HashiCorp Cloud Platform unveiled – but in private beta for AWS only

Kubernetes? 'A huge set of workloads get excluded' by it, says HashiCorp

HashiCorp unveiled the widely anticipated HashiCorp Cloud Platform at its virtual HashiConf event under way this week, as well as updates to all its core products.

The freemium-model San Francisco-based biz provides infrastructure automation tools, all of which are open source, though the commercial versions may have additional features. These include Terraform, which lets you define computer resources as code and provision them in public cloud or on-premises; Consul, a network configuration tool which does tasks such as load balancing and securing services; and Nomad, an orchestrator for both container and non-container applications. There's also Vault, for key management and secrets protection; Vagrant, the company's first product, for setting up virtual machine environments for developers; and Packer, a general tool for building virtual machine images.

The new HashiCorp Cloud Platform (HCP) will let customers run HashiCorp products as a managed service – offloading operations work. However, the initial release is just one product on one cloud: Consul on AWS is available in private beta. Vault on AWS will be next.

HashiCorp also pushed Consul 1.8 out to general availability. The new iteration adds features including integrated Helm support for Kubernetes environments and single sign-on (commercial product only).

There is also a new release of Nomad, 0.12 beta, which adds the ability to deploy to multiple clusters along with improved container support and other features. An update to Terraform takes the product to the 0.13 beta, which the company said is the "the first major release featuring Terraform login, which makes it simple to collaborate using Terraform Cloud."

What makes it different from Consul Service on Azure?

It was only nine months ago that HashiCorp released the beta of Consul Service on Azure (HCS) – is HashiCorp Cloud Platform more of the same but on AWS, at least initially?

There are some differences, HashiCorp co-founder and CTO Armon Dadgar said. "With HCS, when someone provisions a Consul cluster through that Azure service, it deploys into a customer-managed environment, versus with HCP it [will be] a platform built on top of Azure so gets launched into a HashiCorp owned and managed account, that the customer can peer with … billed directly through the HashiCorp login."

Despite these differences, in both cases the Consul service itself is managed by HashiCorp. "Internally the HCP platform manages both our Azure service and the AWS service," said Dadgar.

The intention is to provide Consul, Vault, Terraform and Nomad on AWS, Azure and Google Cloud Platform.

Kubernetes is by and large focused on containers on Linux... Nomad can operate across Windows, Linux, BSD, MacOS. People have enormous Windows environments, especially in large enterprises

How long will it take? "It took us 18 months to get from a standing start to the first one. I think it will take a fraction of the time to get to Vault and beyond … The hard work is laying the foundations," said Dadgar. The chief techie implied that in an another 18 months or so "we plan to complete that matrix of 3 by 4."

CEO Dave McJannet said that although HashiCorp's products perform a behind-the-scenes function that makes them invisible to most people, they are widely used. "A huge percentage of the cloud infrastructure on any given day spun up on Amazon, Azure and Google is today spun up by Terraform," he told the press. Once deployed, they become critical to an organisation's IT delivery. "They become tier-zero services that every application must consume in order to run," he added.

This is the reason for a cautious rollout of HCP. "We will make sure Consul runs well rather than trying to be everywhere all at once. The product is largely there already, it's just a case of us getting operational confidence," he said.

'Most of our customers are multicloud'

A key feature of the HashiCorp products is that they abstract the differences between the way you create virtual infrastructure on the various cloud providers. "If I'm on Amazon, there's a tool for provisioning called CloudFormation. On Azure there's a tool called ARM [Azure Resource Manager]; on Google there's a tool called Google Cloud Deployment Manager. They all have their own security, they all have their own identity, they all have their own approach to networking. If you have some application on Amazon and some on Azure and some on-prem, operationally this is difficult to manage. Our products allow you to have a consistent workflow," said McJannet.

This means the products are more useful in a multicloud environment. "The new platform isn't cloud, it's multicloud," said McJannet. "Most of our customers are multicloud, whether by accident or design, they just are." The biggest cloud providers have different personalities, he said. "Google is good at the data stuff, Amazon is good generically, Azure has long-term trusted relationships with their customers and has GitHub and Office 365 … data has gravity and the different clouds have different services. It’s rare that people actually move applications around."

At HashiConf, the company said that its Nomad product is booming – despite the buzz behind Kubernetes as the best-known orchestrator for applications. Dadgar said that Nomad and Kubernetes address different needs. "Nomad exists at the same layer of the stack as Kubernetes, there's an analogy between them … but Kubernetes is by and large focused on containers on Linux. That's a large and important workflow, that we support, but a huge set of workloads get excluded.

"Nomad can operate across Windows, Linux, BSD, MacOS. People have enormous Windows environments especially in large enterprises. It can also run across different types of workloads, it doesn't have to be containers, it can be VM-based, it can be Java-based, it can be Windows IIS (Internet Information Services). We talk a lot about containers but there's an enormous heritage workload that already exists around these other platforms, that Nomad's able to support."

Dadgar added: "The other thing is that the average size of a Kubernetes cluster is fairly small. They run five, 10, 15 node clusters but lots of them. Nomad is the opposite; our customers tend to run very few very large clusters. You might run one for dev, one for staging and one for production."

The HashiCorp Cloud Platform is in private beta and you can request access here. ®

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