Burlington, Mass.-based start-up CloudSwitch Inc. has launched a free VMware-based application to give IT shops an easy way to get their feet wet with Amazon.com’s EC2 cloud service.
The downloadable app, CloudSwitch Explorer, will allow an IT administrator or developer to port over up to five Windows or Linux virtual machines or servers to Amazon’s cloud platform. For enterprises that want to expand to more than five VMs, CloudSwitch is also offering a commercial version which will scale up to 20 VMs.
“Typically, a customer moves an application that takes up to five servers at a time, so that’s why with CloudSwitch Explorer we wanted enterprises to move over their first app and get comfortable with the whole experience,” said Ellen Rubin, co-founder and vice-president of products at CloudSwitch.
The commercial version of CloudSwitch, which comes with a 15-day free trial, will cost US$25,000 for an annual subscription and support licence. Enterprises that need more than 20 servers in the cloud can scale up by buying additional server packs.
One of the biggest selling points for CloudSwitch is that the apps that are moved to the cloud remain tightly integrated with the enterprise’s existing IT resources, Rubin said.
Both the free and paid applications work as a virtual appliance in the customer’s data centre, which connects through the firewall to the cloud. After an IT administrator moves a VM to Amazon, the applications moved to the cloud can be managed with whatever tools are already in place.
The company’s target market will be enterprises that have multiple data centres running hundreds or thousands of servers, said Rubin. These companies will dish out significant cash upgrading, powering and cooling this infrastructure, even though a large percentage of it is only used occasionally, she said.
“We’re focused on enterprises that already have applications that are running on their data centres, often legacy apps, very tied into the enterprises’ security, networking, management and monitoring tools,” Rubin said.
Applications that don’t require dedicated hardware, compliance agreements, custom legacy software, and back-office tools are particularly well-suited for the cloud, Rubin said.
“Our private beta customers have started with us by taking the development and test environments for these types of applications,” she said. So instead of moving their e-commerce business into the cloud, CloudSwitch is giving IT shops a simple way to get started at the ground level, Rubin added.
William Fellows, a U.K.-based principal analyst with The 451 Group, said that enterprises in the life sciences, drug discovery, telecommunications and health-care sectors will be the most interested in the technology. Applications and workloads that are ideal for being ported to the cloud include testing and development functions, apps with batch tasks, non-customer data, and any other flexible workloads, he said.
Fellows, who wrote a research report about the company in January, referred to CloudSwitch as an “on-ramp” company for enterprises looking to move data to the cloud. He added that one key difference the company brings to market is its ability to connect out from a users’ own data centre, functionality that will become more attractive as hybrid private and public cloud models increase in popularity.
While the market is still young with plenty of room for a range of players, the biggest downside for CloudSwitch is that Amazon’s similar Virtual Private Cloud offering has already hit the market, Fellows said.
The CloudSwitch only supports Amazon EC2 at the press time, but the company is working on functionality with other cloud providers such as Rackspace, VMware’s vCloud, Microsoft and Terremark.