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Cloud juggler eyes Microsoft's floating VMs

RightScale does Azure

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RightScale – the southern California startup whose eponymous online service lets you juggle so-called infrastructure clouds – is preparing tools for managing Microsoft's Azure cloud as well.

Azure isn't an infrastructure cloud. It's what the world calls a platform cloud. Rather than offer on-demand access to raw compute power and storage – as, say, Amazon does – it serves up development tools and other services that let you build and host applications online without diving into those underlying infrastructure pieces. But Microsoft has long said that Azure will offer limited access to raw VMs for those who want to test Windows apps, and it's this infrastructure cloud–like piece that RightScale will help you manage.

Last month, Microsoft introduced a beta of the service, known as Azure "VM role".

"[Azure] is a very different animal for us. Up until recently, it wasn't even an option to support it. If you have a pure platform-as-a-service, there really isn't a role for RightScale," RightScale CEO Michael Crandell tells The Register. "But [VM role] is something that exposes an infrastructure as a service, so we're off to the races."

RightScale began as a means of managing Amazon's AWS infrastructure cloud, but after Amazon introduced its own web interface, Crandell and company expanded the service to additional "public clouds", including services from Rackspace and GoGrid, as well as platforms that underpin "private clouds" behind the firewall, including Marten Mickos's Eucalyptus and the Cupertino-based Cloud.com. The idea is that you can you use one online service to manage applications across multiple clouds – both public and private.

"Our users run their servers in Amazon, RackSpace, GoGrid, Eucalyptus, etc. That's the cloud they're using. RightScale is the management platform they use to manage all these cloud resources," RightScale CTO Thorsten von Eicken once explained to The Reg. "In the end, our users are in control of their servers, disk volumes, IP addresses as they get them from the infrastructure cloud provider. We just enable them, make it easier, save time, reduce risk."

As you might expect, the use of private clouds is still, well, largely theoretical. "There aren't really production implementations – meaning people aren't running production apps that way," Crandell tells us. "There are a number of projects in the works, ranging from pilot projects to actual build-outs. But to be honest, none of them have reached the stage where they're actually running production apps." But the use of public clouds is growing. The company now has customers in 30 countries worldwide.

Like other cloud efforts, RightScale says it's receiving huge interest in Japan. In December, it signed a deal with the Japan-based consultant Kumoya that saw the cloud-happy consultant become an authorized RightScale distributor. Just this week, Cloud.com – whose private-cloud platform is supported by RightScale – signed its own deal wih Kumoya. "We're seeing significant traction in the Asian market across the board," Cloud.com marketing chief Peder Ulander tells The Reg. "Japan is one of the most agressive markets."

Microsoft's Azure VM role isn't exactly analogous to the VMs you get on Amazon's AWS. It won't run, say, Linux. "This will be a version of infrastructure-as-a-service that's constrained," Microsoft director of platform strategy Tim O'Brien told us last year. "You won't be able to load up any arbitrary service you want to load up. We're going to give you a constrained base Windows 2008 image, and it's constrained in a way that Azure knows how to manage it." ®

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