Update: IBM buying cluster company Platform Computing

Platform's software could play a key role in IBM's strategy to build out cross-platform cloud services

Extending its expertise in the field of high performance computing (HPC), IBM is acquiring cluster computing software vendor Platform Computing, the companies announced Tuesday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Platform's software helps organizations manage a cluster of servers as a unified machine. Clusters can be used to tackle large computational jobs beyond the capability of any one server, such as mathematical research into developing new materials, or tracking the financial market in fine-grained detail. IDC estimates that organizations will spend $14 billion to procure hardware and software for such technical computing.

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Platform's software is used in industries such as financial services, manufacturing, digital media, government and research. It was a predominant company in the academically focused grid computing space and has recently adapted its products to help users deploy cloud computer services. The company has over 2,000 customers, including Citrgroup, Red Bull Racing, University of Tokyo, and the CERN European Organization for Nuclear Research.

The purchase is a smart one on IBM's part, because IBM could use Platform's software in a variety of ways, noted Charles King, president and principal analyst with Pund-IT. The software could play a key role in IBM's strategy to build out cross-platform cloud services.

King also noted that the IBM has partnered with Platform for a variety of HPC and grid jobs over the past decade and that Platform's technology is highly complementary to IBM's own. "It's been a long courtship," King said.

Platform Computing's operations, which employ 500 employees worldwide, will be folded into IBM Systems and Technology Group. IBM expects to close the purchase by the end of this year.

The market for HPC "is expanding into an area where computationally intense workloads are really driving data requirements that will set the stage for most of the workloads in the next decade.

Platform made its name with job scheduling software, but also has very strong solutions around the Symphony middleware.

IBM sees its HPC expertise as being potentially beneficial beyond that market, said Dave Jursik, IBM worldwide president for HPC sales. Traditionally, HPC has been "the province primarily of large academic and government research institutions," he said. Today, however, a wide range of different industries could use HPC in conjunction with IBM analysis software to solve a broad range of data- and computationally intensive problems. Platform's job-scheduling software, as well as its Symphony middleware, could help IBM better serve these organizations.

The common base of technologies will broaden our play in the market and deepen the expertise and value we can bring," Jursik said.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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