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Skytap development cloud gets admin friendlier

The other cloud that Bezos owns adds NAT, SSO, and CLI

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Hybrid cloud provider Skytap is fluffing up its features in an attempt to make its cloud stickier and easier to use.

With the latest update to Skytap (there are no external release numbers to keep track of where the code is at as it changes), there are three new features that are being added.

The first is network address translation (NAT) - sometimes called network fencing - which allows users firing up virtual machine instances on the Skytap cloud to automatically have their IP addresses created for them without having to tweak any settings in the copied VMs by hand. The net result is that you no longer need to be a network guru to spin up cloned VM environments and run them side-by-side on Skytap.

The second new feature is support for single sign on, or SSO, allowing for the corporate identity server to plug into the Skytap cloud and use the same authentication inside the corporate data center to access applications running on the Skytap cloud.

Skytap has plugged in the PingFederate engine to its cloud, which supports the Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) 2.0 authentication protocol to let users onto the dev, test, and sometimes production cloud. You can plug LDAP or Active Directory authentication servers into this from inside the corporate firewall.

How the bits of the Skytap development cloud fit

How the bits of the Skytap development cloud fit

Skytap already had a REST API set and a Web console to let admins configure and maintain capacity on its cloud. With the release of the cloud that comes out this week, Skytap is adding the command line interface that system administrators crave.

This CLI is written in Ruby and you install it as a Ruby Gem, and Brett Goodwin, vice president of marketing at Skytap, tells El Reg that most of the actions you can do from the Web console you can do through scripting on the CLI.

There are a number of additional commands in the CLI that are not available in the console, such as copying VMs from one region of the Skytap cloud to another. All the new features are available now, and as part of the regular price of capacity on the Skytap cloud.

All of these tweaks this week come a month after Skytap worked with IBM to integration its Rational development tools with the Skytap cloud. This integration has the typical IBM name of Skytap Automation Pack for IBM Rational Team Concert.

This is a free download designed to get developers creating code on Skytap using Rational tools and then deploying them, where possible, on IBM's SmartCloud public cloud. This Skytap automation pack installs alongside IBM's Jazz Team Server, and automates the building of apps from Rational so they can run on Skytap.

Skytap was founded in 2006, the same year that Amazon Web Services launched, and got its first product out the door in 2008, when the company also changed its name from Illumita to Skytap.

The company does not give a sense of how big or small its cloud is in terms of the number of virtual or physical servers, but Goodwin says that the company will talk about the number of customers it has – now more than 250 – and how many cumulative virtual machines have been launched on Skytap.

In April 2012, the number of aggregate VMs launched hit 1 million, and by February of this year, it was at 1.9 million, showing how fast it has grown in recent months. And here we are in July, and the aggregate is pushing up to 3 million VMs fired up. That is very rapid growth indeed recently. MPU

"The number of environments or networks that customers create is more than doubling every year, and those are the numbers we really watch," says Goodwin. "These figures are growing, and growing at an increasing rate in fact."

Marquee customers include Boeing, Trek Bikes, Cushman and Wakefield, Google, and Savvis are all customers using the service. After firing up Cloudera's CDH4 Hadoop distribution on the Skytap cloud back in January, Hadoop application development has become popular very quickly, says Goodwin, and so has Microsoft SharePoint and homegrown apps written in Visual Studio.

There is a lot of Jenkins and Git running on the Skytap cloud as well. Skytap doesn't encourage anything but development, testing, proof of concept, and training, but the reality is that companies are putting production work on the cloud whether Skytap likes it or not. Trust us, Skytap likes it just fine. ®

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