Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Eucalyptus Tightens Integration with AWS, VMware Clouds 

OpenStack may get a lot of attention these days, but plenty of enterprise customers who are building private clouds choose Eucalyptus Systems and its eponymous cloud controller. The reason why is simple: Eucalyptus is committed to having the best compatibility with the Amazon Web Services public cloud.

Eucalyptus is not completely open source, but uses a common strategy called open-core that puts most of code out there as open source but keeps some of the bits compiled, thereby allowing Eucalyptus to charge for those extra goodies. This open-core strategy is one of the things that compelled NASA Ames to work with Rackspace Hosting to start the OpenStack project three years ago, but for many enterprises, compatibility with AWS is a more important issue than the openness of the source code.

To that end, Eucalyptus is still seeing tens of thousands of downloads of its cloud controller per month, Andy Knosp, vice president of product management, tells EnterpriseTech. The company also tracks the first starts of clouds and sees thousands of these each month, too. Eucalyptus is deployed across a wide variety of industries, and doesn't have a big concentration in any particular one.

"Software development is seen as a competitive weapon for financial services," explains Knosp, and it is not surprising at all that one of the largest paying customers for Eucalyptus is a financial firm that is managing over 50,000 servers in a private cloud. The firm supports a variety of applications on that cloud, including test and development as well as production applications. New deployments in this industry are typically around 100 nodes, and they grow to hundreds of nodes pretty quickly as the idea gets tested out.

Some customers are using Eucalyptus as a means to get off of VMware's vCloud Director software, which is possible because the company has done a lot of work to make the Eucalyptus cloud controller plays nicely with VMware's ESXi server virtualization hypervisor.

The largest customer who is willing to be named using Eucalyptus is Nokia Siemens Networks, a manufacturer of telecommunications equipment for LTE and GSM wireless networks. And like many private clouds in the enterprise, this one is used to automate application testing and development. The company has over 10,000 X86 cores on its private cloud today and moving to Eucalyptus and managing the virtualized server instances better has improved hardware utilization by a factor of 300 percent. That said, NSN is planning to soon double up processing power on the Eucalyptus cloud to 20,000 cores. NSN is not counting cores, by the way. This is not a relevant metric for software development. But for the several thousand developers who are creating code for myriad platforms and running regression testing on it, what matters is the duration of virtual machine instances on the cloud. The current setup has surpassed 1 million instance-hours per month.

On X86 platforms, server virtualization started out in the test/dev environment a decade ago because of the time and money it took to configure multiple physical servers to check code compatibility with various operating systems and also see how far code could scale in one machine and across many. Clouds are similarly starting out in the test/dev environment, and again, it is to better automate the configuration and scale of machinery to test new applications.

But, says Knosp, it doesn't take long for companies to move beyond test and development. In the case of Eucalyptus and its current new customers, the most popular next use for a private cloud is analytics, with Hadoop and NoSQL data stores like MongoDB being the two most popular right now. You might be thinking that companies would want to run analytics applications on bare-metal clusters, not virtualized ones, but remember, enterprises are not supercomputing labs with lots very bright techies around. Anything that allows for a server cluster to be managed with fewer people – and support more than one workload – is going to be taken seriously in an enterprise data center.

With the Eucalyptus 3.4 update, the company is adding a few features to the cloud controller to make it a bit easier to use and maintain. With the 3.3 update that came out in April, Eucalyptus got a maintenance mode for nodes in the cluster that automated the movement of workloads as the underlying hardware and systems software running inside of virtual machines needed to be patched. This rolling live migration feature was useful as each node was upgraded, but there was no way to upgrade the Eucalyptus cloud controller itself. With the 3.4 release, you have redundant controllers and you can do a warm upgrade of that controller without taking the cloud itself offline.

Eucalyptus has also added tools that convert a virtual machine from the Amazon Machine Image (AMI) format to the Eucalyptus Machine Image (EMI) format. This conversion tool lets AMIs running on the Amazon public cloud make the leap to a Eucalyptus private cloud; it can also convert EMIs to AMIs to go in the other direction. (Amazon has its own implementation of the Xen hypervisor creating the slices on its cloud, and most Eucalyptus customers use the alternative KVM hypervisor, and the respective formats for virtual machines are taken into account.) Similarly, Eucalyptus can convert between the VMDK format used by VMware's ESXi hypervisor and the EMI format used by the Eucalyptus-KVM pairing.

Knosp says that over time, as customers require it, Eucalyptus can support other hypervisors running atop its cloud controller, and if the Google Compute Engine and Microsoft Windows Azure compute clouds take off, Eucalyptus could be tweaked to offer compatibility with those clouds, too.

The last new bit in the Eucalyptus 3.4 update (you can read the release notes here) is a new hybrid user console that can see virtual machines running on the Eucalyptus private cloud and the AWS private cloud at the same time. This is a fairly simple user interface, says Knosp, and is intended as such, and it is nowhere as sophisticated as the open source Eucalobo hybrid console that is aimed at power users. Eucalobo is itself a variant of the ElasticWolf console, an open source tool that was created just to manage AWS outside of the internal console that Amazon has created.

A license to the full-on Eucalyptus cloud controller costs $2,750 per host, with volume discounts. Red Hat Enterprise Linux or its CentOS clone are supported on the control, compute, and storage nodes, and Knosp says that the majority of customers go with CentOS. While both Xen and KVM are supported hypervisors with Eucalyptus, when Red Hat made the switch from Xen to KVM with the RHEL 6 releases, Eucalyptus followed suit.