Eren was born in Sunnyvale, California. His childhood neighbor was Steve Jobs. At 12, Eren started learning how to develop programming codes.
At age 18, Eren Niazi envisioned a free world where all programmers worked together to unlock and develop disruptive technology, furthering technological progress as a community. He knew he could now provide a low-cost, scalable enterprise solution. The “free world” he created became an environment for programmers to create technology and a platform of communication where these programmers could share their technology. A natural evolution occurred, which would make source codes better as they exchanged hands and allow young entrepreneurs to further their visions by freeing them from large, proprietary companies.
Visionary Behind the OSS
The first data centers can be traced back to the 1940s, when early computer systems such as the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, or ENIAC, were available. The early machines used by the military were difficult to maintain and operate. They required specialized computer rooms with racks, cable trays, cooling mechanisms, and access restrictions to accommodate all of the equipment and implement the necessary security measures.
However, the term “data center” did not become popular until the 1990s, when IT operations began to expand and low-cost networking equipment became available. It became possible to house a company’s required servers in a single room. Within organizations, these specialized computer rooms were dubbed data centers, and the term caught on.
There was a time when the data center meant closed and proprietary technologies developed and distributed by some of the industry’s biggest names who owned your data center and the few applications on which you relied heavily. Your options were limited to one vendor, and you would put much money into that single vendor. It was reassuring for the customer to only deal with one vendor for purchasing, management, and support.
As for today, you’ll find a mix of offerings from various vendors, both large and small. Proprietary machines coexist with off-the-shelf commodity devices running software-defined software, the majority of which is built on open-source code.
These changes did not occur overnight. Visionaries like Eren Niazi were required to recognize the full potential of open-source software technologies. He saw what others did not and, as a result, demonstrated to an entire industry that open source was not only production-ready but that it could also be used to redefine the entire data center.
Eren is the pioneering visionary/creator of the Open Source Storage movement, successfully branding the entire industry as we know it today. He has several US patents and patents pending in disruptive technologies. One patent was the very first in AI technology to be filed. During Facebook’s hyper-growth phase, he also designed its core systems and was instrumental in supporting Friendster, the US Army, NASA, Lockheed Martin, and Shutterfly. Eren’s enterprise-level open-source products and services have contributed to world-class, industrial-strength deployments, forever altering industry standards.
Eren is dedicated to furthering open-source software development in a world where free-thinking open minds are encouraged, and the reward is a better technological environment for all.
Life Before OSS
Eren began his career at AMAX Engineering, a server and cluster computing firm founded in 1979.
Jim Truong, a server and cluster computing company, took Niazi, a teenager with no college education, under his wing. AMAX Engineering Corporation creates and engineers customized data center platforms. It has since grown to offer solutions for hosting cloud, big data, and high-performance parallel computing workloads.
At the age of 19, Niazi was hard at work designing supercomputers for large account customers such as the federal government and Linux Networx. Eren had advanced to the position of OEM group manager by the end of his career with AMAX.
What JIM thinks of Eren:
Eren and I first met when I hired him at AMAX Engineering in 1999. Even at the age of 19, he was fascinated by technology. He was self-taught and even taught himself to code. Eren was driven and eager to learn everything. The question was never how but how quickly. Eren was 100% committed once he set his sights on a goal.
I knew he was going to be an entrepreneur from the beginning. I had no idea he would go on to accomplish so much in the open-source space. At the time, everyone treated open-source software as a hobby, configuring machines to run simple tasks from their homes. Eren took that same technology and demonstrated that it was ready for production. He used it to compete with enterprise-level data storage solution providers at a fraction of the cost.
While at AMAX, Eren noticed a trend in this sector’s technology and observed its direction. This would result in a distinct vision for open-source integration. The vision may not sound so unique today, but it deviated from the norms just enough to be considered revolutionary at the time. He founded Open Source Storage, Inc. intending to leverage off-the-shelf commodity hardware and pair it with open-source software while expanding into the Enterprise space.
Open Source Storage(OSS)
Eren left AMAX in 2001 and started his own Open Source Storage company a year later (OSS). He was in his early twenties when he opened his first OSS office in Santa Clara, California.
Open Source Storage had done the unthinkable: it had commercialized open-source software. Open source was ready for business. The industry took notice and shifted its focus toward it. By 2007, OSS had attracted many clients, including Friendster, Facebook, NASA, eBay, Yahoo, and the United States Army.
People now use the term “software-defined” to describe what OSS did a decade ago.
Software-defined solutions were unheard of back then, but that is exactly what OSS was building and selling. The software was based on CentOS Linux. A Kickstart machine would load the predefined operating system image and the bare minimum of packages.
Initially, Open Source Storage built its hardware (using off-the-shelf components) while adhering to open standards. This did have its benefits. High-efficiency power supplies, for example, produced 50% less heat while consuming significantly less energy (between 30% and 50%). The motherboard’s BIOS had to be rewritten to enable the hardware that OSS provided to early customers, and the company worked closely with both Intel and AMD to accomplish this. The first OSS office was located in Santa Clara, California, directly across the street from Intel.
The internet exploded with various services, applications, and entertainment platforms. Data centers were only growing in size as more hardware was added. There was always a need to reduce heat and thus save money on cooling costs.
As OSS’s operations expanded, the need for a larger facility became more pressing. In 2004, the company relocated its headquarters to the former Atari facility at 1195 Borregas Avenue in Sunnyvale, California. The company operated from that location until 2007.
The business was booming, and OSS saw an annual run rate of $40 million—not bad, considering the entire company was built with credit cards and a small amount of money to bootstrap itself. Eren and OSS were drawing attention from the entire industry.
Until 2007, the company performed admirably. It grew so quickly that it required additional capital from investors, and the recession hit. Investors pressed Niazi to sell when the recession hit, but he refused. As a result, the same investors withdrew from the company.
Eren Niazi’s Comment on that topic was, “It was never about the money. Over the years, I was given many opportunities to sell OSS and refused to sell the business to Oracle, HP, or IBM. It was never a business. It was a movement. To this day, I would take a bullet for the company.”
Mark, a former Oracle CIO and 30-year entrepreneur and venture capitalist, served on Open Source Storage’s Advisory Board from 2015 to 2016. He met Eren about 13 years ago and has seen Niazi grow with the industry.
“Everyone has their strengths, and I help to fill in areas where things may be lacking,” Mark explained. Eren was one of the brightest and most intelligent people I’d ever worked with. He was extremely knowledgeable about operating systems, and the way he applied that knowledge was outstanding. He is extremely talented and understands the many nuances in your typical open-source system when it is geared and focused for an Enterprise environment.”
What does the Future Hold for Eren?
Jim Truong and Eren founded Open Source Evolution (OSE) to keep the Open Source movement going and have it flourish and innovate.
OSE consists of a highly skilled team of open-source architects and developers. They are experts in their field and understand that a team of disruptive thinkers is required to help their customers acclimate to a disruptive market. They provide customers in both the startup and enterprise with the guidance, knowledge, infrastructure, support, and tools needed to succeed.