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Songnian Zhou: Why Combine Platform and IBM?

Last week’s announcement about IBM’s acquisition of Platform Computing may have had some pundits scratching their heads, but this week Platform’s CEO Songnian Zhou has posted some insightful reflections on why the merger makes sense at this point in the evolution of the coluds, clusters, and grids:

Just as client/server took 20 years to mature into the mainstream, clusters and grids have taken 20 years, and cloud for general business apps is still just emerging. Two areas have been leading the way: HPC/technical computing followed by Internet services. It’s no accident that Platform Computing was founded in 1992 by Jingwen Wang and I, two renegade Computer Science professors with no business experience or even interest. We wanted to translate ‘80s distributed operating systems research into cluster and grid management products. That’s when the lowly x86 servers were becoming powerful enough to do the big proprietary servers’ job, especially if a bunch of them banded together to form a cluster, and later on an enterprise grid with multiple clusters. One system for all apps, shared with order. Initially, we talked to all the major systems vendors to transfer university research results to them, but there was no taker. So, we decided to practice what we preached. We have been growing and profitable all these 19 years with no external funding. Using clusters and grids, we replaced a supercomputer at Pratt & Whitney to run 10 times more Boeing 777 jet engine simulations, and we supported CERN to process insane amounts of data looking for God’s Particle. While the propeller heads were having fun, enterprises in financial services, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, oil & gas, electronics, and the entertainment industries turned to these low cost, massively parallel systems to design better products and devise more clever services. To make money, they compute. To out-compete, they out-compute.

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