Blade Network Technologies: "we do business with people for whom, when the network goes down, it will cost millions of dollars!"


the network as a business enabler 

On June 3rd, 2010, at the end of our press trip in the Silicon Valley, we have had the opportunity to meet with Vikram Mehta, President and CEO of Blade Network Technologies (BNT), a four year-old company dedicated to "providing the interconnect fabric" behind cloud computing to put it in the words of our host who welcomed us at BNT's headquarters in Santa Clara, Ca. What is behind this concept of "interconnect fabric" is the provision of intelligent networking and storage application connectivity for virtualised data centres
what is keeping CIOs awake at night? 
What I particularly liked about Vikram's presentation was his introduction in which he described very clearly the 7 painpoints which are keeping CIOs awake at night.
  • first and foremost, scalability - the almost obligatory buzzword in the infrastructure industry and in the Bay area in particular - is of the essence. As businesses grows rapidly and business owners rely extensively on IT to support their needs, the requirement for that IT infrastructure to grow with the business is becoming an imperative,
  • as data centres have to grow exponentially, density is one of the most critical issues that IT managers have to face. It's a matter of packing as much computing and storage power as possible in as little space as possible. Yet, it's not just an issue of piling up more storage bays and blades, it's also a matter of providing the critical connectivity between these various elements (computing, storage and I/O). All of these leading to mind-boggling issues in the data centre,
  • thirdly, a faster and larger deployment of such infrastructure is a towering issue. Imagine a large investment bank which was used to deploy 5,000 new servers each year. That very same bank - because of the increasing importance of automatic trading - was led to deploy 100,000 servers last year! This is what happened to Morgan Stanley and BNT helped the Bank overcome that issue and even won an award in that process,
  • fourthly, maximising the utilisation of that infrastructure is critical too. Not all servers are used in the same way. Some sort of yield management (i.e. the method pioneered by airlines in the 1980s in order to maximise the number of passengers per aircraft) is necessary in order to optimise the usage of deployed resources,
  • the fifth problem that CIOs are facing in this mass computing age is security, a topic often tackled on our own blogs. As more business is pushed online, namely in banking and investment banking as seen in the above example, more security is needed because hackers will always focus on a) where the information is widely available online b) where big money flows,
  • next on CIOs' agenda is the need to be able to mine such data efficiently across huge databases. In essence, if more data is stored online, real-time drill down in humongous data bases becomes a critical issue, as seen in detail with our visit to Clustrix in San Francisco,
  • last but not least comes the total cost of ownership (TCO) issue, which is obviously and directly linked to this exponential growth in server and capacity deployment in the data centre.
the underlying fabric and its operating system 
There is one common denominator behind all these points and it's the network. Despite what most people think - even in IT - the network is not a commodity, it is the "interconnect fabric" which makes all of these changes possible. Without a performing network infrastructure, none of the above issues can be solved. This is true of the WAN capabilities of course, namely when online business is involved, but it's also true of LAN issues which make interconnections between different pieces of equipment more reliable, more secure and faster. "Each time clients spend $1 on a IT, they spend 15-25 ¢ on networks" Vikram Mehta adds, and this shows clearly how important that underlying fabric is. 
But it's not jut a hardware issue. Software is key - as with all the start-ups we have visited in the Silicon Valley - and Blade Network technologies have also developed their own OS, logically named Blade OS (for a user/admin guide and description of BladeOS click here). The Blade OS software provides means for accessing, configuring, securing, and viewing information and statistics about BNT switches. This operating software is what confers a competitive advantage to Blade Network Technologies and made its success in such a short period of time. 9 other differentiators make up that competitive advantage for BNT amongst which we find their own switch virtualisation management technology VMready™ (deployed by a large hospital centre in Avignon, France), wiring patents (UFP ™), in-rack elements and configuration management software (CMBD) software, reliability metrics and partnerships with major players such as IBM, Juniper (also an investor in the firm), HP and Terradata to name but a few. Performance results are high with 8 times lower latency and 65% lower power than equivalent Cisco equipment according to the Santa Clara firm representatives; all this resulting in a "5 times better price performance ratio". 
thousands of clients already
Blade Network Technologies didn't quite start from scratch. It is a spin-off from Nortel, as shown in the company timeline on the right-hand side. Thousands of clients have already jumped on the BNT bandwagon including 7 of the 10 largest global companies, 4 of the top 10 telecommunication companies (who have a vested interest in improving performance in the data centre not only for themselves but in order to deliver better cloud services to their clients) and 5 of the 10 aerospace companies etc. Major clients include BASF, Microsoft, Walmart and the Coca Cola company.  align=in order to get the latest about Blade Network Technologies,you should follow them on Twitter. The company is making extensive use of social media in order to promote its products and services and you will even find Vikram Mehta's blog online, which can be accessed straight from the home page of their website. straight from the horse's mouth In the following video interview recorded on location, I asked Vikram to provide additional information and explanations about his approach to business and how his company is solving clients' issues.

slideshare presentation (by Blade Network Technologies)
Yann Gourvennec

I specialize in information systems, HighTech marketing and Web marketing. I am author and contributor to numerous books and the CEO of Visionary Marketing. As such, I contribute regularly on this blog for Orange Business account on cloud computing and cloud storage topics.