Ardence Surfs Streaming Tide

What's old is new: Server provisioning company turns corner with a new name

November 5, 2005

3 Min Read
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A 25-year-old company that started as a consulting firm has morphed into a storage software company.

Ardence, which has been shipping its server provisioning software for three years and claims profitability, was known as Venturcom until it changed its name in January -- ostensibly to eliminate any association with venture funding or the "com" moniker that haunted many bubble-era businesses. It also changed the name of its product platform from BXP to Ardence.

The old company name served the company well in the old days,” says marketing VP Jeff Hibbard, "but we're not a VC firm and the dotcom boom went bust."

While it has a new name, Ardence appears to have gained ground with its new charter. The 93-person company, based in Waltham, Mass., has more than 200 customers, in part thanks to partners such as Dell, which sells Ardence software as ThinPC.

Ardence is in a good place for opportunity, given the emergence of blade servers and IP SANs. Further, Ardence's software has a couple of interesting features: First, it copies an image of a Windows operating system and sends it simultaneously to multiple servers without hard drives -- a process called streaming. It also allows an iSCSI server to boot from a storage array, instead of requiring it to have an expensive iSCSI HBA. This connects blades to storage "on demand," a feature that's been missing from many IP SANs. (See IP SANs Get the 'Boot'.)At least one user likes the convenience of these Ardence features. Kyle Ohme, IT director at online promotions company, says he uses Ardence to quickly provision IBM BladeCenter servers during peak traffic and then re-provision them when traffic ebbs. He also finds Ardence useful for testing new applications or patches. “I can bring a blade up online, roll it out, test it, or simply delete it,” he said in a presentation at the SNW conference in Orlando, Fla., last week.

Indeed, it's Ardence's combination of features that appear to differentiate it -- for the moment, anyway. Vendor Emboot handles remote boot over IP SANs, but not server provisioning. VMware does server provisioning without streaming the OS. Egenera can provision servers on the fly like Ardence, but only for customers running its proprietary servers. Wyse Technology and NeoWare Systems rolled out OS and application streaming software over the last four months, and Red Hat streams the Linux OS -- but none of these vendors couples the streaming with storage to boot remotely from blade servers.

Still, there are drawbacks. While not offering the Ardence combination specifically, other companies may actually offer more than Ardence in some regards. Hewlett-Packard's OpenView and IBM's Tivoli include server provisioning as part of overall system management tools that also handle performance management, policy management, asset management, and reporting -- none of which Ardence provides. The lack of these kinds of management tools could be a demerit in the eyes of customers who are increasingly clamoring for more management of data center and storage kit, as well as new features.

Also, unlike many of its rivals, Ardence supports only Windows -- Microsoft was an early investor in the company -- although Hibbard says Linux support is in the works.

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and SwitchOrganizations mentioned in this article:

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