Entries in OVF (3)

Wednesday
Sep022009

VMworld 2009 and the vCloud API

The competition to claim the IaaS crown for enterprise computing has seen a major set of interesting events this week. As mentioned in this post (and its update) on Citrix and Xen.org, their preemptive announcement has a lot of people paying attention. Clearly, the industry expected something major to come from VMware's VMworld2009 conference this week, and they were not disappointed.

On Monday, VMware detailed the vCloud API in an open session. It's come as a mostly pleasant surprise. The API is closely associated with the DMTF's OVF/OVA standards, relying heavily on OVF/OVA as the means of representation and description of the virtualized solutions. Some initial reactions, based on an admittedly superficial review: (I reserve the right to add to this, and reverse myself on any of these pronouncements.)

  • There are questions in my mind about the the model's use of a template to specify requirements that is obviously VMware's vApp. (I suppose that it would be too selfless of VMware to take any other tack.) 
  • The vCloud API leaves a lot of the networking specification and semantics required by a solution to be defined by the service provider in a proprietary manner. That is, for the networking aspects, the means by which connectivity and security (e.g. firewall rules) are to be provided by the network infrastructure are individually defined by the service vendor that's supporting the vCloud API.

[Geek alert] Apparently, when a network resource request is expressed by the (vApp) template, the IaaS provider can return an existing network or dynamically generate a new one that meets the requirements of the request. However, the network resource name that's returned implies provider-specific semantics. This effectively diminishes the out-of-the-box portability of solutions that rely on vCloud API. [End geek alert]

From first reading and reviews by people I respect (such as William Vambenepe and Rich Pelavin, co-founder of Replicate Technologies) the vCloud API 'does the right things,' on most of the points where it is definitive. There are clearly aspects of the specification that had to be left for further refinement. There's a slightly 'hurried' aspect to the spec, but I believe we should be thankful that they did not feel compelled to do everying in the first go-round, thereby making a mess that has to be cleaned up later.

What's interesting to me is the approach they've now taken with respect to making vCloud API 'the standard.' Coincident with it's release to the public, VMware has submitted the vCloud API Specification to the DMTF for the purpose of making it the Cloud API standard. VMware has found real value in its participation in DMTF over the past few years. Both the quality and general support of OVF/OVA as a DMTF standard proves out the upside to this standardization strategy. Immediate submission of the spec to DMTF is in stark contrast to the approach adopted by Amazon Web Services, which has published the details, but has kept it in a somewhat nebulous (if you'll pardon the expression) legal status. As Sam Johnston (@samj) points out in this post to the CCIF group, the intellectual property issues related to EC2's API are pointedly going in another direction, with specific restrictions to use of the API only with Amazon's own services and patents pending that relate to the API.

So, what about the commercial impact on the services industry? At a special event held yesterday at VMworld 2009, Paul Maritz made the claim that over a thousand service providers are now in position to offer VMware-ready cloud services, based on the vCloud API. Quick to reiterate that message, companies like AT&T, Savvis, Verizon Business, Terremark, Bluelock, Hosting.com, Logica and Melbourne IT announced immediate (or real-soon-now) launches of services under the VMware vCloud (TM) Express program. Software companies building on the vCloud API that announced include Aptana, Cloudera, CollabNet, CohesiveFT, EngineYard, ParAccel, RightScale, rPath, SpringSource, Terracotta, TIBCO, and Zend. Whew.

So, does having this kind of support mean that VMware is the winner as the basis for enterprise use of cloud services? Not yet. It's way too early to tell. At this point, we need to watch the players take the field and start the competition. Let's just see what enterprise users actually use, and for what purposes. To my mind, the place to focus is on the software companies. To the degree that cloud applications get built using the vCloud API as the approach of choice, that will be the measure of real leadership in this market.

 

Sunday
Aug302009

More on the Xen Cloud Platform

The Reg's Timothy Prickett Morgan has posted Xen packages build-your-own-cloud kit and it adds some needed clarity to the upcoming Xen/Citrix announcement.

Simon Crosby's quoted as stating the goal of delivering to market a standardized stack for a cloud-based deployment of the Xen hypervisor. Prickett Morgan makes the point that it's an open source vertical platform, but clearly should not be considered a turn-key solution.

The Xen Cloud Platform does not include tools for creating, provisioning, monitoring, or managing a cloud. Rather, it is a complete infrastructure virtualization stack that companies building clouds can standardize upon.

The article goes on to point out that it's not only 'free' but hackable open source. It brings up the issue that GPL-based open source licensed code has an interesting loophole ... Since a service vendor's revised/enhanced/hacked code is not being re-distributed (but used solely for the provision of services), the license does not require the licensee to return the enhancements to the open source community. What isn't clear from the article is the licensing regime under which XCP will be offered.

Another point of clarification is the distinction Citrix is making between XCP and the Citrix Cloud Center (C3).

And this future product will be distinct from the Citrix Cloud Center (C3), formerly known as XenServer Cloud Edition, that Citrix pitched last year and tweaked when it started giving away XenServer for free this past February. ...

The Xen Cloud Platform is not C3, but it will include some storage management, chargeback, and other features that Citrix created for C3 or the Essentials for XenServer tools that are necessary for cloud providers. The cloud stack includes the Xen hypervisor, with support for either Linux or Windows instances inside of its virtual machines. The stack also includes a domain 0 Linux installer for the Xen hypervisor that is pulled right from the kernel.org site where the Linux kernel lives. ... Citrix will open source storage features it has created to link into disk arrays to do volume management, snapshotting, cloning, and such, and chargeback and other features to cope with usage tracking will be added to the stack as well by Citrix.

Of major interest is the approach to a distributed virtual switch infrastructure. The article notes that XCP will include the Open vSwitch that's available under the Apache 2 license., and is supported by the Citrix XenServer 5.5 hypervisor. This is not yet a full OSS solution, and Citrix will be under pressure to either release to open source some of their virtual switch technology, or Open vSwitch will need to light a fire.

Finally, the support of DMTF's OVF is reiterated.

 

Saturday
Aug292009

Battling for the Title of Cloud VME

According to eWeek and Shannon Snowden, Citrix Systems and Xen.org will be developing a 'full-blown cloud computing platform that will rival VMware's vCloud offering.' I'm not yet sure what this means, because there are still piece parts of VMware's vCloud (particularly the details of the vCloud API) that are yet to be revealed. That said, the interview on Snowden's Virtualization Information seemed to have the right elements: portability through support of OVF (YAY!!), commitment to DMTF standards, XenMotion workload migration between datacenters and clouds, extended virtual networking infrastructure, and cloud-scale virtual storage infrastructure.

We discussed the the expected impact to Citrix and XenServer. Both Simon and Ian (Pratt) think that having a bigger footprint of XenServer is good for Citrix and ISVs in general because the (Xen Cloud Platform) XCP won’t necessarily be focused on the management layer, but the foundational components to having a stable, functioning cloud platform. After all, Citrix is already providing XenServer for free.

In fact, the orchestration and management capabilities of open source projects Eucalyptus and OpenNebula.org as well as commercial offerings from vendors and cloud providers will integrate with XCP since these projects are Xen-based already.

Simon said the plan is for Citrix Essentials to work with XCP, so this makes business sense to me. Citrix gets more XenServer in organizations that already are running Xen to power their clouds and have an opportunity to sell more Citrix Essentials.

For me, the early prize in the contest between VMware and Citrix is the cloudbursting title. This would incorporate three elements:

  1. The extended safety cordon required for expanding a private datacenter into the cloud of an IaaS, most likely based on a managed VPN like CohesiveFT's VPNCubed or Amazon's VPC 
  2. The ability to utilize hot migration -- vMotion or XenMotion -- as a basis for VM movement.
  3. A coordinated data management facility -- almost a customer directed content management network -- for identifying, moving and then utilizing data at the most appropriate location as part of the workload migration control.