Platform Computing fluffs cloudy control freak

Strap yourself into a 'cloud cockpit'

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HPC management-tool provider Platform Computing has tweaked its Infrastructure Sharing Facility tools, adding support for public as well as private clouds, deepening integration with VMware's vSphere stack, and adding a "cloud cockpit" with which sysadmins can monitor all of their cloudy services.

"As an open, end-to-end solution, Platform ISF allows companies to benefit from the cloud, not stitch it together across multiple vendors like a systems integrator," said Platform Computing's marketing honcho Jay Muelhoefer in a canned statement on Tuesday announcing Platform ISF 2.1

The upgrade is the company's latest effort to expand beyond its grid-computing heritage, where Platform Symphony and other products support clusters of servers to provide, for example, high-speed messaging for financial applications.

Platform ISF, which manages clusters of virtualized servers for cloudy infrastructures, was launched in June 2009 as the control freak and traffic cop in charge of all of the hypervisors on heterogeneous clouds.

ISF leverages the code in the Platform Computing's Enterprise Grid Orchestrator, a pruned version of its Load Sharing Facility for scheduling jobs on traditional HPC clusters that was extended a few years back to support Java virtual machines and parallel data warehousing applications.

ISF also borrows from Virtual Machine Orchestrator, a dynamic resource management tool that also debuted a few years back as a XenServer appliance.

Platform also had a program called ISF Adaptive Cluster, which did operating system image management for clusters, but the ISF name has been removed from this tool and it's now being sold in conjunction with LSF and Symphony, which still think at the bare metal level, rather than at the virtual machine hypervisor level.

ISF 1.0 supported VMware's ESX Server 3.5 and 4.0 hypervisors as well as Citrix Systems' XenServer 5.5 hypervisors. The tool plugged into their respective vCenter and XenCenter hypervisor management consoles, passing down orders to provision VMs from ISF, and passing up alert information from the VMs and hypervisors.

Platform introduced ISF 2.0 about four months ago, but didn't make a fuss about it. With Tuesday's launch of ISF 2.1, however, Platform is making some noise.

The cloud controller now supports VMware's 4.1 hypervisor as well as XenServer 5.6 and Red Hat's integrated Xen and KVM hypervisors for its Enterprise Linux 5 and 6 distributions, as well as the company's standalone Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) KVM hypervisor.

Microsoft's Hyper-V R2 hypervisor and its System Center console are also supported, and Amazon's EC2 can also be hooked into ISF 2.1 as a peer to private clouds. Muelhoefer told The Reg that the next release of ISF will support cloud infrastructure from Rackspace Hosting, GoGrid, Terramark, and Savvis.

"Platform is on a mission to be open and heterogeneous," says Muelhoefer. "Customers want to own this cloud management layer because it ensures choice. Even if customers standardize on VMware, a fairly homogeneous platform, they don't want to be locked in. They might want to have Hyper-V or Xen or other hypervisors down the road."

The ISF tool is a bit different from other cloud management tools in that it can do physical and virtual servers, manages the whole lifecycle of a machine, has self-service and rapid provisioning, and also has chargeback so you can bill whoever uses what resources when.

The tool is also designed to span private and public clouds alike – although the work is still unfinished on the public clouds. ISF has adapters to link into IBM's Tivoli, BMC's Patrol, and HP's OpenView tools, as can help desk-ticketing systems from all the popular vendors.

ISF can link into LDAP and Active Directory for authentication, and where it does not have a direct adapter into a hypervisor management console, it has agents that act as go-betweens to shepherd all their data and take control. The goal is for ISF to capture all of the alert information from the network and to house all of the policies that control how infrastructure is provisioned as workloads change.

In addition to providing this "cloud cockpit" in the ISF 2.1 release, the updated Platform cloud control freak has deeper integration with the VMware vSphere stack, hooking into the Distributed Resource Scheduler (VMware's own control freak for ESX Server) as well as its VM snapshotting, vDisk, and VLAN management features.

ISF 2.1 also has support for Oracle's GoldenGate replication to turn a pair of active-passive clouds into active-active clouds that can run workloads on both clouds at the same time.

In addition, ISF 2.1 has more out-of-the-box integration with Red Hat JBoss, IBM WebSphere, and open source Tomcat middleware – plus a bunch of other popular enterprise tools – and also has integration with new tools such as open source Hadoop Web analytics.

In general, says Muelhoefer, ISF 2.1 has better versioning, cloning, and logging than the prior version, which means it does a better job of managing virtual software stacks from development through production and on to retirement.

ISF 2.1 is available now. It runs on Xeon and Opteron servers and in conjunction with x64 iron, but does not run on or take control of physical or virtual machines based on Sparc, Itanium, Power, or other processor architectures.

Platform has not divulged pricing information - always a dubious practice - but Muelhoefer says the ISF product is licensed on an annual subscription or perpetual license basis per server socket, with volume discounting. ®

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