Startup provides cloud OS for greater flexibility

A company founded by the people behind Amazon’s Elastic Cloud EC2 is looking to improve the way that organizations can handle Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) environments.

Start-up Nimbula has developed software that enables companies to make better use of its data centre resources, allowing companies to manage public cloud and private data centre and introducing more automation.

Nimbula Director, which was made available to the public last month, provides its customers with features such as policy-based authorization, highly automated deployment and support for multi-platform environments and flexible networking and storage.

Having launched the beta, the company is exploring markets outside the US and is looking at Europe, the UK in particular. Reza Malekzadeh, Nimbula’s vice-president of marketing, said that the launch of the software had been very successful. “We were expecting about 100 downloads but we got many, many more than that, with plenty of interest from the UK.”

Malekzadeh said that Nimbula was targeting a particular space. “We deliver software – we’re not set up to deliver infrastructure ourselves. The underlying vision of the company is supporting IaaS – not only as a hosted service but within a data centre – there is a lot of value in being able to do that.”

The key aspect of the Nimbula offering is that companies are keen to exploit both cloud and their existing data centres. “Customers are going to be looking for a co-existing model. They’re not going to move their Exchange servers to the cloud and Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) databases won’t change either. We sit on top of EC2, a cloud operating system to run cloud and on-premise,” said Malekzadeh.

He said that one of the key differentiators of the Nimbula technology is the level of automation. “If you look at some of the customers that Amazon has for its Elastic Cloud offering, someone like Zynga has 12,000 virtual machines, even if they take just a couple of minutes to provision them, you’re talking about a large amount of time.” He added that Nimbula has reduced the time to set up virtual machines. “You get the first machine, that’s the only time you ever actually install a physical CD into a machine. After that we use PXE (pre-boot execution environment) boot to fire up the rest of the machines. The very minimum that you need to work with are three machines, however, the lessons that you learn at a very small scale will help you scale better.”

Another differentiator, said Malekzadeh, is the way that company handles networking. “Traditional networking doesn’t scale, you can’t easily run VLANs when it comes to 12,000 VMs. We’ve taken out a patent for policy-based Layer 3 switching that’s the only way to configure that many machines.”

The company is careful not to be all things to all people. “I’d be foolish to say that every app out there would run on our Nimbula, that’s not going to happen,” said Malekzadeh.

He gave an example of how Nimbula could be used. “We’re talking to a large bank, they have a 1000 machines doing simulation through the night but which is being unused during the day. They’re looking to develop a private cloud so the simulation runs through the night and they can use the machines during the day.”

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