Verari Systems: from Clusters to Containers

By John West

January 22, 2009

Verari started life building Beowulf clusters. From the beginning the company, then called RackSaver, focused on engineering differentiation into the support systems that turn a collection of nodes into a coherent system. RackSaver invested a great deal of engineering effort into cooling, power distribution, and the layout of components in a rack to ensure that they could deliver more compute capability in less space. These infrastructure investments put RackSaver ahead of the pack in those days and it was one of the only companies to buy from if, for example, you wanted two AMD Athlons in 1U of space in 2001. The company, operating as Verari Systems, put systems on the TOP500 starting that next year. This was at a time when AMD had debuted on the list for the first time only a year earlier, and RackSaver was one of AMD’s partners as it elbowed to make room for itself in what was still a crowded list of processor families on the TOP500.

By 2003, the list of vendors on the TOP500 had reached 23, growing from 10 just three years earlier, and the new “cluster” space was getting pretty crowded. RackSaver started looking for a new strategy, and by 2004 was on a new path that focused away from clusters to blade server systems for utility computing, adding businesses to its target customer base along with scientific computing. The company acquired MPI Software Technology in April of that year, adding MST’s experience building software for blade servers to its in-house capabilities. At the time, MST’s software was being used on the number four and number eight supercomputers in the world, and brought key large-scale systems software experience into the company. As CEO and co-founder David Driggers said at the time, “Before we had to leverage software with partners to offer a complete commercial package, now we can offer the whole package to customers.” The company also reorganized under the Verari Systems brand, and added a former Sun sales executive to its board to build out new sales channels to support its blades for business concept.

Based in San Diego and still privately held, Verari has an estimated 280 employees with sales of over $100 million in 2008 showing a growth of over 20 percent from 2007. That makes it a small company, especially relative to its main competitors in the blade business space, IBM and HP. How do they compete? Dan Gatti explains that differentiation is the key, “Our goal is to be the first to bring new technologies into the market, well before our competitors.” For Verari this means nursing key partnerships with AMD and Intel to make sure it’s ready to launch new blade products the day those companies announce new chips. Verari also holds patents on several infrastructure technologies, including its vertical cooling technology, which allows systems to be packed very densely and still operate efficiently.

In fact this technology, along with Verari’s power distribution and blade packing technologies have helped turned the company’s containerized computing platform into a key line of business and a strategic focus for the future. Verari’s FOREST Container has some very high profile deployments, including all three containers that Microsoft uses as part of its Virtual Earth server and storage farm. A single 40′ container can hold more than 2,000 servers, or up to 13 PB, making it a useful option for those who need to add capacity and cannot wait (or afford) to build more machine room space.

The company claims that the use of Vertical Cooling Technology in its FOREST containers saves up to 50 percent of the traditional cooling power requirements, and this ties in with a green thrust for the company. The most recent activity on this front is Verari’s Energy Credit Incentive Program for customers of the company’s BladeRack 2 X-Series or FOREST containers. Verari helps its customers calculate future energy savings using standard metrics and then handles the application process with the local utilities. Some utilities offer customers as much as $500,000 in energy cost rebates for its largest customers.

While total numbers are still small — Verari’s target is to ship 15 to 20 containers in 2009, triple the number sold in 2008 — they are significant compared to adoption rates divined from the other container vendors who are reluctant to talk numbers. Verari is expecting the financial markets to drive this growth in 2009, as space-constrained Wall Street firms struggling with the need to do more with less and meet compliance requirements for data preservation set up compute and storage containers nearby places like New Jersey. Gatti describes the ongoing need for compute as an “IT arms race” that financial companies simply cannot afford to lose, even in tough economic times, and this is consistent with the results of a recent survey of HPC spending plans in financial companies.

Over recent years the company has grown a significant market in storage business targeted for what it calls grid computing and scale out Web 2.0 companies, shipping over 50 PB of its storage solutions in 2008. Its blade storage hardware is complemented by Verari’s DataValet solution, an integrated hardware and software environment that lets customers move to policy-driven storage management in a system that self-configures and self-heals in the event of faults.

According to Gatti, Verari has a significant presence in many markets, including financial services, Internet service providers (including customers such as Microsoft and Akamai), oil and gas exploration companies, and entertainment (including Industrial Light and Magic, Pixar, and Sony Pictures Imageworks). Customer applications include traditional scientific computing from the oil and gas industries, but also loosely coupled workloads such as frame rendering and financial options analysis. The bulk of the servers shipped are based on one of the Linux distros, but Kevin McGrath points out that there is a growing demand for Windows HPC Server 2008. McGrath says that, in Verari’s customer base, the HPC Server 2008 demand is being fueled by improvements in SQL Server that increase the degree to which tasks can be automatically parallelized.

Today Verari describes itself as being in the “high performance business” market, an evolution of its scientific computing heritage, and points to storage and containerized compute solutions as key pieces of its strategy going forward. Verari has an impressive legacy of adapting in the face of changing market pressures and customer demands, and it will be interesting to watch the company continue to grow.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Microsoft Wants to Speed Quantum Development

December 12, 2017

Quantum computing continues to make headlines in what remains of 2017 as tech giants jockey to establish a pole position in the race toward commercialization of quantum. This week, Microsoft took the next step in advanci Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ESnet Now Moving More Than 1 Petabyte/wk

December 12, 2017

Optimizing ESnet (Energy Sciences Network), the world's fastest network for science, is an ongoing process. Recently a two-year collaboration by ESnet users – the Petascale DTN Project – achieved its ambitious goal t Read more…

HPC-as-a-Service Finds Toehold in Iceland

December 11, 2017

While high-demand workloads (e.g., bitcoin mining) can overheat data center cooling capabilities, at least one data center infrastructure provider has announced an HPC-as-a-service offering that features 100 percent fre Read more…

By Doug Black

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Explore the Origins of Space with COSMOS and Memory-Driven Computing

From the formation of black holes to the origins of space, data is the key to unlocking the secrets of the early universe. Read more…

HPC Iron, Soft, Data, People – It Takes an Ecosystem!

December 11, 2017

Cutting edge advanced computing hardware (aka big iron) does not stand by itself. These computers are the pinnacle of a myriad of technologies that must be carefully woven together by people to create the computational c Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Microsoft Wants to Speed Quantum Development

December 12, 2017

Quantum computing continues to make headlines in what remains of 2017 as tech giants jockey to establish a pole position in the race toward commercialization of Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Iron, Soft, Data, People – It Takes an Ecosystem!

December 11, 2017

Cutting edge advanced computing hardware (aka big iron) does not stand by itself. These computers are the pinnacle of a myriad of technologies that must be care Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Microsoft Spins Cycle Computing into Core Azure Product

December 5, 2017

Last August, cloud giant Microsoft acquired HPC cloud orchestration pioneer Cycle Computing. Since then the focus has been on integrating Cycle’s organization Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries, Ayar Labs Team Up to Commercialize Optical I/O

December 4, 2017

GlobalFoundries (GF) and Ayar Labs, a startup focused on using light, instead of electricity, to transfer data between chips, today announced they've entered in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE In-Memory Platform Comes to COSMOS

November 30, 2017

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is on a mission to accelerate space research. In August, it sent the first commercial-off-the-shelf HPC system into space for testing Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC17 Cluster Competition: Who Won and Why? Results Analyzed and Over-Analyzed

November 28, 2017

Everyone by now knows that Nanyang Technological University of Singapore (NTU) took home the highest LINPACK Award and the Overall Championship from the recently concluded SC17 Student Cluster Competition. We also already know how the teams did in the Highest LINPACK and Highest HPCG competitions, with Nanyang grabbing bragging rights for both benchmarks. Read more…

By Dan Olds

Perspective: What Really Happened at SC17?

November 22, 2017

SC is over. Now comes the myriad of follow-ups. Inboxes are filled with templated emails from vendors and other exhibitors hoping to win a place in the post-SC thinking of booth visitors. Attendees of tutorials, workshops and other technical sessions will be inundated with requests for feedback. Read more…

By Andrew Jones

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources Read more…

By John Russell

AMD Showcases Growing Portfolio of EPYC and Radeon-based Systems at SC17

November 13, 2017

AMD’s charge back into HPC and the datacenter is on full display at SC17. Having launched the EPYC processor line in June along with its MI25 GPU the focus he Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Japan Unveils Quantum Neural Network

November 22, 2017

The U.S. and China are leading the race toward productive quantum computing, but it's early enough that ultimate leadership is still something of an open questi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last w Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The Read more…

By John Russell

Perspective: What Really Happened at SC17?

November 22, 2017

SC is over. Now comes the myriad of follow-ups. Inboxes are filled with templated emails from vendors and other exhibitors hoping to win a place in the post-SC thinking of booth visitors. Attendees of tutorials, workshops and other technical sessions will be inundated with requests for feedback. Read more…

By Andrew Jones

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Tensors Come of Age: Why the AI Revolution Will Help HPC

November 13, 2017

Thirty years ago, parallel computing was coming of age. A bitter battle began between stalwart vector computing supporters and advocates of various approaches to parallel computing. IBM skeptic Alan Karp, reacting to announcements of nCUBE’s 1024-microprocessor system and Thinking Machines’ 65,536-element array, made a public $100 wager that no one could get a parallel speedup of over 200 on real HPC workloads. Read more…

By John Gustafson & Lenore Mullin

Flipping the Flops and Reading the Top500 Tea Leaves

November 13, 2017

The 50th edition of the Top500 list, the biannual publication of the world’s fastest supercomputers based on public Linpack benchmarking results, was released Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Software Tools to Ease FPGA Programming

September 5, 2017

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) have a reputation for being difficult to program, requiring expertise in specialty languages, like Verilog or VHDL. Easin Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This