Fortunately, I recover the use of my higher functions in time for a meeting today with the affable founder of Egenera, Vern Brownell. Egenera make a blade system called BladeFrame -- no, I hadn’t heard of it either -- which relegates all the IO and storage from the blade to the other side of the backplane, virtualising everything. Lots of benefits, says Vern, including reliability, manageability and efficiency, and not much of a downside. Bit of a performance hit, but nothing you can’t live with. Egenera has sold this stuff into big financial companies and the like around the world, and it’s keen to talk about it.
I quickly warm to Vern. He has an engineering background, and that shows through. He was part of the great DEC diaspora, then became to be Chief Technical Officer at Goldman Sachs -- yes, the company with that high-spending secretary -- and formed Egenera, he says, because he was frustrated at how the big IT vendors were quick to talk about all the good things but very slow to make them happen. After nearly twenty years of slideware, I can only agree. Of course, it could be that Vern is also spinning a line -- but he’s so keen for me to talk to customers, this seems unlikely. He knows what he’s talking about, he’s not afraid to name names when he wants to make an example, good or bad, of other companies, and he’s open about what the company might or might not do in the future.
One thing Egenera will do is make an Itanium blade for the BladeFrame system. “Really?”, I say. “Who wants to buy those?”. “We have no idea,” says Vern, “but as Intel is paying for us to develop the thing, we’re happy to see who crawls out of the woodwork”. Memo to self: must ask Intel how many people have paid list price for Itaniums…
There’s a brief discussion about recent events in the industry -- why did Sun buy StorageTek? Why has HP bet the farm on Itanium? Why is Google worth more than Time Warner? -- and other evidence that Captain Sanity has left the planet. It is, as Americans mysteriously say, all good.
Egenera is still growing voraciously, so expect to hear more about them over the next couple of years. And if you get the chance to go and hear Vern speak somewhere -- he was in London to do this at a Future of the Data Centre conference -- don’t hesitate. It’s not just the big names who have something worth saying.