SUSE added a new face to its infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) portfolio with the August 29 unveiling of SUSE Cloud at the CloudOpen conference. An OpenStack-based automated cloud computing platform, SUSE Cloud promises improved resource utilization and speedier workload provisioning while also adding another voice in support of the OpenStack effort.
Douglas Jarvis, the company's cloud solutions marketing manager, said in a phone interview that SUSE Cloud offers stability, automation, and scalability needed in mission-critical business environments. He noted that SUSE offers the largest library of certified third-party apps running on Linux as well as certifications for most-industry standard hardware.
These cloud capabilities, said Jarvis, liberate IT departments from investing in new machines and unfamiliar interfaces. SUSE Linux Enterprise Server users who adopt SUSE Cloud will be in familiar territory, he stated, thanks to the integration of SUSE Studio, a utility for developing customized Linux operating systems, and SUSE Manager, an interface for monitoring server health, and managing fixes and provisions.
SUSE Cloud was designed to addresses customer reports of "roughness ... in getting OpenStack installed," according to Peter Chadwick, senior product manager of SUSE's cloud products. To do so, the new product simplifies the process by implementing the open source, Dell-developed "Crowbar" installer. With it, installation is "much more straightforward," Chadwick said in an interview, adding that a cloud can be set up in "a couple of hours."
Jarvis said simple deployment tools such as SUSE Manager and Crowbar differentiate SUSE Cloud from competing products that "have not proven they can deliver that [simplicity]." Though other OpenStack-based products have been released, Jarvis said SUSE is the first IaaS vendor whose OpenStack private cloud tools carry "a proven history" of worldwide, enterprise-grade support inside the data center.
SUSE Cloud will be competing in a marketplace that is getting crowded. Amazon Web Services (AWS) currently dominates the cloud market that OpenStack and several other open source projects are attempting to penetrate. Virtualization-leader VMware has executed several moves to maintain its lead--on Aug. 28 it applied to join the OpenStack Foundation and it recently bought OpenStack contributor Nicira.
SUSE Cloud is moving in a good direction by offering automation and end user self-provisioning tools, according to InformationWeek's 2012 Private Cloud Survey, which argued that self-service and automation are prerequisites to successful private clouds. Esteban Kolsky, founder of ThnkJar and a former Gartner research director, said in a phone interview that "private clouds are a misnomer" because many lack "enough scalability" to qualify as true clouds. He claimed they're "more like private networks."
The OpenStack framework itself is as much a potential challenge as an asset. Despite contributions from an enthusiastic community that now includes over 185 companies and almost 3,400 developers, OpenStack projects have been dogged by concerns about the relatively young platform's out-of-box functionality. Following Red Hat's announcement of an enterprise-ready OpenStack distribution, Forrester analyst Lauren Nelson stated in an interview that early OpenStack adopters will have to write code to address holes in the current Essex build. She claimed the upcoming Folsom release, due in September, could "cause errors" when these early entrants bring their products current with the new version. Kolsky similarly stated that open APIs such as OpenStack's are "important but with a caveat: the performance of known components will always trump [the performance of] unknown components." He said OpenStack vendors need to attract high-profile customers to reassure more clients that the infrastructure is something in which they can place trust.
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