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Deep dive into Eucalyptus 3.1 open source cloud

For the past two years, experts have had a dim view of Eucalyptus and have thrown support to its open source cloud competitor OpenStack. Recently, however, Eucalyptus

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Systems has made important strides, positioning itself as an alternative for customers who want to avoid vendor lock-in.

With the help of an influx of funding from venture capitalists, the company has progressed at a rapid pace, adding staff and making necessary improvements to Eucalyptus. Among these improvements, the open source cloud vendor dropped its two-license model, simplifying its development and delivery.

The release of Eucalyptus 3.1 in June 2012 can be viewed as the completion the platform's restructuring efforts that began in 3.0. The company made substantive changes to improve modularity, allowing for plug-ins and functionality needed beyond its open source code without having to create two development trees. The new architecture makes it possible to develop and deploy plug-ins as separate packages rather than as code that touches multiple packages in a Linux deployment, greatly simplifying development.

Eucalyptus 3.1 is almost entirely hosted on Github, simplifying integration with other products and making it easier to build plug-ins and tools. Feature tracking and development activity is publicly available, so any member of the Eucalyptus open source community can request a feature. Bug reports are hosted separately on Jira.

New features in Eucalyptus 3.1 include:

  • Enterprise platform deployment, which enables enterprise on-premises cloud deployments on the latest version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) with Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS), Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) and Amazon Identity and Access Management (IAM) using Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization and VMware virtualization platforms.
  • FastStart, which provides users with a self-service, automated way to get systems up and running with Eucalyptus 3.1 Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) in less than 20 minutes.
  • Plug-ins and support for paying subscribers. Administrators don't need to modify any code to provide plug-ins, and if you buy the Eucalyptus Enterprise subscription, you get binaries, plug-ins and technical support.
  • An automated quality assurance system, which makes it easier to test Eucalyptus 3.1.

The Eucalyptus-Amazon relationship

Three months before the release of Eucalyptus 3.1, Eucalyptus Systems formally licensed the Amazon Web Services (AWS) API to build compatible products. This includes APIs for EC2, S3, EBS and IAM. AWS will provide Eucalyptus with API specifications, including related engineering specifications not provided in the public user-level documentation.

Eucalyptus has a long-standing relationship with cloud titan AWS, and much of the support for AWS APIs already exists in Eucalyptus -- but this relationship is expected to evolve in Eucalyptus 3.2 and afterward.

Many experts view Eucalyptus Systems' relationship with Amazon relationship as a way for the open source cloud provider to take advantage of Amazon's success; however, the partnership has value to AWS, too. The agreement with AWS is about two things: Helping to maintain and enhance its API compatibility in Eucalyptus, and AWS and Eucalyptus Systems going to market together. The agreement can also be viewed as a move to counter the popularity of OpenStack, arguably Eucalyptus' largest competitor.

Where's the competition among open source cloud vendors?

There are two major differences between Eucalyptus and OpenStack. First, OpenStack is trying to define its own API, and Eucalyptus is not. Second, OpenStack is a loosely coupled set of components with few use cases in production environments, whereas Eucalyptus is a tested and packaged product. Eucalyptus Systems has three major strengths:

  1. It provides seamless integration with Amazon EC2, the dominant public cloud service, allowing enterprises to move workloads back and forth among Amazon EC2 public clouds and Eucalyptus-based private clouds.
  2. It supports VMware, allowing customers with VMware virtualized environments to quickly build private clouds.
  3. It supports all major hypervisors, including VMware ESXi, Xen, Microsoft Hyper-V and KVM.

OpenStack started out with a bang and lots of hype, but it's encountering problems. Issues arise from having too many large vendors involved -- such as Cisco, Dell, HP and Intel -- each with its own agenda. Though some big names, such as HP's Converged Cloud, remain supportive, Citrix, one of the strongest supporters of OpenStack with its Olympus distribution, dropped OpenStack and is focusing on its own open source project, CloudStack.              

On the other hand, Eucalyptus is gearing up to become the major open source cloud platform. In April 2012, Eucalyptus Systems was bolstered with another round of funding -- a $30 million investment led by Institutional Venture Partners. The new funding is being used to drive product innovation, sales and customer support. To date, reports state Eucalyptus has raised $55.5 million in capital. And its partner ecosystem has more than doubled to include over 200 of the top cloud and infrastructure automation vendors.

Eucalyptus is poised to take advantage of OpenStack's tardiness in moving toward a production-quality cloud technology. However, Rackspace's recent announcement that it was going to begin offering public cloud computing services based on OpenStack could balance the scales. All eyes are on the open source market to see if Eucalyptus 3.1 can propel the vendor to the front of the pack, or if enterprises are still too wary to adopt the technology no matter who the leader is.

Bill Claybrook is a marketing research analyst with over 35 years of experience in the computer industry with the last dozen years in Linux, open source and cloud computing. Bill was research director, Linux and Open Source, at The Aberdeen Group in Boston and a competitive analyst/Linux product marketing manager at Novell. He is currently president of New River Marketing Research and Directions on Red Hat. He holds a doctorate in computer science.

This was first published in September 2012

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