An Interview with Laurent Gharda, LinMin - Data Center Automation Software Provider


Laurent Gharda,
CEO and Founder of LinMin Corp.

HostReview had a chance recently to sit down with Laurent Gharda, CEO and founder of LinMin. Based in Redwood City, California, LinMin is an emerging player in the data center automation market. The company just released the latest version of its flagship solution, LinMin Bare Metal Provisioning Release 6.0.


HostReview: Laurent, thank you for taking the time to speak with HostReview. To get us started, can you please provide us with an overview of LinMin?


Laurent: It’s my pleasure to be here. LinMin Bare Metal Provisioning and Imaging is a data center automation solution for deploying and recovering servers and virtual machines. Server “provisioning” means a remote, unattended installation a Linux or Windows system, as if someone were installing by hand, with a DVD, and answering questions along the way. “Imaging” means remotely copying, restoring or cloning the entire contents of a disk. LinMin Bare Metal combines both capabilities, providing hosting data center administrators complete control over all server provisioning in a predictable, repeatable and scalable environment.


The challenge is to make all this possible without having to formally train system administrators and plan lengthy implementations.  We’ve made LinMin Bare Metal simple to install and trivial to use, either with a browser interface or within the customers other hosting automation software. This ease of use and integration is part of what separates our solution from our competitors.


HostReview: Why did you start LinMin?


Laurent: I believed that for too long, the hosting data center had been viewed by vendors as identical to the corporate data center. Corporate data center software decisions are typically driven by a CIO who must also think of managing thousands of PCs, data base migration, compliance and numerous other facets of IT, so over time vendors developed solutions that catered to these various needs. This resulted in very complex, expensive software that takes months or years to fully implement.


Hosting companies just don’t need that battleship complexity! Needed are nimble solutions that perform a well-defined job very well, and that can be easily integrated into existing business processes and software without disrupting hosting data center operations.


So in 2007, we came up with LinMin Bare Metal Provisioning and Imaging. It lets smaller hosts immediately implement remote server provisioning and recovery (using our browser interface), and larger hosting/cloud companies to completely automate server provisioning and recovery from within their existing data center applications (using our application programming interface.) And because we’re talking about the same LinMin solution in both cases, smaller hosts can grow into having the same provisioning scalability and automation that larger hosts enjoy.


HostReview: Who are your customers and why do they choose LinMin over others?


Laurent: Around 90% of our customers are hosting companies, from AT&T where LinMin is implemented in multiple data centers to small hosts with only a few hundred systems, and everything in between. We also have customers in other sectors, such as financial (like Prudential) and manufacturing (such as Kodak).


Customers buy from LinMin because they have identified a pain point and want an affordable solution to address it as quickly and efficiently as possible. For some hosts, the issue is reducing operational costs while growing their infrastructure at a steady pace. For others, their growth plans are extremely aggressive, and they want to double/triple their business every year while keeping their staff sizes the same. Either way, LinMin is a fit.


HostReview: What's new in the latest version of LinMin, which as I understand, was released just a few days ago?


Laurent: Yes – we’ve already seen tremendous excitement about the latest version of LinMin, which was pushed to customers last week and is now publicly available. Our 6.0 release is a big milestone for the company, as it incorporates what we’ve learned in numerous production deployments worldwide. Among the list of new capabilities, two really stand out.


First, cloud-enablement, which we accomplished by extending our first generation programming interface to now have security layers, a new imaging interface and many provisioning enhancements. Second, we introduced an optional component, WPM (The Windows Provisioning Module), letting hosts deploy Windows Server 2008. WPM also provisions Windows 7 using the same GUI or API that’s been used for years to deploy Linux and Windows Server 2003.


The timing of WPM is perfect, because until now, customers didn’t really want W2K8, so hosts were content doing proof of concept installations by hand. Just as hosting customers are starting to ask for Windows Server 2008, out comes WPM.  And then there’s a long list of other goodies, such as remote rescue system deployment, security over public networks, and much more. We could literally spend hours discussing what’s new and improved in Release 6.0.



HostReview: Where do you see LinMin in 1 year or 3 years?


Laurent: For the next couple of years, I see 3 vectors for growth.


First, in our area of core competency, the hosting data center, you’ll see broader LinMin adoption as the word spreads.


Second, you’ll see new partnerships, where control panel, orchestrator, monitoring and cloud software vendors want to integrate provisioning and imaging capabilities to their applications. This will help LinMin broaden its base as we get introduced to customers we’d otherwise never meet.


Third, and without any product development or distraction from our core business, I see OEMs wanting to avoid years of R&D and instead bundle into their software, hardware or hybrid offerings the complete LinMin solution, reskinned to the OEM’s brand. We’re already seeing this kind of unsolicited interest and are in contract negotiations with a couple of OEMs.


HostReview: Laurent, thank you for offering our readers a glimpse into your unique solution at LinMin. We wish you the best of luck in your efforts.


Laurent: Thank you – I really appreciate you taking the time to learn more about our solution.

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