Topspin Rakes It In

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VCs just can’t seem to get enough of Topspin Communications.

The intelligent server switch start-up has snagged $20 million in third-round funding, in an oversubscribed round that involved all the company’s previous investors and resulted in a 40% jump in valuation.

“These guys look like they may sweep the floor and nail all the major OEMs,” gushes Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst at Enterprise Storage Group. “They have done very, very well with HP, Dell, IBM, Sun, etc. They could be the last ones standing. InfiniCon is the only other competitor left, and we’re not hearing that much about them lately.”

(Ed. note: Well, it hasn’t been that long since Infinicon was the beneficiary of its own $15 million round in late September.)

Topspin claims it offers the first intelligent server switch, a high-performance interconnect for InfiniBand, Ethernet, and Fibre Channel that increases efficiency and lowers hardware costs in the data center. The server switches create “virtual servers” on-demand by dynamically interconnecting pools of industry-standard server, storage, and networking resources, with a hardware abstraction layer with programmable APIs.

Instead of individual connections to network and storage resources, the server switch aggregates servers and enables the creation of a “virtual server farm,” in the process allowing all of the servers to be managed from a single point of view, explains Topspin CEO Krish Ramakrishnan.

“Data centers want to retool and consolidate, and Topspin lets them cut capital expenditures and increase total cost of ownership,” Krish Ramakrishnan told Enterprise Storage Forum.

Prudential, for example, realized a three-fold increase in performance for one-third the cost when they deployed Topspin switches, according to Ramakrishnan.

Stu Aaron, Topspin’s VP for marketing and business development, compares the Topspin switch to “the flat green piece in Lego that holds everything together.”

Aaron says the server switch provides a single connection where HBAs and ports would otherwise be required for every server. A 128-node cluster, for example, would need 256 HBAs and ports, while Topspin would consolidate that to the right number of connections for specific requirements of performance clusters.

“It’s truly a different beast in the data center,” Aaron says.

The funding round was led by Meritech Capital Partners, and included all investors from prior rounds, including Accel Partners, Advent International, Duff Ackerman & Goodrich, Presidio Venture Partners, and Redpoint Ventures. Founded in April 2000, Topspin has raised more than $67 million to date, and Aaron and Ramakrishnan say they have enough cash to carry them to mid-2005, when they expect to be cash-flow positive.

“Topspin’s solution enables enterprises to capitalize on several major market trends, including scale-out, utility computing, and blade servers,” states Paul Madera, managing director at Meritech. “They are very well-positioned.”

“The server switch is an important emerging category,” reports Vernon Turner, group vice president for Global Enterprise Server Solutions at IDC. “As the system vendors all move forward with flexible computing initiatives, regardless of what they call them, they all recognize the importance of an intelligent interconnect for dynamically mapping system resources based on changing business requirements. Topspin is very well positioned to work with each of the system vendors to realize their respective goals, and has already been extremely successful in establishing those relationships.”

Topspin also announced that the Air Force Combat Climatology Center has selected Topspin’s server switch as the fabric for its new weather data network.

The solution, which was integrated by Intelligent Decisions, runs an Oracle 9i RAC database and consists of a Topspin 360 Server Switch with Topspin Fibre Channel gateways, ProMicro servers with Topspin InfiniBand Host Channel Adapters (HCAs), and Texas Memory Systems RamSan 220 solid-state storage. Initial performance testing indicates a “compelling improvement over the legacy server system, especially for storage throughput,” says Topspin.

Pricing starts at $11,995 for the entry-level Topspin 90, and $19,995 for the Topspin 360.

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Paul Shread
Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.

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