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Software maker SIOS opens artificial intelligence lab at USC

Aug 02, 2018 02:34PM ● Published by Emily Stevenson

By Richard Breen
Photography ©2018 Brian Dressler/dresslerphoto.com

Research and development facilities might conjure up notions of guarded buildings and a lot of stuff with “top secret” stamped on it, but a Midlands software manufacturer believes it can be more innovative while sitting in the middle of 35,000-plus University of South Carolina students and faculty.

“We want to intentionally engage with the university,” says Jerry Melnick, president and chief executive of SIOS Technology Corp.

The company, which is headquartered in San Mateo, Calif., makes software that monitors and protects computer systems. It recently celebrated a ribbon-cutting for its new R&D operation inside the M. Bert Storey Engineering and Innovation Center on the USC campus.

SIOS Technology Corp. formed in 1999. Some its technology and talent spun off from NCR Corp., which had a facility in West Columbia for many years. SIOS ended up making a home for its R&D operation in Lexington.

While the company spoke frequently with USC faculty about potential collaboration, nothing ever came to fruition, according to Dr. Sergey Razin, chief technology officer at SIOS.

“I think location matters a lot,” Razin says, citing the commuting distance from its old offices. “Basically, it’s a relocation of the R&D facility from Lexington to USC’s campus, with the mission to engage with the university and students and professors.”

Empowering artificial intelligence
SIOS has two types of software products, both operating at the deep end of IT. It’s the kind of thing a typical consumer would only notice if it wasn’t working.

“We’re so dependent on any variety of software systems,” Melnick says. “If that software stops, our business stops, our lifestyle stops.”

One type of product protects access to critical applications.

“Data is replicated between servers in a cluster and makes them more available,” Razin says. “When one server fails, another one picks up.”

The other product type deals in IT systems analytics. Troubleshooting IT problems can be a time-consuming task. It’s comparable to your mechanic trying to find out why your check engine light is coming on.

Razin’s research at SIOS uses artificial intelligence to make the process more efficient.

“It not only tells you whether something is taking place, but when something happens, it tells you what the root cause of the problem is and what you should be doing about the problem,” he says. “It takes the monitoring—which existed for many decades and takes a lot of work—and brings it right to the error resolution of the problem.”

So now that theoretical light isn’t just saying, “Check engine,” it’s saying, “You need to replace your spark plugs.”

The next step in Razin’s research involves enabling the software to fix the problem itself.

“We know that the problem is taking place, we know what the root cause is, and it can not only provide a recommendation, but it can provide a recommendation with the ability for the user to say, ‘OK, go,’ ” Razin says. “And it’s all powered by the artificial intelligence that exists in our products.”

Dream come true
SIOS has 500 employees worldwide, with offices around the U.S. as well as in Japan, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. Melnick says the company spent two years deciding where to move its R&D offices and considered several locations.

“We can actually build a better home and a brighter future here because of the relationship we can build with the university, more so than with some of those other places,” he says.

It’s hoped the interaction between the company and USC community will stimulate ideas.

“Since I came on board, I have been dreaming of having an office in or near the University of South Carolina,” says Nobuo Kita, president and chief executive of SIOS Technology Group, which is the parent company of SIOS Technology Corp.

Kita also serves on the board of Mozilla Japan. The Mozilla Foundation is prominent in the world of open-source software development, in which a software’s source code is available to members of the public, who can offer modifications to improve the code.

“It’s important to have an open innovation model,” Kita says.

The 25-30 SIOS employees in Columbia will include Razin, who is a USC grad. There will be opportunities for joint research between students, faculty, and the company. SIOS has granted USC $475,000 worth of licenses to use its software.

“Artificial intelligence is an area the college is investing in very heavily,” says Hossein Haj-Hariri, dean of USC’s College of Engineering and Computing.

Haj-Hariri describes an environment where students who have a break from classes on the second floor of the Storey Center can go up to SIOS’ offices on the fourth floor to participate in research.

“Even if a building is two blocks away from the university, it’s not the same as it being on campus,” he says.

Technology, Education, Enterprise