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March 19, 2010
4 Min Read
Marten Mickos, former CEO of MySQL AB, will leap back into the fray on Monday as he becomes the CEO of Eucalyptus Systems, the supplier of an API suite that's compatible with Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud. "When I left Sun Microsystems a little over a year ago, I asked people what's bigger than open source, and they said, 'the cloud.' For cloud computing to be truly successful, it must be built on open source," Mickos said, when contacted in Finland Friday.
Mickos is recognized as an experienced builder of an open source code company and he's now in the driver's seat of a firm that's positioned at a key juncture of cloud computing. In his previous position, Mickos gave a no nonsense tone and a business-like face to MySQL at a time when enterprise IT wasn't sure how much it wished to depend on freely downloadable code.
He moved his family from Finland to the Silicon Valley and assembled a team of executives that helped make MySQL a widely adopted system for Web sites and MySQL AB open source database leader. Sun Microsystems purchased the company in 2008 for $1 billion, the largest amount ever paid for an open source company. (JBoss, a contemporary, was sold to Red Hat for $350 million.)
"We're pretty excited. Here's a guy who clearly knows how to build a company based on open source," said Rich Wolski, the University of California at Santa Barbara professor who founded the Eucalyptus project. He's now on leave of absence, serving as CTO and co-founder of Eucalyptus Systems.
Wolski's co-founder, Woody Rollins, a veteran of several startups and current CEO, will shift chairs Monday and become chief financial officer. "It was serendipitous that this opportunity presented itself," said Rollins in an interview. The young firm launched its first commercial product in October and was watching downloads of the open source API suite jump from 8,500 a month to 15,000. He and Wolski spent two months getting to know Mickos by going out to dinner and casual meetings until all three decided they had a match.
The Eucalyptus open source project is the only source of APIs that are compatible with the dominant cloud supplier, Amazon Web Services. Eucalyptus Systems provides commercial support for those APIs and has built an enhanced product, Eucalyptus Enterprise Edition, on top of the core code. One of the chief additions was support for VMware virtual machines.
Enterprise Edition was launched in October and provides API gateways to cloud services, both public and private. Enterprise Edition can move a workload, running as a VMware virtual machine in the enterprise into Amazon Web Services EC2 without the user needing to know anything about EC2's proprietary virtual machine format; the Eucalyptus product handles the conversion. Likewise, it can import a workload from EC2 and allow it run once again under the VMware hypervisor.
There are other ways to effect the same transfer, through knowledge of how to build Amazon Machine Images or through an outside service, such as RightScale. But Eucalyptus Systems has a start on supplying enterprise IT with the tools and APIs to do it itself.
Such movement between the private data center and public cloud is central to how IT managers say they would like to use cloud computing in the future. If a frictionless transfer could take place, the data center could offload spikes in workloads to the cloud, without investing in surplus capacity that sits idle much of the time.
Amazon maintains a proprietary grip on the AMI format, and so far the Eucalyptus project is the only party to create APIs that allow their users to load a virtual machine into an EC2 server, tell it to run the workload, and store the results.
Amazon has maintained silence on the compatibility of the open source code with its APIs and might be in a position to make it more difficult for Eucalyptus APIs to work with EC2. But so far it appears happy to have an outside agent increasing the use of EC2 without AWS needing to make public or let go of its intellectual property.
Wolski in previous interviews has maintained that he regularly invites Amazon participation in the Eucalyptus open source project.
Amazon itself has built its EC2 infrastructure as a service, using open source code freely available in the marketplace. Amazon Machine Images are variations of virtual machines that run under the open soruce Xen hypervisor. During EC2's first two years of beta operation, it became a widely accepted approach to computing by offering Linux virtual machine servers; it added Windows in year three.
Open source and cloud computing are natural allies, said Mickos, as he prepared to take his post at the Goleta, Calif., company. Open source software in the cloud allows workloads to scale up; open source can be replicated over and over again without increasing the cost of cloud services. "Openness is absolutely vital there," he said.
About the Author(s)
Editor at Large, Cloud
Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.
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