In a landscape with dueling open clouds, which is the most open? Cloud software specialist Eucalyptus sees pushing boundaries of open clouds as an opportunity. This philosophy is driving changes at the company, with a sharper focus on its “open” roots from its origins in academia. Eucalyptus has open sourced its courseware and training, making all those materials available for free.
“We’re extending our open model into professional services,” said CEO Marten Mickos. “Anyone can look at the source code, training material, documents that go around the code, everything. We realize that our competitors will look at it, but we’re happy to offer it to the world in order to better the product.”
Eucalyptus makes open source software for building private and hybrid clouds that are compatible with Amazon Web Services. It’s a niche that is increasingly competitive with the growth of OpenStack and CloudStack, which each have well-heeled patrons in Rackspace and Citrix, respectively.
Mickos sees the company’s new direction as a positive step. Mickos says the beginning of 2012 was a little bit shaky as the Eucalyptus team invested significant time on new features for High Availability. But the company also tripled its engineering team and added a graphical user interface, a big step forward in making Eucalyptus user-friendly.
Shakeup in the Ranks
There’s been a bit of a shakeup in its ranks of late. Eucalyptus co-founder Rich Wolski will return to his academic roots, spending more time at University of California Santa Barbara. Red Hat veteran Said Ziouani, who was brought on to lead sales, has left the company. SVP of marketing David Butler departed last fall.
Why the decision to open source courseware and training documents? “There are a number of reasons we are making this shift, but the most important one is culture,” wrote, Jason Eden, Senior Director of Professional Services at Eucalyptus, in a recent blog post. “If we truly are an open source company, does it make sense for us to develop closed-source intellectual property, tightly control access to that information, and use it primarily as a way to drive direct business unit revenue? There are certainly other very successful open-source software companies that do just that.
“In the end, we decided that if we were going to be an open-source company, we were going to go all-in,” Eden continued. “2013 will be the year of the Eucalyptus PS Experiment, where we challenge conventional wisdom about the value and place of professional services in a software company like Eucalyptus.”
Mickos: Revenue Model Still Works
While making Eucalyptus more open and easier to use has obvious benefits for users, the question remains: is there enough demand for its remaining high-touch support services?
“We do not see a problem in making money,” said Mickos. “Customers come and say ‘we need your support.’ They need day to day care, and they buy a subscription.”
Rival OpenStack continues its rise with public cloud and big corporations, while Eucalyptus is doing well with enterprises who use Amazon Web Services. “We are the complement to the leading public clouds,” said Mickos. “Amazon has 80 to 90 percent of the market. Not all Amazon customers will need us. Some are small or just looking for convenience, and some are so extreme that they’re not our audience. In the middle there’s a very attractive market. We very much much have a home.”
Mickos believes that a focus on usability and the mid-market is the way forward for Eucalyptus in the open cloud ecosystem.
“One distinction between us and OpenStack and CloudStack is that we take a product approach,” said Mickos. “If you need 10 people to get an OpenStack cloud going, you need 2 to get a Eucalyptus cloud going. Cloud computing on premise is indeed very advanced, but there is a way to package it and deploy quickly. Eucalyptus is as straightforward as possible.”
Who is Running Clouds?
Mickos says Eucalyptus is seeing clear trends in its customers’ motivations for adopting cloud. “On the business side – if you’re thinking about a customer, why do customers run private clouds?,” he said. “What’s the benefit they get? The first reason they deploy Eucalyptus is agility. They can deploy applications faster. We had a customer that used to do 4 tests a month (because of infrastructure constraints). Now they run tests 4,000 times a month. It allows them to spin up new tests and kill them.”
The second benefit is improvement in manageability. “They calculate the cost for servers per month, and its half (with Eucalyptus)” compared to traditional deployments, said Mickos. “The manpower needed is much lower. They don’t need 24×7 support. because they can just spin up if something goes down.”
The final and most meaningful long-term benefit is higher utilization. An example Mickos cited is Nokia Siemens, which he says has tripled its utilization thanks to Eucalyptus. “With virtualization, with one server they can now do what they used to do with three,” he said.
The company says it will continue to move towards openness and ease of use. Eucalyptus 3.3 (targeted for release in the second quarter of 2013) is focused on providing additional AWS-compatible services to enable Scalable Web Application use cases. The three biggest new features and improvements under development for 3.3 are elastic load balancing, auto-scaling, and Cloudwatch, a cloud resource and application monitoring service. Other features such as resource tagging, expanded instance types, VMWare vSphere 5.1 support, NetAPP SAN storage adaptor improvements, and the ability to perform maintenance on a node controller without interrupting applications or services running on the cloud.