Eucalyptus Open Source Private Cloud Project Goes Commercial

With a $5.5 million investment from Benchmark Capital, Eucalyptus is preparing to sell deployment, consulting, and maintenance services for its open source software.
When Rich Wolski and Woody Rollins started the Eucalyptus project, they had no idea that it would morph into a commercial, general-purpose "private cloud" project. Now, on the back end of a $5.5 million investment from Benchmark Capital, that's exactly where Eucalyptus stands.

The project started out as part of a multiuniversity grant aimed at helping the academic world run very large-scale applications that cut across a National Science Foundation supercomputer, public clouds, and university data centers, but eventually changed into something very different as Eucalyptus developers built an on-premises software layer and APIs that emulated Amazon Web Services.

Canonical recently announced that it would be shipping Eucalyptus APIs as part of the latest version of Ubuntu Linux, which will enable Ubuntu customers to build internal clouds that act like AWS and can federate with AWS to create so-called hybrid clouds. Eucalyptus also will work like Google App Engine.

Eucalyptus works by taking commands that would be used by tools that talk to the public clouds and converting them into Eucalyptus controls, allowing users to provision internal servers and resources on demand. Unlike the vision for private clouds as a way to create more automated data centers, however, Eucalyptus also won't dynamically, automatically scale applications or support live migration.

Eucalyptus allows companies to use their existing servers, provided they run on certain types of infrastructures. That may represent a significant limitation, since Eucalyptus data centers don't support VMware or Microsoft Hyper-V virtualization, instead requiring Citrix Xen, Linux kernel-based virtual machine, or Sun's xVM. Eucalyptus also currently runs only on Ubuntu, CentOS, Debian, or OpenSUSE.

While Eucalyptus will continue to offer its namesake software as open source, it also will begin selling associated deployment, consulting, and maintenance services. Additional products that will go beyond the functionality of AWS are due out by the third quarter of this year.

Eucalyptus hopes to offer support for new storage architectures, different ways to charge users, and more granular service-level agreement management, among other things. "The public clouds are not necessarily tailoring the features they support to what enterprises need in their own data center," Eucalyptus co-founder Wolski said in an interview.

There have been 14,000 downloads of the Eucalyptus code thus far, including users from more than 350 companies, and the company has gotten inquiries from a number of Fortune 100 companies that want to build flexible, scalable pools of computing resources but still have concerns about putting all their data online.

Wolski expects companies to have a number of use cases for Eucalyptus. In addition to its use as a private and hybrid cloud enabler, he expects some companies to use it for a development platform for building apps that will eventually run on AWS so that companies have an on-premises testing environment, or as a failover mode for companies worried about Amazon outages.

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