Puppet Labs Secures $8.5 Million in Series C Funding With New Investors Cisco, Google Ventures and VMware

Puppet Labs announced the closure of a Series C funding round valued at $8.5 million. As a result of the funding raise, new investors Cisco, Google Ventures and VMware join existing investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, True Ventures, and Radar Partners. Since its formation in 2005, the company has now raised a total of $15.75 million. The new round of funding is intended to support a market in which “demand for our products is outstripping our ability to satisfy it through organic growth alone,” according to Puppet’s CEO Luke Kanies. Kanies further noted that VMware, Google and Cisco represented ideal partners to accelerate the adoption of its IT automation and management software because of their deep relationships in the virtualization, cloud computing and IT vendor landscape.

Puppet Labs provides software that enables system administrators to effectively manage increasingly heterogeneous IT environments featuring legacy systems, private clouds, virtual machines and public clouds, all of which collectively serve the needs of multiple constituencies with varying application needs and role-based access privileges. Puppet Enterprise 2.0 delivers a visually intuitive graphical interface that enables system administrators to discover existing resources, benchmark resource utilization against a desired baseline, configure and deploy new resources to increase scale, and launch critical updates, all within a matter of seconds, without adding headcount. Puppet Enterprise 2.0 also features provisioning capability for Amazon EC2 and VMware instances as well as unauthorized access and change of setting tracking for compliance purposes.

The Series C funding raise marks the culmination of a momentous year for the company. Puppet Labs outgrew its open source roots in January with the launch of the first commercial edition of its product, Puppet Enterprise. In September, the company launched Puppet Enterprise 2.0 and now claims over 250 customers including Twitter, Zynga, Oracle/Sun, Match.com and Constant Contact.

Karim Faris, partner at Google Ventures, remarked on the promise of Puppet Labs and its recent investment as follows:

“Global companies need efficient solutions to manage their on-premise and cloud infrastructures. The Puppet Labs team has demonstrated the market traction and leadership to capitalize on this tremendous opportunity, and we’re looking forward to working with them to grow the business.”

The widespread commercial interest in Puppet Labs underscores the need for technology to manage increasingly complex IT environments that feature a combination of traditional and cloud based applications. The success of Puppet Labs over the past year suggests that, alongside cloud security and mobile device management, Puppet’s specialization in technology orchestration and management increasingly ranks as one of the auxiliary technologies likely to mushroom alongside the proliferation of virtualization and cloud computing in contemporary enterprise IT environments.

Amazon Web Services Announces Cloud Supercomputer Ranked 42 On Top500 List

On Monday, Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced the Beta launch of Cluster Compute Eight Extra Large (CC2), a supercomputer on its EC2 cloud infrastructure that ranks 42 on the list of the world’s top 500 supercomputers. Cluster Compute Eight Extra Large can be used for “physics simulations, seismic analysis, drug design, genome analysis, aircraft design and a variety of business computing and analytics applications.” In addition, the high performance computing (HPC) application can be used with Amazon Elastic MapReduce to analyze massive amounts of data from structured and unstructured data sets using the Hadoop software framework. Amazon Web Services revealed the deployment of Cluster Compute Eight Extra Large in conjunction with this year’s November 12-18 Supercomputing 11 conference in Seattle. The announcement represents a clear strategic move to increase enterprise market share by targeting organizations such as pharmaceutical manufacturers, large scientific research groups and financial services firms that encounter the challenge of crunching massive amounts of data.

Key features of Cluster Compute Eight Extra Large include the following:

• 2 Intel Xeon processors, each with 8 hardware cores per instance
• Hyper-threading that allows each core to process instructions in parallel
• A whopping 60.5 GB of RAM and 3.37 TB of instance storage
• Choice of Amazon Linux AMI or Windows 2008 R2 for the operating system
• Availability only in Amazon’s US East (N. Virginia) Region
• Price of $2.40 per hour per instance

A cluster of 1064 CC2 instances resulted in a speed of 240.09 teraFLOPs. 290 CC2 instances resulted in a speed of 63.07 teraFLOPs with pricing less than $1000/hour. The Cluster Compute Eight Extra Large product represents an upgrade to High Performance Computing offerings introduced by Amazon Web Services last year. Customers of its HPC offering currently include Harvard Medical School, which uses Amazon’s HPC product to investigate problems in genomics and personalized medicine. Lawrence Berkeley National Labs was another user of Amazon’s initial HPC offering known as Cluster Compute Instances.

The release of CC2 positions Amazon Web Services strongly in a market dominated by the likes of IBM, Cray, HP and Dell. Because supercomputers often start in the price range of $500,000 and up, AWS seeks to compete in price and ease of deployment. The offering also represents yet another tactic to gain market share in the hotly contested Big Data space, particularly given the compatibility of CC2 with Amazon Elastic MapReduce and its Hadoop based infrastructure. In the cloud computing space, however, Cluster Compute Eight Extra Large represents a clear move to consolidate market share in the enterprise space by democratizing supercomputer usage beyond the domain of scientific and research organizations.

Amazon Web Services Opens US West (Oregon) Region Ahead of Kindle Tablet Launch

This week, Amazon Web Services opened a new data center in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, specifically, Oregon. The data center inaugurates the US West (Oregon) AWS infrastructure region, and as such, complements the US West (N. California) Region as the second AWS region on the West coast of the United States. The US West (Oregon) Region will be priced roughly 10% lower than the US West (N. California) Region and equal in price to the US East (N. Virginia) Region.

Amazon Web Services now has seven regions that collectively serve customers in 190 countries as follows:

US West (Oregon)
US West (N. California)
US East (N. Virginia)
EU West (Dublin)
GovCloud (US)
Asia Pacific (Tokyo)
Asia Pacific (Singapore)

Amazon Web Services announced the launch of the US West (Oregon) approximately a week ahead of the November 15 launch of its Amazon Kindle Fire tablet and its brand new Silk web browser. The Silk browser lives partially on the Kindle tablet and partially within Amazon’s EC2 cloud environment in a setting known as “cloud acceleration mode” that enables faster web browsing due to pre-loading of web pages that a user is likely to visit given its prior browsing history. The Kindle’s cloud acceleration mode can be turned off by the user, thereby restricting Amazon’s access to user browsing histories. In response to an outcry by privacy rights enthusiasts, the digital rights advocacy organization Electronic Frontier Foundation reported, “We are generally satisfied with the privacy design of Silk, and happy that the end user has control over whether to use cloud acceleration.” Nevertheless, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is pushing for an upgrade to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 in order to instantiate legal protections that recognize the proliferation of cloud based technologies that store personal data.

Canonical Founder Endorses Amazon Web Services APIs As Standard Cloud API

Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth’s ringing endorsement of Amazon Web Services APIs last week gave Amazon Web Services yet another boost as it consolidates its position in the enterprise space. Having launched its Amazon Direct Connect service in yet another region last week, Amazon Web Services continues to gain industry momentum that builds upon its deployment of GovCloud, the recently launched AWS region that enables government agencies to embrace cloud computing while complying with government level security regulations about the handling of sensitive data.

In a blog post last Thursday, Canonical’s founder Mark Shuttleworth advocated that OpenStack, the open source cloud computing platform backed by 110 companies, adopt Amazon APIs as their standard API for enabling transfers of data between OpenStack and other cloud environments. Shuttleworth referenced the HTTP standard for the World Wide Web as the protocol for data transfer and noted that Amazon’s API constitutes the analogue of HTTP for cloud computing:

Today, cloud infrastructure is looking for its HTTP. I think that standard already exists in de facto form today at AWS, with EC2, S3 and some of the credential mechanisms being essentially the core primitives of cloud infrastructure management.

Shuttleworth goes on to claim that, despite the existence of an effective standard for cloud computing APIs from Amazon, ample opportunities remain for advances in the area of cloud computing implementations:

There is enormous room for innovation in cloud infrastructure *implementations*, even within the constraints of that minimalist API. The hackers and funders and leaders and advocates of OpenStack, and any number of other cloud infrastructure projects both open source and proprietary, would be better off figuring out how to leverage that standardisation than trying to compete with it, simply because no other API is likely to gain the sort of ecosystem we see around AWS today.

Shuttleworth’s post was prompted by speculation that OpenStack should innovate at the level of an API in addition to its core IaaS infrastructure. Rather than innovating at the level of the API, the former Canonical CEO argues for adopting the AWS API as a standard and innovating around or with respect to that API. Shuttleworth believes OpenStack’s mission should be to serve as “the reference public cloud provider scale implementation of cloud infrastructure compatible with AWS core APIs.”

Canonical, the parent company of Ubuntu Linux, joined the OpenStack community in February of 2011 and subsequently switched the core of its Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud to OpenStack instead of Eucalyptus in May. Shuttleworth’s endorsement of Amazon EC2 APIs comes as the battle for cloud inter-operability take shape, even though the relative immaturity of the industry means that a clear inter-operability standard analogous to healthcare’s HL7 protocol is months or even years away. AWS APIs compete with Apache’s Libcloud and Red Hat’s Deltacloud in a space that is gaining momentum as more and more companies consider switching from one cloud infrastructure to another.

AWS Direct Connect Now Available In US West Region

Amazon Web Services announced the general availability of AWS Direct Connect in its US West Region on Thursday. AWS Direct will be available in all US West Northern California Availability Zones through Equinix’s San Jose facility. Launched in early August, AWS Direct Connect provides a dedicated connection between a company’s datacenter or colocation environment and the Amazon Web Services technical infrastructure. The dedicated connection to AWS enables subscribers to bypass the internet and thereby enhance the security of their inbound and outbound data transfers. AWS is also expected to enable more predictable rates of data transfer, increase bandwidth and cut costs. The service is primarily intended for subscribers with large “data transfer requirements or are looking for more consistent network performance when accessing the cloud.” Amazon plans additional AWS Direct connections in Los Angeles, London, Tokyo and Singapore over the next few months.

Amazon Web Services Releases AWS Direct Connect and Enhanced Virtual Private Cloud Features

Late last week, Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced the release of three features especially designed for enterprise customers. Enterprise customers now have access to greater security and identity management functionality in addition to an array of features that enhance the AWS Virtual Private Cloud offering. AWS titled Thursday’s three clusters of features under the headings Identity Federation, AWS Direct Connect and Virtual Private Cloud Everywhere.

Identity Federation
AWS Identity Access Management (IAM) features enable customers to grant role-based access to users that limits their access to Amazon’s APIs and related resources. IAM not only enables control access of access to specific AWS resources, but can also specify constraints on the mode of access to AWS. For example, IAM permits conditions about access to AWS according to parameters such as the time of day, originating IP address or the use of SSL.

Identity Federation enhances IAM by allowing users to access AWS resources without requiring an individual IAM user identity. Organizations can now grant temporary access to guest users by way of access keys or session tokens that expire after a designated period of time.

AWS Direct Connect
AWS Direct Connect enables customers to securely access their Amazon Web Services resources by connecting to an Equinix data center that connects to the Amazon Web Services EC2 infrastructure. The direct link through Equinix allows customers to bypass a regular internet connection to their AWS resources and enjoy more predictable data transfer speeds, increased bandwidth and reduced bandwidth costs. AWS expects three major use cases for Amazon Direct Connect: (1) Data center replacement through migration of a data center to an AWS infrastructure; (2) High speed access to custom hosting facilities from an AWS console connected to those facilities via Equinix; and (3) High volume data transfers between a data center and Amazon Web Services.

Currently, AWS Direct Connect is available only through Equinix’s Ashburn, VA data center for connection to Amazon’s US-East Northern Virginia data center. AWS Direct Connect locations are planned for San Jose, Los Angeles, London, Tokyo and Singapore.

Virtual Private Cloud Everywhere
The AWS Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) offering enables customers to provision a dedicated set of servers with complete control over the configuration of the virtual networking environment. The Virtual Private Cloud network has now graduated from Beta to General Availability mode. In addition, the VPC is available from more than one Availability Zone within a specific AWS Region.

Moreover, VPCs are now accessible from more than one VPN connection. Multiple VPN access to Virtual Private Clouds allows clients to create different “customer branches” or offices that access the Virtual Private Cloud through a customized set of VPN credentials.

Users can also create more than one VPC per region and view the status of each VPN access point through the AWS Management console, command line and EC2 API. Additional features include elastic IP addresses for EC2 instances in a VPC, full control of a VPC’s structure and a VPC wizard that facilitates set-up. Finally, VPC capability is now available in all five of Amazon Web Services’s regions: US East (Northern Virginia), US West (Northern California), EU (Ireland), Asia Pacific (Singapore), and Asia Pacific (Tokyo).

The recent deployment collectively amounts to a release that “qualifies as massive” according to Jeff Barr of Amazon Web Services. Virtual Private Clouds appeal to enterprise customers for obvious security and regulatory reasons involving a desire not to commingle data with servers leveraged by other customers. Identity Federation gives enterprises greater control over user access privileges to AWS. AWS Direct Connect responds to customer feedback about a desire to access AWS through means other than the public internet. Meanwhile, the enhancements to the Virtual Private Cloud enable greater redundancy and failover planning in addition to superior flexibility vis-à-vis VPC management and configuration.