Platform Computing tackles tech-agnostic cloud management

Private cloud software aggregates hardware and hypervisors, regardless of vendor

Grid vendor Platform Computing has unveiled new private cloud software that aggregates servers, storage, networking tools and hypervisors to create a shared pool of physical and virtual resources.

The concept is similar to VMware's cloud operating system, which is designed to aggregate all the virtualized x86 components of the data center into large computing pools. But Platform Computing says its new software, called Platform ISF, works with any type of hypervisor, and even hardware that has not been virtualized. VMware's vSphere requires customers to use the VMware virtualization platform in order to build private clouds.

"Cloud management software cannot make any of these assumptions [about what technologies are used in customer data centers]," says Platform CEO Songnian Zhou. "It has to support and integrate with all these different hypervisors, operating systems and servers."

According to Forrester analyst James Staten, Platform ISF meets all the requirements needed in a cloud management product: a workload distribution engine; an infrastructure aggregation layer; a self-service portal for IT administrators; metering and monitoring; and robust APIs for integration with third-party tools.

Cloud management platforms have popped up from vendors such as 3tera, Elastra, Enomaly, and Zimory, and the open source Eucalyptus. But according to Staten, most cloud vendors other than Platform Computing are missing at least one of the key components that Forrester believes are necessary to build a cloud.

"We believe [Platform ISF] is perhaps the most complete internal cloud software solution we've seen so far," Staten says.

Platform ISF, which stands for Infrastructure Sharing Facility, was announced Monday and is being released in a beta trial on June 30, with general availability expected in the US fall. Pricing will be about $US1,000 per node per year, according to Zhou.

Platform ISF builds upon the company's VMO (virtual machine orchestrator) software, which was designed to speed up delivery of virtual machines to end users. Over the past half-year Platform has sought feedback from about 100 customers to find out what core requirements users expected from cloud management software.

ISF works out-of-the-box and integrates with any hypervisor or operating system with no need for customization, Zhou says. ISF integrates with third-party management tools for security and provisioning, for example, plugging into Windows Active Directory to manage authentication.

The shared infrastructure created by ISF lets the same hardware resources be used for test and development, high-performance computing clusters, J2EE, analytics and other types of applications, according to the vendor.

Automated, policy-driven placement of virtual machines helps IT administrators minimize manual processes and give end users application environments in minutes, while automated tracking of utilization rates allows for accurate billing to business units, Platform says.

By sharing resources, IT shops can drive up utilization of existing hardware, while making it easier to manage new systems when the need to scale up arises. Physical and virtual resources are all managed and monitored from the same interface.

Most applications can run on Platform ISF, according to Staten, but enterprises may be hesitant to move workloads that typically run on isolated, high-performance resources. For example, an Oracle database or ERP system might not be the first application an IT shop would move to Platform ISF, he says.

While internal clouds can accommodate developer workloads, Staten advocates a mixture of private and public clouds. Once a developer workload needs to be performance-tested, it is likely an internal cloud will be too small, he says. Cloud vendors still need to address so-called "cloud-bursting," the ability to dynamically access additional resources from Web-based services like Amazon EC2, he says.

Security shouldn't be a major concern with Platform Computing, which was founded in 1992 and is a well-known vendor in the enterprise, Staten says. "Most of the security concerns have been addressed by previous [Platform Computing] products," he says. "They're a well-established enterprise solution."

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More about: Amazon, C2, Oracle, Platform Computing, VMware
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