Ottawa firm offers utility model to semiconductor firms

An Ottawa-based supplier of computing power has launched a utility service executives said could offer significant cost savings to semiconductor companies.

GridWay Computing Corp., which calls itself Ottawa’s first commercial

computing utility, announced this week that it will open a data centre in the capital city to provide chip designers with pay-as-you-go computing capacity.

Until now, moving data quickly and securely between a client and a utility has been limited by high costs and high-bandwidth connectivity, explained Chris Kramer, GridWay’s founder.

In an attempt to overcome these hurdles, the company has partnered with Telecom Ottawa to ensure customers in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Kingston and Cornwall have high-speed access to GridWay’s computing power via Telecom Ottawa’s Ethernet network.

GridWay has turned to Sun Microsystems of Canada for its enabling technology, including a grid of 40 Sun Fire V60x servers running Red Hat Linux.

“”We enable companies to purchase IT services as they would electricity, right from your high-end engineering compute farm, or grid computing model, to data availability and managed hosting services,”” said Kramer.

The service is significant for semiconductor companies because almost all of them encounter “”spikes in demand that don’t last,”” said Doug Girvin, president of Sun STANTIVE solutions, the sales organization for Sun Microsystems in southeastern Ontario and the National Capital Region.

To provide enough in-house computing capacity to meet those peak periods, a large portion of a company’s system would just be idling for the remainder of the year, he said. “”So there’s a huge capital cost (to doing so).”” GridWay plans to offset these costs.

“”You can dial us up when you need us and dial us down when you don’t, so you’re only paying for what you’re using,”” said Kramer.

Warren Shiau, a senior software analyst with IDC Canada, agreed that in a lot of cases this route is a cost-effective one for the same reasons that surround any outsourcing deal where portions of a company’s operations are farmed out to contractors. And, he added, “”the market for hosting applications for a temporary period of time, or permanently, is large.

“”(GridWay) has all the classic ingredients of having a data centre,”” Shiau added. “”They have a good deal on network capacity and computing. They are going to provide that peak usage capacity (to semiconductor companies) so (customers) don’t have to build infrastructure to provide (it themselves) and have it sit unutilized for nine or 10 months out of the year.””

Kramer said the company has just completed a pilot with Tundra Semiconductor of Ottawa. In the past, Tundra’s peak period of chip testing meant the prospect of purchasing 20 Sun V60s, which costs roughly $120,000, said Kramer. “”In our model, they were permitted to extend their compute farm by 20 processors for $3,000.””

As well as officially signing on Tundra as a customer, GridWay’s clients include TCC Canada, a flexible office space provider and ALTF, a Hull-based producer of X-ray and extreme ultraviolet light sources used in the production of semiconductors.

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