CIQ Gets $26 Million to Support Linux HPC


By: Mary Jander

A company called CIQ is roaring out of obscurity to claim status as a leader in the area of cloud-native high-performance computing (HPC) based on open-source technology.

This week, the 40-person firm, headquartered in Reno, Nevada, is taking $26 million in Series A venture funding, adding to $7 million in funding it gleaned in earlier years.

CIQ is re-landing on the tech scene thanks to several factors. First off is CEO Gregory Kurtzer, who helped develop CentOS (Community Enterprise Linux Operating System), an open-source Linux-based operating system favored for HPC. Development of CentOS was taken over by IBM Red Hat in 2014, only to be abandoned by that company in 2020. Undeterred, Kurtzer took over development of the OS, renaming it Rocky Linux in honor of another CentOS co-founder, Rocky McGough. He moved the project into a separate open-source entity called the Rocky Enterprise Software Foundation.

In 2020, Kurtzer moved to form a corporation that would exist alongside the Rocky Linux project, offering support and service but not commercializing or interfering with Rocky Linux’s ongoing development as an open-source toolkit. Enter CIQ, which started life as Ctrl IQ but quickly morphed into its present form.

And the phone’s been ringing off the hook, Kurtzer said, particularly among large enterprises (think telecom, oil and gas, aerospace, hyperscalers, etc.), which account for a lion’s share of what CIQ says is a quarter-million Rocky Linux downloads per month.

CIQ Supports Rocky Linux As Is

As noted, CIQ does not offer a proprietary version of Rocky Linux. Instead, it directly supports the open-source OS, while adding other functionality for performance and security.

“Every machine, every file, every container, every component is validated and trusted with guaranteed supply-chain security,” said CEO Kurtzer. In addition, CIQ offers performance-enhancement, cluster management, provisioning, imaging at scale, containers, and multicloud capabilities via its own patented implementations of open-source tools that include Warewulf (for clustering), Apptainer (formerly Singularity, for HPC container management), and Fuzzball (for federated computing).

The end result of these efforts is what CIQ calls a secured, “enhanced software infrastructure stack” that operates from bare metal through multicloud environments and everything in between.

Google Latches Onto CIQ

Among the companies knocking on CIQ’s door is Google, which adopted Rocky Linux as a replacement for CentOS when Red Hat pulled the plug. In April 2022, CIQ announced an alliance with Google to offer support for Rocky Linux. Customers have the option of obtaining support for Rocky Linux on Google Cloud by contacting either CIQ or Google.

Notably, CIQ also supports Rocky Linux on Azure and AWS.

CIQ doesn’t charge for support via core or device. Instead, it offers tiered service plans based on service level agreements (SLAs) with individuals, teams, and enterprises. The model works better for today’s multicloud and HPC environments, CIQ says. “We’re building next-generation customer service. It’s not legacy, it’s not vendor-serving,” said Kurtzer.

An Ally Now Competes

CIQ faces a wealth of challenges, not the least of which comes from former ally Red Hat, which offers its own metal-to-multicloud solutions, with IBM (NYSE: IBM) support behind it. Also in the space are VMware (NYSE: VMW) and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (NYSE: HPE), along with virtually any other firm involved in HPC. All of these companies have formidable support systems that include help for developers.

On the plus side, the popularity of open-source technology strengthens CIQ’s pitch. And demand for a fully supported CentOS replacement should prove to be an attractive option for large enterprise customers. Expect to hear more on this front in the coming months.

CIQ’s latest round was led by Two Bear Capital.