Start-up VMOps aims to ease cloud deployments

VMOps offers cloud-computing infrastructure stack, built like "EC2 in a box"

VMOps' cloud-computing infrastructure stack, built to be like "EC2 in a box," includes a hardened version of the Xen hypervisor plus storage and network virtualization.

Building a cloud computing infrastructure can be a complicated endeavor, but stealth start-up VMOps hopes to provide a silver lining with its all-in-one infrastructure software that lets service providers or corporations deploy and host their own clouds.

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Cloud hype revolves around moving applications to the cloud, attaching to the cloud, or integrating with the cloud, but what gets little attention is what's required to build and maintain the infrastructure that defines the cloud.

VMOps says it is expensive but doesn't have to be.

Later this year, VMOps will introduce its VMOps Cloud Stack, which is a single platform with all the software needed for deploying a cloud infrastructure. The company says it will transform building and maintaining a cloud platform from a Herculean effort into a manageable task.

The VMOps Cloud Stack runs on commodity x86 hardware and includes a multi-tenant hypervisor based on Xen that encompasses VMOps-developed network management and storage layers. The result is a so-called "elastic computing service," an environment subscribers can expand and contract at will based on their needs.

Cloud computing's best known implementation is Amazon's Elastic Computer Cloud (EC2), but Microsoft, Google, Sun and IBM also are building cloud infrastructures and services.

VMos's vision is that its stack will allow service providers to easily create hosted and virtual-private elastic cloud platforms, or corporations and universities to build on-premises cloud platforms that host services and offer end-users flexibility without sacrificing IT control.

"We are able to provide a one-stop shop," says Sheng Liang, who founded VMOps just more than a year ago. "All the software is frpom us and is built with off-the-shelf technology right down to the hypervisor."

Liang is no stranger to new technology. He developed the Java Virtual Machine at Sun, co-founded Teros Networks (which was acquired by Citrix), and was on the senior management teams at Seven Networks and Openwave Systems where he helped develop software products for wireless operators and wire-line service providers.

The VMOps platform is grounded in what the company calls its multi-tenant hypervisor, which installs on bare metal hardware. It also includes the VMOps Cloud Server, which can manage thousands of servers running in the VMOps multi-tenant hypervisor. The server also provides service-level monitoring, high availability and load balancing along with an end-user GUI, back-office integration hooks and cloud administration.

"We have a sort of hardened, improved version of Xen and then on top of that we built storage and network virtualization and then added management capabilities on top of all that," Liang says. The hypervisor supports isolation of CPU, memory, storage and network resources for virtual servers, and the hypervisor includes custom code so it can handle network and storage virtualization.

With the storage virtualization, the platform supports storage-area networks, network-attached storage, direct-attached storage and even local disk.

"We federate all the storage and we virtualize it so we are able to build reliable and high-performance storage on whatever storage asset you have. If you have nothing, you can buy machines with large local disks," Liang says.

On the network side, VMOps has developed technology for virtual LAN functionality and private networking.

Management tools provide functionality to define service offerings, integrate with back-office systems, manage user accounts, and generate billing records.

The end-user self-service features allow users to register for services, import and provision virtual machine instances, and launch and manage virtual environments.

"We tried to build EC2 in a box," says Shannon Williams, VMOps's head of sales and marketing. "The whole package makes this by far the cheapest way to get going with, say, 500 virtual machines running on a rack."

VMOps plans initially to target its platform at service providers big and small. The company has yet to announce pricing for the platform, which is now in beta and likely to ship by year-end.

The technical specifications for the platform include a Dell PowerEdge 1950/2950 server or an equivalent; direct-attached storage in the form of a Dell PowerVault MD1000/3000 or equivalent; a network switch such as the Cisco 3750-E or a compatible Gigabit Ethernet Switch with a 10G uplink; and a Cisco ASA 5500 series firewall.

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