Altair is a broad-based technology company with an ambitious vision. As stated on their website: Our comprehensive, open-architecture solutions for data analytics, computer-aided engineering, and high-performance computing (HPC), enable design and optimization for high performance, innovative, and sustainable products and processes in an increasingly connected world. With a platform this broad, new additions need to be targeted and best-in-class to make a difference. That’s why a recent addition to Altair caught my attention. I wanted to explore how Altair expands its technology footprint with I/O profiling from Ellexus.
As reported on SemiWiki, Altair recently acquired Ellexus. The company is based in Cambridge, UK and its focus is I/O profiling. About ten years old, its mission is to make every engineer an I/O expert. At first glance, one may think I/O profiling is only focused on optimization. It turns out there are many other benefits, including:
- Debug the software environment and find performance issues
- Detect dependencies for cloud migration
- Protect shared file systems by finding rogue applications
- Tune third party software deployment
What is also interesting to me is the technology pedigree of the company. Their customer list includes names like Synopsys and Microsoft Azure, among a host of others that will be familiar to the SemiWiki readership, and suggests Ellexus knows something about IC design and cloud computing. Customer quotes are not common in our world, but the Ellexus website has featured feedback from prominent semiconductor players over the years, such as Mentor and Arm. Note the main products offered by Ellexus are Mistral and Breeze.
- Arm: “Mistral allows the infrastructure team to find and prevent bad I/O patterns and gives us a lot more information to learn from.”
- Mentor: “Breeze gives good detailed I/O information so I only needed to make a few changes to improve runtime.”
It’s always interesting to get a perspective on an acquisition from the inside. I had that opportunity recently when I spoke with Dr. Rosemary Francis, founder and CEO of Ellexus. The chip design roots at Ellexus run deep. Rosemary holds a PhD in Computer Architecture from the University of Cambridge. Her research focused on network-on-chip architectures for FPGAs. After working as an IC CAD Engineer at CSR and an FPGA designer for Simba HPC and Commsonic, she founded Ellexus. Rosemary was also an advisory board member at IdeaSpace (a hub for early-stage innovation) and she is a member of the Raspberry Pi Foundation. She is also a regular guest lecturer at Cambridge University.
I began my discussion with Rosemary by exploring her views of what the acquisition meant for Ellexus. Her response was clear and concise – worldwide reach. Ellexus has built a loyal customer base, but as a company with five sales folks the size of that customer base is limited. The industry recognition that Altair enjoys and the worldwide reach the company maintains delivers a much larger base to deploy Ellexus technology. Rosemary pointed out that Ellexus and Altair tools already run side-by-side at many customers. The opportunity to provide tighter integration and new use models will be significant. She mentioned storage-aware scheduling as one example, there are many.
Regarding on-prem vs. cloud, Rosemary pointed out that Ellexus began before the current explosion of cloud deployment, so they have a solid understanding and support for both on-prem and cloud requirements. For on-prem environments, I/O profiling is typically focused on performance.
For cloud environments, right-sizing and ensuring you have the data required and nothing else becomes important. Based on the performance profile of the application, it’s also sometimes possible to downgrade the type of storage used without seeing a performance hit. This can save a lot of money. Optimizing costs are important on the cloud as they can skyrocket if you’re not careful. Rosemary had an interesting perspective on the difference between on-prem and cloud. She explained that for on-prem it’s about “time to science” whereas for the cloud it’s about “cost to science”. I hadn’t heard this before, but it made a lot of sense. Ellexus can handle both.
Rosemary is now a chief scientist at Altair. She will be working on the integration of Ellexus technology into the Altair PBS Works™ product suite. You can learn more about PBS Works here. As we concluded our discussion, she outlined her short, medium and long-term goals in her new role:
- Short-term: Ensure the Ellexus integration with Altair goes smoothly and all current and new customers have all the support they need in an uninterrupted way
- Medium-term: Help shape the roadmap for Altair scheduling, workload and cloud infrastructure/migration products
- Long-term: Leveraging the significant resources of Altair, bring new and disruptive technology and products to the market
One of Rosemary’s missions will be to use the success Ellexus enjoyed in the semiconductor space and replicate that in other market segments. I will watch this work with interest to see how Altair expands its technology footprint with I/O profiling from Ellexus.
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