Amazon Launches CloudFormation To Simplify App Deployment

The service automates building virtual workloads for EC2, much like Kaavo CEO's says it does for Amazon, VMware, and other public and private clouds.
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Amazon Web Services has added a service that prompts a customer to describe in text the kind of server, network bandwidth, storage, and related services sought and then automatically provisions those resources.

The new CloudFormation service was announced Friday. It will take a customer's template description and assemble the servers, networking connections, and storage in the right sequence, taking into account the dependencies between them.

There is no charge for using CloudFormation. AWS is offering the service as a way to encourage adoption of its EC2 cloud. "You don't need to figure out the order in which AWS services need to be provisioned or the subtleties of how to make those dependencies work. CloudFormation takes care of this for you," the announcement said.

After resources have been deployed on AWS' Elastic Compute Cloud, CloudFormation allows the customer to see and manage those resources, becoming a monitoring system as well, said Amazon spokesmen. The AWS Management Console recognizes and maintains a view of a virtual machine created through CloudFormation, spokesmen said.

To help in the process, AWS has preassembled sample templates for customers to choose.

There's been another way to accomplish much the same tasks through a third-party supplier. Jamal Mazhar, founder and CEO of Kaavo, said AWS' CloudFormation produces a cloud application "stack" that closely resembles what Kaavo calls its "system definition."

"We are taking it as 'imitation is the greatest form of flattery' and this is a great validation of what we are doing," Mazhar said in a blog posted on the Kaavo's site the morning of Amazon's announcement.

A CloudFormation stack and a Kaavo system definition both consist of an application, its operating system, network settings, and any needed middleware, such as a database connector, load balancer, or Web server assembled as a set of files ready to run in a particular virtual machine format. CloudFormation produces an Amazon Machine Image (AMI), AWS' preferred format. Kaavo produces a set of virtual files geared to the target cloud, in some cases an AMI, but in others a VMware ESX Server image for running in a cloud equipped with VMware's vCloud management software. Kaavo can also produce virtual machine images, sometimes referred to as virtual appliances, for the IBM public cloud, Rackmount, or Terremark.

For on-premises, private cloud operation, Kaavo can produce virtual appliances that are compatible with Eucalyptus Systems private clouds, IBM private clouds, or VMware private clouds.

Kaavo's Infrastructure Middleware OnDemand provisioning and deployment engine has been available since January 2009. It is priced for up to two cloud servers at a minimum of $100 a month plus $.06 per hour, or about $145 a month. A 10-server deployment and ongoing monitoring would cost $450 a month.

"Amazon does it only for its cloud. We do it for multiple clouds and hybrid cloud deployments," said Mazhar in an interview.

Both systems are able to define events that affect the monitored cloud virtual workloads and apply reactions to those events through a workflow engine.