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Nimbula Readies Cloud OS Launch

Director operating system will enable providers to build out a cloud infrastructure like Amazon's EC2, then extend it with their own brand of added services, the firm announced at Cloud Connect.

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Nimbula Director, the first product to come out in the new category of "cloud operating system," will become generally available in 30 days, said Chris Pinkham, CEO of Nimbula and former VP of engineering at at Cloud Connect 2011, UBM TechWeb event.

Director has been available in unsupported, public beta since early December. A cloud operating system treats a broad set of virtualized resources -- servers, storage, and networking -- as a single computer system and marshals those resources as efficiently as it can to serve users and workloads.

Pinkham, his co-founder and fellow veteran, Willem van Biljon, and Martin Buhr, VP of sales at Nimbula and former business director for Europe of Amazon Web Services, were all roaming the Santa Clara, Calif., Convention Center this week, appearing in various conference sessions and on panels.

Nimbula is one several young, ambitious brain trusts bidding to become the supplier of the core software superstructure for future cloud services. Another is Eucalyptus Systems, with more of a private cloud orientation. And another is, based on the open source project started by Rackspace, OpenStack.

Nimbula Director may be adopted in some enterprises to build a private cloud, said Pinkham, who took time out of a busy schedule to sit down for an interview with InformationWeek at the show. But it's more likely to be adopted by future cloud service providers that plan to build out a cloud infrastructure like Amazon's EC2, then extend it with their own brand of added services.

Amazon's EC2 is the clear market leader for providing plain vanilla, on-demand compute cycles, also known as infrastructure as a service (IaaS). "We believe there is an enormous amount of room for the invention of new clouds and a new range of services," that go beyond the Amazon example, he said.

Nimbula's first goal is to enable a cloud supplier, whether public or private, to match Amazon's infrastructure and track its development with user self-provisioning, policy-governed authentication, load balancing, and user chargeback. But unlike EC2, Nimbula is striving to create a hypervisor-neutral cloud that could be used by a wide variety of virtual machine users. Many clouds today are hypervisor specific. Nimbula regards virtualization as something that remains in the background, not the foreground.

It's not there yet. The initial offering of Director will support only Red Hat's KVM hypervisor and open source Xen. Next on the list will be VMware's ESX Server, no delivery date yet in sight. Pinkham acknowledged that Nimbula as a startup was partial to open source code, and indeed EC2 was built on the back of many open source projects. "Hyper-V (Microsoft's hypervisor) isn't really in the picture at this stage," said Pinkham, saying he didn't see demand yet for its inclusion in a cloud operating system.

Nimbula seeks to manage key aspects of cloud operation in a highly automated fashion. If traffic to a service provider is building, Nimbula can bring dozens or hundreds of new servers online. It has a decentralized architecture that doesn't allow the management of additional servers to degrade the operating system's performance. New racks can be added with a minimum required in human configuration, and they will be brought online in 15 minutes, Pinkham said.

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