The Elastic Cloud: Leading Cloud Stacks Shape API Conversations

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APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) and stack-based delivery models are a vital part of the cloud process.

More organizations are finding great ways to use cloud computing to create a more elastic infrastructure. But as they boost their reliance on cloud computing, some organizations worry that their environment won’t be compatible with other platforms. So APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) and stack-based delivery models were introduced into the cloud computing technology matrix.

These APIs are actually a vital part of the cloud process. Why? They help create direct cloud computing connections. Basically, they are pushing towards a more agnostic cloud platform. With more cloud deployments, data center administrators will need to find ways to extend, connect, or integrate their cloud environment with other services.

Today, there are three core areas where cloud computing can help: Infrastructure, services and applications.

Within those categories, you’re able to place services like SaaS, PaaS, IaaS and so on. But what happens when we start delivering “Everything-as-a-Service?” What happens when the cloud model continues to grow and evolve, and new types of connections are required? Let’s take a look at three stack models and how they’re helping shape the cloud connectivity and API conversation.

Apache CloudStack

CloudStack has been growing in popularity with many different organizations. Originally developed by Cloud.com, CloudStack was purchased by Citrix and then released into the Apache Incubator program. From there, the first stable version was released in 2013. The platform is already compatible with hyervisors like KVM, vSphere, and XenServer. Apache CloudStack is an open-source cloud management platform designed for creating, controlling, and deploying various cloud services. Similar to the other stack-based models, CloudStack supports the Amazon AWS API model and many other APIs.

The good: CloudStack 4.0.2 is the first stable release – but it’s very new, just five months old. Still, the latest version includes great features, like scaling storage independent of compute or having VMs maintain their machine state without having to experience compute changes. New security features now allow the administrator to create security zones across various regions. The overall deployment of CloudStack is smooth. In a typical setup, you would have one VM running the CloudStack Management Server and the other VM acting as the actual cloud infrastructure. From a testing and deployment perspective, you could deploy the whole platform on one physical host.

What to look for: Remember, the latest release of CloudStack is very new. The other challenge is that we have yet to see any major cloud provider adopt the platform.  Finally, from an engineering perspective, some have pointed out challenges around the monolithic architecture and installation process. In some cases, although simplified, the installation process will require a bit of knowledge. Still, the platform is being adopted by a few other big players. During the summer of 2012, Datapipe announced that its global infrastructure will run on CloudStack. Other organizations like SunGard, Citrix and WebMD have already adopted the CloudStack model.

OpenStack

With more than 200 companies adopting this platform, OpenStack is certainly one of the more popular cloud models out there. Currently managed by the OpenStack Foundation, OpenStack consists of multiple, interrelated stack-based parts. These components all tie together to create the OpenStack delivery model. Much like CloudStack, there is further agnosticism when it comes to the underlying hypervisor and infrastructure on which OpenStack may run. It’ll support platforms which include VMware, Citrix and KVM.

The good: Let’s face facts – OpenStack is, arguably, the most mature stack-based cloud control model out there. Furthermore, OpenStack’s adoption momentum has been very strong. The latest release of Havana shows some pretty big improvements around all major components in the stack. The networking component (Neutron) allows administrators to do some pretty amazing things with their cloud model. Now, with direct integration with OpenFlow, Neutron allows for greater levels of multi-tenancy and cloud scaling by adopting various software-defined networking technologies into the stack. Furthermore, the networking framework around OpenStack has new services like intrusion detection services (IDS), various load-balancing features, firewall technologies and even a VPN that you can deploy and manage. Traffic and IP redirection is made easier – thus creating a stack platform capable of even greater resiliency and failover.

Next: The Path Ahead for Open Stack, A Look at Eucalyptus

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  1. Federation of clouds is powering an increasing use of open, interoperable interfaces for cloud IaaS control. Each of the project stacks that you mention also has an Open Cloud Computing Interface (OCCI) adapter available, and these are already being used in federated interoperable cloud infrastructures and projects. Interoperability is the wave of the future and is already here. For more detail, see the OCCI group pages at http://occi-wg.org and for practical demonstrations aimed at developers and deployers, you can join us at the Cloud Interoperability Week workshop and tutorials Sept. 16-20, 2013 co-sponsored by several cooperating organizations: http://cloudplugfest.org/cloud-interoperability-week