I’m Alan Robertson, founder of Assimilation Systems Limited – this is my first blog post about the company. Let’s start this first post with a little history of the project and the company.
I founded the Assimilation Project back in 2010, as a result of thinking about a really big supercomputer (over 2 million cores) I was working with which had a very unusual networking architecture. It was a very cool and odd computer. Along the way, I puzzled over how one could effectively monitor it in the presence of this non-traditional networking topology – without using the built-in monitoring hardware (which would be like cheating). After a while, I realized I knew how to make monitoring on normal computers scale in a way that seemed really interesting. Being a techie at heart, I was really jazzed and decided I had to implement it. Because of these beginnings, the Assimilation Project was all about monitoring, and in particular, incredibly scalable monitoring.
But I also realized that those people who would care would care a lot, but that was very few people – relatively speaking. For some ideas I had about being light on the network, I had to discover some things about network topology. After I’d discovered that, I realized how powerful the idea of discovery was – and I decided to discover what services were offered, and those that were going to be used – which would help us discover dependencies – and I was near-delirious realizing how incredibly useful discovery is.
Back in an earlier era I had been a system administrator, and I knew that what you most want to know is dependencies – what’s going to break when you thump that box over there. So I searched for how best to store the kind of information I was collecting – and when I ran across the Neo4j graph database – I realized that I knew how that was how to store the data – in a graph.
It was at this point that I began to realize that this looked like it had enough value to float a business. So, I began to think about a business around this project – and founded Assimilation Systems Limited in February 2013. Along the way I’ve received valuable advice and consultation from many people about the business, about Lean Startup methodology. Notable among these faithful friends are Robert Reich, Christine Hudson, Hugh Varilly and Daniel Hulme. Anything smart I’ve done with the business is likely due to them, and anything stupid I’ve done is definitely due to me ;-).
From a business perspective, there are lots of ways to go, but the discovery and dependencies and so on are underserved when compared to monitoring. Initially the project was driven by monitoring, and discovery was secondary, but as we’ve realized the importance and richness of capabilities available with discovery, we’ve shifted so that monitoring, while still important, is a little less important to our business than the discovery work.
Of course, it is a community-driven open source project, and anyone is welcome to join and contribute – and if they’re interested in pushing the monitoring faster than we can at the moment, that would be more than welcome.
I personally made the transition to working for Assimilation Systems Limited full time in July 2013 with the encouragement and blessing of my managers in IBM (my employer of twelve years). So, now the project and the company are my full time concern – and I’m excited for what the project can do, what it will be able to do, and what we can do as a company to serve customers in a way no one has been able to before now.
Above I said I got really excited about discovery – without telling you quite why. Discovery is very interesting for lots and lots of reasons – but I’ll save telling that for another blog post.