Q&A: Eucalyptus CTO discusses open source clouds

Four months ago, the makers of Eucalyptus established Eucalyptus Systems Inc. to provide enterprise-level consulting and support for the Eucalyptus platform. This week, the company released its first commerical product – Eucalyptus Enterprise Edition (EEE).

Developed at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) in 2007, Eucalyptus allows enterprises to deploy large-scale on-premise clouds as well as hybrid clouds that take advantage of both private and public resources. The Linux-based open source software infrastructure is fully compatible with the Amazon Web Services cloud infrastructure and the only cloud architecture to support the same application programming interfaces (APIs). It also ships with every copy of Ubuntu.


The new Eucalyptus Enterprise Edition takes Eucalyptus one step further by allowing enterprises to implement private clouds using virtualization technologies from VMware Inc. EEE supports vSphere, ESXi and ESX in addition to open source hypervisors Xen and KVM. EEE also includes an image converter for developing VMware-enabled Eucalyptus applications that are compatible with Amazon EC2.

Rich Wolski, the UCSB professor who lead the original Eucalyptus research group and CTO of Eucalyptus Systems, recently spoke with ComputerWorld Canada on the company’s progress and its first commerical product launch.

ComputerWorld Canada: Where are the majority of your users coming from?

Rich Wolski: One of the main motivations for commercializing was that we were starting to have a lot of contact with businesses who were using Eucalyptus or wanted to use Eucalyptus and wanted us to help them. From a public university perspective, that’s just not feasible. There’s conflict of interest, intellectual property … it just can’t work that way. That part of the community, the business community, the folks who have data centers, that’s increased since we’ve commercialized. I think we look less frightening to them in terms of all of those issues.

At the same time, on the open source side of things where you’ve got everybody from hobbyists to journalists who are kind of figuring out the technology, that’s also increased its scope as well, particularly internationally. So I think it isn’t really that we’ve switched from one to the other, but I would say the business community, since we’ve commercialized, has been much more ready to contact us and willing to contact us. I think they are less concerned about, and legitimately so, dealing with a university project.

CW: What is the difference between Eucalyptus and Eucalyptus Enterprise Edition?

RW: VMware’s virtualization technologies work differently than the open source virtualization technologies that Eucalyptus will work with as open source. So what we’ve done is essentially threaded the control mechanisms through Eucalyptus that are necessary to take advantage of the ESX and vSphere functionality that VMware provides.

CW: Why target vSphere customers in your first product?

RW: What Eucalyptus does is it brings a cloud to an environment that has virtualization, but it doesn’t replace virtualization, it just uses whatever virtualization is there. That is what we were really striving for in the open source code. In the open source case, the virtualization technologies are Xen and KVM.

In terms of the commercial data centre, it’s been our experience that overwhelmingly, the install base is ESX, VMware’s hypervisor, and vSphere. So it became abundantly clear that for our commercial customers, we needed to have a vSphere version of Eucalyptus. What that means is Eucalyptus, like it lays on top of Xen or KVM, will lay on top of vSphere or ESX and turn that virtualized environment into a cloud environment.

CW: How does the image converter work?

RW: One of the problems that we had to solve in developing Eucalyptus for VMware’s technologies is an issue with how the virtual machines themselves are stored. You make a virtual machine and you can run it, but when it’s not running, you have to store it and the format in which it’s stored is different from virtualization technology to virtualization technology.

In particular, the virtualization technologies that VMware uses have a particular image format and it’s different than the image format used by Xen, which is also the image format used by Amazon’s AWS and the image format used by KVM. So what we had to do was develop a way to convert images from one format to VMware format.

That image converter is built into Eucalyptus itself, but there was some interest from the VMware people and from other folks in being able to do that conversion outside of Eucalyptus as part of the debugging and development process. If you are thinking about using Eucalyptus and you’ve got a Xen image or a KVM image, you’re going to want a way to make a VMware image out of that. We can do it internally, but as you are doing development, you may want to do it externally.

CW: Why is public API support for Amazon AWS important?

RW: One of the reasons is, it looks to us anyway, that the future of large-scale computing is going to be centered around the combination of on-premise resources (resources you have purchased and run on your own premises) and the ability to rent public cloud resources (either dynamically or on a monthly basis).

There’s a great deal of value in the public clouds – the price point is very attractive for some things, you can use them and stop using them at will. There’s a great deal of value to on-premise resources – people have resources in their data centre for very good legitimate business reasons. What we’re hearing is that the future really is the ability to combine both of those things.

If you are going to combine them, it is really important that the platform you use looks the same to your users and your applications, regardless of whether you are using the on-premise resources or the cloud resources.

Today, the predominant public cloud is Amazon’s AWS, so for us it seems natural to choose that API as the first API for us to do. We can do others, it’s possible for Eucalyptus to support other public cloud APIs on-premise, but overwhelmingly at the moment what we see in terms of opportunity is the ability to allow on-premise resources and public cloud resources to interoperate via the same API.

Another reason is a great deal of fear of lock-in in the space. Whenever one develops one’s own API, unless it’s for something that is open source where it can’t really go away, there’s some fear that the vendor that supplies the software that has that API may have an advantage and may be able to lock-in a customer. It’s early days for the cloud, there’s a lot of trepidation over lock-in.

The fact that Eucalyptus is open source and supports an API that is also supported by Amazon, which means the source code is available and Amazon which is substantial and not going away, can back stop your development on-premise and vice versa. I think that familiarity is another reason why the Amazon AWS API turned out to be a good choice.

CW: What plans are on the horizon for Eucalyptus?

RW: What we see with this particular product offering … is a step towards the direction of a Eucalyptus platform that allows you to combine multiple virtualization technologies. The first product is Eucalyptus on vSphere, but there’s really no technical impediment (other than engineering time) to allowing you to combine virtualization technologies within the same cloud – open source and propriety and different features sets, this kind of thing.

So we feel what Eucalyptus allows you to do is build a cloud within your data centre with whatever virtualization technology you wish to use. And it’s our job to try to allow your user community and your administrator to take best advantage of those feature sets that come from those virtualization technologies.

CW: Are there any last points you would like to make?

RW: We work with all the Linux distros, but we’ve been working most closely with the people at Ubuntu. The next release of Ubuntu, which will be out at the end of October, is called Karmic Koala – that’s both because they name releases after letters in the alphabet (and K is the next letter) and also because Eucalyptus is really central to Ubuntu’s data centre Linux distro.

The server offering is going to include something called the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC) and that really is an ecosystem that Ubuntu has developed around Eucalyptus. So we have these commercial products and we also have open source products that are being driven into the enterprise as well with partners like the folks at Ubuntu.

Would you recommend this article?


Thanks for taking the time to let us know what you think of this article!
We'd love to hear your opinion about this or any other story you read in our publication.

Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

Featured Download

Featured Articles

ADaPT connects employers with highly skilled young workers

Help wanted. That’s what many tech companies across Canada are saying, and research shows...

Unlocking Transformation: IoT and Generative AI Powered by Cloud

Amidst economic fluctuations and disruptive forces, Canadian businesses are steering through uncharted waters. To...

Related Tech News

Tech Jobs

Our experienced team of journalists and bloggers bring you engaging in-depth interviews, videos and content targeted to IT professionals and line-of-business executives.

Tech Companies Hiring Right Now