CenturyLink's cloud company, Savvis, broadens cloned app capabilities by acquiring automation platform AppFog.

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

June 14, 2013

4 Min Read

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Savvis, the cloud unit of the third largest telecom supplier in the U.S., CenturyLink, has acquired AppFog, a platform as a service (PaaS) that supports deploying applications to multiple cloud environments.

As part of Savvis, AppFog will add features that let developers create applications that link to data sources across different data centers or instantly clone themselves in a new location. The AppFog platform already contains a "clone" button that replicates an application and generates an up-to-date data feed to the new location. When placed on top of the extensive CenturyLink network, "clone" could start to take on system backup and disaster recovery characteristics.

"You can not only work on an application for a single infrastructure as a service. You can pick the infrastructure you want it to work on," Lucas Carlson, founder and CEO of AppFog in Portland, Ore., said in an interview. Savvis has completed the acquisition of AppFog and Carlson will serve as VP of cloud evangelism at the parent company.

Savvis has 55 data centers offering infrastructure services to enterprise IT managers, CTO Andrew Higginbotham told InformationWeek . Savvis wants to broaden its reach to enterprise developers as well, making it more likely that new applications designed for the cloud will run on its infrastructure as well.

[ Want more on Savvis' global chain of data centers? See Savvis Expands Worldwide Data Center Footprint. ]

But its acquisition of AppFog, with its ability to deploy to Amazon Web Services or OpenStack-based clouds such as HP Cloud or Rackspace, proves Savvis is not trying to tie customers up in Savvis' knots, said AppFog's Lucas. "It's not sufficient just to be able to move virtual machines around," said Lucas. Any application migration has to deal with data integrity issues as well, he said. The AppFog platform has automated the transfer and integrity of the data feed with the application.

Lucas said his 20-employee firm has built a flexible development platform that can reconfigure a VMware virtual machine, the type frequently found running in the Savvis infrastructure, to an Amazon Machine Image or the KVM virtual machines favored by OpenStack.

The platform also allows the use of Java in the Spring Framework, Ruby, Node.js, Python and PHP. It will soon add Microsoft's .Net languages as well, Lucas said.

AppFog automates a number of application management problems, such as allowing developers to scale out their applications by changing the setting on a sliding scale. AppFog then does the rest by ordering the additional virtual servers needed and adjusting load balancers.

Higginbotham said Savvis will push this type of automation further because AppFog will now be sitting on top of the CenturyLink network. The platform already forms a map of the links between an application and its surrounding resources, such as the databases to which it's connected. "It has a map of the topology and how the pieces are connected," he said. That map now can be extended to different pieces of an application in different data centers or different data sources in various locations.

In addition to Savvis' locations, AppFog can map to three Amazon locations in Ashburn, Va.; Dublin, Ireland; and Singapore. It also recognizes a primary HP Cloud location, Lucas said.

By prioritizing Savvis traffic on its network, CenturyLink can insure its cloud customers will experience lower latencies as they operate interdependent applications in Savvis data centers, Higginbotham said.

The AppFog platform is available as a limited free service; supported subscriptions start at $20 a month, depending on the number of developers, with some users paying thousands of dollars a month, Lucas said. The platform can build applications around several major pieces of open source code, including Drupal and WordPress.

VMware has seen the value of PaaS and built out its open-source Cloud Foundry, which has attracted thousands of developers. Microsoft has made sure Azure functioned as a developers' platform, and Red Hat added Red Shift to its lineup to give Linux developers a cloud platform. Progress Software recently bought the Rollbase platform to move itself into the world of cloud computing.

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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