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Eucalyptus in a can

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After hitching a ride on the new Ubuntu, Eucalyptus has followed the Koala-fixated Linux distro into the world of commercialized open source.

Today, the creators of the open-source cloud compute platform announced the formation of Eucalyptus Systems Inc., a Santa Barbara, California-based company that will float private clouds for high-flying businesses and fluff them as needed. Using the same API as the much-hyped Amazon Web Services, the Eucalyptus platform provides a means of mimicking Amazon's public cloud inside your own data center - but on a (much) smaller scale.

"Eucalyptus is the Linux analogy for cloud computing," says Rich Wolski, the University of California-Santa Barbara computer science prof who dreamed up the project and now serves as the new company's chief technology officer. "It's open source. There’s an active community. There's an ecosystem of people who are targeting it because it’s easy to use and easy to install. And it comes through the standard Linux channel they're used to."

Eucalyptus can trace its roots back to the fall of 2007, when Wolski was part of a multi-university academic project known as VGrADS (virtual grid application development software), an effort to create a programming and execution environment for greasing the development of large-scale scientific applications. Large-scale applications require large-scale compute resources.

"We had looked at using grid computing and super computers for running scientific apps," Wolski tells The Reg. "But in the last year of the project, we decided we really needed to figure out how we were going move forward into the cloud-computing world."

The distinction between the grid and the cloud is a subtle one. But in essence, Wolski and his fellow researchers were interested in harnessing the power of AWS, a set of web-based services that provide instant access to distributed resources, including processing power and storage. As you need additional compute power, you grab it - straight from an ordinary web browser.

At one point, Wolski decided the project should demonstrate an app running seamlessly across three separate infrastructures: AWS, a National Science Foundation super computer, and a set of private clusters spread across various universities. The group committed to a demo at the SC super computing conference the following November, and with that deadline looming, Wolski and crew settled on building their own incarnation of AWS, wrapping the new platform in Amazon's published APIs.

"In order to make the job of porting our application easier, we decided to build a software infrastructure for our university clusters that could mimic the way Amazon worked," Wolski explains. "The lead application code and the abstraction layer - both of those software stacks were very complicated and large. Rather than have to port to a third infrastructure, we ported to AWS and then imitated AWS on our own clusters."

This AWS imitation became Eucalyptus, which was eventually open-sourced under a BSD license. With Eucalyptus, anyone can build their own AWS - of a kind.

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