Taurus Group: Open platforms, HPC & Industry 4.0
Being in the technology business for over two decades, Arun Garg heads Taurus Group as its current CEO. "We have multiple disciplines within our company with a physical presence in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and India. Founded in 2005 in the Netherlands, the business has been expanding since 2016, as it makes successful investments and acquisitions in several companies: 2BY2, Taurus Germany, Circle B, Solulever, and ClusterVision. Today, we proudly stand as an ISO 9001 company and are in the process of being ISO 27001 certified."
Taurus Group is a specialised and focused company that operates in a niche market with a good reputation. It provides its customers access to its global distribution infrastructure and, together with its enterprise integration, offers software-defined data centre solutions.
"As the parent company, Taurus Group has six operational entities. Taurus Europe is the main entity that carries out the distribution aspects," mentions Garg. "Acquiring ClusterVision, Circle B, and Solulever coincided with our vision to grow and expand our product offerings. We have a great circular economy within these entities. In The Netherlands, we all operate from the same office and make good use of each other's expertise and knowledge. Taurus performs the role of 'component supply'; Circle B designs, builds, and manages rapid-scale sustainable data centre OCP server infrastructures. Solulever is developing a whole software-based AI analytics suite which happily runs on OCP hardware whilst ClusterVision is a turn-key solutions provider for HPC, AI and data at scale. ”
Garg adds, "Being a business that very much revolves around storage components, the majority of our revenue comes from storage products, which we sell as a barebone product or as a complete solution." He explains, "we do not have any standard storage solutions for our customers as we offer tailor-made solutions based on the specific requirements of individual customers."
"Our business interests are split into two broad areas: the first being distribution, and the second being solution, development and R&D. Our core products and services include the distribution of key components, building and managing HPC infrastructure, EMEA OCP specialists, and software application focused on Smart Industry 4.0 with a development office in India," says Garg.
“Taurus Group is also a specialist in software-defined networking. The solutions we bring to our customers involve using software layers that provide flexible, efficient network fabric management when used to define the functionality of the hardware. Hardware agnostic partner solutions such as those from Pluribus Networks help network operators manage the entire network consistently and holistically," says Garg.
He also adds, "Taurus is a great company uncovering endless possibilities of growth. We can now offer end-to-end solutions to our customers, from components procurement to seamlessly managing their infrastructure. The journey has just started, and there is a lot to achieve. We are confident of bringing greater offerings to the market, making us a stronger company and a stronger brand."
Discover Taurus Group robust ecosystem of partners
With a background in IT and networking, Menno Kortekaas, Founder of Circle B, was introduced to the OCP hardware during his consulting years. Looking further into the application of OCP hardware for data centres, Kortekaas found that a particular company was using Facebook designed hardware for their own open stack solutions. "But, I found that this was not readily available in Europe, apart from a few smaller companies in the US. So, I founded Circle B to operate in this space," says Menno.
Kortekaas explains that Circle B sells solutions based on specific building blocks, providing its customers with hardware. “We have the IT rack that goes into the data centre, that's our biggest building block, which we then integrate into the rack, the power infrastructure, converting AC into 12 Volt DC. Then we add servers, storage, networking, cables and external connectivity. We work with the customer based on their application, workload, and software application to match the hardware design to meet their requirements. We help them design a certain system layout, rack layout, or multiple rack layouts. We have also recently released a new service called 'Eclipse' which allows customers to choose between a CapEx model and an OpEx model, including housing and connectivity to the internet or their public/private cloud."
Being focused on the technical aspects — getting knowledge and making technical solutions work along with concentrating on promoting OCP hardware adoption, Circle B combines its expertise with the financial capabilities and logistics capabilities of Taurus Group to deliver its solutions. "Circle B makes use of Taurus Group's financial department, marketing department and logistics department, which includes its warehouses, contracts, shipping companies, insurers, website managers, and event organisers. By combining these skills, Circle B can focus on providing its customers with valuable solutions," says Kortekaas.
Inspired to do something innovative, Kortekaas founded Circle B in 2015. When working for a large consumer goods company, he began to see the shift from physical load balancers handled by a single person to an application that a team can manage. Kortekaas adds, "I saw that shift happening and was introduced to OCP hardware, which led me to the thought that it was a more innovative way to build servers. It's more energy-efficient, easy to maintain, and more scalable. But this type of all-in-one solution wasn't available in Europe."
Sustainable operations form a core pillar for Circle B. It is committed to taking sustainability a few notches up, promoting more energy-efficient and easier to maintain solutions. "By offering these solutions that are efficient and easier to maintain, customers can easily replace parts so that they don't throw away a whole device when a small part ceases to work. With the modular design, it is much easier to make replacements of parts for the customers," says Kortekaas.
"We are also working on open-source firmware development," says Kortekaas, who compares this service to a mobile phone. "At some point, the manufacturer stops supporting the operating system, so the device no longer has new applications. The open-source firmware initiative called OpenBMC offers customers much longer support in these scenarios, supporting the firmware and updates to extend the life of the product."
Founded almost 20 years ago by Alex Ninaber, Director of High-Performance Computing (HPC), ClusterVision specialises in high-performance computing and managing extensive scale data. "Typically, we provide software solutions to complex business environments, along with HPC installations and knowledge to make these environments successful," says Ninaber.
Ninaber adds, "one of the challenges in HPC is that generally, we are dealing with relatively large installations; between €300,000 and €20mn. So, one of the challenges is that one needs a good financial underpinning to provide reliable solutions to the market. Taurus Group provides the financial infrastructure and distribution services to complete various solutions, ranging from small to huge scale. Solulever opens up different paths for us as it provides us access to specific types of customers we otherwise would not normally be dealing with. Circle B typically takes care of the colocation and data centre for us, which is something that we didn't use to do."
Studying his PhD at Birkbeck College (London), Ninaber found that he had a specific need to do large-scale calculations in molecular dynamics. "At that time, large HPC installations were usually located centrally in a country. To do large scale calculations, one had to request time on these machines. So, we figured that we could be much more efficient by buying off-the-shelf hardware, together with a network and software to create our own HPC installation. This led us to be approached by a business customer to install an HPC division for them within their business. It turned out to be extremely successful, and three years later, we started our own company in the Netherlands."
When it comes to harnessing HPC in manufacturing, Ninaber says: "typically in manufacturing, HPC is used in computational fluid dynamics (CFD) calculations of airflow and similar complex yet intricate calculations. For example, wind turbines that we spot everywhere are carefully planned as before they are built; calculations are performed to identify the optimal wind shape in that area. In addition to this, HPC is used heavily in the automotive industry. Any process that requires a lot of CPU or GPU calculations, HPC comes to its use. For instance, manufacturing, physics, chemistry, finance, anything AI and even psychology are using HPC solutions today.”
Jitesh Kohli, CEO of Solulever, co-founded the company in 2019. "We operate within the space of industry 4.0, in particular digital manufacturing. We build industrial platforms to simplify our customers' journeys as they digitally transform their manufacturing operations. Our core products are called Brabo Edge Platform and Brabo Factory Cloud. This proposition is called Brabo Edge Platform, a unique platform that makes multiple layers of technologies required to digitise manufacturing operations redundantly. We focus on batch and process manufacturing companies in Europe and India and have started making inroads in North America," says Kohli.
He mentions, "founded in 2019, Solulever, since its inception, was invested into by Taurus Group. Being a part of the family not only provides us with investment into its product development and market expansion, but we also benefit from the collaboration with sister companies, ClusterVision and Circle B, to drive the digitalisation of manufacturing."
Delivering hybrid solutions, Solulever offers its customers large scale manufacturing capabilities in batch and process control to digitise their plant operations with real-time insights. "Our foundational product Brabo Edge platform covers 'all nine yards' of digitalisation needs when it comes to manufacturing. Brabo helps manufacturers optimise their manufacturing operations through real-time insights, automation, and transparency into finer operations. Brabo is an open architecture and microservices architecture-based platform. These architectural choices set the platform aside from generic industrial platforms and offer unparalleled flexibility and scalability at a fraction of the cost otherwise possible. Brabo offers comprehensive integration possibilities covering varying complexities found in a shop-floor situation." adds Kohli.
Dividing manufacturing into three pillars, Kohli explains that "you are either trying to improve the utilisation of assets, which have been invested into or trying to improve the quality of production or trying to reduce the variable cost of manufacturing. To achieve any of these, there has to be a consistent architecture that is data-led and a continuous innovation programme is driven by common principles. Our platform essentially operates as that common architecture for continuous innovation and continuous optimisation."