July 8, 2010

Roadmap Chat with Univa’s New CEO, Gary Tyreman

Nicole Hemsoth

On Tuesday, cloud management software vendor Univa UD announced that it placed one of its veteran product managers into the CEO slot to take the reigns as the company transitions from its grid roots into the cloud. Univa has been around for close to a decade and has maintained a focus on HPC in addition to enterprise datacenters and most recently, the cloud. After all, for grid-rooted company to survive these days, inserting a suite of cloud offerings is a foregone conclusion.

Like other players post-grid, Univa is differentiating itself by tuning its approach to be as broad as possible to work with private, public and hybrid clouds and to attempt to unravel some of the inherent complexity of making such IT shifts. It is hard to ignore that its new CEO came directly from five years at Platform Computing, which certainly will make things interesting as we see how the small company works to pick up pieces left over if and when Platform customers decide to take their business elsewhere.

One of the more interesting aspects of direct relevance to some of you is that Tyreman is focused on making HPC accessible to first-time users, something that is not often addressed in articles or even by vendors themselves. Tyreman was, according to Univa, “among the first in the industry to recognize the emerging entry-level user in the HPC space and was responsible for developing a vision for how to simplify running applications off the shelf; a key to unlocking value among organizations new to HPC.” With data mounting and applications increasing in scope and complexity, it might be this focus—if Tyreman runs with it—that will allow Univa to get a leg up on the competition by emphasizing the ease of use the company touts.

Prior to our interview, new Univa CEO, Gary Tyreman indicated that the shift in leadership was part of a natural transition that set the company on a trajectory that expanded to the ends of their grid roots into the new (but not dissimilar) paradigm of cloud computing. During our interview he laid out Univa’s roadmap and gave hints at new directions the company will be taking.

HPCc: Before coming to Univa you were at Platform–what was your role there and how did it morph into your position at Univa–what carryover and value did you bring from previous roles there? This might be answered in the context of your shift from Platform to offering migration from Platform LSF to the open source Sun Grid Engine-driven UniCluster Express.

Tyreman: While it’s true that I was with Platform Computing for five years, the reality is that the value I derived from that time was the ability to exercise all of my previous years’ product and business planning experience.

One key take-away was seeing how disruptive a company or technology can be to an industry and its incumbents. The impact can be rapid and transformative. The learning was special and is something that I will remember for a long time. It was Andy Grove that suggested, “only the paranoid survive”. At Univa we practice paranoia and believe that each and every customer has a choice and can vote with their feet if we don’t evolve, innovate and add value to their business.

HPCc: Can you give us a glimpse into Univa’s roadmap as it stood two years ago when you first came to the company (I believe you started in 2008) and comment on how it developed prior to your new appointment?

Tyreman: When I joined Univa in 2008 the goal was essentially laid out. Transition the company from its roots in grid computing to a leading player in cloud systems management. Our first step was to establish a world-class product management function that would swiftly receive market feedback, translate it into patterns and map that directly into our roadmap. To make this happen we hired masters in the space for key product and engineering functions. The genius, as it were, was to unleash the team’s creativity and give them ownership of the product, from end-to-end.

The roadmap has evolved over the past two years in a very deliberate way. We managed the timing of the product sequencing through strategic relationships that had us working directly with Sun Microsystems, Oracle Corporation and Broadcom. Building the product by working directly with an end user – hand to mouth – was vital, while designing to the correct level of abstraction was key to ensure a market-ready product and not a one-off.

The result is a company, product and ecosystem that is not only disruptive but is highly desirable, differentiated and impossible to replicate.

HPCc: What areas did you see as the most challenging in the roadmap or trajectory the company was on and how will you address these issues in your new leadership role?

Tyreman: Our greatest assets can also be our greatest challenges. We are dynamic and fast moving. We are also small, which while this enables our nimbleness, it also sets the boundaries we must overcome. Our plan is to focus our efforts and this will likely become a new source of challenges. Scaling the business is a delicate balance of timing – not too soon, not too late. A good problem to have, nonetheless.

HPCc: Your niche positions in particular industries, including EDA, for example, have been helpful in allowing you to target a specific customer base but to grow further, what other areas are of most interest given your current offerings?

Tyreman: Our coming of age is definitely associated with our success in partnering with Broadcom to develop the largest virtualization-enabled private design cloud. We already see repeatability in other markets where we have operated for longer periods of time, including Life Sciences and Oil & Gas.

Moving beyond these two markets Univa will adopt pathfinders in new industries such as Digital Media. We already partner closely with Service Providers such as Rackspace and Switch, where we help enable hybrid clouds and simplify the on-boarding process of enterprises.

What is your personal vision statement for Univa as it stands following your appointment?

The most difficult lesson a person or business can learn is how to embrace and manage change. Change offers opportunity, depending on how one reacts to it. Cloud computing and virtualization are transformative and represent substantial change.
It is our view that the next generation data center is being transformed by cloud computing to the extent that the term “premise” is becoming relative. Where the application runs will become relative, and therefore how one provisions compute, network and storage will have to change. Univa’s position is to manage the seamless migration of workload from within the enterprise to any cloud and back again.

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