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Jamcracker herds SaaS, private cloud users

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Service providers have been wrestling with the issues of provisioning, managing, and billing physical and virtual servers for more than a decade, and everyone who supplied them with tools is now rushing to tweak their wares and reposition them as ideal for managing private clouds. Jamcracker, which has been around since the dot-com bust, is one such company.

Jamcracker was founded in 2000 by KB Chandrasekhar, who previously founded Exodus Communications, the giant hosting company that famously went bust after the dot-com bubble burst. From the experience of running Exodus - which at one point housed the data centers of Google, eBay, Yahoo, Hotmail, and a slew of big Internet properties and a quarter of all Internet traffic went through an Exodus network - Chandrasekhar decided to focus on tools to manage IT infrastructure for other service providers.

In the past ten years, the Jamcracker platform and its related catalog and delivery network has been tapped by dozens of cloud service providers and hundreds of telecommunications companies, software developers, and managed service providers to be the means through which applications are sold to end users. The Jamcracker product is white-labeled by its users, so you may not have heard of Jamcracker. But if you use services from Time Warner Cable, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Telstra, Telus, Eircom, BroadSoft, DHL, or Wipro – just to drop a few names – you have been using a Jamcracker.

(Similarly, Netscape founder Marc Andreessen created application service provider Loudcloud as a second act in his career, and the Opsware tools created to manage the Loudcloud infrastructure ended up being the only part of the company to survive, now part of the Hewlett-Packard system management tool box. And ironically, Loudcloud parked a lot of its infrastructure in Exodus data centers back in the day.)

The thing is, as good as software as a service and public cloud computing might be for some customers, many more customers who run their own IT shops are going to want to keep right on hugging their servers and applications, but they want the same kind of self-service catalog that Jamcracker's service delivery network has (you can see it at cloudcatalogue.com), but for their own applications, which may these days include some SaaS stuff running offsite. So Jamcracker has cooked up an Enterprise Edition of its Jamcracker Platform, turning it from a kind of iTunes for applications where end users are buying access to software to a self-service portal for IT shops that want to give the appropriate users access to applications and keep track of how they use the apps and underlying infrastructure in the event that the IT department gets all uppity and does chargeback. (Which it has been threatening to do at a lot of companies for many years.)

Jamcracker Platform Enterprise Edition is written in Java and will run on any J2EE-compliant Web application server. It can be deployed as a managed service, where it runs on Jamcracker's iron and doles out applications to end users remotely, or internally on a customer's iron as it controls the applications running atop it. Jamcracker doesn't manage the underlying physical infrastructure supporting applications - you will need to buy another set of tools to do that - but takes care of managing the application and service catalog and self-service portal, provisioning end users and authenticating them, monitoring users and interfacing between services and help desk ticketing systems, and watching who uses what to feed back into billing and chargeback systems.

Just because Jamcracker may not run the infrastructure directly that supports virtualized workloads, but it has to interface with all the new cloudy infrastructure. And so, according to Steve Crawford, vice president of marketing, Jamcracker has put hooks into its eponymous tool so it can speak the same APIs that VMware's vSphere hypervisor tools want to hear, or control access to Amazon EC2 or Rackspace Hosting clouds, or even internal clouds based on the Eucalyptus clone of the EC2 stack running atop the ESX Server (VMware) and KVM (Canonical Ubuntu Linux) hypervisors. Jamcracker provisions users, while the latter tools provision infrastructure. And while Jamcracker has its own authentication to span different systems, the Enterprise Edition is built knowing that some companies might want to have Jamcracker use their existing LDAP authentication and single sign-on, which is easier and hence a desirable option.

The Jamcracker Platform aimed at enterprise customers uses a combination of perpetual software licensing and usage fees for the number of services that are under the control of the tool and the number of users who interface through it. The precise pricing was not supplied by the company, but Crawford said that a base configuration spanning SaaS services and private infrastructure clouds for a few thousand users would run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and then scale up from there. This is not an SMB tool, although the service providers that SMBs use to deliver apps and services may be using Jamcracker and hence passing the cost down to a large number of SMB shops without their even knowing it. ®

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