Open source cloud-builder respawn: Eucalyptus 3.0 looms

Mickos & Co craft 'hot spare' NASA-proof cloudware


Marten Mickos and Eucalyptus have pumped new life into their build-your-own–cloud platform, revamping its approach to open source while adding new code designed to protect users from catastrophic failures.

On Wednesday, Eucalyptus unveiled version 3.0 of its eponymous platform, a means of building Amazon-like "infrastructure clouds" inside your own data center. Unlike version 2.0, the new incarnation is a single platform built on a single open source code tree. Previously, the company offered an open source version of the platform as well as a for-pay "enterprise" version that included proprietary code.

"For the last nine months, we've had just one branch of code, so all the code we produce for the platform is now open source. We do still build add-ons for paying customers only, but these are truly add-ons, which they weren't before," Eucalyptus CEO and former MySQL boss Marten Mickos tells The Register.

In other words, you needn't install a whole new version of the platform in order to use proprietary pieces. These proprietary tools let you use the platform with certain third-party products, including NetApp and JBOD EBS storage area networks and the VMware hypervisor. Without plug-ins, the platform must run atop the KVM or Xen open source hypervisors.

According to Mickos, Eucalyptus had originally planned to build a closed source version of the platform that would eliminate single points of failure. But somewhere along the way, this work was moved to the open source project.

"A single code branch creates better quality software," says Mickos. "It allows people to test the platform more and make modifications as they're needed." But he also indicates that the company was responding to NASA's very public decision to drop Eucalyptus over the company's use of a second, proprietary code branch.

According to NASA chief technology officer Chris Kemp, Eucalyptus didn't scale as well as NASA hoped, and when the organization tried to submit patches that would improve scaling, Kemp told The Register, they were rejected because they conflicted with the for-pay enterprise version of Eucalyptus.

In any event, Eucalyptus is a single platform again, and over the past nine months, the company's engineering team – which now numbers about 25 people – has worked to better protect this platform from drive failures, memory corruption, network snafus, and power outages. "We've created 'hot spares' for all the control components that are responsible for coordinating what goes on inside your cloud," explains Rich Wolski, the Eucalyptus chief technology officer who first built the open source platform at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

"There are a series of processes that all have to be up and talking to each in order for Eucalyptus to run properly. With the current version, if a machine that is hosting one of those processes goes down, Eucalyptus can't accept any more requests until the machine comes back up. But we've identified all those control points and created a 'hot spare' mechanism to keep them running.

"If you lose a process, the hot spare can step in and the cloud can continue to run."

This "high availability" version of the platform includes twice as much code as Eucalyptus 2.0, released a year ago, and in addition reducing single points of failure, it offers what the company calls significant enhancements to the platform's resource access controls, letting admins more closely manage the operation of their services and those using the services.

The new version also lets you boot instances from Elastic Block Storage volumes, persistent storage volumes similar to the EBS volumes available on Amazon. Eucalyptus seeks to mimic each Amazon API. "When you boot an image from EBS, you can make changes to the image and shut it down, and when you bring it back up, all those changes will still be there," says Wolski. Previously, if you shut down images, you lost your changes.

In October, Eucalyptus will cease to be the default cloud platform offered by Canonical's Ubuntu Linux distro. With the release of Ubuntu "Oneric Ocelot", Canonical will switch to OpenStack, the open source platform NASA helped build. Mickos acknowledges that this will have some affect on the progress of Eucalyptus, but he points out that the platform can still run on Ubuntu, and he says the platform is also widely used on Red Hat, CentOS, and SUSE.

According to Mikos, about 25,000 private cloud services have been built with the platform over the past year. But he declined to say many businesses are actually using the platform.

A compiled version of Eucalyptus 3.0 will be available within the next thirty days to those who pay for a Eucalyptus subscription. ®

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