Marten Mickos: Eucalyptus Opens Up Under Agile Model

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As part of our ongoing focus on open source cloud, we talked with Eucalyptus CEO Marten Mickos about the commoditization of hypervisors, what’s driving his company’s growth and its plans to release Eucalyptus 3.1 soon, marking the company’s shift to a much more open development model. The interview is presented in two parts. Yesterday’s post covered the open cloud, the role of APIs and where open source cloud computing is headed.

Linux.com: What’s driving private cloud (Eucalyptus’s specialty)?

Marten Mickos: The driving force now is agility. Companies need the elasticity of cloud to assign infrastructure resources on the fly to different applications and shift the workloads around. That’s why our customers do it. Cloud is a new piece of software on your servers so there must be a benefit to installing it. Agility is that benefit. Longer-term, cloud also gives better manageability and higher utilization.

Linux.com: How much overlap is there between the surge in interest in big data and the open cloud movement? Is one influencing the other?

Mickos: I think both are driven by the large increase in the number of connected devices. The underlying trend is connected devices. How many new devices with an IP address are there? They produce a lot of data and have compute needs. They need clouds to run on and big data to be analyzed. You can run big data solutions on cloud platforms. That’s just a practical reality.

Linux.com:  Is virtualization in the cloud going away? More companies are offering cloud services without the hypervisor. What does that mean for VMware and others?

Mickos: Virtualization is needed and useful but ultimately it will be compressed into the hardware, into the CPU. Sure you can do deployments that don’t use hypervisors and get some improvements in use case. But how do you maintain flexibility of your own virtual machine? I don’t think they’re going away but I can see them being commoditized.

But we shouldn’t think companies like VMWare are losing their business anytime soon. Although the technological change could happen fast, customer deployments happen slowly. They virtualization vendors will be able to monetize that for many years to come. And now they’re moving up the chain into PaaS and IaaS that they didn’t have before.

But with a hypervisor background you might not have the needed frame of thinking for building a cloud. A hypervisor is a single piece of software; it runs in one machine. A cloud platform like Eucalyptus is essentially a multi-machine piece of software.  It takes a different mindset to develop distributed systems.

Here’s an analogy: The world had hierarchical databases, and then someone developed a relational database. It wasn’t the hierarchical designers who came up with it, it took new guys.

Linux.com: Where is Eucalyptus now?

Mickos: We are unique in the space in that we’ve had production use of Eucalyptus for over two years. We have taken a step into mission-critical uses and now have high availability (HA) in the product.

Linux.com: What’s new for you this year and where are you headed?

Mickos: We are growing very rapidly. We shipped Eucalyptus 3.0 which is revolutionary in that it has features no other cloud service has. We signed a deal with AWS and have raised $30 million in capital a few weeks ago.

We have lots of customers going and that’s just the U.S. We’re equally active in China , India and Europe. We’re pushing hard on all those fronts and shipping software faster than before. And we have the financial funds to keep expanding. But it’s always hard to build a company.

The 3.1 release is coming out in two months from now. It will mark the transition we agreed on internally in terms of a new development model. We’re working now under an agile model and we’ll use Git and GitHub for our source code repository.  This marks a much more open model for how we develop our product.

Linux.com: Does that mean Eucalyptus will be completely open source, or will you still reserve some aspects of your code for customers under an “open core” model?

Mickos: The platform is totally open, we will have plugins we give to paying customers. The good news is anybody can develop plugins so we’re a much more pluggable architecture and we’ll welcome that sort of development.