Grid Startup Hits the Source

Little Univa hopes to be the Red Hat of grid computing technology

June 11, 2005

3 Min Read
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Startup Univa Corp. is taking a leaf from commercial Linux vendor Red Hat Inc. (Nasdaq: RHAT) and applying it to the grid computing market.

The Elmhurst, Ill., vendor revealed its strategy at this weeks Supercomm show in Chicago, where open-source was touted as a key enabler for grid computing. With standards to support grid still being ratified, industry group GlobusAlliance has developed an open-source middleware toolkit for building grid systems and applications (see Keynote: Grids to Grow and Vendors Form Globus Consortium).

Adapting open-source to specific applications is easier said than done, and not all users possess the technical expertise to fully exploit the technology (see Opening Up the Data Center and Red Hat Goes for Government). This is where Univa comes in.

Rich Miller, the company’s chief operating officer, says Univa is planning to launch its first products later this year. These will be software tools for installing, managing and configuring the Globus middleware, surrounded by a “cocoon of services and professional support,” he adds.

Univa will be selling its products on a subscription basis and will also offer specialized “add-ons.” Miller says these could include the ability to link up with clustered file systems. The exec was unwilling to divulge any product specifics, although he did confirm that customers are currently testing the technology.Univa was founded last year by Steve Tuecke, who serves as CEO, Ian Foster, the company’s chief open-source strategist, and Carl Kesselman, who is Univa’s chief scientist. Foster is also associate director of the Argonne National Laboratory, and Kesselman is the director of the Center for Grid Technologies at the Information Sciences Institute. Tuecke is a former software engineer at the Argonne lab, where he worked for Foster, and the three execs also founded the Globus Project in 1995, which has now morphed into the Globus Alliance.

Miller told NDCF that Univa’s funding has so far come from the firm’s directors and board members, as well as a small group of “high net worth individuals," although he would not reveal any more details. However, the exec did confirm that talks are already underway with the VC community. “We’re now in the course of discussing with a number of different sources the first institutional investment in the company."

Univa is not the only company playing in this space. Established vendors IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) and Platform Computing already have product offerings built around the Globus Toolkit.

Miller, however, is undeterred by the competition, and expects firms in areas such as financial services, transportation, and Earth sciences, whatever they are, to become early adopters of the startup’s technology. Univa’s job, he feels, is to create an infrastructure capable of supporting different vendors’ applications as well as various data center and storage resources.

At this stage, Univa has a workforce of around 20 people, although Miller says this is likely to grow to between 30 and 40 during the next 12 months, depending on the uptake of its products.— James Rogers, Site Editor, Next-Gen Data Center Forum

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