Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/08/28/opsource_vmware_cloud/

OpSource floats VMware cloud

Like Amazon EC2, only better

By Timothy Prickett Morgan

Posted in Virtualization, 28th August 2009 22:52 GMT

OpSource is hot on the heels of Amazon Web Services in announcing its own virtual private cloud with the debut of a beta program for what it's calling OpSource Cloud.

A virtual private cloud like the ones that AWS and OpSource are rolling out take public cloud computing one half-step back to the corporate data center, allowing companies to set up their own private networks on the public cloud and to link into the server images running on the cloud through an encrypted virtual private network link.

By allowing companies to set up their own nets and subnets on the public cloud, the virtual resources running on the cloud can be managed and monitored using the same tools that govern all the IT gear behind the corporate firewall and any other gear that links into it through VPNs.

The OpSource cloud differs from the VPC setup in beta on the EC2 compute cloud and that will be extended to other AWS services later this year.

The first major differences are that OpSource Cloud is based on VMware's ESX Server hypervisor, not a custom Xen hypervisor, and the five years' of experience OpSource has gained by supporting SaaS applications on behalf of software companies that want to be able to rent their applications but who do not want to create and manage their own IT infrastructure.

The battle for virtualizing x64 servers in the data center is pitting many variants of the open source Xen hypervisor (including versions from commercial Linux distros Red Hat and Novell as well as freestanding versions from Citrix Systems, Oracle, and Sun Microsystems) against VMware's ESX Server hypervisor and, increasingly, Microsoft's Hyper-V.

In terms of revenue and customer acceptance, VMware has been winning this war for the data center, but Citrix and Microsoft are making headway. However, when it comes to cloud computing, where every penny counts, service providers are cheapskates and they have deployed Xen, like Amazon has done with its homegrown Xen that underpins its EC2 compute cloud.

Scaled down, scale out

But this approach is not possible, much less sustainable, for smaller-scale cloud providers, who don't have the IT budget that Amazon can bring to bear to create their own cloud stack but who want to shift from web and application hosting to cloud infrastructure hosting just the same.

With the vSphere 4.0 stack announced in April, VMware made it pretty clear that it wanted to sell cloud providers on the significantly enhanced ESX Server 4.0 hypervisor and the distributed and virtualized switching technologies, plus a number of other management goodies meant to appeal to cloud providers, now that the hypervisor can span up to 64 processor cores and thousands of server nodes can be put under the control of the same vCenter management console.

This kind of scale and control, not to mention significantly expanded main memory and disk bandwidth and thin provisioning features for memory and disk, is what commercial cloud suppliers are looking for, just like corporate data centers are.

That is why OpSource chose VMware's ESX Server 3.0 to build its original hosting facility - which has more than 5,000 servers - for SaaS applications. This plus the enhancements VMware has made in the ESX Server 4.0 hypervisor and its related vSphere tools are why OpSource chose the latest VMware stack to do the OpSource Cloud, according to chief executive Treb Ryan.

OpSource has chosen Dell as its server provider, and NTT, which kicked in some of the dough in OpSource's fifth round of funding in February, is hosting the boxes in a data center in northern Virginia.

The other benefit of the OpSource Cloud is that customers who have deployed ESX Server VMs in their data center can now offload processing through the VPN to exactly the same VMs running on the cloud. It is not clear if you can use live migration across the VPN to actually move running workloads.

The private beta program for the OpSource Cloud started in the first week of July, and a wider beta starts today. The plan is to launch the service for production applications on October 2.

Pricing for the OpSource Cloud is similar to, but a little different from, the Amazon VPC. You have to pay 20 cents per hour to get a virtual private cloud, which includes load balancing, dedicated VLANs and firewalls, role-based permissions, and tech support - which is not included in those Amazon EC2 base prices, by the way.

Then, you have to pay for the CPU and memory capacity the VMs you set up use. OpSource is charging four cents per CPU per hour for processing and 2.5 cents per GB per hour for main memory. Storage is for the moment bundled in and delivered through a storage area network and it costs a tiny 3/100ths of a cent per GB per hour.

OpSource will deliver a cloud storage service in November similar to Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3) and Elastic Block Storage (EBS) storage utilities.

The tuning on its cloud means OpSource can guarantee sub-millisecond response time between the systems connected on its networks behind the cloud, the company said. This means customers can deploy real n-tier applications, including database, application, and Web servers, all on the cloud.

OpSource is a Cisco Systems partner and uses its Catalyst 6500 switches for its network backbone. Ryan said, though, the company found Cisco's Unified Communications switches had "some rough edges yet" and that even with the supposed benefits of mixing blade and rack servers with converged storage and network switches, OpSource did not believe the products were ready for prime time yet.

Good laugh

OpSource was founded in 2002 as a SaaS hosting provider and has raised $62m to date in five rounds of venture funding, which were lead by ComVentures, Key Venture Partners, Intel Capital, Crosslink Capital, and NTT, respectively. The latter will be helping OpSource expand its offerings into Europe through its hosting facilities located on the other side of the pond.

The company prides itself that it can withstand a SAS 70 Type II audit of the controls on its SaaS offerings, and has applied the same security and controls to its ESX Server cloud.

Ryan gets a good laugh at EC2 in that companies have shared user names and passwords for their EC2, S3, and EBS services - which is a bad idea in and of itself. More importantly, though, the AWS account can allow users to roam the Amazon site and maybe decide to pick up a plasma-screen TV or whatever from the retail arm of Amazon. It's all the same log-on.

This is not the kind of security and control that makes enterprise customers comfortable. ®