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How long does a startup remain a "startup?" Is it a function of time? Sales? An IPO?
According to Asaf Somekh, vice president for strategic cooperation at Voltaire Israel, you're a startup as long as you have the right attitude - creative, flexible, and ready to respond to the market's needs. And even making a big deal - maybe the biggest deal ever for the company - doesn't mean that the spirit of a startup will evaporate.
In Voltaire's case, that big deal came last week, when HP and Oracle announced that they were going into the database solutions business together - and bringing Voltaire with them.
At Oracle Openworld in San Francisco, Oracle announced it would offer, together with HP, the HP Oracle Database Machine, designed specifically to handle data-intensive query processing from Oracle databases. And Voltaire will be supplying the high-speed switches for the system.
There'll be lots of switching to do. The Oracle/HP solution will consist of the Database Machine and the HP Oracle Exadata Storage Server (database storage units with Oracle software, built on HP ProLiant servers), and includes eight Oracle database servers and 14 Exadata Storage Servers in a single rack.
The database servers include 64 Intel processor cores, Oracle's business intelligence software and its Real Application Clusters technology. The Exadata Storage Server has been designed to run queries on the storage unit itself, increasing processing efficiency by 10 times over Oracle's previous best solution, the companies said.
And connecting the databases servers and the storage units are Voltaire switches. Why Voltaire?
"Because we have the best solution," says Somekh.
When it comes to databases, speed counts for a great deal - and Voltaire's switches can transfer 20 Gigabits of data per second! That's blazing fast, considering that the disk drives on the storage unit limit the throughput speed to 1Gbit/sec.
And, according to Somekh, every system Oracle sells will include a few Voltaire switches, meaning that the company's products will have an important role in transferring data essential to the basic operations of many of the top companies in the world.
Voltaire has been in the switch business since about 2001, and its products are used in a variety of settings. Voltaire InfiniBand hardware switches and software are certified for use with a variety of server solutions, including Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 operating systems.
Voltaire switches are used in two of the world's top information processing systems-the IBM Boeblingen Lab workstation and the world's fastest Los Alamos Laboratory petaflop supercomputer - and have been lauded for supplying super-fast data transfer with a power requirement of only 5 watts of power per port - far better (and at 20 gbps, far faster) than 1 and 10 Gigabit Ethernet connections.
Voltaire has had a long relationship with both Oracle and HP, Somekh says, and the Herzliya based company has about 200 employees.
"We have worked with HP for years and have been very successful in supplying switching solutions to many of the their customers," he says.
In fact, Voltaire was named "the number-one company on the 2007 Deloitte Israel Technology Fast 50, a ranking of the fastest growing technology companies in Israel," he says.
And while Voltaire has all the marks of being a mature company, Somekh insists that the company remains a startup - at least in some ways.
"When it comes to sales, service, organization, etc. - the bread and butter of doing business - we are definitely a mature company," he says.
"Last year we shipped $50 million worth of products. You don't get to that kind of level without full faith from a wide variety of customers - many of them large. You need proper organization and planning. HP and others work with us because they know they are going to get a certain level of support, and because our people are seasoned professionals," he says.
The trick is to present yourself to customers as a mature company, ready for the "big time" - but retain that scrappy startup self-image inside the company.
Innovation, quick thinking, guessing the trends and taking some chances - these are the virtues of a startup, "and these are the virtues you need, even if you have gone beyond startup status," Somekh says.
"Patience and agility are what it takes to make it, and we at Voltaire feel we have the best of both."
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