New Univa CEO Girds for Grids

Startup recruits former Oracle exec Mike Ellis as it takes aim at the enterprise grid market

March 14, 2006

3 Min Read
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Grid startup Univa today unveiled a new CEO -- former Oracle and i2 Technologies exec Mike Ellis -- as the vendor prepares to debut specialized software aimed at easing users' grid headaches.

Ellis was most recently senior vice president of supply chain management specialist i2 Technologies. He is also former director of business development for Oracle services. He takes the Univa helm from co-founder Steve Tuecke, who now becomes the firm's CTO. (See Univa Closes Series and Grid Startup Grabs Funding.)

The incoming CEO tells Byte and Switch that he was recruited to help Univa tout its soon-to-be-GA products around big-name enterprise firms.

Univa plans to make its Globus Enterprise offering generally available in the next few weeks. The product will include tools for installing, managing, and configuring the open-source Globus middleware, backed up by services and support. (See Grid Startup Hits the Source.)

To review: Grids, in theory, let users share applications and data across their IT infrastructures. But a lack of standards and skills, along with cost issues, are cited as major hurdles by users. (See Grid Computing: Baby Steps, and Software Licensing Gridlock.)This prompted industry group The Globus Alliance to develop an open-source middleware toolkit for building grid systems and applications. But many organizations lack the expertise needed to actually apply this to their own infrastructures. (See Vendors Form Globus Consortium.) Indeed, up to now, grids have largely been synonymous with academia and shadowy government research labs. (See JP Morgan Goes Grid and Pittsburgh Picks Big Ben.)Healthcare technology vendor i3 Archive, which is building the U.S National Digital Medical Archive opted against the Globus toolkit when it was building its own internal grid infrastructure. (See Medical Archive Grows Its Own Grid.)

John Brooke, director of the e-Science North West project, which is based at Manchester University in the U.K, agrees that deploying Globus is easier said than done. "From our point of view, its a risk to deploy any of these open-source middlewares," he says, citing the complex nature of the technology. "You need to have stuff that's usable, reliable, and deployable at the systems end and also non-intrusive at the application end."

Nonetheless, Ellis says that partnerships will be key to helping Univa achieve its goals and convince users that grids are worth the hassle. "Our biggest challenge is market knowledge and market awareness," he says. Last year, the startup teamed up with IBM when the hardware giant announced plans to license Univa’s software for its own servers and internal systems. (See Grid Goes Open Source.)

The new CEO, however, would not divulge whether there are any other partnerships on the horizon, but he confirms that Univa has already racked up six customers since it lanuched the beta version of Globus Enterprise at the end of last year. In addition to defense specialist Raytheon, these include firms in the financial, pharmaceutical, aerospace, and semiconductor sectors.Still, interoperability could be a major hurdle. Brooke, who uses both Globus and a European open-source middleware called Unicore within his own grid architecture, says that more and more of these technologies are now emerging in countries such as China, adding yet more complexity to the mix. (See HP Extends China Grid and Chinese Gridwork.)

"The biggest challenge for Univa and Globus in the future will be how they interoperate with other middleware," says the exec. "Different organizations will choose what they want depending on what is the dominant middleware in a region."

— James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • i2 Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: ITWO)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL)

  • Raytheon Co.

  • Univa Corp.

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