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8/19/2010
02:27 PM
Charles Babcock
Charles Babcock
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RightScale Scales Up To 1.3 Million Servers In View

RightScale announced a little while ago that it was managing over one million servers in the cloud through its management platform. That would be a million virtual, not physical, machines, but the number is still impressive. Maybe the return on cloud computing lies in supplying front-end management as much as in infrastructure.

RightScale announced a little while ago that it was managing over one million servers in the cloud through its management platform. That would be a million virtual, not physical, machines, but the number is still impressive. Maybe the return on cloud computing lies in supplying front-end management as much as in infrastructure.RightScale has built the right tools and management platform to package up enterprise workloads and launch them in the cloud. It does not operate a cloud infrastructure itself, with server hardware and disks. Rather, it can help a customer select a database system from its application catalogue, such as IBM's DB2, tie it to an application server and Web server with a load balancer, and send the combination to Amazon's EC2.

If the customer went straight to Amazon, he'd have to provision each server himself and hope they worked together. RightScale vouches for the integration and monitors the workload. Through the load balancer, it adds another application server if demand warrants it. It's collecting 3.3 cents per hour per server for this operations management. RightScale CEO Michael Crandell remarked in a blog recently that his firm has just hired its hundredth employee. RightScale is a front end management platform for Rackspace as well as Amazon's EC2, with GoGrid an additional future target. And the one million figure, which was hit in March, is now up to one and one-third million, Crandell said. By that measure, cloud computing is no longer just an experiment or pilot project but an extension of the enterprise data center.

RightScale on Aug. 17 added Windows to its management platform. It had previously managed Linux workloads. CTO Thorsten von Eicken said in his blog that RightScale "has been chipping away at a mountain of work" to support Windows 2003 and 2008.

"The way Windows boots in the cloud is quite different from Linux or from the "normal" world," he wrote. Linux is uncluttered and straightforward in the cloud. Each Windows install, on the other hand, needs to generate a server key that gets embedded in the registry and becomes the server's unique identifier. One Windows instance may be booted several times, so fresh keys need to be generated for each new software server, other parts of the system, such as sysprep, need to be updated, and then the server rebooted.

"The security details of Windows (i.e. the server key) ripple down into the whole boot process, making it take twice as long as it should," concluded von Eicken. That means it may take 10-15 minutes to boot a Windows Server virtual machine in EC2 from RightScale compared to one minute for Linux.

RightScale has found ways to boot Windows and get it to work with major applications in the cloud but von Eicken is skeptical it's really in Microsoft's interest in general to have a cloud boot time that contrasts so markedly with Linux.

"Hopefully Microsoft can be sensitized to the notion that fast boot times are an important asset in the cloud because they enable a lot of automation that is very painful, if one has to wait so long for additional capacity… to come online," he concluded.

The Linux kernel developers worked on this issue just as cloud computing was getting off the ground and got the right parts of Linux underway early in the boot process to start accomplishing things. Microsoft is surely working on a quick Windows launch within its Azure cloud operations. Maybe one day Windows and Linux will both offer a speedy response to the new cloud user freshly arrived at the portal's doorstep.



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