Verari Turns to Utility Computing with Buy

Looking to move up the high-performance computing ladder, blade server maker Verari Systems Monday said it has acquired MPI Software Technology, for an undisclosed sum.

Blade servers are thin computing devices, often powered by one processor, that slide into a larger rack chassis. They are usually used in clusters, with several in a rack. They are increasingly preferred over larger servers and mainframes because they take up much less space and consume much less power. They are also to replace if damaged.

The move is a departure for Verari, which until today was known as RackSaver. The San Diego, Calif.-based outfit has shifted its focus from creating rack-optimized servers and high-performance technical workstations to developing blade systems for utility computing.

This includes blade server management software to help customers speed the provisioning and remote monitoring of thousands of servers on the fly. By acquiring MPI Software, Verari will bolster its existing software management suite and benefit from a group of parallel programming developers.

MPI provides software and services for managing parallel and cluster computers. For example, MPI’s software runs the supercomputers at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Verari CEO Dave Driggers said both the strategy and company name change stems from the fact that he and his staff wanted to be known less as a hardware company and more as a vendor of complete computing systems.

In an interview, he told that Verari chose to focus on blade computing systems in April 2002 because, “We knew that the processor guys weren’t going to slow down from speeding the chips up and making them hotter and more power hungry.”

Driggers said RackSaver hit the wall two or three years ago when it came to thermals or density within a standards rack configuration within a normal 1U environment. That was when the company switched to blade system as its de facto offering. Since then 75 percent of our business has been blade based.

Driggers said a lack of flexibility and manageability has been slowing the widespread adoption of blades, as well as a lack of a single standard, but that Verari is confident this will change soon as customers increasingly clamor for blade systems to manage utility computing environments.

“You’ve got customers who are saying ‘I want to buy 7,000 machines but what I want from you is you have to provide me workstations during the day, you have to provide me batch processing in the afternoon and then I want to do modeling in the evening.’ Through dynamic reprovisioning that’s possible,'” Driggers said. “One of our top financial services customers uses our cluster in that fashion right now It gets three different job mixes during the day.”

Driggers also anticipates multiple configurations beyond the standard, one-processor computing blades offered by Verari rivals IBM and HP, to storage or networking blades powered by multiple processors. He expects Verari, whose customers include Microsoft, Motorola, NASA and Lockheed Martin, to top $100 million in sales by the end of 2004.

IDC Research Director Mark Melenovsky called Verari Systems a significant independent player in the growing blade server market.

“The company has had a number of large customer wins and the acquisition of MPI Software Technology Inc. further positions them to deliver value-add server management, provisioning and virtualization layers for their enterprise customers,” Melenovsky said in a press statement.”

Verari made other moves to highlight its switch in focus, announcing the allowance of two new patents on its thermal management technology, Vertical Cooling System (VCS), which keeps blades operating at low power consumption.

The company also hired Masood Jabbar, former president of computer systems and executive vice president of global sales operations at Sun Microsystems, as its active director. He is currently handling the presidential duties of the company, said Driggers.

MPI Software’s executive team and staff of roughly 60 will join Verari and both companies will begin integrating their products. Verari’s software division will continue to offer its software to existing customers as well as new customers who use blade cluster technology from Verari Systems or other providers.

Verari now has over 260 employees.

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