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EverGrid reinvents self as Windows-loving Librato

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EverGrid has changed its name to Librato, expanding the scope of its products to include Windows servers as well as Linux and to the broader workload management job.

The company was founded in August 2005 to create a set of tools to manage workloads on parallel supercomputers and the grids of machines that sometimes attach to them to augment their processing capacity.

Companies pay for expensive proprietary midrange boxes, mainframes, and RISC/Unix boxes because these platforms have sophisticated workload management features. These allow multiple applications to run side by side without having to resort to server virtualization to isolate whole operating systems and application stacks. IT shops, like people, are resistant to change and try to wring as much work out of their investments as is technically and economically possible.

Proprietary operating systems and then Unix did workload management long before they did server virtualization - in one flavor or another. And in many ways, workload management - allocating CPU, memory, and I/O resources to applications as they are running to avoid resource-hogging - is a better approach to more fully utilizing a system than virtualizing a machine.

But workload management is hard and virtualization is relatively easy on x64 platforms, at least with volume operating systems such as Windows and Linux. Virtualization is easy because of open source efforts in the Xen community and the substantial closed-source work VMware has done over the past decade.

Girding loins

But the uptake of server virtualization to isolate applications on a single box doesn't necessarily mean true workload management is dead. That is why Librato is girding its loins to take the workload management battle to physical Linux and Windows machines as well as to virtualization hypervisors and their Linux and Windows guests.

The renaming of the company to Librato and the addition of Windows support for Load Manager comes with release 2.0. Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008 editions can be managed by Load Manager 2.0, as can just about any variant of Linux, according to Ameet Dhillon, vice president of marketing at Librato.

The secret sauce in Load Manager that allows it to throttle Windows and Linux workloads is a software shim that sits between a hypervisor or an operating system and its applications as they run. This shim has its origins in a checkpoint/restart program used in HPC clusters, which kept track of the state of all the nodes in a cluster.

It has been modified to intercept all library calls to allocate memory and I/O from applications as they are running. The applications do not have to be modified for this shim to work and neither do the operating systems or hypervisors. In fact, none of the software is aware that there is a traffic cop on the system actually controlling what resources different bits of software get.

The lack of mainframe-class workload management on Linux and Windows has made some companies hesitant to move off expensive Unix iron, says Dhillon. This was particularly true among Solaris shops at financial services companies that were scrambling in the recession of the early 2000s to get cheaper iron to support their increasing workloads.

And in some environments - particularly where there is heavy I/O traffic - virtualization imposes too much overhead. In test and development environments, virtualization has been a boon and workload management is basically useless. Librato sees virtualization and workload management as complementary, and Dhillon says that virtualization makes good sense for high-availability and disaster recovery, but workload management is better for consolidating workloads.

Load Manager 2.0 is available now. It costs from $200 to $1,000 per server socket per year to get a subscription to the software, with the lower number coming with volume purchases and the price varying depending on whether you pick standard 8x5 or premium 24x7 support.

The intellectual property behind the Librato product comes out of research done at Virginia Tech. Srinidhi Varadarajan, who directs the supercomputing center at VT, is one of the company's co-founders. Librato still has a research and development lab in Blacksburg, Virginia and has added another lab in Pune, India. Librato has 55 employees and is headquartered in Santa Clara, California. Menlo Ventures and Acartha Group have kicked in venture capital to get the company rolling: $10m in a second round last May and a $6m first round in 2005. EverGrid was itself a spinout of supercomputer systems integrator California Digital. ®

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