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First-ever test of public cloud management wares

RightScale, Tap In Systems and Cloudkick allow IT to monitor and manage public cloud resources

By Thomas Henderson and Brendan Allen, Network World
May 10, 2010 12:04 AM ET

Network World -

It's simple to rent raw compute power on the public cloud. The challenge is to deploy, manage, and take down jobs that are hosted in the cloud. In this groundbreaking test, we set up public cloud accounts at Amazon, Rackspace and GoGrid, and tested management services from RightScale, Tap In Systems and Cloudkick under real world conditions.

Cloud computing: Early adopters and five key lessons
Test methodology

In our first cloud computing test, we reviewed virtual private clouds or enterprise clouds from Rackspace, Terremark and BlueLock. In that scenario, enterprises were looking for dedicated resources for persistent applications. The vendor provided a full menu of compute resources, operating system instances, security options, among other things. We ordered what we wanted and the vendor built or provided the infrastructure. Everything was determined in advance, and billing was on a monthly basis.

Public cloud resources, by contrast, are completely a la carte. Everything is up for sale, piecemeal. You can use the public cloud vendor's API, choose an operating system version, memory, storage, bandwidth, security metrics, IP and DNS addressing, and perhaps a place to store your stuff when you're done.

We signed on to Rackspace, GoGrid, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) with a simple credit card and verification step. We rented compute resources by the hour. The meter starts running as soon as the resources are used.

As in our enterprise cloud test, we chose to deploy Linux/Apache/MySQL/PhP (LAMP) instances.

The management tools that we tested allow IT administrators to look at rented resources, check them for status and utilization in order to optimize resources and perhaps balance what's online and being used. One way to think about these products is as cloud-based analog to traditional network management software, such as Tivoli or CA/UniCenter. The focus is on monitoring processes and sending alerts.

We also found that RightScale and Tap In have capabilities that go far beyond these basic management functions. Running under the aegis of the public cloud vendor's API set, or directly through agents on the operating system instance, these services can control the process of building, deploying, monitoring usage, then shutting down jobs in a timely way.

In an upcoming test, we will review these advanced application or job focused management capabilities provided by RightScale, Tap In and others.

Our findings in this test are that RightScale impressed us most with its overall control and deep understanding of specific cloud vendors like Amazon. Tap In Systems has more breadth in terms of different clouds that can be used, it's just not as easy to use. And we liked Cloudkick for its simplicity and ease of use.

RightScale Cloud Management Platform

RightScale sets itself apart from the competition through its mastery of the cloud provider's API and control plane, coupled with templated OS instance generation and monitoring. RightScale's process control of Amazon public cloud resource was impressive. One starts by taking a process job and breaking it down into components. The beauty of cloud computing is that a 100-hour job on a single machine can be broken down into a one-hour job on 100 server instances (where that's feasible) at the same cost.

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