Eucalyptus Systems Aims For Private Cloud Dominance

Marten Mickos is working on a joke. He has the opening line — “An app guy, an ops guy, and a VMware sales guy walk into a bar…” — but he hasn’t figured out what the punchline is, yet. Mickos is the former CEO of MySQL AB. Today he’s the CEO of Eucalyptus Systems, developers of private infrastructure as a service solutions, and he thinks about “The Cloud” a lot.

Eucalyptus Systems is releasing version 3.1 of their infrastructure as a service (IaaS) product today, with a number of new features, improved installation options, and a renewed commitment to open source. According to Mickos, the cloud itself should be the product. It should be wholly integrated with existing technologies, and as easily upgraded as any other product. It is, in short, a whole new way of thinking about computing.

There is no shortage of IaaS solutions available today. Each of them is trying to do basically two things: 1) attract your attention, and 2) be fully compatible with Amazon Web Services. Eucalyptus has a leg up on the competition for item 2 with Amazon’s recent blessing of their product as the IaaS to use when you want a private cloud.

This partnership has yielded two specific things for Eucalyptus, according to Mickos: Amazon reviews Eucalyptus’s work to ensure API compatibility (a benefit not available to any other IaaS product), and Amazon and Eucalyptus approach customers together to sell “The Cloud”. For those customers that need public and private cloud solutions, this tag team approach is a huge win. And for everyone else, it secures in their minds that Eucalyptus is the product to choose whenever they do decide to implement a private cloud.

“At MySQL, we were the disruptors of the old. At Eucalyptus, we’re the innovators of the new,” Mickos told me. He pointed out a number of features of the new Eucalyptus release to underscore this point: service and platform level high availability, FastStart templates to speed proof of concept deployments, and a more holistic approach to documentation and user interface.

Whereas many IaaS solutions are trying to be one-size-fits-all solutions for both public and private cloud configurations, Eucalyptus is focusing strictly on private cloud. They focus on API compatibility with Amazon, and, according to Mickos, have worked tirelessly to ensure that upgrades are effortless. They conduct nearly half a million unit tests internally, and their euTester product allows their customers to build their own test cases.

“We have a huge lead over others for hybrid cloud,” Mickos said. I’ve long been skeptical of the promise of hybrid clouds — the notion that you can easily move workloads from some private cloud to Amazon Web Services and back again — so I asked Mickos how many of their customers were actually using Eucalyptus for that feature. He admitted that currently it’s a very small number, but almost all of their customers demand the feature. According to Mickos, most customers aren’t ready to dabble with hybrid clouds just yet, but they want to know that they have a solution in place for that purpose when the time comes.

I asked Mickos who he considered to be their primary competitors. He quickly rattled off VMware vCloud Director and Cloud Stack, but left out any mention of OpenStack. This caught my attention, since every Linux distribution is working to bundle OpenStack-powered cloud solutions into their product catalog. Mickos’s opinion is that OpenStack is shaping up to be a great public cloud platform, but he’s not seeing a lot of private cloud traction from it.

Like OpenStack, though, Eucalyptus is free software. You can grab it from GitHub and use it today, without paying a dime to Eucalyptus Systems. Mickos is no stranger to open source business models, though; and Eucalyptus Systems has raised $55 million in funding.

As for his unfinished joke, Mickos says traditional “ops” people approach “The Cloud” the same way they do every problem: they identify a number of packages to combine into a menu to provide to their customers. Mickos suggests that this group is largely focused on the hardware they use, rather then benefits of “The Cloud”.

The VMware camp, says Mickos, looks to put “The Cloud” on top of their existing product portfolio. This is largely a marketing effort, rather than an engineering effort. Despite VMware’s recent dabblings with open source (see Cloud Foundry and Serengeti as examples), VMware’s primary interest is in selling VMware solutions.

Obviously, Eucalyptus is what Mickos considers the “app guy” in his joke. Hopefully Mickos can find a good punchline soon.