Infrastructure-as-a-service provider sidesteps Amazon-style server packages, allows users to provision what they need.
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CloudSigma launched Version 2.0 of its signature infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) on June 20, offering features that are decidedly non-Amazon-like. For one thing, you provision the server you want, setting your desired memory, CPU and networking, rather than being given a pre-bundled server. For another, you're billed for five-minute cycles, not by the hour, saving you money if the minute hand tips over the hour mark shortly before the server shuts down.
"We offer unbundled resources ... With big data, you need a lot of memory but not necessarily a lot of CPU. Our approach is, you should be able to buy what you need and pay for what you use," said COO Bernino Lind, a graduate of Copenhagen Business School. CloudSigma operates two data centers at its headquarters location in Zurich, Switzerland, and another in Las Vegas. It is planning to soon establish a second U.S. location.
Through CloudSigma, a user can order a large 300-GB chunk of storage and apportion it among a set of servers as he sees fit, rather than having to purchase enough pre-packaged virtual instances for the attached storage to add up to 300 GB.
For another, CloudSigma focuses on high performance and private operations. A user can specify a preference for solid-state disk, and get the resulting performance enhancement, if he chooses, he said.
CloudSigma Version 2.0 gives users the benefit of a flexible, software-defined networking architecture that can assign the type of network asset they wish to use, Lind said in an interview.
That network asset might be a secure private line connecting the cloud virtual server to the private data center, offering a more hybrid-cloud setting with similar performance in both locations, Lind said. The more common way to connect is through a VPN, with its need for data encryption as exchanges are made over the public network.
Customers may opt to go through a peering exchange, such as an Equinix facility, where a party that you wish to reach from your virtual private cloud servers in the CloudSigma facility can be connected via "private patch" or a private line over an available supplier's dark fiber. The result is that the customer's virtual private cloud is functioning at a similar level of privacy and security as the enterprise data center, he said. The CloudSigma approach "gets rid of bottlenecks that cloud users have run into in the past," as they struggled to set up sufficient VPNs to accomplish a task, he said.
In a similar manner, a customer could use a CloudSigma public cloud, through a similar set of connections, as a primary backup and disaster recovery center. CloudSigma arranges the streamlining of data through the private patching, so that live snapshots and backup to a second cloud location can be executed.
Lind claimed other cloud providers, with the exception of Joyent, can't offer the latest processor characteristics, such as non-uniform memory access, because their virtual machine hypervisors don't recognize that the chip is capable of delivering the service. With non-uniform memory access, one CPU on a processor is assigned a defined amount of RAM and can access it faster than it can access the remaining general purpose memory pool. CPU throughput and I/O are faster when the virtual machine can take advantage of the characteristic. Hypervisors in some public clouds can't recognize or use NUMA, with a subsequent reduction in performance. CloudSigma virtual machines are managed by KVM hypervisors.
"In version 2.0, we found a way to pass on the entire instruction set of the CPU. You can get access to the bare metal aspects of the CPU," Lind said. CPUs can frequently perform better when supporting services are stepped up to their capabilities. Making NUMA available can improve a virtual server's performance by 30%, Lind claimed.
CloudSigma was launched in Zurich in 2010 and entered the U.S. market in 2011. Its data centers in Zurich are in co-location facilities hosted by Equinix and Interxion. Its Las Vegas data center is in a SwitchNap facility, and it will open its second U.S. facility as space becomes available in a new Equinix site in Ashburn, Va. CloudSigma will soon expand into Amsterdam and London. It also claims to be offering carbon-neutral cloud servers.
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