Symbium Steps out of Stealth

After three years in the lab, Canadian startup unveils its core server management technology

April 23, 2005

3 Min Read
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After three years in stealth mode, data center startup Symbium Corp. has emerged blinking into the sunlight, with aspirations to make it big in the lucrative server management market (see Symbium Launches ISAC).

So, who are these guys? The firm was founded back in 2002 by Jay Litkey, who also set up BlackholeVDN, a startup for distributing video across the Internet. Prior to that, Litkey spent time at Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) designing and developing telecom control plane systems.

Since its foundation, Symbium has racked up $7.75 million in funding. Last years initial round was led by VenGrowth Capital Partners Inc., and the company has since picked up additional financing from MMV Financial Inc. (see Symbium Gets Series A Funding and Symbium Lands $2M).

Litkey is now applying his background in managing telecom systems to the data center. Symbium’s core technology is the somewhat grandiosely titled Intelligent Secure Autonomic Controller (ISAC). This consists of a half-length PCI-X card and a software engine for managing servers.

The PCI-X card is plugged into a server, and the software can then be used to perform a range of management tasks, according to the Ottawa-based vendor. These include blocking unauthorized software and monitoring what are known as "runaway processes," when a specific task starts to consume too much CPU resource. “We can kill the one offending session,” growls Litkey, who serves as the startup’s vice president of technology.Symbium has also unveiled a management console application, which enables a data center manager or network administrator to manage a number of ISACs from a central location.

But why opt for a PCI-X card rather than a purely software-based approach to managing the server? According to Litkey, the card removes the need to install software agents on the device. “Every agent you put on a processor steals more resources,” he says.

Symbium is one of a number of startups, including Virtual Iron Software Inc. and UXComm Inc., that are currently aiming to automate the data center (see Startups Angle for Autonomy and Katana Becomes Virtual Iron).

But the challenge for any startup in this space is one of visibility. When systems management comes to mind, most data center managers immediately think of IBM Corp.’s (NYSE: IBM) Tivoli or Hewlett-Packard Co.'s (NYSE: HPQ) OpenView (see CA Warning Points to Product Holes). Shrewdly, Symbium has designed its management console to work with both of these products, and Litkey sees ISAC as a complementary technology.

Symbium execs claim there are already 75 deployments of ISAC technology on customer sites.Litkey says the firm is looking to clinch another round of funding this year and will then look to expand its 50-strong workforce. “Our next round of funding will see us grow 50 percent, primarily in sales and marketing."

At the moment, ISAC is only available for Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Windows-based servers, although Litkey promises that versions for other operating systems are in the pipeline. “We will pick up Linux, Solaris, VMware and Microsoft Virtual Server -- that’s in 2006.”

— James Rogers, Site Editor, Next-Gen Data Center Forum

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