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Nimbula for Geographically Distributed Clouds

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I’ve covered Nimbula previously, the company that is aiming to blend the scale enjoyed by public cloud providers like Amazon with the customization and control that private infrastructure enjoys. Nimbula has royal blood behind is with an executive/founder team of high fliers including the original team behind Amazon EC2. According to its own blurb;

Nimbula Director abstracts the underlying technology to present a coherent view of a completely automated compute and storage cloud. Providing a one-stop virtual data center management solution, Nimbula Director isolates customers from the operational and hardware complexity associated with deploying a private or public cloud.

It’s fair to say that Nimbula have been a little out of the limelight recently, the high profile acquisition of cloud.com by Citrix diverted much of the attention in this space away from them. Meanwhile Nimbula continues to develop their product, as evidenced by today’s announcement.

First some background to the announcement, while much of the discussion around public/private cloud has been on the rationale for private cloud (concerns about security, data location, control, access), the industry has quietly side stepped the issues around the real world requirement that large enterprises have for geographically distributed infrastructure. For the same reason that Amazon needs data centers in Europe (and, as an aside, they REALLY need more than one), so too do many of the larger users of private cloud need infrastructure in multiple locations.

With the launch of their Nimbula Director v1.5 product, Nimbula is now supporting a geographically dispersed cloud, from within the Director UI, a multi-site cloud can be managed from a single view – this is a logical response to the demands of customers that require infrastructure in more than one location. It’s an interesting play, third party solutions like enStratus or ServiceMesh also allow organizations to manage multiple geographically located clouds (and from multiple vendors to boot), so it’s not like this is entirely uncharted territory. When I put this to Reza Malekzadeh, VP of Marketing at Nimbula, he admitted that there is already the potential to do this but added that;

[with a management solution like enStratus]…it will remain an overlay approach with the overlay product having to log into multiple sites with multiple underlying identities and do some higher level correlation. That is not the most efficient approach and will actually have limitations to how you can place workloads.

While I accept the purist’s perspective as espoused by Reza, it would be interesting to see how often those limitations with a third party management solution like enStratus actually cause functional issues for customers. By way of contrast I asked Citrix’s Chief Cloud Architect, Christian Reilly, what it would take to run geographically distributed clouds with their recently acquired solution Cloud.com. His answer was that it was possible, if a little rudimentary;

Each “zone” is a data center and is managed by the same mgmt server. Each zone contains pods (racks) and pods contain clusters (pools). Not federated at that point – just distributed management, but multiple zones can be geographically dispersed and managed centrally.

In terms of the reasons for building this functionality, Malekzadeh told me that;

[Nimbula is] seeing multi site customer demand, mostly from larger telcos who want to build services across their various sites. Also from larger enterprises that have a couple datacenters.

On top of the big news item, Nimbula has continued to develop the Director product, with this release they also roll out;

  • Policy based automation for compute and storage delivering a simple mechanism for requesting resources of particular capabilities while also allowing cloud administrators to manage tiers of service, set asides for particular tenants and the permissions to govern access
  • The ability to package up a choice of operating systems, such as RHEL6, along with drivers and management software to create a customized basis for their own cloud

In terms of pricing and availability, Nimbula Director 1.5 will be available in September 2011 as a free update for existing users. For deployments on infrastructure up to 40 cores, Nimbula Director is licensed free of charge. A paid support option is available for users of the free version. For deployments on infrastructure over 40 cores, Nimbula Director is licensed on an annual subscription basis and includes both maintenance and support services.

Nimbula is in an interesting space with all the attention that OpenStack is getting right now – they’ve got a super smart team though and I’m picking them to do great things going forwards.

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Published at DZone with permission of Ben Kepes, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

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