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OpSource adds storage to compute cloud

Cloudy margins almost as good as software

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OpSource has created a storage utility called Cloud Files to accompany its virtual private compute cloud, OpSource Cloud, introduced last summer.

OpSource Cloud, based on VMware's ESX server hypervisor, went into full production in March with goosed service-level agreements and expanded image support to include Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 and 5, CentOS 5, or Microsoft Windows Server 2003. Cloud Files now rounds out the offering.

OpSource has for years run a backbone of 5,000 x64 servers called OpSource On-Demand for software application providers who want to provide hosted versions of their code to their customers. The OpSource Cloud and Cloud Files are more generic virtual server slices akin to the virtualized server, storage, and network infrastructure created by Amazon in its EC2 and S3 clouds for computing and storage.

The Cloud Files storage utility announced Monday is a companion to the OpSource Cloud, which offered integrated storage on servers when it first came out . Now users can allocate a lot more storage to their virtual servers and use it in more sophisticated ways.

Treb Ryan, chief executive officer at OpSource, says that the company chose NetApp as its storage provider for iron behind the Cloud Files service, but adds that it has used EMC disks for its SaaS application farm so it is not in any way wedded to one particular storage vendor.

OpSource created its own management framework for its ESX Server-based compute cloud, but rather than do the same for its storage cloud, it bought software off the self - in this case from Mezeo Software.

The Mezeo storage-cloud management tools run on Linux and Apache with databases controlling file access stored in PostgreSQL. The Mezeo software can be used by service providers or enterprises to create storage clouds for backing up and archiving production servers and PCs, attaching dedicated storage to physical or virtual servers, or giving various computing devices access to cloud storage through REST Web services APIs. (You can find out more about Mezeo here.)

The OpSource Cloud offers customers virtual ESX Server slices with one, two, or four cores per VM, and a full virtual private network that includes load balancing for and programmatic scaling up and down of VMs (available through a set of REST APIs that OpSource created itself for its SaaS customers), homegrown VM import and export tools, an image-management jukebox, detailed usage reports for billing, auditing, and cost allocation, and role-based permission and sub-administrator access controls and audit trails. None of this stuff, says Ryan, is available in Amazon's EC2 and S3 service.

It costs 20 cents per hour have a virtual private cloud and then 4 cents per hour per CPU core and 2.5 cents per GB per hour for main memory. The storage blocks available on the original OpSource Cloud cost a measly .03 cents per GB per hour, but this storage did not have all the feature the Mezeo software brings to the table as part of the Cloud Files service. Cloud File capacity is priced differently, at 15 cents per GB per month for disk capacity up to the first 50 TB each month, with volume discounts for larger blocks. Unlike many other cloud storage providers, OpSource is not charging anything for inbound data hitting the Cloud Files service - you just pay for access to the data. The Cloud Files service also provides full encryption for the data - SSL encryption for in-flight data and 256-bit AES encryption for the data at rest on the disk platters.

If you do the math, a respectable virtual server with eight cores, 16GB of memory, and 1 TB of disk capacity, plus the virtual private network, would cost around $662 per 30-day month to rent. (You don't have to buy terabytes of storage and overprovision your array - you just pay for what you use.) Storage on the Cloud Files service is by far the most expensive item in the setup. With a 1 TB of disk storage, you're talking $812 per month. The company also sells preconfigured bundles of virtualized components that range from $500 to $3,000 per month - pricing plans are detailed here.

As far as Ryan is concerned, this is good money. "The margins on cloud are way better than traditional hosting or telecom services," he claims. "I do not know why Amazon is out there telling everyone this is a low-margin business. The margins are a lot closer to software than they are to hosting, and you can afford to put in high-quality infrastructure and still make money."

The OpSource Cloud Files service is in beta now, and will probably be in full production within a few months. The OpSource Cloud was in beta for months, but dozens of customers used it in production anyway. This will probably be no different.

Bootnote: This story originally reported that Mezeo Software was a spinout of Japanese telecom company KDDI, which created the cloud storage software for its own purposes and then commercialized it. KDDI was one of the early customers for Mezeo's cloud storage wares, but Mezeo is not a spinout of KDDI. The story also originally garbled the pricing on the Cloud Files, saying it was 15 cents per GB per hour, which is insane. It is 15 cents per GB per month. ®

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