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10/30/2008
07:06 AM
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Cloud Computing Tools For Managing Amazon, Google Services

Getting the most out of Amazon's Web Services or Google's App Engine requires the right tools. We run down the benefits of Elastra, Coghead, Heroku, Enomaly, and Hyperic CloudStatus.

Intridea's Scalr is "a fully redundant, self-curing, and self-scaling hosting environment utilizing Amazon's EC2," according to its Google Code site. What sets it apart is that it is available as an open-source project or as a service unto itself, depending on the degree of involvement you want to have. Experts can opt for the former; pros the latter.

Eucalyptus sports easily the biggest acronym of anything seen lately: Elastic utility computing architecture for linking your programs to useful systems. According to its creators, it's "an open source software infrastructure for implementing 'cloud computing' on clusters." Amazon EC2 is the default cloud interface, but the whole idea is to make it a system that can be extended to connect with all manner of other cloud environments; EC2, being one of the most broadly used, was a logical first choice.

Other systems are more limited, but also that much more focused. If your application was written with Ruby on Rails, for instance, and you want an AWS interface that concentrates on Rails performance, there's Heroku. Code and data can be edited directly in a Web browser, and existing Rails apps and data can be added to Heroku using git and yaml_db. Those who already have experience with Rails should have an easy time migrating into Heroku or starting there anew. (Another Rails-centric hosting service that doesn't use Amazon but does have elasticity of a sort is Engine Yard.)

Enomaly is a kind of two-in-one product -- it allows you to turn your own existing datacenter into an elastic-computing cloud, and use Amazon EC2 as an expansion system of sorts if you so choose.

This is a convenient way to split loads between local and remote farms depending on need, and existing virtual machines (Xen, KVM, and some OpenVZ support, among others) can be added to a cloud. Enomaly is available as a free and open source package under the Affero General Public License, with support available separately, and as a commercially licensed version for those who are reluctant to be asked to commit changes back to the community.

Java programmers looking for aid in deploying their work on an Amazon EC2 instance ought to benefit from the cloudtools project collection over at Google Code. Among the goodies in this package are Maven, a plug-in to automatically launch and provision EC2 instances with one or more MySQL instances to go with it; and the Grails plug-in, used for deploying -- as the name implies -- a Grails application to EC2.

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