Scalable Informatics 13th year anniversary on Saturday

We started the company on 1-August-2002. I remember arguing with a senior VP at SGI over his decision to abandon linux clusters in Feb 2001. That was the catalyst for me leaving SGI, but I was too chicken to start Scalable then. I thought I could do better than them.

I went to another place for 15 months or so. Tried jumpstarting an HPC group there … hired lots of folks, pursued lots of business. Then it went bang. My team was laid off, and I was left with a serious case of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

Scalable Informatics was started in my basement. Our foundational thesis was and is that performance should be end user accessible without Herculean effort. You should have a fighting chance to be able to extract performance and leverage it. And it should be easy if at all possible.

This is what guided the company from the outset. Our path began with clusters, with a detour in 2002-2006 for accelerators. I called them APUs, Accelerated Processing Units. I wrote a bunch of white papers for AMD, and used APU within them, that AMD distributed widely. Now APU is a common term. Go figure.

We tried raising capital to build accelerators, believing (in hind sight, correctly) that they would be one of the most important aspects to high performance computing going forward. Couldn’t get any VC to bite. Even did due diligence for a few where we saw on others slide decks, a few of the slides (actual graphics we built) show up. That convinced me that VCs weren’t worth the time/effort to deal with.

Transitioned out of clusters once Dell decided it wanted that market. Very hard to compete with a massively parallel shipping machine that gets better pricing on parts than you can, and is willing to suck all the oxygen out of the room (or market) to suffocate others. We focused where we could add a great deal more value.

Hyperconverged systems. In 2006 onward.

Made small efforts to interest VCs … local groups … but not a whisper of interest.

Continued to set performance records with our units. Had competitors looking us over thinking they could build the same thing, discovering rapidly that there was indeed significant special sauce powering our kit.

Had a few acquisition offers in the mix. Ranging from “give us the company and we’ll decide if you are worth anything” on downward. It was actually quite humorous in some cases.

Kept getting better and bigger customers, building bigger and faster systems. Building lower cost systems, that while not the top of our line, easily bested our competitions top-of-their-line, at a fraction of the cost.

Ran a number of standard tests, never reported results. Had customers run tests “in anger” and report that jobs that normally took 6 hours on other gear took 5 minutes on ours. Another customer reported years ago that their 5GB/s system was being looked at by a flash vendor, curious as to whose flash they were using. Customer responded “no flash, just spinning disk”. Left the vendor speechless.

We’ve always said architecture matters. Its nice to be proven correct, again and again. Our competitors always seem to underestimate us. Please, by all means, continue to do this.

We kept adding people, growing out of my basement in 2007 to a real facility. Now on our second and we are bulging out of it. Actually blew out our AC, and have to get a new one.

Took our first external investment in Feb this year, and it looks like we are going to do some more pretty soon. Had another discussion that took 9 months and went down in flames over impossible for us to agree to terms. Exactly the sort of terms you bring up and insist cannot be compromised on, if you want to kill a deal. Kill it, they did.

Along the way, we set records on in-box firepower, and between box firepower. Records that are only recently coming under threat.

We’ve got some absolutely wild bits brewing in lab, things we can’t talk much about now, and its killing me … I really want to.

This said, our 13th year and beyond should be quite awesome. More soon. I promise.

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