Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Platform applies HPC lessons to 'private' cloud creation, operations, efficiency

More enterprises are looking to the cloud compute model -- both public and private -- to efficiently support myriad applications and data workloads. Platform Computing, a pioneer in high-performance computing (HPC), is now jumping into the fray with a private cloud management platform: Platform ISF.

Platform ISF, which becomes the centerpiece of the company's cloud computing strategy, creates a shared IT infrastructure from physical and virtual resource pools, to deliver application hosting environments, according to automated workload and resource scheduling policies. The Markham, Ont. company said its new offering will be released in beta this week, with general availability planned for the fall.

Platform ISF leverages Platform’s resource sharing technology, EGO, and its virtual machine orchestrator (VMO), combine to deliver an infrastructure-sharing platform. Platform has also built in additional capabilities for self-service, reporting and billing -- helping to make clouds a bill-as-you-go affair (a fringe benefit of IT shared services). This is also expected to drastically reduce the costs of IT, as resource utilization levels increase thanks to resource sharing.

Platform ISF is a technology-agnostic cloud computing management platform that supports any collection of hardware, operating systems and virtual machines, said Songnian Zhou, CEO, chairman and co-founder. This allows organizations to leverage existing resources and corporate standards, as they build and deploy private clouds.

Platform's private cloud software, the elevate of its grid capabilities, allows implementers to access IT infrastructure via portals using visual interfaces, or programmatically via Java, web services, .NET and other popular frameworks, Zhou told me last week in a briefing. Platform ISF offers a "meta template" of workload support environments, allowing for flexible requests for resources, all of which can be charged back in granular fashion to the actual consumers of the IT resource services.

While third-party "public" clouds can offer raw infrastructure and computer resources on a pay-per-use basis, most enterprises will probably use a combination, or hybrid, of both internal and public cloud resources. Platform ISF acts as the management layer for pulling such disparate resources into a unified environment and is independent of location or ownership of resources.

And, Platform ISF, is governance agnostic, allowing for third-party governance to additionally manage how such cloud services are used, provisioned and automated -- to an IT departments requirements.

While Platform has been around for a long time, they're hardly become a household word. This may not be a bad thing, according to Derrick Harris at GigaOm:
Of course, Platform is no IT behemoth, which also could work in its favor. While they might consist of useful pieces, cloud offerings from companies like IBM, Microsoft and HP can be difficult to grasp. They can involve an array of systems management tools, servers and other products that leave customers dizzy — and potentially locked in.
Jon Brodkin, writing at The Industry Standard, quotes Forrester analyst James Staten, who enumerates other players in the cloud management field -- 3tera, Elastra, Enomaly, and Zimory, and the open source Eucalyptus -- but says that all of them, unlike Platform lack at least one of the elements necessary to build a cloud.

I was impressed with Platform's heritage of providing HPC grid services for 15 years as a precursor to cloud street cred. Platform's approach can be used by enterprise IT departments to move to cloud benefits, on their terms, rather than the fantasy notion of cloud being best approached without IT.

As Zhou says, "Cloud is built, not bought." I couldn't agree more.

Expect Platform ISF to be used on business intelligence workloads early on, with J2EE, and PaaS to follow close on. Oh, and we ought to expect more HPC loads and requirements to be make via public-private tag-team clouds too.