Platform Computing takes on private cloud space

Grid and high-performance computing vendor Platform Computing Inc. makes its first foray into the private cloud space for enterprises with the beta release on Monday of Platform ISF, a technology-agnostic cloud computing management platform.

Platform ISF makes available the IT resources in mid-to-large data centres through self-service interfaces for end users. “So it really delivers IT as a set of services rather than client-server siloed ownership of machines to run applications in a partition mode,” said Songnian Zhou, CEO with the Markham, Ont.-based company.

An evolution of earlier products, Platform ISF combines the company’s resource sharing technology, EGO, with its Virtual Machine Orchestrator (VMO) into a product that integrates with heterogeneous distributed IT resources in data centres.

End users can request resources through self-service portals, and IT can use reporting and billing capabilities to charge back costs to business units based on usage. “From the user point of view there is almost no change,” said Zhou.

IT can also define and enforce end user policies as requested by line of business leaders, like a limit on resource availability for a particular group of users, said Zhou.

Platform ISF seeks to resolve two pains. First, the traditional process of buying and configuring a requested application is often too slow, taking weeks or even months, said Zhou. Second, the “runaway costs” of IT as more client-server space must be bought to accommodate the growing number of applications requested, which in turn leads to power and cooling costs and scarce data centre space, he said.

“So now users don’t have to ask IT per se because they are getting machines online self-service,” said Zhou.

Platform Computing’s shift to the private cloud market, said Zhou, is driven by the fact that “the technology capabilities are coming into place” for enterprise data centres to evolve their data centre architecture to a shared model.

But Zhou acknowledged that, for a shared services model to work, there must be a shift in mindset on the part of the IT organization “from just being servants, setting up machines, and troubleshooting problems.”


IT organizations really have nothing to worry about, Zhou said, and that if anything, the platform enables much better specification control of how IT resources are used, and for what charge. “So it applies economics to give the incentive to people to be responsible for this set of corporate resources,” he said.


Participating in the beta program is Cary, North Carolina-based business intelligence vendor SAS Institute Inc. The company is interested in using the offering for both its internal R&D cloud environment, and external customer-facing uses. Cheryl Doninger, SAS’ research & development director for enterprise computing infrastructure, said the company is hoping to learn from running its R&D operations in the cloud before rolling out other areas of the infrastructure, like those that are production-oriented or interface with customers.

On the external customer-facing front, Doninger said in recent years the company has expanded its services to customers to include “full-blown” grid capabilities. Some customers have already set up their own private clouds, said Doninger, and “we very much see the private cloud deployment as a place where a lot of our customers are going to be moving in the near future.”

In using Platform ISF, SAS seeks to resolve a set of challenges that exist for both the internal R&D cloud environment and managing customer private clouds, said Doninger. Quickly provisioning large numbers of systems is important to such initiatives, she said, especially when groups work on different areas and use different product sets. “There’s a need to be able to quickly change the personalities of the compute resource to meet one group’s needs,” she said.

Zhou said the company worked with close to a 100 user companies to derive vertical-specific requirements for the beta release. The company plans to formerly ship the product in the fall of 2009 along with more enterprise capabilities, he said.

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