Amazon's cloud computing service fuels start-up's launch

Elastra software designs and deploys applications on Web

Start-up Elantra is launching Tuesday with software that helps customers build applications on top of Amazon's EC2 cloud computing service.

A start-up called Elastra is launching Tuesday with software that helps customers build database management systems and other applications that can be deployed on top of Amazon's EC2 cloud computing service.

The Elastra Cloud Server is available in software-as-a-service form and will be released as packaged software late this year. Elastra will initially appeal mostly to small dot-com start-ups, and perhaps gain traction over time in large enterprises, says Gartner analyst Lydia Leong.

With Amazon EC2, or "Elastic Compute Cloud," customers access computing capacity through the Internet. But deploying applications to Amazon or other cloud computing systems can be tricky, and Elastra will help customers bypass some of the complications, Leong says. "You use Elastra to provision yourself onto the cloud," she says. "It's certainly a good idea. It's something that fits naturally into the cloud."

Elastra Cloud Server gives customers two markup languages, one that specifies system design and another that specifies system deployments.

"The design functionality provides configuration-based system specifications describing what a complete application system is designed to do and how that design is to be implemented," Elastra states in a press release. "The run-time functionality takes the design as an input, connects to the cloud computing platform, allocates the appropriate virtualized hardware resources, and installs the specified database and infrastructure software, as well as the instrumentation, metering and automated management software that enables that entire system to be scalable and maintainable. After a system is deployed, the Elastra Cloud Server monitor, manages, and enables dynamic scalability of the running applications."

Elastra says its software can be used with numerous types of cloud computing systems, but for now it's mainly being used on Amazon EC2.

"Amazon is the only one that's tangible and real," says Elastra founder and CEO Kirill Sheynkman, while noting that Microsoft  and Sun are talking about developing similar services.

Web 2.0 companies looking to quickly deploy systems are among Elastra's likely customers, he says.

Sheynkman previously co-founded Plumtree Software, which developed enterprise portals and was acquired by BEA Systems in 2005. Elastra was founded nine months ago.

One company that's already using Elastra's technology is EnterpriseDB, which makes Oracle-compatible databases and built a version of its database management system for the Amazon EC2 system.

Elastra has 14 paying customers including the New York state government and some independent software vendors that use Elastra to make their products available on the Web, according to Sheynkman.

Elastra charges customers 50 cents per hour for each database node they build and run. The packaged software offering planned for later this year will be targeted to enterprises and hosting companies, Sheynkman says.

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