Curing server anarchy | October 27, 2006
A small Canadian start-up makes computer networks more efficient
By Gail Balfour
When Andy Church heard the beginning of Liquid Computing’s business plan, he listened just to be polite. In truth, he thought the presenters must have been crazy.
By the end of the pitch, however, Church was ready to sign on. That was three years ago. Now vice-president of marketing and alliances for the Ottawa-based hardware solutions company, Church is confident he made the right decision.
"At first I was like, ‘Are you crazy? Another hardware company?’" Church said. Then he looked into the technology. "[The value] was obvious—why hadn’t anyone done this yet?"
Liquid Computing is one of the new kids on the block in the server consolidation and virtualization field. Its technology optimizes the performance of server computers, cutting down the need for multiple servers and the management and costs that go along with them.
According to Church, most servers only run at about 15 to 20 per cent of their full capacity at any given time. By partitioning servers in a particular way—using a specially designed combination of hardware and software—it’s possible to create multiple "mini servers" running simultaneously in one box.
The concept of consolidation is not new, but what makes Liquid Computing different, Church said, is its Interconnect Driven Server (IDS) design. In essence, a Liquid Computing box has a lot of built-in smarts—almost 3km of integrated circuitry—which makes the consolidation possible.
Church said most other products attempting to consolidate and optimize server processes still suffer from I/O (input/output) anarchy. In other words: "Whoever gets there first gets the bandwidth."
Liquid Computing’s architecture, however, allows the administrator to set parameters on which processes should get priority and in what order, or at what time of day. Additionally, all this work is done within the server, so the process does not bog down a company’s network.
"It allows network packets to move very quickly, and there is more room to do computing," Church said.The Branham cut
Here’s a start-up company that’s really trying to do something innovative…that’s very important to Canada," said Wayne Gudbranson, president and CEO of Ottawa-based Branham Group.
"But it’s not like it’s an uncrowded market—in fact, it’s very crowded."
Because of this, Gudbranson said, "the jury’s still out" on how successful the company will be; it will depend on marketing. "Do they have the sales and marketing prowess to pull it off in such a crowded market?"
Gudbranson suggested the company develop a strong segment and industry focus, and not try to be all things to all people. "I would look hard at the health-care market," he said. "One hospital in Ottawa has maybe 1,000 people doing research—but what kind of computers are they using? That’s where I would start."