Nvidia Buys HPC Cluster Management Company Bright Computing

By Tiffany Trader

January 10, 2022

Graphics chip powerhouse Nvidia today announced that it has acquired HPC cluster management company Bright Computing for an undisclosed sum. Unlike Nvidia’s bid to purchase semiconductor IP company Arm, which has been stymied by regulatory challenges, the Bright deal is a straightforward acquisition that aims to expand new opportunities across the Nvidia customer base and broaden Bright’s reach, according to company reps.

“When we started talking to [Bright] on the acquisition side, our companies’ structure, our values, and the way we do support, the way we do service and sales were identical, the way we go to market, it was very similar too, so it just made a lot of sense,” said Charlie Boyle, VP and GM of DGX systems at Nvidia, in an interview with HPCwire. “It’s going to both enable the Bright ecosystem to grow, not only on-premises, but in hybrid cloud, which is a huge expansion area. And it’s also going to help on the Nvidia side, on core tools that customers have asked us about, but that we just didn’t have the expertise to develop in house or didn’t have the time to do because we were focused on accelerated computing, not necessarily heterogeneous systems. Now, we just inherit all of that.”

Spun out of ClusterVision in 2009, Bright Computing makes software that automates the building and management of Linux clusters, both on-premises, in the cloud and across hybrid infrastructures. Nvidia has been working with Bright for more than a decade, integrating Bright Cluster Manager with Nvidia GPUs, CUDA and most recently the company’s DGX systems. “Now we see an opportunity to combine our system software capabilities to make HPC datacenters easier to buy, build and operate, creating a much larger future for HPC,” wrote Boyle in a company blog post.

Bright Cluster Manager is sold via a subscription and support model by channel and OEM partners. Nvidia said that this business model will continue unchanged. “The same people that could sell Bright before can still sell Bright with no change to the customer,” said Boyle. Expanded access via the Nvidia partner network (NPN) will happen within this quarter, Boyle said, and other synergies such as bundling and co-support are being explored.

Bill Wagner, CEO of Bright Computing, echoed Boyle’s statements that it will be business as usual for Bright. The Amsterdam headquarters will be maintained as (primarily) a Bright software development office with the Bright development team becoming part of the larger Nvidia software engineering group. The Amsterdam office will support other local Nvidia employees (mostly sales and marketing staff) as Nvidia did not have a physical office in Amsterdam previously.

Nvidia declined to give a headcount for Bright’s workforce, but said 100 percent of the employee base is transitioning to Nvidia. Wagner joins Nvidia as an executive in the WWFO (World Wide Field Operations) organization, and Bright CTO Martijn de Vries will continue to lead Bright Cluster Manager development.

Although Nvidia is of course focused on GPU-accelerated computing, Boyle assured us they will continue to support and invest in the pure x86 capabilities of Bright software. “We see [x86 cluster management] as super important to the future because any accelerated computing workload that we have obviously has to run on a CPU as well,” said Boyle. “But more and more of those total workflows need preprocessing of the various things in there. Some of those workloads just run on x86 and have no accelerators but are crucial to actually getting your data ready and everything to run your AI work. So having a heterogeneous tool like Bright that can do all of those things and make it easy for customers to deploy just made total sense,” he said.

“It makes a ton of sense, specifically, from a growth perspective,” said Wagner. “We’re a small company trying to get bigger and our growth hinges pretty much entirely on market reach and awareness. Our product is rock solid. We’ve got tons of real world experience with very large organizations using it. In the HPC space, most, but not all HPC shops have heard of us. The real opportunity beyond that is obviously in the emerging areas, like machine learning and things like that. And organizations that are going to take advantage of that — which is pretty much every organization — that do not already know about us will clearly benefit from knowing about us. So we see that as being a huge part of the value proposition in us coming together with Nvidia.”

Nvidia is not making Bright software roadmap announcements at this time, but Boyle said he expects more plans and updates will be disclosed in the future, possibly at GTC in March. “As we figure out more uses and more integrations inside of Nvidia, we’ll keep people updated on that,” he said. The current software release, v9.1 of Bright Cluster Manager, debuted in November 2020. The 9.0 release came out a year earlier (November 2019). 

Bright Computing launched in 2009, a spinoff of Netherlands-based ClusterVision, under the direction of Matthijs van Leeuwen (who had co-founded ClusterVision with Alex Ninaber and Arijan Sauer in 2002). ClusterVisionOS was renamed Bright Cluster Manager. ClusterVision was acquired by the Taurus Group in 2019 after being declared bankrupt.

Bright Computing’s software is widely used across industry, government and academic HPC sites, including at Microsoft, NASA, Siemens, Samsung, Johns Hopkins University and Volvo. Bright Cluster Manager for HPC received the 2015 and 2016 HPCwire Editors’ Choice Award for Best HPC Cluster Solution or Technology. 

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