As they move to virtual environments, one of the things that IT shops need is a jukebox that stores all gold images for software stacks used in development, testing, and production. The programs that do this are called lab managers - because they were initially used in software development labs that were the early adopters of x64 virtualization - but they're used for managing production software stacks as well, and soon, they'll be able to deploy stacks to public clouds in addition to internal infrastructure.
VMware bought Akimbi, which had created a product called Lab Manager, to put virtual software stacks into a jukebox and automate their deployment in test and production environments. This software has been part of the Virtual Infrastructure 3 stack, which was married to the ESX Server 3.X hypervisor and is also a key ingredient that makes ESX Server 4.0 and its vSphere toolset worth the big bucks that VMware charges. VMware's Lab Manager only works with its own hypervisor, but there is an alternative that works with hypervisors from VMware as well as others: LabManager (no space) from VMLogix.
VMLogix, you will remember, is providing the lab management software that is part of the Citrix Essentials toolsets for managing XenServer 5.5 and Hyper-V R2 hypervisors from Citrix Systems and Microsoft, respectively. The Essentials tools, announced in February and shipping as of last week, include an OEM version of the VMLogix LabManager and StageManager tools.
But VMLogix has its eyes on bigger prizes than selling into Microsoft and Citrix accounts. Today, the company announced a future rev on the product, called LabManager Cloud Edition, that will allow programmers and system administrators to deploy software stacks to Amazon's EC2 compute cloud and S3 storage utility. The Cloud Edition is only in beta today and only supports the EC2/S3 combo now, but Sameer Dholakia, chief executive officer at VMLogix, says that the cloud version of LabManager will be generally available in September and that it will support other public clouds within the next three to six months, including the clouds being built right now by IBM and Sun Microsystems. (The fate of the latter cloud is in limbo until Oracle closes the Sun acquisition in three weeks and then decides what parts of Sun will live or die).
While cloud computing is something people have been talking about for years, the perception is that there are relatively few companies deploying production applications to clouds like EC2. "This is a big deal for us," explains Dholakia. "We do have a subset of customers now who want a cloud-only solution."
In the fourth quarter, after the Cloud Edition is out for a while, VMLogix will put out a unified edition of the LabManager that can manage VMs and application stacks deployed on local infrastructure and on clouds from a single pane of glass.
Dholakia says that VMLogix has not hammered out pricing for the cloud edition of its tool, but he says that it will follow the Amazon EC2 pricing model, charging on the basis of managed nodes per hour.
You can sign up for the beta of LabManager Cloud Edition here.
The Amazon EC2 cloud uses a home-grown implementation of the open source Xen hypervisor as its application container. LabManager supports Citrix XenServer 5.0 (not the new 5.5 according to the company's Web site, which seems odd), Microsoft Hyper-V, and VMware ESX Server 3.5. The freebie VMware 1.0.4 type 2 hosted hypervisor is also supported for proof-of-concept, but not production. VMLogix needs to get support for ESX Server 4.0 and XenServer 5.5 out the door ASAP, since these are the new products that companies are going to buy and, perhaps equally importantly, that hosting providers are going to use to build out their own public clouds to compete with Amazon. ®