Ten Leading Open Source Innovators: Page 8

Posted February 21, 2007

Jeff Vance

Jeff Vance

(Page 8 of 10)

8. Themis Computer

Location: Fremont, CA

Product or service: Themis Computer’s Quorum product is distributed computing resource management (DCRM) software. DCRM software automates the management of Service Level Agreements (SLAs), applications, and hardware resources in real-time, mission-critical distributed systems. Built to conform to open standards, Quorum supports a variety of platforms including Solaris, Linux, Windows and LynxOS servers, as well as various network switches and SMI-compliant Storage Area Networks.

Other products offered by Themis include rugged servers for operation in harsh environments, as well as VME and Compact PCI single-board computers for telecommunications, military/aerospace, and industrial embedded applications.

Why it’s innovative: Quorum was originally developed to conform to the U.S. Navy’s requirements for its next-generation open combat systems. It didn’t take long for the company to realize that Quorum’s ability to allocate resources in real-time was relevant to the dynamic loads modern data centers experience.

The company’s president and CEO, William Kehret, has described Quorum as the next step beyond virtualization, noting that Quorum gives customers a means for the dynamic allocation of heterogeneous resources based on the real-time implementation of polices.

According to Themis, Quorum’s value rests on its ability to measures application QoS in heterogeneous environments. Measurements can be based on probes that measure how long an application takes to respond, on the length of an application’s work queues, on CPU usage, or whatever is most relevant to the customer.

Quorum supports a Manager-of-Managers architecture that allows a distributed system to be hierarchically associated with a higher-level manager. As a result, a distributed system can be viewed as a single entity and can be integrated as a Quorum managed asset within a larger hierarchical system.

Quorum is a standards-based system built on top of the “Common Information Model / Web Based Enterprise Management” (CIM/WBEM), a DMTF standard. Quorum is also fully compatible with SNMP devices and is extensible to new devices via either SNMP or CIM/WBEM.

What’s their track record? Themis Computer was incorporated in 1989. Although Quorum has been on the market for less than a year, it has been selected for use in Northrop Grumman’s Battle Management Command and Control (BMC2) subsystem proposal. Customers for Themis’ embedded computing solutions include Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Ericsson and Alcatel.

Funding: Themis is a privately held company. The company is profitable but does not disclose revenue details.

What are the major obstacles to overcome? The grid computing space is a crowded one. Tier-one vendors include IBM, HP, and Sun, all of whom have backed open-standards efforts. The Globus Alliance offers an open-source toolkit for grid development and is backed by a number of industry heavyweights, including IBM, Cisco, HP, and Intel. Sun has a competing open-source grid project called the Grid Engine, and the Open Grid Forum was formed via the merger of two previous grid bodies, the Enterprise Grid Alliance and the Global Grid Forum.

Pure-play grid vendors include Platform Computing and Entropia. Univa, meanwhile, has adopted the Red Hat model, providing support and maintenance for Globus deployments. Meanwhile, it’s getting harder and harder to differentiate grid efforts from virtualization and SOA ones. Vendors in this gray area include DataSynapse and United Devices.

However, Themis is moving away from grid sector, or, at the very least, changing its terminology. While Quorum was originally developed for the real-time management of mission-critical applications within utility grids, the problem with positioning Quorum within the grid sector is that many potential customers don’t differentiate between utility and compute grids. Themis’ focus now is on SOA and virtualization.

Competitors include Veritas, IBM, and VMWare. However, none of the others solutions supports a truly heterogeneous environment. The support of distributed sites is also an issue.

Another competitive advantage for Quorum is its real-time response. The system was designed to manage combat systems, necessitating response times in 100 millisecond cycles. The enterprise version isn’t quite that fast, especially in distributed environments, yet responses are still a second or less.

According to Themis, many resource-sharing and grid solutions allow applications to share resources, but they do a poor job of prioritizing mission-critical applications over less critical ones. As a result, a non-critical application can impact the availability and performance of mission-critical ones. Quorum relies on user-defined policies that guarantee SLAs and assure high availability.

Management Team: William Kehret, president and CEO, Michael Crocker, COO

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