Company Profile: Joyent and Application Virtualization

Joyent is a cloud computing vendor based in San Francisco. Founded by David Young (CEO) and David Hoffman (Chief Scientist) in 2004, Joyent is an Infrastructure as a Service vendor whose business model targets large scale enterprises, particularly in the online gaming space. Joyent has created its own technology stack called SmartDataCenter that it either licenses to third party customers or uses to deliver cloud computing services directly to customers such as LinkedIn, Kabam and the Gilt Groupe. Unlike other cloud computing vendors, Joyent takes virtualization a step further than hardware virtualization by virtualizing its cloud computing operating system over a pool of hardware resources that guarantees applications access to hardware resources. Because Joyent’s cloud computing operating system is virtualized, every application that operates on its SmartOS platform has access to its entire fleet of servers, with the result that customers need not create procedures for provisioning additional server resources as necessary. Applications on Joyent’s SmartOS platform are de facto deterritorialized across Joyent’s collective pool of hardware resources.

Joyent’s website describes its application virtualization as follows:

The SmartMachine has been designed to be very transparent to the underlying operating system, Joyent SmartOS. SmartOS uses this visibility into the SmartMachine to provide all SmartMachines with as-needed access to a pool of all available resources on a single piece of hardware while still providing each SmartMachine with minimum guaranteed access to resources based on a pre-established fair share schedule. This transparency also allows the underlying operating system, Joyent SmartOS, to identify underutilized resources and use them to provide enhanced application performance management. In normal operating conditions, all RAM and CPU resources are either directly used by applications, or are being used by the operating system to optimize disk I/O and provide other performance enhancements to the SmartMachines.
Source: “Joyent: Application Virtualization Hosting”

Joyent’s claim here is that the virtualization of the SmartOS operating system on which all of its applications run enables it to maximize productivity by identifying “underutilized resources” that can in turn be deployed to enhance “application performance management.” A series of third party benchmarking tests by the IMS company claimed that Joyent SmartMachines, Windows Virtual Machines and Linux Virtual Machines outperformed its Amazon EC2 server counterparts. Specifically, the IMS company claimed that Joyent SmartMachine’s disk I/O, Linux Virtual Machine CPU and Windows Virtual Machine disk I/O were faster than the corresponding Amazon EC2 machine by factors of 14, 5 and 2 respectively. Everyone in the cloud computing space knows that benchmarking tests are notoriously difficult to appraise, but Joyent’s willingness to position itself directly against Amazon EC2 in both press releases and company webinars speaks volumes about its confidence to execute.

Joyent’s CTO Mark Mayo attributes its performance to its application virtualization design: “Most people have resigned themselves to painfully slow disk I/O in the cloud,” Mayo noted. “But these results demonstrate that they don’t have to settle for mediocrity. Joyent’s cloud architecture uses lightweight virtualization that doesn’t impose overhead on I/O, so SmartMachines are as much as 14 times faster than Amazon’s EC2 machines.”

Performance marks one of many factors to consider when choosing a cloud computing vendor, but the IMS Company’s results nevertheless beg the question of whether Amazon’s market share leader position has compromised the performance and speed of its EC2 product offering. Conversely, cloud customers will need to consider whether Joyent has the capacity to accommodate more and more enterprise customers that are likely to strain an infrastructure that already supports computationally intensive applications from customers such as Kabam, Social Gaming Universe and Neverbug Entertainment and ZooLife.

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