The Cloud Has No Boundaries, It's Elasticity That Makes It Cloud

Multi-tenant architecture alone does not make it cloud. Marten Mickos and Rich Wolski share Eucalyptus Systmes vision of an open source cloud based future

"It isn't the cloud if it has very firm boundaries", says Marten Mickos, CEO of Eucalyptus Systems. I had a chance to chat with Marten and Dr. Rich Wolski, CTO and co-founder of Eucalyptus recently about their vision of the future of cloud computing and what role open source will play in it.

Of course Mickos made a bit of a stir when he joined as CEO of Eucalyptus, saying that he was looking for something that was "going to be bigger than open source". Both he and Wolski firmly believe that cloud computing will be. But they also both believe that open source will play a critical roll in it.

For those who may not be familiar with Eucalyptus Systems, they are one of the darlings of the cloud indsutry. Eucalyptus enables private clouds to be created and managed easily, hybrid clouds to operate with integration into Amazon's AWS and cloud bursting which brings the on demand element, which is critical to defining cloud according to Wolski and Mickos.  In fact Mickos says that too many people mistakenly think of cloud as just multi-tenant architecture. Take a VM server add water and instant cloud. That isn't cloud to Mickos and Wolski.

Eucalyptus was started as the result of a NSF grant to UC, Santa Barbara in 2007. The project was open sourced from the start, mainly for the usual reasons. As the Eucalyptus web site says, 

The open source model is generally considered a superior way of creating infrastructure software. Innovation is faster, users and customers have more freedom and flexibility, lock-in is avoided, and secondary benefits accrue from the massive ecosystems that naturally evolve around the most prolific open source products.

Eucalyptus first public release was in June of 2008. By October or November of 2008 with the amount of calls coming in for support and services, it became clear to Wolski that there was a need for a commercial entity around the software. So was born the company we see today. Wolski says the cloud is usually mission critical so companies are willing to pay to for support and other services.

Eucalyptus has an "open core" model. While some pundits have knocked the open core model, Mickos believes it is the right way to go.  His belief is that if you are just going to release some "crippleware" as the open core of the product, someone is going to eat your lunch. So the market will force open core companies to release functional open products.

Eucalyptus has developed Windows and VMware integration that are in the enterprise version of the product. To those who question the validity of this model, Mickos answers that it is necessary because open source in and of itself is not a business model or a market. In spite of the success of some companies with an open source DNA, Mickos says what is missing from most open source commercial ventures is an efficient revenue model.

So what is hybrid and burstable clouds and why should you care? According to Wolski and Mickos they are going to be the biggest IT stories of the decade.  Being able to set up a private cloud environment on your own infrastructure and then being able to instantly burst or expand that via a public cloud like Amazon's Web Services is the future.

Right now while several companies are in the business of providing private cloud environment builders (some of them even open source, like, Eucalyptus has a big recognition advantage. They are the first with an AWS integration, they power the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud and are generally regarded as one of the cloud companies most likely to succeed.

By the way, both Mickos and Wolski had very positive things to say about Microsoft's approach to cloud. They think Microsoft really has been very nimble in regards to the cloud. The Azure platform skips the infrastructure as a service (IaaS) stage and goes straight to Platform as a service (PaaS). While they think the early users of the Microsoft cloud offering will be Microsoft exclusive customers, they do think Microsoft will be a power in the cloud equation going forward.

Every great innovation has its winners and losers. With its open source roots, leadership team and buzz, If I were a betting man, Eucalyptus would have to be a prohibitive favorite to emerge a big winner in the cloud of tomorrow.

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