Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Stratus Technologies, Inc., Maynard, MA

Sixth in a multi-part series AT THE MILL.

On June 23, 1999, Stratus Computer held a “Welcome to the Neighborhood” event to recognize its recent move into the old Digital/DEC headquarters at 111 Powdermill Road. “Welcome Neighbors” might have been more appropriate, as the invite was so local businesses (restaurants, auto shops, etc.) could introduce themselves to the newest large company to move into space vacated by DEC’s demise.

Status Tecnologies sign at entrance from Summer Street
From its inception, the business Stratus has been in is never crash computer systems, known more formally as fault tolerant computing. Robust systems are in strong demand by customers such as banks, emergency fire, police and medical responders, hospitals, phone companies, Internet providers and so on. Stratus began with its own server technology, back in 1980, but over the decades has added software systems that provide the same protection against loss of service while running on other companies’ servers. Looking to the future, Stratus is bringing the same robust, failsafe approach to data management in the cloud. From the Stratus website, “99.999% continuous application availability without loss of data” and “prevention of downtime secures reputation, lowers cost and guarantees data integrity and compliance.”

Stratus has had a complicated financial history, what with becoming a publicly held company in 1983, a buy-out, spin-off, acquisitions, de-acquisitions, the name change from Stratus Computer to Stratus Technologies, Inc., and in 2014, acquisition by Siris Capital Group. There were physical moves, too. Founded by William E. Foster in 1980, the corporate was founded in Natick, moved to Marlborough, and then to Maynard. After a long tenure on town’s eastern border, Stratus signed a lease in 2015 to more its headquarters into the mill complex, committing to a tad more than 100,000 square feet in Building 5.

Stratus has more than 400 employees worldwide, with more than half in Maynard. More than 20% are female, including women at engineering and executive levels. Per the website, the company is actively hiring. From David Laurello, President and Chief Executive Officer, “The more automated and connected applications become, the more critical it is for customers to have a highly reliable and continuously available edge infrastructure to drive true IIoT [Industrial Internet of Things] business value.”

In non-business speak, that includes that ATMs have to work 24/7/365 without crashing, because when you want cash at 2:00 a.m., you want it. And when you are in a hospital hooked up to a heart rate monitor, you want that working, too.

One term seen in context with Stratus is “edge computing.” Older network concepts were based on information at a data center and instructions sent to the network. Or one step up, information flowed in, processed centrally, instructions flowed out (those ATMs). Now and into the future, networks are becoming more fluid, and a lot more of very reliable computing capacity is needed at the edges of the network. More analytical power at the edges means less of a need to clog the network with data transfer. And keeping those distributed computers robustly fault tolerant means less of a need to put technical staff on the road to fix stuff.       

During the commercial real estate boom of the late 1990s, a very different mill (and town) would have been realized if instead of Wellesley Management, the mill space has gone to Franklin Lifecare Corporation. FLC had meetings with the Town of Maynard in 1995 to present a proposal to create Mill Pond Village as a mixed use elder residential community. It was to include up to 800 living units for independent living, assisted living and nursing home care, complemented by dining rooms, a library, coffee shop, conference center, gardens, craft rooms, a museum (?!) and a riverside café. “The mixed use approach will make the site feel more integrated into the town, and we’ll start by removing the fence.”

Funding never materialized, and the mill lay fallow until a tax break deal was struck for Wellesley Management’s Clock Tower Place. That kept Maynard as a hub for technology-driven companies such as Now, under Mill & Main, here we go again with Stratus Technologies and Acacia Communications (but with a brewery, too).  

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