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Rick’s Reflections – June

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Rick’s Reflections

continued

To my relief the phone kept ringing into the year 2000. We had a person who answered phones at the front desk beg us to not send our next mailer because she was so stressed out answering the 20 incoming call lines we had at the time. BTW it would be wonderful if you would call and place an order with RAVE when you are finished reading this month’s reflection. RAVE had over 70 employees at the time.  We were almost sitting on top of each other trying to figure where we could add five more.

Where was the news media in January-March of 2000? The economy/computer market was nothing but green lights. In April, it was as if someone just plain turned off the faucet. The Dot.com market crashed and our phones quit ringing. Worse, we started receiving bankruptcy notices from customers, notices that won’t get paid for what we did ship the month earlier.

We had formed a sister company in 1995, RAVE Financial Services (RFS). It received close to one million dollars in bankruptcy notices in the first 3 months following the dot.com crash and many other leases were at risk. RAVE Computer’s sales dropped almost 75%.

The banking industry labeled the tech industry as high risk and couldn’t distance themselves from RAVE fast enough. Our trusted banking partner, National Bank of Detroit (NBD), who loved our cash flow and profits and all the fees they had been charging us called us to let us know they were going to do an audit the next week. They started with RFS and found the bankruptcies. RFS had done well enough we were in a position that we self-funded several million dollars in leases that had nothing to do with the bank. RFS was taking losses on our investments the bank had not lost a penny. It didn’t matter; a week later we were told that they were being put into a “forbearance agreement.” In other words they were cancelling their line of credit and wanted to be paid on all outstanding loans within 90 days. Much of the loan money was out on multi year leases. They demanded that we sell off the leases to other parties at discounted prices even if they were at a loss to RFS. They were unreasonable from my perspective, even threatened to padlock the doors. What is still is most frustrating to me, not only did they get every penny of their money back we still had profits left over. Then the IRS starting calling to collect on unpaid taxes related to the bankruptcies. That finished off any profits we made, we had no choice at that point but to close RFS.

To make matters worse, NBD then notified us that they were also pulling our line of credit at RAVE Computer, and we had 120 days to pay them in full. The first thing they did is put a lien on all of our receivables and we had to get approval from them on any purchase or payment we made. The second was to discontinue any payments for services they did not consider essential. We were audited every week by a company they assigned who charged us ridiculous fees.

Thank God for a professional group that I had joined called TEC, which later became Vistage. Thecontacts that I made including the managing partner of an accounting firm who had great relationships with reasonable banks – who also became a good friend, along with my TEC chair. The accounting firm put together forecasts and proposed operating costs. The bank trusted their recommendations about RAVE and we paid off NBD.

All of this financial turmoil had come as a shock to me; the company had never lost money, never had a layoff, and only made money. By the time the dust settled RAVE was a new company, we went from 70 employees to 24 and had a whole new business plan. In retrospect, it was healthy that it had happened. I received the equivalent of a four-year degree in street smarts. Within one quarter we were profitable again. I am proud to say that RAVE was 13 years old then, and now we are in our 30th year. We did have another setback between then and now but that is another story.

So how did RAVE get into the Defense Industry? Next month.

Rick’s Reflections – July

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Rick’s Reflections

continued

Our first “design win” was with SPAWAR. The solution involved Sun Microsystems products.  As the word spread of our accomplishments within “Sun Federal” (SUNFED), they referred us into additional opportunities.

The SPAWAR opportunity was related to radar installations on the US West Coast. The objective was to track anything incoming across the Pacific Ocean at a certain height above the water and/or water wave levels. They wanted to take advantage of an older Sun technology SPARCserver 390. The chassis for the system was quite large and heavy. The system itself was divided into two bays. One side had the processing/connectivity and some data storage, the other side was all data storage. Drives were quite bulky back then, the system supported 2.1 GB drives which were 5.25 inches square and 14 inches long. The storage bay could handle four or eight drives.  The 2.1 GB drives at the time sold for $4,600 each. Keep in mind that today you can get a 16 GB thumb drive (8 times more data) for as little as $5.

SPAWAR did not need the storage bay, thus wanted us to effectively cut the system in half. That was quite a challenge; it involved taking off a side panel removing the storage bays, redesigning the systems cabling harnesses, connectors, a new back panel and moving/removing excess power supplies. Then the side panel was reattached. Plus is had to meet MIL-SPEC requirements related to vibration, power distribution and thermals.

We had lots of support from Sun, SPAWAR engineers and other partners. We got it done and it performed flawlessly. RAVE was now spec’d into our first Defense program. We had earned the capability/reputation as a custom system Defense contractor. We continue to sell “purpose built” systems to this day.

A follow up opportunity was to take what were desktop systems and rackmount them into cabinets. They also had to meet MIL-SPEC requirements. The design spec/solution not only allowed RAVE to get spec’d into another program, it turned into a bigger overall market opportunity. I estimate that RAVE ultimately sold over 10 thousand systems that were variations of that original requirement.

I could give hundreds of examples of requirements that we have received and filled for “purpose built” systems. A recent example was to create what we call the MOBILBEAST VR. The requirement was for a virtual reality based portable solution to be used for simulated training. RAVE designed a small form factor system with 22 cores and an integrated graphics processing unit. It is capable of detailed, real time, high speed rendering and is integrated with a head mounted display, into a ruggedized carrying case. Our solution exceeded the original requirements.

Today, RAVE is spec’d into dozens of Defense related programs and sells to well over 100 Defense contractors per year.  Defense business is responsible for more than half of our annual revenue.

Rick’s Reflections – August

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Rick’s Reflections

continued

Back in the 80’s and early 90’s, technical manuals, configuration guides and pricing information were not readily available. The major computer OEM’s held onto that information as if they were trade secrets. If you needed support you went directly to them or an authorized value-added reseller (VAR). RAVE found ways to gain access and we became subject matter experts. It was one of our competitive advantages. It was also a competitive advantage to have regional offices as companies placed a lot of value on doing business locally or at least regionally. For about 15 years RAVE’s marketing would highlight our East Coast, Southwest, West Coast and European offices with Michigan as our headquarters.  RAVE does still maintain a “local presence” in Orlando, Florida, though a now long-term consulting relationship.

The internet didn’t become commercialized until 1995, even then it took years before its adoption, especially at the small business level. It also took years for data to be added and indexed within the net. Search engines were very clunky. Google listed “Beta version” at the top of its webpage until 1999. Google, as we know it now, from an appearance perspective (kind of) did not exist until early 2001. In 1999 Google only had approximately 80 million pages indexed that could be searched. Today it is billions of pages and growing every day. Microsoft wasn’t even close to having a viable search engine product in those early years. Google Chrome wasn’t introduced until 2008.

Today information is a commodity; it is readily available to anyone from anywhere. Finding information is not a problem. Trusting the information you find, that gives someone the best overall solution, is the biggest problem. From a computer hardware/software integration perspective many sources will tell you what is compatible but you often can’t trust if the solution they suggest is also the most optimal. Especially if performance is a requirement.

Our regional offices served our purposes well at the time. Our methodology to opening an office was to identify a region then find a person who had both technical and business development skills. During most of those years RAVE also would sell used computer equipment, the local offices also helped us source equipment.

The old-fashioned concept of meeting your customer face to face and shaking hands is still effective and for some the only way to do business. However, now face to face can be done via digital services. In B2B, the concept of buying locally is not so much a consideration anymore. People go to national distributors and/or Amazon Prime as an example.  Even related to services, a growing number of companies are comfortable with the concept of cloud computing and may not even know where their software and data is being stored.

Sometimes I can’t help but feel that the days of regional offices were the good old days. I enjoyed visiting the offices and with them their local customers. I can, but won’t tell you in print, a few stories visiting the office in Amsterdam. I grew up in a little midwestern town and had no idea what I would encounter when I visited there. I was very conservative so no worries, but boy was it eye opening.

Today, other than our consultant in Orlando, we operate out of our headquarters in Sterling Heights. We attend and exhibit at trade shows and events around the country as well as make customer visits. Maybe in the future we will just teleport where ever we need to go. Actually, not me, that is for the next generations of RAVEr’s.

RAVE NVMe

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RAVE NVMe

continued

RAVE currently has multiple C4ISR customers that have made the transition to the faster speeds. Additionally, our Signal Processing customers have been taking advantage of the performance increase. They are now able to detect, identify and geolocate signals throughout the electromagnetic spectrum at NVMe speeds.

We are in the process of building an aircraft deployed High Speed Recording server that will take advantage of the faster speeds NVMe SSD’s offer. This 4U Rackmount Server will have the capability to support up to 8 Removable NVMe drives.

The chart below highlights performance gains of NVMe over more traditional SSDs.

 

Performance Measurements and Results
  Measurement NVMe SSD SATA3/SAS3 SSD NVMe Improvement
Bandwidth vs. SATA3 128K Sequential Read 2788.77 MB/s 470.60 MB/s 5.93x
128K Sequential Write 1838.98 MB/s 453.33 MB/s 4.06x
Bandwidth vs. SAS3 128K Sequential Read 2788.77 MB/s 980.34 MB/s 2.84x
128K Sequential Write 1838.98 MB/s 421.25 MB/s 4.37x
Latency vs. SATA3 4K Sequential Read 15.9 µs 47.3 µs 2.97x
4K Sequential Write 17.6 µs 51.4 µs 2.92x
Latency vs. SAS3 4K Sequential Read 15.9 µs 114.1 µs 7.18x
4K Sequential Write 17.6 µs 109.853 µs 6.24x

 

RAVE Local

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RAVE and NAMC and DATC

continued

RAVE is a non-traditional contractor, and can help the NAMC/DATC community in three ways:

  1. RAVE can deliver full system solutions for your onboard compute power requirements for your prototype;
  2. RAVE can provide computer hardware solutions for high-end design and analysis to help you develop your prototype; and
  3. RAVE can offer compute systems to effectively demonstrate your digital prototype.


RAVE has earned the status of “Elite Solution Provider” with NVIDIA® and we are one of less than ten companies globally with this status. Similarly, RAVE has earned Platinum Partner status with Intel®. These relationships, in addition to others, allow us to provide bleeding-edge technology solutions using the latest and greatest graphics and processing hardware.


Visit our website to learn about our capabilities. We would welcome the opportunity to learn more about what your team is working on and to discuss if we can help you solve your compute challenges.

R Darter – April

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Rick’s Reflections

(continued)

Sun came up with a new strategy, creating a “remanufactured reseller program.” The concept was that Sun would choose two ‘”Authorized Remanufactured Resellers” who would then work within their sales channel to find new homes for the systems. The resellers would purchase the hardware at prices closer to 40-50% percent off list price then could mark it up to what the market would bear.

We tracked down the person who was in charge of the new program who said Sun would be willing to entertain applications from interested parties; however they had already identified several good candidates on their own. RAVE was an on the outside “slim chance.” Not discouraged, I was fairly aggressive in suggesting that we should be considered and that I would like to personally meet “Lee” and present our case, I believe he reluctantly accepted so I took off to Sunnyvale with our VP of Sales.

Back in those days, young executives carried fancy briefcases and printed reports came off of large printers that used green bar paper. So with a presentation and a report 4 inches thick we went to meet our contact. We were disappointed to learn “that Lee was not in his office” when we arrived for our 10 am appointment; “something called him away” and they told us “that we would have to come back.” We said we would wait for him to return and we waited for hours.  Finally a woman came down to see us and asked if she could help; we explained our situation. Turns out that “Bunny” was a VP, Lee worked for her, and the “Authorized Remanufactured Reseller” program was her idea. She explained that by now “they had interviewed several companies and had made up their minds; however had not notified their choices yet.” In addition, she said “she had never heard of RAVE and felt that we were not qualified.”

I asked her if she was involved in the auction, and it turns out that she had actually managed it. It was an experiment that failed. I asked her if she remembered the company that had come in and bought $800k of the equipment with a credit card. Bunny said she remembered the situation very well, but did not know anything about the company who had purchased the computer systems.

Here was the close: I opened my briefcase, pulled out my 4 inch report and explained to her that the company behind the $800k deal was RAVE. The report contained every item we bought, broken down into tag numbers including their serial numbers, and the names of every company we sold it to, where and when we sold it. We caught her completely by surprise – she was genuinely impressed. I explained to her that we were experts in computer hardware integration, reconfiguration and testing. Also that we sold every bit of the $800k inventory within 90 days – to small and medium sized companies – and did not interfere with any sales activities between the Sun salesforce and their “named accounts.”

By the time we left her office Bunny committed to RAVE that we would be one of two Sun US based “Sun Authorized Remanufactured Resellers.” By the time that program ended eight years later I would estimate we sold over $100 million in products out of that program alone. That was just the beginning of our relationship with Sun Microsystems. RAVE also became an “Authorized Reseller” in several other programs including “SunSoft” (Solaris and Trusted Solaris Linux based operating systems), “STB” (Sun Technology Base – the ability to buy Sun products at the board and component level versus systems level) and as a “VAR” (Value Added Reseller for new product and services). RAVE had now grown to 70 employees.

Because of our unique status with Sun we were exposed to many of the Sun Executives including its President, Scott McNealy. A whole separate story, but that relationship included spending four days at Scott’s home at Pebble Beach, where I took my Dad and we watched (with many others) the entire 2000 US Open, where Tiger Woods destroyed his competition.

More next month.

 

(above)
Our ten year anniversary – left to right: Rick Darter, Ken Gorinski and Dennis Asselin.

NVIDIA VR Ready Workstations

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Accelerate your workflow with RAVE’s VR READY MOBILEBEAST GO, MOBILEBEAST VR and RENDERBEAST.

 

With the latest NVIDIA® Quadro® Series GPUs combined with insanely fast Intel® Xeon® processors, you can create the ultimate in portable and workstation deployments. Available bundled with HTC Vive® and Oculus Rift®.

RAVE produces three of the most powerful workstations in the world… RENDERBEAST, MOBILEBEAST VR and MOBILEBEAST. All are NVIDIA® VR READY, and positioned to tackle your most challenging workflows.

The MOBILEBEAST VR is the ultimate small form-factor workstation in the world. Securely packaged and designed to meet all of your computing needs. The liquid-cooled system lets you set up a VR studio almost anywhere. Included in the custom Pelican® travel case is the MOBILEBEAST VR, an HTC Vive™ Pro Kit, keyboard, mouse and all the cables and connectors you need.

RAVE’s liquid-cooled RENDERBEAST workstation integrates NVIDIA Quadro RTX deep learning and ray tracing features to deliver the perfect balance of capacity, performance and efficiency. The NVIDIA Quadro® delivers the performance, extreme memory capacity, and scalability that designers, engineers, architects, and scientists need to create, build, and solve the impossible.

The MOBILEBEAST GO packs an amazing amount of compute and GPU power into a chassis not much bigger than a toaster. Don’t let its small size fool you – it can handle any CPU/GPU combination you can throw at it.

Configure it with a powerful Intel® Xeon® processor and a NVIDIA® GPU.

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RENDERBEAST

MOBILEBEAST VR

MOBILEBEAST GO

NVIDIA RTX continued

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NVIDIA RTX

continued

NVIDIA RTX is the dawn of a new approach.

Consider this: a 50% improvement from one generation of technology to the next is considered extremely laudable in the industry. When it comes to rendering computer graphics, RTX technology can provide as much as a 600% improvement. This is possible because NVIDIA took a novel approach by applying AI to the problem, ultimately reducing the number of calculations required to render an image by equipping their processors with the ability to inference several additional results for every calculation processed. When applied, this new method can provide an improvement in rendering performance most experts would have expected to wait 8-10 years for.

Of course with any new technology breakthrough, the ecosystem and user base must make significant changes in order to leverage it. This has been true with every major technology event – from the invention of paper to the dawn of the internet. People needed to learn a language to use paper and networks had to be installed for the internet to become effective. Smartphones didn’t appeal to many people until apps were written to provide meaning and usefulness. Such is the case with RTX, because while the technology and the hardware both exist today, software must be rewritten to use it.

So if you run into someone downplaying the true impact of NVIDIA’s new RTX technology, smile to yourself and be patient. RTX really is a big deal.

NVIDIA RTX – September Newsletter

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NVIDIA RTX – September Newsletter 

continued

Matt Moy, RAVE Senior Systems Engineer elaborated: “The most significant and exciting advancements in technology often come as a result of discovering a whole new approach. Generally speaking, if we can see a 50% performance improvement between architectures we are pretty happy.  Seeing NVIDIA demonstrate a 600% improvement in ray tracing performance with their new Turing GPUs makes it abundantly clear that this innovation will be disruptive to the way we render graphics going forward.

NVIDIA’s focus and success in optimizing their GPUs for AI, Scientific Computing, and Data Analytics have allowed for them to make an even greater investment in the core technology that is also used for rendering graphics.”

It runs on NVIDIA Volta and Turing architectures that can take advantage of NVLink on Quadro GPUs. The latest products to support NVIDIA RTX are the Quadro RTX 8000, RTX 6000, and RTX 5000. For more on this new product, check out NVIDIA’s blog.

NVIDIA RTX

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More on NVIDIA’s RTX

Turing is NVIDIA’s most important innovation in computer graphics in more than a decade and makes possible a new generation of applications that will simulate the physical world at unprecedented speeds. The result? Incredible designs, highly realistic simulations and stunning visual effects —faster than ever before.

 

THE GRAPHICS PLATFORM OF THE FUTURE

The NVIDIA RTX Platform is the world’s most advanced graphics platform. Powered by the NVIDIA Turing GPU architecture, the RTX Platform enables designers and artists to create amazing content and stunning visualizations faster than ever before. NVIDIA has enhanced its RTX development platform with new AI, ray tracing and simulation SDKs, to take full advantage of Turing’s capabilities. Read more in our article on RTX in this month’s newsletter.

NEXT GENERATION VIRTUAL REALITY

NVIDIA Quadro RTX brings new levels of realism to VR with the power to create the most compelling, immersive environments. In addition, its built-in, industry-standard VirtualLink simplifies connectivity to current and next-gen head-mounted displays using a single cable.

NVIDIA TURING–OPTIMIZED SDKS

Learn which developer software applications will take advantage of the new Turing GPU architecture.

Talk to us about how we can implement this with your hardware needs!