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Liquid Computing evaporates staff

Upstart snugs belt

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The word on the street this week is that Liquid Computing, an upstart server maker that has rejiggered its product line a number of times to try to get some traction, has laid off some workers as it tightens its belt in these harsh economic times. Liquid Computing has just confirmed those rumors.

As El Reg explained back in October 2008, Liquid Computing stopped pushing a homegrown, high-bandwidth, and virtualized server interconnect scheme called IQInterconnect in its LiquidIQ 1.0 servers and replaced it with Ethernet switching and a less malleable server infrastructure, creating the LiquidIQ 2.0 products, in an effort to get some sales.

IQInterconnect - some of the most sophisticated technology to come to servers in many years -allowed for servers to be carved up into slices, which is no big deal today, but it also allowed for server nodes to be aggregated and tightly coupled on the fly into symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) shared memory configurations, or set up as server nodes running the message passing interface (MPI) protocol used in supercomputer clusters. IQInterconnect was, at least from the technical specs, a kind of holy grail of computing that Cisco Systems has not even come close to approaching with its "California" Unified Computing System.

While this underlying hardware was very slick, there was only one problem: it didn't work on stock Linux and Windows operating systems. So back in November 2008, Liquid Computing ripped out the IQInterconnect, cooked up some updated Opteron blade servers, and replaced it with an Ethernet backbone, taking what was liquid computing and making it a kind of slushy computing.

The idea was to broaden the appeal of the LiquidIQ server line, which with the 2.0 release still had homegrown server hardware but which supported Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 and 5 and Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and 2008. The LiquidIQ 2.0 machines supported Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor, VMware's ESX Server 3.5, and Oracle's clone of the Xen hypervisor, and tightly integrated with NetApp NAS arrays while also supporting SAN and NAS arrays made by IBM, EMC, Dell, and a few others.

At last November's SC09 supercomputing show, the LiquidIQ 3.0 products were introduced. This time with the Liquid Elements lineup, Liquid Computing ditched its own blade servers and replaced them with a half-width Xeon 5500 server from Intel code-named "Marble Valley" and pulled a 10 Gigabit Ethernet switch and its Fabric Control Software, and out-of-band server, storage, and network management tool, into a 4U chassis that lashes those Marble Valley servers together. The Liquid Elements machines were due to ship just before the holidays, scaling from 32 nodes per switch, with 20 nodes costing about $190,000.

Vikram Desai, who was brought in to be president and chief executive officer at Liquid Computing in January 2009 in the wake of the first revamp of the LiquidIQ product line, was not available for comment about the layoffs this week. But Liquid Computing did provide the following statement on Tuesday:

For the past quarter, Liquid Computing has been championing the power and flexibility delivered to customers by solutions that leverage hardware from major third-party vendors. We see this as the future for unified computing. It is the thrust behind Liquid Elements. With Liquid Elements, Liquid Computing is the first company to deliver the power of unified computing across third-party hardware from leading brands. Liquid Elements currently supports Intel servers and NetApp storage, and we are focused on establishing new partnerships to drive open architecture UCS solutions.

As the first company to successfully deploy open, standards-based UCS in the data center, we gained a wealth of knowledge from our customers and are working closely with them to further improve our offering. Liquid Computing will continue to support LiquidIQ installations and offer existing LiquidIQ customers an opportunity to transition to the new, open, Liquid Elements platform. Liquid Computing executives, board members and investors are united behind our company's strategy and plan to drive value for our customers through unified computing solutions. Along with the new focus, earlier today, Liquid Computing reduced headcount related to the legacy hardware engineering side of its business.

Liquid Computing was founded in 2003 by two Canadian engineers from telecom equipment maker Nortel who also had experience building supercomputers for the U.S. government's Defense Advance Research Project Agency. At the end of 2005, the company launched its alpha product and started shipping a production version, LiquidIQ 1.0, a year later. The company raised two rounds of venture funding totaling $45m from VenGrowth Capital Partners, ATA Ventures, and Newbury Ventures, and a third round was expected to be kicked in before the end of 2009; it is unclear if that money was ever made available.

Liquid Computing did not divulge its revenues or employee count before or after the layoff. ®

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