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IBM Almaden ready for storage spin-off

Video specialist Seval Systems is born

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IBM Almaden Research Center has been doing R&D in silicon valley for 21 years, but it's not too old to learn new tricks.

All signs point to the center prepping for its very first spin-off, Seval Systems, centering around so-called brick storage meant to help with delivering video over the internet.

Palo Alto-based Seval Systems is still very much in stealth mode, so speculation abounds. The company's blip on the radar was spotted by the folks at Light Reading. Let's follow the clues:

We know Seval's CEO and founding chief technology officer is Winfried Wilke, the programming director at Almaden. A whois search on Seval's website also links the company with Almaden storage researcher Claudio Fleiner.

Fleiner wouldn't talk to us about Seval, but apparently knows enough say he'd pass our call to someone who might be willing to chat later. We won't hold our breath.

The Seval Systems website itself doesn't divulge much information other than introducing the IceRack storage solution and server. IceRack is described as "modular, interchangeable compute and storage units" packed with integrated cooling. That sounds remarkably similar to IBM's Collective Intelligent Bricks — AKA IceCube project that has been kicking around since 2003.

So why would IBM take an atypical spin-off approach for Seval? A source tells us Intelligent Bricks researchers began chatting about moving the project out of IBM's hands as far back as two or three years ago due to the company's lack of interest. When IBM showed signs of funding fatigue, the researchers went fishing for a buyer.

They may have recently found the money in venture capital firm, NewVenture Partners. NewVenture executive Franklin Rimalovski is described as a director of Seval Systems on his profile page. Hmm, the pieces are all coming together — but Rimalovski was unavailable for comment.

The design principal behind Intelligent Bricks is cheap, easy-to-manage and highly available storage. The unit consists of a large 3-D array of independent storage "bricks," each containing multiple disks, a processor and high-bandwidth network communication. Data is scattered and replicated over several bricks in the unit, allowing individual components to fail without destroying the functionality of the overall system. It's a desirable setup for web-based apps such as video distribution that require lots of space and availability — and shun a lot of human involvement.

While IBM isn't known for spin-offs, the project moving ahead wouldn't be too much of a surprise. Internet video is so hot right now. Even Sun Microsystems got in on the act in April with a streaming switch made specifically for video serving systems.

We'll have more on Seval Systems as it gets uncovered. ®

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