Supermicro

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Supermicro is an American company that manufactures, sells, and supports computer hardware primarily for the data center environment. It was initially a Silicon Valley startup in 1993, with its headquarters in San Jose, California. Most of the company’s systems are sold under the Supermicro brand name, but some products are sold under alternative brands such as Supersemi.

In 2016, Supermicro overtook HPE in sales with an estimated 18% market share.

Supermicro was founded in 1993 by James Morris and Jack Wong. Morris was a former engineer at Sun Microsystems and developed his own custom motherboards for personal computers he manufactured in his garage. Wong was also a former Sun Microsystems engineer who started his own company, “Americold Technologies,” which did production outsourcing for Sun Microsystems’ headquarters. In the summer of 1993, Morris and Wong bought a small semiconductor company called “Vital Communications” which specialized in equipment for the ATM and data communications markets. Robert Veatch founded vital, and it was a tool design and manufacturing arms race between Sun Microsystems, Microsoft, AT&T (Alcatel), Lucent Technologies, NCR Corporation, 3Com Corporation (now known as Broadcom), and others. At the time, Morris saw that venture capital funding was becoming scarce, so he financed some of his ventures with his credit cards.

The company grew from a “garage startup” in the early 90s to a multi-billion dollar global firm with more than 1,000 employees in 2016. The company’s revenue was $1.56 billion in 2015, and it continues to grow with an income of $1.6 billion and an 18% market share as of 2016. By 2016, Supermicro was the largest manufacturer of motherboards in the world and controlled 18% market share, up from 11% in 2012. In addition to manufacturing, they also design chips that they give away to customers at no charge, with no licensing fees. Some significant examples of these products are the Intel C602 chipset used in many Intel server chipsets, the LSI SAS 9201 controller used in some SAS SSDs, the LSI 2222-4 controller with chip sets for RAID levels 0 to 6, and HBA function for SCSI drives. It is also one of the few companies manufacturing a SATA AHCI chipset. The company’s primary competitor is HPE.

In April 2018, Supermicro filed a lawsuit against Inspur Technology Group Inc., a subsidiary of China’s Inspur Group Limited (IF), which they accused of copying their technology. In the suit, Supermicro stated Inspur had obtained the source code for its motherboards from one of Supermicro’s employees in 2013, who had stolen it from the US firm. Since then, Inspur has developed a range of products that contain this source code, including “the X10DRT-HF platform based on Intel Xeon processors and Intel C602 chipsets”.

Supermicro sells server systems designed to run their software optimally, but they also have a small line of workstations. Its main competitors in the server market include HPE and Dell. Their servers are sold to electronics companies such as Apple Inc. and the military. They are also the world’s most prominent computer manufacturers and sellers of VMWare. They are also a supplier of many Unix operating systems, including Solaris, FreeBSD, Linux, and AIX.

Supermicro server systems mainly come with Intel Xeon processors, SCU, NVidia Tesla GPUs, and NVidia Quadro GPUs. Some of their smaller high-density models come with Intel Xeon E5-2600 V3 chipsets, while larger ones use E7-8850 v3 chipsets. Their smaller, low-density models use Intel NUC parts.

In the early 2000s, Supermicro started releasing server motherboards, the first being the SYS-1019-20B. This motherboard was based on a very old Intel PIIX4 chipset but had a built-in RAID controller and was able to run a dual Xen virtual machine and a Linux OS. Supermicro also rebranded X10 Dri or X10DRL, which was based on an old Intel PIIX4K chipset but had two mini PCIe slots so that it could run two virtual machines simultaneously or provide two physical PCIe cards. One card would be used for the CPU, the other for the GPUs, and so on.

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