Engine Yard Pivots Toward Container Management

New Engine Yard CEO Beau Vrolyk is moving the company toward managing Linux containers for developers, with the acquisition of OpDemand.

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

April 16, 2015

5 Min Read
<p align="left">(Image: <a href="http://pixabay.com/en/dock-container-export-cargo-441989/" target="_blank">Echosystem</a> via Pixabay)</p>

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Engine Yard, one of the first platform-as-a-service firms, is pivoting toward Linux container management as it adjusts to the impact of containers on enterprise IT development and operations.

Engine Yard has acquired OpDemand, the firm founded by Gabriel Monroy and Joshua Schnell, who were also founders of the OpenDeis Project. The young, open-source project offers a deployment and management system for Docker containers in a horizontally-scalable manner. That allows a customer-facing application to scale up or down, as needed, on a cluster of x86 servers.

Engine Yard is a developer's platform running on top of the Amazon Web Services. The Deis open source software is available for use on both the AWS cloud or in the enterprise data center. Engine Yard CEO Beau Vrolyk said the company will not interfere with that practice or try to route the open source code into a proprietary Engine Yard product.

Vrolyk took over as CEO on Oct. 7 and has been reorienting Engine Yard toward a lighter weight platform with container management as its focus. It will still support Ruby on Rails, PHP, and Node.js developers, as it has done in the past, he said in an interview.

However, conversations with the OpenDeis founders "steered us toward the opportunity of managing Docker containers," Vrolyk said.

Monroy, formerly CTO of OpDemand, will become CTO of Engine Yard. Schnell, formerly CEO of the six-employee OpDemand, will become Engine Yard's vice president of business development. Both men will report directly to Vrolyk. Four OpDemand software engineers have joined the company as well.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. OpDemand employees have been on the Engine Yard payroll since the start of April.

Engine Yard already has experience in orchestrating and scheduling complex workloads, and in building their database connections in a cloud setting -- skills that are a close match for what's needed in the emerging world of container orchestration.

"Deis will work with a cluster scheduling tool like (the Apache Software Foundation's) Mesos or Google Kubernetes," note Vrolyk. By working with a scheduler, the Deis platform will be able to see when demand is catching up with a running application and scale it out by initializing additional containers. As demand falls, it can scale them back.

In addition, Engine Yard will be able to not only help Ruby, PHP, and Node.js developers compose applications. With its new approach, it will be in the business of helping them deploy distributed applications in containers. That change takes some of the scaling and deployment decisions off the backs of developers and allows them to better concentrate on the business logic of apps, said Vrolyk.

In effect, containers open the door for a platform like Engine Yard to not only provide development support but to combine it with operations support, giving it a more DevOps approach to customers.

Containers simplify some of the deployment decisions developers have to make. The Deis system working with a container scheduling system, such as Kubernetes, Docker or Mesos, will be able to simplify deployment tasks further, Vrolyk said.

[Want to learn more about how Docker is expanding? See Microsoft Brings Docker Containers To Azure, .Net Developers.]

Vrolyk added that Engine Yard will retain its ability to launch and manage virtual machines on AWS and that it would stay agnostic on the issue of whether containers need to run on virtual machines or can run on a shared system host without a virtual machine.


"We'll be the developer's trusted partner in the process of building all the tools -- the database connections, API use, and container schedulers -- to provide full support for running applications," Vrolyk said. Developers will be able to code and Engine Yard will do more of the operations part, he added.

"We are thrilled to be joining forces with a company that shares our vision of an open, composable platform … We will accelerate our open source efforts and ensure Deis remains the best way to deploy and manage distributed applications in production," said Monroy in the announcement.

Currently a Linux container formatting engine and tools, Docker is slated to gain a capacity to produce Microsoft Windows Server Containers and Hyper-V Containers by the end of the second quarter.

"Deis has been handling production traffic at ShopKeep for some time now. Our engineering team needs to move fast, and a lightweight PaaS like Deis helps make that possible," according to Duncan Grazier, vice president of engineering at ShopKeep in New York, according to information on the OpDemand Web site.

Information there indicates that OpenDeis implements "a Heroku-inspired workflow" in its container management. Heroku is an Engine Yard PaaS competitor.

Before joining Engine Yard, Vrolyk was the managing director of Vrolyk Ventures, which invested in early-stage technology companies. He has been managing director at Warburg Pincus, supervising investments in the information technology and telecommunications. He was previously CEO of TogetherSoft, CEO of 3ware, and senior vice president of the product group at Silicon Graphics.

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About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

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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