization,” adds Marketing VP Chad Harrington.

Gartner observes that cool vendors are a good source of leading indicators about what’s to come. On that note, Clyde says that private cloud will continue to grow. He observes that many of the problems of private cloud have already been solved on the HPC side, for example scalability and efficient use of resources. The CEO referred to a recent survey on server utilization put out by the Uptime Institute that showed a global average efficiency rating of less than 10 percent. As energy continues to be a constraint on systems large and small, efficient system usage will become essential, and this is a major focus for the company.

Getting the Cool Vendor stamp of approval is also a good indicator of a recipient’s future success. The analyst has profiled more than 1,400 cool vendors since 2004, and 70 percent are still operating and in business, while 21 percent have been part of a merger or acquisition.

Next >> Adaptive @Scale

Adaptive @Scale

The past 12 months have been particularly fruitful for the company. The Oak Ridge Titan supercomputer, one of their customers, is the reigning TOP500 champ, and the University of Tennessee’s Beacon machine, another Moab system, is number one on the Green500 list.

“We love big, complex systems,” the CEO shared during his MoabCon keynote. “We certainly can handle others, but we want to make sure that we can run on the largest of the large. Our theory is if we can run on the largest systems, then we can run on everything else.”

He observes that Adaptive’s partners share a similar strategy: “Cut your teeth on the big complex tasks, and the rest falls into place.”

If a prospective customer asks, “How do we know your product will scale?” Adaptive can respond: “Well we already run on the largest systems in the world.”

For a small company of just over 100 employees, Adaptive has a big presence as the largest provider of HPC and private cloud workload management software. I ask Clyde how they do it, and he doesn’t miss a beat: “It’s our partners and customers,” he responds. Adaptive has strong ties to nearly all the major labs and solid relationships with HPC rock stars such as Cray, HP, IBM and Intel.

Inaugural Adaptie Awards

The conference also set the stage for the first annual Adaptie Awards, which recognize organizations and individuals that have pushed the envelope on technological progress. There were three awards in all.

Best Use of Moab in a Private Cloud was given to Bank of America. The financial institution was honored for using Adaptive Computing’s Moab Cloud Suite for its high density, service oriented virtualized compute platform. An early innovator in private cloud, the bank runs one of the most advanced, large scale privately managed IT setups of its kind.

Best Use of Moab in HPC went to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The federal agency was chosen for its pioneering use of Adaptive Computing’s Moab HPC Suite to develop better models for predicting climate variability and change.

The Lifetime Achievement award was presented to Don Maxwell, HPC systems team lead at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), home of the Titan supercomputer. Maxwell has made many significant contributions to the HPC industry. He was instrumental in providing both requirements and testing for the initial port of Moab to the Cray X-series platform. In 2008, he was awarded the distinguished ACM Gordon Bell Prize for helping the ORNL Jaguar supercomputer achieve 400+ teraflops sustained performance. Currently, Maxwell is helping Titan achieve its performance goals. Maxwell is held in high-esteem by his peers, which was clear from the audience’s reaction to his winning the award.