28-11-2016 - - 0 comments

It was only because LinkedIn reminded me of an anniversary, that I spent some time digesting the last 12 months. It was around this time last year that Nick Rogers, MD of Exacta Technologies and I started collaborating together on a skunk-works project, formed outside of his main, and highly successful business building appliances for software companies.

One of Nick's key customers had asked for a liquid cooled, overclocked server for a client involved in high frequency trading. Being a seasoned overclocker and builder of liquid cooled systems, and holding a vast amount of experience within the IT industry must have given me sufficient profile for Nick to find me. 

Nick turned to my company 42 Consultancy with a plan in his head and passion in his voice. Within weeks, a business partnership was formed, BlackCore Technologies was conceived, a business plan was born, our first product design was then started in my "development lab." 

It worked - brilliantly. I needed more space and so I relocated to Nick's heated, ISO9000 approved manufacturing facilities. We knew very little about the market and the customers we were about to start dealing with, or the requirements of the market - other than they needed very fast, reliable servers and an equally reliable partner to supply and support them at scale. We were up for the challenge and we both knew we had the product, the development roadmap and the experience to take it on.

The next 6 months would be a roller-coaster ride of prototyping, testing, re-designing, tweaking and expanding our knowledge. Understanding the customers and the market requirements. Working closely with those customers would come to define our ethos. 

By March we had shipped our first prototypes for pressure testing by the market and received both good and bad feedback. More late nights. Again we re-designed, tweaked, worked with vendor partners and our engineering manufacturers, and finally came up with three final products that passed very critical analysis.

 We started shipping in production format around May of this year (2016). Our first customer said "You are simply the fastest we have ever tested" - we shoot, we score. I wouldn't like to stare at the bald numbers telling us exactly how much it had cost to make our first system, but hearing from our customers that... "this is remarkably good value," told us we got that side of the equation right.

Now the really hard work began, working with key resellers and end users in the FinTech space, we seeded systems at even further expense and engaged in many, many PoC's. Sometimes laborious and often fraught with customers' own technical issues, other times smooth sailing. We were well and truly on our way.

It came to light that so many banks, HFTs, Forex houses, feed providers and even proprietary software manufacturers could benefit from the blistering levels of performance that BlackCore offers. It also became apparent that the larger the customer, the longer the sales cycle. Indeed we still have customers we started engaging with last year that don't plan to purchase until 2017. All of these customers however value the close relationships that we keep with them, our transparency, our clear roadmap to the future, and our in-depth understanding of the hardware and software components that make up a great High Frequency Trading server platform.

From a technology landscape perspective, whether in HFT or any other market which is bound by server performance, 2017 looks to be a minefield. New platforms from Intel will be coming to market with a plethora of options, and significantly increased cooling requirements. We're an Intel Platinum Partner so we're already scaling that learning curve and we're ahead of the market with our next generation hardware.

The dark horse, AMD, look to be re-entering the race. You have a huge Machine Learning and AI processing war forming, with entrants from FPGA, GPU, CO-PRO and even GPCPU camps. Liquid cooling is becoming a requirement for the very fastest servers, and a necessary upgrade to the inefficient legacy cloud infrastructure that's out there. 

TCO remains king! Open Source remains trendy but difficult to adopt below large enterprise. The cloud has become dominated by Tier 1 providers and 2017 may be the year that disruptive cloud technologies can give niche cloud providers an edge. Performance will drive that and we're there to respond. It is both an exciting and challenging landscape that we love to navigate, and assist our key customers in navigating successfully and profitably too.

To sum up - One year on and BlackCore has exceeded its targets for sales and revenue, while looking to be positioned extremely strongly for 2017. We are targeting significant further volume and revenue growth and have the roadmap, customers and relationships in place to achieve it. 

Here's to a successful 2017 with both old and new customers; and to the wraps coming off our next generation technologies. As we're used to saying around here, "it's about time."

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