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Mickos and Eucalyptus lock arms with Red Hat

Ex-MySQL boss RHEVs cloud kit

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Marten Mickos – the former MySQL boss who now runs build-your-own-cloud startup Eucalyptus Systems – has hitched his new wagon to Red Hat. In more ways than one.

Last month, Mickos and company announced a pact with Red Hat that will see Eucalyptus embrace the Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) hypervisor as well as the Red Hat's deltacloud project, an open source effort to provide a common API for all "infrastructure clouds". Eucalyptus Systems is the commercial outfit that sprung up around the open source Eucalyptus platform, a means of building infrastructure clouds behind the corporate firewall.

But Mickos is also looking to burnish his company's image by recasting its business model as a Red Hat–like effort, discarding earlier talk of an "open core" model.

The Eucalyptus platform is designed to mimic Amazon's AWS infrastructure cloud inside your own data center, providing your internal employees with on-demand access to compute power and storage that scales as needed. Originally developed at the University of California at Santa Barbara, it even mimics the Amazon APIs. The ultimate idea is to provide a platform that lets you readily move applications between a Eucalyptus "private cloud" and the Amazon "public cloud".

Famously, Eucalyptus is bundled with Canonical's Ubuntu Linux distro. Thus the "Karmic Koala" moniker Mark Shuttleworth attached to Ubuntu 9.10.

Mickos and company have not struck a deal to bundle the platform with Red Hat's distro as well, but he believes the companies' pact will eventually lead to bigger things. "This is the first step of something that we think can develop in many favorable directions," he tells The Register. "Red Hat isn't necessarily known for partnerships of this type, so we feel very fortunate to have [the deal] and be able to able to work closely with them in the market."

In September, Red Hat veteran Said Ziouan joined Eucalyptus as head of sales.

According to Mickos, his company will do the coding needed to support the RHEV hypervisor and the deltacloud API, but Red Hat will advise along the way. "Red Hat will provide insight into what they're doing, and their experts will be at our disposal," Mickos says. "But the actual programming work is ours."

He says that Eucalyptus and Red Hat will also "go to market together. We can approach customers who are interested in Red Hat and a private-cloud solution".

The RHEV hypervisor is based on the open source KVM hypervisor, which is already supported by Eucalyptus, along with Xen and VMware hypervisors; deltacloud is what you might call a meta-API, a programming interface designed to span all infrastructure clouds – or at least a lot of them.

"Today, each infrastructure-as-a-service cloud presents a unique API that developers and ISVs need to write to in order to consume the cloud service. The deltacloud effort is creating a common, REST-based API, such that developers can write once and manage anywhere," Red Hat said when it unveiled the project more than a year ago.

"A cloud broker, if you will, with drivers that map the API to both public clouds like EC2, and private virtualized clouds based on VMWare and Red Hat Enterprise Linux with integrated KVM."

Eucalpyus Systems offers two versions of its platform: a fully open source version and an Enterprise version that includes additional code. When the Enterprise version launched last summer, Mickos described the company's business model as "open core" – meaning that the platform's core was open, if not all of it. But Mickos now paints his business in a different light.

Asked about the "open core" moniker, Mickos says: "We don't talk about an open-core model, and one reason is that it's not a term people understand. Some people use it, and we've used it in discussions with those people, but it's not a commonly accepted term in the industry".

Instead, Mickos compares the Eucalyptus business model to Red Hat's set-up. "The whole notion of having an open source platform and then you have a commercially supported subscription offering – that's a no-brainer for our customers," he says. "Red Hat has that model, and lots of companies have that model."

But Red Hat's model is a little different. Customers pay for an OS that includes support and certain tools you won't find in other versions of Linux, but Red Hat still open sources all code for that OS. With Eucalyptus, some code in the enterprise version remains closed.

Eucalyptus does, however, offer support for the fully open source version as well, and Mickos doesn't see much of a distinction between Eucalyptus and Red Hat. "That's the dilemma in the discussion: people are very much focused on code, thinking that the code in itself is the value that the product provides," he says.

"But if you go to Red Hat's customers and ask 'Why do you pay Red Hat? Why don't you use CentOS or Debian?', it's not that they say Red Hat has the best code. They're buying a subscription so that their installation is protected. They get technical support when they it, they get bug fixes when they need it, they get updates. They know that there is someone testing the software. ... The whole experience: that's what's important to customers.

"Sure, at the end of the day, every line of code must come under a certain license, and as a vendor, you must know how you do that. But that's not the topmost concern for the customer."

This fall, NASA moved its Nebula cloud from Eucalyptus to the Nova compute engine that's now part of the OpenStack project, expressing reservations over the open core setup. According to NASA chief technology officer Chris Kemp, Eucalyptus didn't scale as well as NASA hoped, and when NASA tried to submit patches that would improve scaling, Kemp told The Reg, they were rejected because they conflicted with the enterprise product.

But Mickos says this was not the case. ®

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