True Believer Plans iWarp Giveaway

Ammasso founder resurfaces with a new company and faith in free software

August 4, 2006

4 Min Read
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The founder of now-defunct startup Ammasso is back with a new company, Open Grid Computing, and he plans to start giving away products next month to ease the strain on users' back-end storage.

Tom Tucker started up and served as CTO of Ammasso, which developed 1-Gbit/s iWarp (Internet Wide Area RDMA Protocol) adapters. (See Ohio Opts for iWarp and HP Verifies Ammasso Adapters.) iWarp essentially enables a computer or storage device to bypass the operating system when data is being transmitted, reducing the processing burden encountered when running Ethernet as a high-speed interconnect. Ammasso couldn't get the funding it needed to keep going and folded earlier this year. (See Component Startups at Crossroads.)

Undeterred, Tucker is trying another angle on the same space. Open Grid Computing, which is currently functioning as a consulting firm, is developing software to link high-speed interconnects with back-end storage.

"We're taking RDMA-capable transports like InfiniBand and iWarp [and] enabling Linux infrastructure software like NFS, RPC, and SCSI storage to use those transports," explains the exec, who founded his new startup in September of 2005.

The idea here is to help users speed up the performance of their storage servers, easing the strain on overburdened CPUs.Users are all too aware of the problem that Open Grid aims to solve. In one instance, Hollywood movie maker Pixar, famous for Toy Story and Finding Nemo, was forced to replace an NFS file system with a SAN because it could not cope with the CPU demands of the firm's latest release -- Cars. (See Pixar.)

At least one analyst thinks it's time for a solution. "This is an interesting idea," says Bob Wheeler, senior analyst at the Linley Group. "There is a significant amount of middleware needed in order to support all the APIs that are out there already for things like InfiniBand."

But Wheeler feels iWarp won't be the answer for end users until they see interoperability between different vendors' products. "I thought that we would be further along in terms of this whole process," he says. "Until multivendor support is demonstrated, there's little incentive to move to iWarp."

Gordon Haff, principal IT advisor at analyst firm Illuminata, agrees that the technology is still in its infancy, with limited demand from users. "At the end of the day, there just isn't that big a need in the 1-Gbit/s Ethernet space," he explains. "I think that you will start to see more broadly based RDMA deployments when 10-Gbit/s Ethernet starts rolling out."

Although actual iWarp implementations are few and far between, there does appear to be a growing interest in the technology. (See Broadcom Takes 10-Gig Shortcut, LSI Backs Chelsio, and IBM Selects Neterion.) Last week, for example, another startup, NetEffect, which specializes in 10-Gbit/s Ethernet adapters based on the iWarp protocol, scored $25 million in Series B funding. (See NetEffect Nails New Funding and NetEffect Wins New Funding.)Perhaps in an effort to jump-start demand, Tucker intends to give his software out free, although users will be charged for support. The first demos of the software are set to take place at next month's Intel Developers' Forum in San Francisco and at the SCO6 event in Tampa in November.

"The first step is to put together a testable, scalable, platform that people can try," says Tucker, although he hopes users will be rolling out production versions of the software in the first quarter of 2007.

At least one potential customer, the U.S. government's Sandia National Lab, is already "playing" with the technology, according to Tucker, as is SGI, a possible OEM. Another possible technology partner, according to the exec, could be Terascala, a startup set up by Ammasso co-founder Larry Genovesi. Terascala is developing hardware combining Linux-based storage and compute blades within a single enclosure.

At the moment, Open Grid Computing's full-time workforce consists of just Tucker and Steve Wise, the one-time director of software development at Ammasso. Tucker says that he expects the firm's employee count to reach about 12 by this time next year, with recruitment likely in areas such as software development, support engineering, and quality assurance.

James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Ammasso Inc.

  • Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM)

  • Chelsio Communications Inc.

  • Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Illuminata Inc.

  • Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC)

  • The Linley Group

  • NetEffect Inc.

  • Neterion Inc.

  • Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL)

  • Red Hat Inc. (Nasdaq: RHAT)

  • SGI

  • Siliquent Technologies Ltd.0

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