VMware Acquires Virtual Networking Leader Nicira For $1.26 Billion

VMware announced plans to acquire Nicira Inc., the leader in software-based networking and open source network virtualization. VMware will acquire Nicira for $1.26 billion composed of a cash payout of $1.05 billion and $210 million in “assumed unvested equity awards”. Founded in 2007, Nicira changes the paradigm for enterprise networking by creating software that virtualizes networks. Customers can use Nicira’s software to create virtual data centers derived from software that aggregates abstracted hardware resources. Nicira’s virtual networking software uses automation to allocate the pooled, abstracted hardware resources to an ecosystem of computing, storage and networking components. Virtual networking provides IT managers with greater networking topology options and also reduces complexity and expense.

Nicira’s customers include DreamHost, eBay, NTT and Rackspace. The acquisition opens up market opportunities for VMware, which is owned by EMC, in the networking virtualization space alongside its core business virtualizing devices and servers. Investors in Nicira include Andreessen Horowitz, New Enterprise Associates and Lightspeed Venture Partners. Nicira’s virtual networking software is the brainchild of Martin Casado, the company’s co-founder and CTO, who worked on the concept of virtualized networking for his Ph.D. at Stanford University.


Reflections On OpenStack’s Second Birthday And The Way Forward

This past week, OpenStack turned two years old. A year ago, I examined OpenStack’s accomplishments upon the celebration of its first birthday. Since then, OpenStack’s technical and business development progress has been both meteoric and profound. A year ago, OpenStack claimed the backing of 80 companies. Today, OpenStack is supported by a whopping 183 companies and 3386 people. OpenStack’s second year featured the successful deployment of Essex, its fifth release after the Austin, Bexar, Cactus and Diablo releases. Essex is distinguished by the tight integration of OpenStack’s different components as well as the maturation of plug-in functionality that facilitates deployment of third party products. Jonathan Bryce, co-founder of Rackspace Cloud and chairman of the OpenStack Project Policy Board, commented on the milestone represented by the Essex release as follows:

When you put it all together, this is really getting to the point where we have a complete cloud OS that you can use to manage compute, storage and networking and manage it all through a Web-based interface and have all the components integrated.

The Essex release contains 150 new enhancements and features developed through contributions from 55 companies and 200 developers in what is widely regarded as the most stable OpenStack release to date. But OpenStack’s technical maturation aside and notwithstanding, the most compelling part of its success story over the last year features the vortex of business development energy that catapulted the initiative into a major player in the cloud computing landscape within the space of two years.

In year two, OpenStack garnered the official support of heavyweights such as IBM and Red Hat, for example, both of whom occupy Platinum member positions within its Foundation. In tandem with its growing base of supporting companies, PaaS and cloud automation vendors alike deployed and marketed products as OpenStack compatible. Puppet Labs, for example, released configuration modules specially designed for enterprise-grade OpenStack deployments. Similarly, Piston Cloud Computing partnered with Rightscale, Puppet and Opscode to allow customers to use these automation products with pentOS, its own OpenStack product. PaaS products such as ActiveState’s Stackato, Red Hat’s OpenShift Origin and CumuLogic marketed their ability to run atop the OpenStack infrastructure. And training vendors such as Mirantis partnered with CloudCamp to deliver OpenStack training.

In summary, highlights of OpenStack’s progress within the last year include the following:

• The release of Essex, marked by the integration of OpenStack Dashboard and OpenStack Identity into OpenStack for the first time.
• The creation of the OpenStack Foundation, featuring 19 companies that will serve as Gold and Platinum members in its Foundation.
• Enterprise grade installations by Rackspace, HP, Dell and Cloudscaling.
• Enthusiastic reception amongst the PaaS community as PaaS vendors increasingly marketed the ability to run on top of IaaS platforms such as OpenStack.

While concerns of fragmentation within the OpenStack community are legitimate, the key question for OpenStack in its third year will be its ability to accelerate the maturation of its product in order to keep pace with the staggering rate of innovation exemplified by Amazon Web Services. The cloud computing world has already given it a stunningly warm reception and declared its open-ness, no pun intended, to the idea of an open source, inter-operable, IaaS platform. The question now is whether OpenStack can deliver, maintain and consistently enhance a mature, stable product as a Foundation and community of vendors.

CumuLogic Cloud Application Platform Turns IaaS and Virtualized Environments To Java PaaS

CumuLogic recently revealed the general availability of the CumuLogic Cloud Application Platform version 1.0, a platform that can transform Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and virtualized environments to Java-based Platform as a Service (PaaS) environments. The platform can transform IaaS platforms such as OpenStack, Citrix CloudStack and VMware vSphere to a PaaS environment, thereby creating a simplified development environment for developers who wish to develop within a Java-based infrastructure. Unlike many PaaS vendors that focus fundamentally on application development infrastructures, CumuLogic’s solution addresses the challenges of deployment and management of cloud-based applications:

As CumuLogic platform manages the entire lifecycle of applications in clouds, it’s more than just a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). PaaS technologies typically focus on application development, rather than deployment. Deploying and managing applications in clouds such as VMware, Citrix or OpenStack requires not only thoroughly architecting the applications, but also figuring out how to build redundancy, monitoring, scaling, performance and availability aspects. CumuLogic platform provides a high level of automation to deliver application services and keep them running.

The CumuLogic Cloud Application Platform enables enterprises to quickly build a unified cloud infrastructure from a constellation of heterogeneous virtualized environments. The platform focuses on application deployment and management to a Java PaaS, whether from applications developed for mobile, web, enterprise, HTML5 or otherwise.

Stackato 2.0 Features .NET Integration With Iron Foundry

As the PaaS market heats up, ActiveState continues to innovate with its “any language, any stack, any cloud” PaaS platform, Stackato. Vancouver-based ActiveState recently announced the release of Stackato 2.0, building upon its version 1.2 release in May. Highlights of Stackato 2.0 include the following:

• Streamlined ability to deploy .NET applications to Stackato as a result of integration with the Iron Foundry platform. Developers can now use Stackato’s automatic configuration tool to link Stackato to Iron Foundry, the implementation of VMware’s Cloud Foundry that supports .NET.

• “Containerization technology” that creates more secure applications and improves application performance by allowing applications to operate with less resources, in a production environment featuring multiple containers for each virtual machine.

• An upgraded web-based management interface that provides increased visibility into the deployment of PaaS applications in Stackato.

• Announcements that Aeroflex is using Stackato to configure its cloud application stacks and that ExactTarget leverages Stackato for “mission-critical production cloud applications.”

ActiveState’s CEO Bart Copeland summarized the new release by noting:

“Today’s enterprise must be more agile, better engineered to innovate, and able to govern its cloud without impeding progress. Stackato 2.0 redefines private PaaS for the enterprise, enabling more agile development, greater DevOps transparency, more efficient cloud management, and faster time to market.”

Stackato now supports Java, Ruby, Python, Perl, PHP, Node.JS, Clojure, Scala, Erlang, and .NET and is emerging as a key player in the rapidly exploding PaaS space as evidenced by its aggressive roll-out cycle and clear commitments to multiple languages as well as performance.

Red Hat Continues IaaS, PaaS, Hybrid Cloud And Storage Solutions Rollout

At this year’s Red Hat Summit conference in Boston, Red Hat announced plans to release four sets of product packages that more accurately reflect the diversity of the company’s product line now that it has progressed beyond its roots in Red Hat Enterprise Linux as follows:

OpenShift Enterprise PaaS
-Access to Red Hat’s public PaaS, OpenShift
-Red Hat CloudForms, a management framework for managing on premise hybrid clouds
-JBoss Enterprise Application middleware platform for Java applications
-Red Hat Enterprise Linux
-Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization based on the KVM hypervisor

Red Hat Hybrid IaaS Solution
-A self-contained solution for building a public and private cloud that allows customers to leverage prepaid computing hours from major cloud providers. The solution contains a virtualization manager as well as cloud orchestration tools.

Red Hat Cloud With Virtualization
-Virtualization as well as cloud onboarding solutions that collectively enable customers to avoid the two step process of virtualizing applications first, and then moving to a cloud-based infrastructure. Customers can migrate Red Hat Linux server installations to multi-hypervisor infrastructures as well as public and private cloud environments.

Red Hat Storage Server 2.0
-“Scale-out network-attached storage (NAS)” solution
-Compatible with over 50 dual-socket x86-based servers from the industry’s leading server vendors
-Support for file access protocols such as Common Internet File System (CIFS), Network File System (NFS), HTTP and OpenStack Swift

All this means that Red Hat has placed its bets squarely in the IaaS, PaaS, virtualization and storage verticals as it attempts to diversify from its base as one of the leading enterprise distributors of Linux. The main question, now, concerns Red Hat’s investment in commercializing a variant of OpenStack in tandem with its Platinum member position in the OpenStack Foundation. According to a recent interview in InternetNews with Red Hat’s CTO Brian Stevens, Red Hat is actively thinking about how to deliver enterprise support for OpenStack over an extended period of time, recognizing OpenStack’s six month release schedule, while committing developer resources to contribute to OpenStack code as well.

Mojix Uses Hadoop-based Big Data Analytics For RFID

Los Angeles-based Mojix has recently revolutionized the RFID space as a result of applying deep space signal processing technology communications to the commercial RFID industry. Mojix’s STAR 3000 technology can pick up signals from RFID tags as much as 600 feet away from a sensing device, which represents a twenty fold improvement over existing systems. The unprecedented quality of its ability to track merchandise at long distances gives customers a correspondingly unique ability to track the location and trajectory of their products. Moreover, the Mojix Star 3000 technology boasts a “cloud-based hosted server, enabling users to deploy a system at a lower cost by eliminating the need to acquire software,” in addition to cloud and virtualization options that empower customers to track their assets at multiple locations within the supply chain.

Prior to founding Mojix, the company’s CEO, Dr. Ramin Sadr, led a team of NASA scientists working on problems in deep space communications involving the creation of NASA receivers and the capture of telemetry data from the Galileo spacecraft mission. After leaving NASA, Dr. Sadr extended his work in wireless communications to RFID and founded Mojix to deliver RFID solutions to customers in the automotive, distribution, manufacturing, oil & gas and retail verticals. In addition to tracking the location of customer merchandise, Mojix’s big data analytics unlock operational and strategic insights about the distribution and supply chain experience of the assets of its customers, more generally.

Mojix’s deployment of Big Data technology represents a use case regarding the application of Big Data separate and distinct from the common big data use case of mining massive amounts of structured and unstructured web related data. Mojix’s big data technology tracks the movement, in real-time, of millions of pieces of merchandise across supply chains in different verticals. CEO Dr. Ramin Sadr elaborated on the company’s use of Big Data in an interview with Cloud Computing Today as follows:

“Big Data powered by Mojix’s wide area RFID reader network provides an unparalleled level of performance, enterprise wide, in terms of visibility, traceability, storage and streaming capacity, advanced visualization and data mining. Mojix’s approach is centered around a Big Data computational platform, running within the Hadoop framework, to scale as a customer’s demand grows over time by rolling out heterogeneous sensor networks, ranging from passive RFID and sensor networks to GPS and smartphones, driving the next evolution of the ‘Internet-of-Things’.”

Dr. Sadr reveals that Mojix embraced a Hadoop-based “Big Data computational platform” that enables “advanced visualization and data mining.” Each Hadoop cluster is designed to scale as the volume of merchandise multiplies, and the number and type of sensors attached to each unit increases. Resulting analytics provide enterprises with a high degree of visibility into the location and behavior of their products that can easily be amplified as more data, of different varieties, is collected and funneled into Mojix’s Hadoop-based big data platform. Moreover, customers have the option of transferring their RFID data to their own data warehouse to run internal analytics as desired.

Mojix’s Big Data technology platform and analytics positions it on the cusp of the big data revolution in terms of delivering strategic insights to customers of the highest quality. The innovation of Mojix Star 3000 involves not only its ability to detect merchandise at longer distances than are common in RFID, but also its capability to mine and produce meaningful operational analytics on the data that it collects. Expect to hear more details about Mojix’s innovative use of Hadoop and its data analytics platform in the coming months as its innovative hardware consolidates its footprint in the RFID industry.

Google Launches Google Compute Engine (GCE) IaaS Offering To Compete With Amazon Web Services

On Thursday, Google announced the availability of the Google Compute Engine (GCE), an Infrastructure as a Service offering that allows users to provision Linux Virtual Machines from the same technical infrastructure that powers Google’s fleet of servers. GCE was created in response to requests by Google customers for an IaaS offering that can be leveraged alongside parallel Google products such as the Google App Engine, Google Cloud Storage and Google BigQuery. In a blog post, Craig McLuckie, Google Compute Engine’s Product Manager, noted that GCE is differentiated from other IaaS offerings by way of its scalability, performance and pricing. Given that GCE is built from the same cloth as the infrastructure that indexes billions of web pages a day, its architecture takes advantage of Google’s years of experience delivering computing capability at a high degree of performance, in environments requiring the ability to scale.

Key features of the Google Compute Engine (GCE) include the following:

• The ability to provision virtual machines based on the Ubuntu 12.04 or CentOS 6.2 distributions of Linux. In other words, GCE does not currently support virtualization on Windows machines in addition to Linux boxes the way Amazon Web Services does, for example.
• Virtualization is achieved by means of the KVM hypervisor. For the time being, Google’s decision to support only the KVM hypervisor means that other hypervisors from Microsoft, Citrix and VMware will not be available to customers with such hypervisor preferences.
• Integration with RightScale, PuppetLabs,OpsCode, Numerate, Cliqr and MapR.
Pricing starts at $0.145/hour for a 1 core, 3.75 GB RAM virtual machine.
• The Google APIs Console project provides a one stop shopping ground for the management of a customer’s projects in GCE. A project is defined by Google products and services, resources, team members and billing details.

Some preliminary benchmarks and user experience stories speak highly of GCE, both in terms of its raw computing performance but in regard to its user interface as well. Joe Masters Emison, VP of BuildFax, reflected on the user friendliness of the GCE ssh line as follows:

GCE provides a very nice command-line utility for interacting with its API. Both the utility and the GCE API highlight annoyances that exist with Amazon’s variety of different command-line programs. GCE’s “ssh” command is fabulous: after launching a virtual machine, you can call the GCE API and have it create a user, private key, and related authorized_keys entry for that VM with a single, easy command-line call. In contrast, AWS requires specifying one private key for root at launch, and then requires that you keep that key safe and remember where it is to log into the VM.

After noting how GCE enables users to “create a user, private key, and related authorized_keys entry for that VM with a single, easy command-line call,” Emison commented on GCE’s performance in a private Beta as follows:

In real-world benchmarks, using full copies of my company’s production database and replicas of our application servers, we found that VMs on GCE—in this private beta period—had more consistent performance than comparable servers on AWS.

Similarly, Invite Media tested GCE against a well known IaaS provider, with the following results:

An early user, Hamza Kaya, software engineer of Invite Media, said his firm must process 400,000 ad requests a second and was doing so on a well-known IaaS provider. Tests indicated it could run its operation more efficiently on Compute Engine. In two weeks, it was able to move its operations into the Google cloud, where it found each server was processing an average of 650 ad queries per second instead of the previous 350. In each case it commissioned eight-CPU servers, but found it needed 140 in Compute Engine compared to 284 from its previous supplier.

As everyone knows, however, benchmarks are notoriously difficult to appraise, so the IaaS world will need to wait for customer feedback on a larger scale as it trickles in over the next few months. For now, though, IaaS computing has a new, significant player in the form of Google and the allure presented by streamlined access to its other products such as Google App Engine and Google BigQuery. Rest assured, however, that the IaaS market share dominance had by Amazon Web Services is likely to continue, although its second outage in less than a month on Friday, June 29 is almost certain to set alarm bells ringing across the enterprise. In the latest Amazon Web Services outage, affected customers included such high profile names as such as Instagram, Pinterest, Netflix and Heroku, all of which suffered downtime due to thunderstorms that caused a “power event” in the Northern Virginia data center. The timing of the outage could not be better for Google, which will hope to capitalize on the outage by onboarding customers eager to experiment with another credible IaaS service provider alternative to Amazon Web Services.