Canonical, supplier of the popular Ubuntu distribution of Linux, is partnering with Eucalyptus Systems to offer "private" cloud consulting services. The alliance is the first commercial technical support for implementing open source-based clouds inside the enterprise. Most external clouds, including Amazon's EC2, rely heavily on open source code to hold down costs, provide reliable service, and scale without worrying about a rapid build-up in software licensing fees.
The Eucalyptus project has duplicated in open source code the core Web service APIs of the Amazon cloud. That means Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud Services will advise on building private clouds that can exchange workloads with Amazon's EC2. Private clouds are built behind the enterprise firewall as server clusters that can move virtualized workloads around as needed. They follow the same Web standards that enable workloads to be sent to a public cloud, and usually provide some means for business users to automatically provision their own virtual machines.
By being able to align such internal clouds with EC2, Canonical is offering a consulting service that may encourage the hybrid cloud, where workloads run in a steady state internally but are offloaded to the public cloud when they encounter spikes. External clouds charge by the hour of use and, in theory, can help enterprises avoid the cost of equipping the data center for those peak workloads.
"Eucalyptus (open source code) is the platform on which Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud will be implemented," said Rich Wolski, the computer science professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara who is on leave as CTO of the newly formed Eucalyptus Systems. The firm was announced in April to provide technical support to Eucalyptus code users.
Wolski ran the open source code project at UC-Santa Barbara, which built open source implementations of Amazon's EC2 compute cloud, S3 storage and EBS elastic block storage functions. It has not attempted to duplicate SimpleDB or other Amazon functions.
One limitation of the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud Services is that it will be primarily focused on producing virtualized workloads under the KVM hypervisor, which both Ubuntu and Red Hat include in their distributions of Linux. KVM is native to the Linux kernel.
The consulting group will also provide support for open source Xen. Amazon uses as variation of Xen as the basis for Amazon Machine Image, the format in which EC2 accepts workloads.
Asked if Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud Services might support VMware's ESX Server, Wolski said the core idea was to support open source code, and VMware's product was proprietary. He said he couldn't rule out the possibility of a future decision by Canonical to include ESX support. "The preferred hypervisor is KVM. It's supported by Ubuntu out of the box," he said in an interview.
Wolski said it was unlikely in the short term that Ubuntu services would try to produce an equivalent to Amazon's SimpleDB. Most Ubuntu users simply upload a copy of the MySQL database in a virtual machine to the cloud and make use of it, he said.
"If MySQL needs to be supported deep in the cloud fabric, we would look at that. Most people seem to use MySQL as an appliance," he said.
In addition to Eucalyptus APIs, Eucalyptus provides back end services for cloud computing, such as creation and assignment of virtualized workloads, management of persistent storage for the virtual machine, and management of temporary storage used by the virtual machine.
Eucalyptus Systems consists of five graduate PhDs who were working with Wolski on the Eucalyptus project at UC-Santa Barbara and 10 other employees, including CEO Woody Rollins. The startup has received $5.5 million in venture capital funding.
InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on IBM's cloud computing strategy. Download the report here (registration required).