Platform Computing resists a virtual opportunity

The idea that applications can be decoupled from the hardware on which they operate is today a familiar one, thanks in part to a surge of commodity server virtualisation pioneered by VMware.

But, despite the fanfare surrounding VMware, the principles of using commodity hardware to create grid-like systems has been around for years. Canada’s Platform Computing has been using this sort of technical wizardry for what it refers to as high-performance computing (HPC).

Platform CEO Songnian Zhou is not jealous of VMware’s headline-grabbing success. The company is, he insists, “squarely focused” on the HPC market. And with good reason: the HPC market is growing at an annual rate of 20% and is predicted by market watcher IDC to exceed $15 billion in 2011.

That growth is being driven by the increasing use of large-scale analytics, where business from financial services to leisure use heavy-duty number crunching to analyse customer behaviour and spot market opportunities.

And Zhou sees further opportunities for growth. As virtualisation becomes standard practice in the data centre, Platform Computing’s experience of producing tools for managing distributed computing environments – such as its VM Orchestration tool – come to the fore.

It is arguably virtual systems management tools that will make the real money as virtualisation proliferates. The hypervisor – the sliver of code that decouples hardware from software – may be the lynchpin of virtualisation, but it will almost inevitably become highly commoditised and bundled in with hardware in future.

Virtual environments, however, will only increase in complexity as time goes on, and products that can ease their management will be of great value to organisations. Many vendors are clamouring to exploit this opportunity – Oracle, Sun and Microsoft have all recently announced virtual machine management tools – but none has the pedigree of Platform Computing in this specific area.

But while customers such as French investment bank BNP Paribas see grid management tools growing increasingly important, Platform’s Zhou remain a sceptic. His immovable focus remains on HPC environments, and he believes buyers will move to this form of high-end computing, before he has to contemplate making mass-market virtualisation tools.

Further reading VMware’s unstoppable rise

Hypervision – Virtualisation threatens to usurp the role of the operating system.

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Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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