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Maguay, an endurance model on the local IT market

24 Februarie 2020

The survival of local IT companies in a globalized market, dynamic and dominated by external suppliers is increasingly difficult: many disappear, some are forcibly taken over and assimilated into multinational conglomerates and less and less are holding on. In this context, the "case" of Maguay, a company with 27 years of activity, constant growth in turnover and the portfolio of solutions and customers, deserves proper attention. We conducted a brief analysis of the winning strategy with Corvin Pughin, founder of Maguay.

27 years of activity is a result with which few Romanian IT companies can take pride in the present moment. How difficult is it to stay on top of a local market for hardware solutions dominated by outside producers?

If we refer to the fate of many important players in the local market who have disappeared in the meantime, it is obvious that staying in the top is extremely difficult. And this is because we are constantly struggling with the huge volumes and huge marketing budgets of the multinationals and, in particular, with the immense force of their lobby on our market. And yet, despite these challenges, over the years we have been able to be constantly present in IDC s "Top 5 Server Vendors".

What were the main competitive advantages that allowed you access to this status?

This is a combination of factors, such as consistent positioning with top partners - leaders such as Intel, with whom we have an extremely important strategic partnership - constant adoption of high quality, state-of-the-art solutions that have enabled us to achieve numerous technological awards at national level, as well as the company s behavior in the market, characterized by seriousness and a high level of business ethics. Our strategy of approaching the market has been, from the beginning, "Alongside the customers". We have sought to provide our clients with access - permanently and at a fair price - to the advantages of the newest technologies available, but also to solutions already validated in the market, standardized and non-proprietary. Maguay server or storage systems can be configured according to the client s needs, benefiting from scalable and flexible architectures that allow them to evolve with the development of their business. This is why, in order not to limit the freedom of choice and development of our clients, we pay close attention to avoiding “vendor lock-in” approaches. In fact, the only type of dependency we want to induce on the companies we work with is related to the appreciation of our professional services. Thus we came to be known abroad and we hope that we will be even more known on the Romanian market, because we want to be not only a success story about which local entrepreneurs to read, but also a technology provider for them.

Consistency as a business principle

How much has the partnership with Intel helped you in this regard?

The partnership with Intel has been and is one of the most important we have. Maguay has the highest competencies - Intel Technology Provider Platinum - and is the only Intel HPC Data Center Specialist in Romania. For years, as long as there was an Intel Board of Advisors, Maguay took a seat on this board, for the EMEA area, and actively participates in all the high-level events organized by Intel, such as the DSG Executive Summit.

In recent years, AMD has relaunched in the competition on the server processor market. Are you planning to launch Maguay servers equipped with EPYC series processors?

AMD has indeed come up with a number of high-performance products, but those many years that it has been on the sidelines cannot be recovered so quickly. We can easily build solutions based on AMD technology, but it s a matter of choice and loyalty to Intel s partnership. And one of the most important features of our business strategy was consistency. Therefore, we do not change as the wind blows.

Technological exclusives

In terms of partnerships and consistency, last year you became NVIDIA Preferred Solution ^ Provider for HPC, AI and Deep Learning solutions.

The partnership with NVIDIA is not really new, but this new certification "labels" us as a dedicated provider for dedicated AI and Deep Learning solutions. Maguay was the official importer for NVIDIA Quadro professional solutions before Tesla and DGX, and now we have the opportunity to deliver NVIDIA DGX turnkey solutions or build Maguay hardware and parallel processing boards for NVIDIA Tesla, depending on needs, applications and especially the budget of the beneficiary.

How relevant are these certifications on the local market?

The computing power of NVIDIA GPUs and the ability to perform parallel tasks quickly drew our attention and determined us to we better understand the evolution of new technologies, such as virtual reality, HPC and artificial intelligence, scientific modeling and autonomous machines. Nvidia Tesla GPUs are the perfect ingredient that allows a significant performance boost in the processing solutions proposed by Maguay, so this partnership was a natural one and we got the necessary skills in this regard, being the only NVIDIA Preferred Partner in Romania for Tesla solutions.

Do you already have marketed products that have integrated these new NVIDIA technologies?

Maguay has delivered multiGPU solutions based on NVIDIA Tesla V100 accelerators with NVLink / NVSwitch topology and GPUDirect RDMA technology. As NVIDIA partners, we benefit from competent support from the manufacturer and can deliver integrated solutions such as 4-16GPU NGC Ready servers, RTX servers, Edge Computing EGX Platforms, DGX-1, DGX-2 and complex keys for data centers, such as NVIDIA AIRI, which also include the all flash storage part (Pure Storage). Right now, we are seeing a growing demand for Deep Learning solutions, especially from technical universities and the academic environment. However, there are companies that have developed start-up projects in medicine, accelerating the process of discovering new drugs or interpreting diagnoses and predicting patients evolution, with the aim of streamlining and optimizing treatment. With this in mind, at the beginning of this year, we started to develop our skills in Quadro, vGPU (GPU on-premise and cloud accelerated VDI solutions) and Jetson technologies, so as to include the entire NVIDIA product portfolio in the Maguay solution portfolio.

Locally demand evolution

Because we mentioned new products, what servers did you launch last year?

Starting last year, we focused on HPC and AI solutions. Even our annual "No Time for Downtime" event focused on AI solutions. The piece of resistance was the equipment that underpinned the HPC solutions also delivered to CERN, an extremely efficient and scalable four-node eXpertServer (blade servers), in a 2U format.

In 2019 you also launched the first domestic solution of the Cloud-in-a-Box type. How was it received on the local market?

With skepticism, of course. But we are used to the fact that when we bring something new to the market - and not necessarily something innovative - we get hit by that "late majority" that represents most of the cycle of adoption of new technologies for business. But nonetheless, we also have those "innovators" and "early adopters", CloudBox already "powering" IT infrastructures to a good number of Maguay customers. This year we will complete the second generation of the solution, "CloudBox 2.0", whose functionalities will be made public at the right time.

Also last year you presented at the "No Time for Downtime" event a Maguay physical security solution which includes AI and Deep Learning components. What are the areas of applicability you are targeting with this solution in Romania?

The solution presented at NTFD is an intelligent monitoring equipment, which integrates advanced features for facial recognition and car numbers, queue management, crowds and car parking, intrusion detection and perimeter breach cases. The applications can be from the commercial field, where advanced analysis can be done on the customers of the shops, and up to the public sector, in order to improve the quality of life and the safety of the citizen. The most important aspect is that all these processes are performed in real time, thus reducing the effort of the human operator and greatly improving the results.

HPC supplier at European level

Will you also continue the collaboration with CERN on the delivery of HPC products?

Not only that we continue, but since 2017, we are developing it. We are especially appreciated for the proactivity and professionalism of the services provided, beyond the solutions provided.

Maguay also has the quality of ETP4HPC partner (European Technology Platform for High Performance)

recognition of competences and experience at European level?

The current trend in this area is the migration from the traditional HPC model - through High Performance Computing, understanding modeling, simulation and interconnection - to HPI (High Performance Infrastructure). Specifically to convergent High-Performance-Compute-Storage-Memory platforms, with convergent workload modeling, simulation, Data Analytics, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. The HPC or HPI industry is huge worldwide, and we are still very small. But we have the right solutions, Romanian characteristic intelligence and training in order to develop. Noting that the main destination of HPC Maguay solutions is not the internal market, but the external one, represented by clients such as CERN.

Because you made this point, how is the demand the demand for HPC systems locally?

The local demand for HPC solutions is directly influenced by two aspects. On the one hand, it is about the existence of R&D centers, an eloquent example in this sense being the platform from Măgurele, with its brilliant ELI-NP. On the other hand, it is the convergence of HPC systems with those of AI and Machine Learning / Deep Learning, which opens the scope of this kind of solutions not only to research centers, institutes and universities, but to all institutions and organizations that develops IT solutions based on AI.

Developments and directions of development

You have in the portfolio of solutions numerous technologies of last generation, but also solutions already validated in the market. What is the share of each business direction in Maguay s annual turnover?

The weight is relatively balanced. The sectors with the most significant developments are the servers (HPC) and the services offered in the projects provided by turn, in our capacity as the most recent integrator of information systems, an important one on the Romanian market.

What are the main directions of development you are considering for this year?

Our development directions are related to partnerships, specializations, but also to the evolution of the market. For the moment, they result somewhat from the ones listed above: HPI computing systems, as well as a closer focus on integrating complex IT systems, at the national level. We target both small and medium-sized companies, which have several dedicated servers, grouped in a rack, up to the big ones, with data centers of tens of thousands of equipment. Our specialists constantly obtain new certifications and renew the current ones, year by year, to be sure that we always manage to deliver the latest technology and the best services. The experience and skills acquired were also the main reasons why we were chosen as CERN providers: we were the company that managed to deliver equipment according to their needs, based on the latest Intel technologies and respecting the restrictions and requirements of over 30 pages of the specifications!

Historical challenges

You are one of the longest-standing IT&C companies active in the local market. What were the main challenges you faced during the nearly three decades of activity?

Maguay was founded in 1992 and has become an actor in the IT market since 1997, first as an importer of various components, then as a manufacturer of computer systems, integrator and software developer. Our course was similar to the general economic one of Romania after 1989, but a little more constant and predictable. The instability of the exchange rate and the difficult financing, but also the strong lobby of the multinational companies represented the main brakes for the development of local companies, like Maguay. However, we have consistently followed the principles mentioned above, in particular the observance of the high standards of business ethics that we have imposed.

How did you manage to deal with external competition in the 1990s?

At the beginning of our activity, the Romanian IT market was crowded with products of doubtful quality, and the main selling point was the price. Well, we set out to compete with the latest quality and technology at a fair price. Specifically, at a total cost (TCO) of acquisition and operation of three or five years, minimum! Of course, it was not easy, the market being immature and dominated by the "old" uncompetitive thinking: "Foreign work is a good thing, sir!" The fact that we can now talk about future plans from the position of a respected Romanian company not only in Romania, but also in the European Union and in other states of the world, shows that our choice was a correct one!

Victory after nine years of trials

You recently won a court victory after nine years of trials…

In 2011 we were involved in a criminal trial in Iasi, related to the implementation of the e-Learning project at UMF "Grigore T. Popa" in Iasi. It was about the oldest medical university in the country and one of the most successful e-Learning projects implemented in Romania, still in operation and now on the same infrastructure, meanwhile becoming the backbone of the university s IT system. From the beginning, we stated that we are "collateral victims" of a local war, in which the case prosecutor had planned the punishment of Professor Vasile Astărăstoae - rector of the University and president of the College of Physicians at that time, an important figure of the Iasi and Romanian intellectualities of the post-December period. Indicted for "having too much influence and power", Professor Astărăstoae was targeted as an "anti-corruption trophy". As a result, Maguay followed a long period with dozens of statements, with witnesses, written evidence, with judicial and extrajudicial expertise, with meetings up to 11 at night, with all the known exaggerations and shortcomings of the times. The end, however, was a fair one, as all the "defendants" were considered innocent by the Suceava Court of Appeal.

What was your strategy?

In summary, what is important for all those who can get in such situations: our referral was due to the refusal to cooperate with an abusive prosecutor, who simply requested that Professor Astărăstoae be denounced for a bribe claim - " we ll see which one “- in exchange for my non-involvement and Maguay s company in that scandal! Given that things were not like that, I did not follow the path requested abusively by the prosecutor and did not make the requested false accusations! I told the truth, I backed it all the way and the final decision proved us justice. Although, unfortunately, in real life, not in all situations it is revealed, the truth is the right approach. And no matter how hard it is, we must fight for the truth to the end!

What doesn t kill you, makes you stronger

How did Maguay business go in this period?

Business in these nine years has not been easy at all. But the proverb was true: "What doesn t kill you, makes you stronger", so that at this moment Maguay company is one of the most appreciated companies in the IT field, both as a local manufacturer and as an integrator of complex information systems, with major projects successfully implemented. Beyond the growth of the business during this difficult period, our greatest satisfaction was the fact that we had extraordinary support from most of our partners, who believed in our conduct and, beyond words, applied the principle of presumption of innocence. I am referring here to Intel, which in addition to maintaining and expanding the partnership, offered the company a place in the Board of Advisors, Oracle, Fortinet, Veritas and many others for which Maguay became Gold or Platinum partner during this period. A very important partnership for us during this period was the one with Banca Transilvania, at a time when most banks were waiting for the "solving of the criminal problems" to work with us, without any legal argument! Well, Banca Transilvania believed in our business potential, in our ethics and innocence. They have rolled up their sleeves, got to work and offered us solutions to all the challenges, proving to be truly "the Bank of the enterprising people"! As for our customers, the overwhelming majority believed in us and maintained and even strengthened our business relationships. New and important customers have appeared - even under these conditions, and the figures prove this unequivocally.

In this context, what is the message you want to convey to Maguay partners and customers?

Our message to all those who have supported us during this period, but also to those, very few, who have separated from us, is very clear: "Thank you for your trust, you can still rely on Maguay!”

Tags: Maguay, IT

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