Managing the software stack – the missing link for IaaS ?

So, you’ve decided to build an IaaS cloud. You’ve chosen an orchestration platform (I’d hope you’d choose Cloudstack) and then got some clever guys like us at ShapeBlue to design and build a scalable infrastructure that will help you deliver high density VM and network instances out to your customers. Great, the dollars will start rolling in and the best piece of news: it’s all highly automated and based on self-service so your running costs have also been reduced.

But there’s a problem. A problem that you didn’t realise that you were going to have. The problem comes from what you actually sell in your cloud. OK, you make some money from networking components, IP address, storage and bandwidth; but the cornerstone of your service is selling virtual machine instances. To differentiate from your competitors, you want to offer as many templates for VM’s as you can. And this is where the problem lies: creation and on-going management of those templates can be a very time consuming task.

For some time, we have been working with an excellent product from USharesoft called Cloud Factory (and I must declare that we liked the technology so much at ShapeBlue that we have now partnered with UShareSoft). The software is a self-assembly platform that allows the visual design and building of machine templates. It effectively allows for various OS and application components to be pulled together from a menu and then a machine template to be build “on the fly” and published into a number of cloud platforms (it’s support for CloudStack was what attracted us initially). It’s a big time saver. Additional benefits that it brings is to give centralised control and governance of the machine templates.

UShareSoft have this week announced the launch of their “App Store” front end. This is a customer-facing interface to their technology that aims to allow cloud providers to create a market-place of their own template offerings. This is a really interesting proposition: not only can cloud providers now reduce their admin burden in managing machine templates, they should also be able to create a new revenue stream by offering a much wider choice of templates and pre-defined application stacks.

We’ve been trialling the platform at ShapeBlue for some time ( ) and have been impressed how easy it is to start offering template build style services. Our initial implementation relies on UShareSoft’s own infrastructure to actually do the processor-crunching, but the platform can also be licensed for Service providers (or enterprises) to run in their own infrastructure. The interface provides out-of-the-box self registration and then user self-serve of template creation and management. Out of the box, it can be used to generate templates for Cloudstack, openstack, AWS and a number of other formats. There are also some neat social-networking features which should allow the development of a community around a providers template offerings.

This technology a really interesting play from UShareSoft. They seem to be the first people to provide the answer to this growing problem in the IaaS world. It will be interesting to see if the service provider community rush to adopt this technology.



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