Startup Bitfusion Wants to Speed Up Server Workload Performance

The company offers software that enables applications to better utilize existing infrastructures and accelerators like FPGAs and GPUs.

Bitfusion CEO

One person particularly happy about Intel's announcement last week that it is buying semiconductor vendor Altera was Subbu Rama.

Intel is spending $16.7 billion to buy Altera primarily to bring the company's programmable chip technology in-house. Field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) can be programmed through software and are becoming increasingly important ways to accelerate applications in cloud and Web-scale environments.

Rama, a former Intel employee, is now CEO of Bitfusion, a startup that offers software that can help boost workload performance even more in systems that use accelerators like FPGAs and GPUs from Advanced Micro Devices and Nvidia. Organizations are increasingly using accelerators for a broad array of applications—such as big data analytics, bioinformatics, pharmaceuticals, and oil and gas—to speed up performance while keeping a lid on power consumption.

Intel's pursuit of Altera proves the soundness of that approach, according to Rama.

"We just got a huge market validation for what we're doing," he told eWEEK. "There is a lot of interest."

Bitfusion debuted last month at the TechCrunch Disrupt NY event, with Rama laying out his vision for the company. Based in Austin, Texas, Bitfusion was started by Rama and two other one-time Intel employees, COO Maciej Bajkowski and CTO Mazhar Memon. The company recently raised $1.45 million in seed money from investors Data Collective, Geekdom Fund, Resonant Venture Partners and Techstars.

Bitfusion also has entered into a partnership with Rackspace Hosting, enabling potential customers to access its software technology through the cloud and try it out. Initially the Rackspace offering will be used as a test bed for customers, though there is the possibility of creating a managed service via the cloud server provider down the road, Rama said.

The company's technology comes as organizations are looking for ways to better address the challenges brought on by the massive amounts of data that is being generated, Rama said. There not only is more data, but it's coming in different formats through various hardware form factors, software applications and social media avenues, he said.

Most organizations currently are dealing with all this by adding server nodes to their data center, which only adds to the cost and complexity, he said. However, accelerators like FPGAs, GPUs and Intel's x86-based Xeon Phi chips enable businesses to get more application performance from their existing hardware infrastructure, something the high-performance computing (HPC) and supercomputing fields already understand.

Bitfusion's software is designed to enable organizations to get even more workload performance from the accelerators by enabling the applications to better leverage the capabilities of not only the CPU but also the accelerators, in large part by building optimized versions of open-source libraries, Rama said. In addition, that can be done automatically without having to rewrite the code. The software enables the application to access multiple accelerators and the CPU at the same time, Rama said.

"People really don't rework their code," he said. "They want their code to work and want to leave the magic to the software producers. … We do it through libraries that we're building."