KPMG's computer forensics division needs processing power, and lots of it, for work such as data analysis and transaction reconstruction. The team also has a good idea of what the systems needed to supply that power should look like.
What they don't look like are the off-the-shelf offerings from Tier 1 providers, such as HP and IBM. The KPMG team instead turned to lesser-known Open Source Storage, which sells custom-built servers and clustering packages, all based on open standards.
"Trying to do a true custom solution through HP or one of the other vendors is a pain, because they have their standard platforms that are already built and they scale off of that," says Ed Goings, director of forensic technology at KPMG in Chicago. "With Open Source Storage, we can give specifics, even down to the type of memory we want in the machine."
Open Source Storage's 32- and 64-bit servers (including a new two-processor model called the RS 64 that boasts up to 64GB of memory) are designed for high-density processing.
Goings, who began working with Open Source Storage about three years ago, says he is looking at the RS 64 to support huge memory-intensive database applications.
While the vendor prides itself on creating true open source packages, from hardware to software, it is open to user demands on every level, says Eren Niazi, president, CEO and founder.
"We'll give recommendations and provide performance numbers and let them decide," Niazi says. "We have a reference center where we can build the machines and customers can log on and test the performance."
Goings, for example, runs Windows Server 2003 on his Open Source Storage servers, rather than CentOS, a Red Hat compatible Linux distribution that is the vendor's preferred operating system.
"We looked at [Open Source Storage] for open source, but from a hardware standpoint, not from an operating system or development platform," Goings says. "We wanted to be able to specify what hardware we wanted in there. . . . We don't like being told what has to be in the machine."
The vendor also supports Solaris, and this week is expected to announce that it has received Level 2 certification for its VS1800 Opteron-based system, the highest level in Sun's program to certify hardware.
While Open Source Storage has a challenge ahead of it in competing with the traditional systems vendors, its business has been growing as the industry rallies around open source. The privately held company founded in 2001 targets high-tech firms and the financial sector and has been seeing steady double-digit growth each quarter, Niazi says.
William Hurley, a senior analyst at Data Mobility Group, says Open Source Storage is offering an interesting alternative.
"The manufacturing model they've adopted allows a high degree of customization using standards-based componentry," he says. "So you get the flexibility and specificity [of configuration] that you need with the comfort of having things built on open standards."