California Digital Offers VA-designed Servers

by Don Marti

The company is in Fremont, California, they make 1U and 2U Linux servers, and their phone number is 888-LINUX-4-U. VA Linux Systems? No, it's California Digital Corporation, which recently acquired the rights to manufacture VA's server designs, along with a sublease on part of VA's building. "There's a pent-up demand from people who were looking for VA systems", said CEO B.J. Arun, who started California Digital in 1994.

Douglas Bone, formerly of VA, is California Digital's new chief operating officer and will manage the sales force.

Can a small company compete now that large vendors have entered the Linux server industry? Yes, according to one Linux hardware industry executive. "If you provide impeccable service and take care of your customers, they will reward you with loyalty, which translates into success long-term", he said. "There is no substitute for service at a personal level, and there is absolutely no way that Compaq, Dell or IBM will be able to deliver that."

California Digital was founded in 1994 in California, and Arun said it has been profitable for 28 consecutive quarters. Until the year 2000, he said, "we primarily focused on very high-end x86 hardware. We were an authorized Tyan distributor."

That changed last year when the company started a high-performance computing professional services group that focused on Linux clusters. At a development center in India, Arun said, the company employs MDs, PhDs in bioinformatics, and experts in oil and gas, weather modeling, and graphics rendering. The India operation is California Digital (India) Private Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary.

CDC's top-of-the-line server is the dual Athlon 1240, built around the Tyan Thunder K7 motherboard. The company also offers servers with one or two Intel CPUs, a SCSI storage enclosure and preracked, preconfigured clusters with networking hardware. Two distributions, Red Hat and Debian, are available.

"We're a smaller company than VA was, so there will be less overhead. We'll be able to price things a little more aggressively, but we're not in this business to be a low-price vendor where you sacrifice customer support," Bone said.

California Digital is currently doing all manufacturing in-house, Bone said, though he didn't rule out the possibility of outsourcing some future manufacturing. The company is using the Cerberus Test Control System, originally developed at VA, to test its systems before shipment.

Total staff numbers about 40. "We're being very careful about concentrating on profitably growing our company. As the company grows, we have a list of referrals of people who used to work at VA", Arun said.

Relations with the neighbors are good. "VA has actually been very supportive in this whole process", Arun said.

Don Marti is Technical Editor of Linux Journal.

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