OCF celebrates 20 years in the business

OCF celebrates 20 years in the business

By Russell Slack, OCF Managing Director

OCF celebrates 20 years in the business

Today marks OCF’s 20th birthday. Founded in 2002, we’ve come a long way from our cluster roots to the High Performance Computing trailblazer we are today. We’ve achieved a lot over the years and grown as a company but how did we get to where we are today? Let me take you back to the future for you to really understand our journey which forms the basis of where OCF is today.

Looking back at this time, Beowulf clusters were essentially first-generation Intel ‘pizzabox’ servers with 100Mb network cards wired between them and a very rough cut of Red Hat Linux running over all servers. The standard storage configuration was typically a mirrored pair of HDD’s in the headnode which was presented out as a soft NFS mount to all clients. The software tooling was a random assortment of relatively undeveloped products from the open source community along with “passwordless rsh” as the trusted way to contact all servers. Pretty much frowned upon nowadays. 

Back then, it was a challenge to build up and stabilise these clusters, especially when you included the cutting-edge high-speed interconnects between the servers, such as Myricom Myrinet or the Dolphin Wulfkit 3D Torus host adapters which were a nightmare to cable. However, when we ironed out all the issues, our early adopters of this type of computing made some great breakthroughs in their quest to solve their complex problems.

It's also hard to think that back then, the concept of a support contract for an HPC solution wasn’t even a thing, customers didn’t ask for it and we weren’t really in a position to provide it. How times have changed! Traditionally, it was very much an infrastructure only build before handover to the customer to manage and support moving forwards. This has evolved over the years as customers have required dedicated technical support being available for when they have service issues, and in more recent years this has further evolved into a requirement for OCF to provide managed services support for our customers, whereby we are now acting as part of the customers’ own HPC system admin team. OCF proactively monitor and maintain live services, as well as plan and perform scheduled preventative maintenance for the future of our customers’ service lifespan.

Aside of the evolution of the technology and the support we offer our clients, what’s really stood out for me over the last 20 years and why I have stayed with the company throughout this duration, is the culture. OCF team members show what it means to care about what they do, care about each other and care about what our customers want to achieve.

Through this family ethos we’ve built a fantastic reputation for supporting our customers through challenging times. We are proud to call each other “OCFers” who will go out of their way to help and support each other and customers in a flexible and friendly way.

This mindset and set of values that all OCF staff possess is something I’m most proud of and love seeing and recognising time and time again. So much so in 2019, I led a management buyout of the original owners and fellow board members to retain OCF’s unique culture and take the business forward.

I relish the opportunity to lead the charge when it comes to the evolution and to take OCF to the next level in terms of services and support for our customers. We’ve got a fantastic heritage, incredible technical capability and everyone around me has the desire to share in more success moving forwards.

It's my responsibility to nurture that talent and ensure we all succeed in those dreams. We’ve spent a lot of time looking at what we can do better internally from a process perspective and what we can do better to serve our customers and we’re now putting all of these improvements in place for our new future. Please join me in congratulating the team and may I thank every customer and every partner that has been part of this journey with us too.

In the coming weeks, other members of the team will also be sharing their thoughts and vision in a special anniversary series of blog Q&A’s so stay tuned.