Interesting developments in the world of unified multi-cloud computing. Appistry an early pioneer in enterprise cloud computing, today announced a new product that gives companies the power to migrate their heterogeneous applications to cloud-based environments. Called Appistry CloudIQ Manager & Engine they describe the product as a single point of application level management utilizing public and private clouds. From what I can tell, it looks very promising.
Before I go any further, in full disclosure, Sam Charrington (VP Product Management and Marketing at Appistry) is one of the co-creators of Cloud Camp as well as a key backer of both the Cloud Computing Interoperability Forum (CCIF) and Unified Cloud Interface Project (UCI). I know Charrington well and Interoperability is a big area of interest for him both personally and professionally. Regardless of our previous work, this is a very interesting announcement and marks one of the first true hybrid cloud products on the market today.
In my conversation with Charrington this morning he said that "one of the problems we see at the infrastructure level is folks being forced to deploy and manage things at the granularity of the virtual machine--we think that that is a cumbersome approach and want people to be able to package, deploy and manage applications independent of the VMs themselves"
I couldn't agree more, the benefit for legacy applications is a VM acts as a legacy container, something that bridges the old with then new. But in the very near future, the line between application and OS will quickly become blurred. The flavor of OS will no longer be a chief requirement, but rather the flavor cloud provider (internal or external, open or closed) will become the new OS of choice. Appistry's approach is targeting this new reality. A seamless global application platform or to put it another way, you can think of it like a hybrid "google app engine" for the enterprise.
What I like about this approach is their infrastructure & application agnostic, although still focused largely on enterprise private clouds they've realized the opportunity in providing tools to bridge public and hybrid clouds in a secure and efficient way. More simply, they've built a platform geared toward extensibility for existing application stacks, while enabling these existing applications to be packaged and deployed to a cloud without modification, simplifying migration and application portability. A tangable example for the hybrid cloud model.
Another interesting aspect is in their approach to application portability across a wide variety of private and public cloud environments, allowing enterprises to choose the right cloud for the right job at the right time. According to Charrington they will support Amazon, GoGrid and Skytap in the initial release due out this spring.
The folks at Appistry have heard me rant about this a few times, but I will mention it again. Appistry is a closed source product but they are taking steps to become an "open" and "interoperable" platform. To put it another way, you aren’t locked into a particular cloud provider’s infrastructure, but you're still somewhat locked into Appistry's. In response to my lock-in concerns, Charrington had this to say "With CloudIQ Manager we are packaging and managing the lifecycle of existing applications -- you are telling us how to manage your apps and bundling them up and we take it from there. There are absolutely no dependencies on us. CloudIQ Engine, that's an application framework for people building apps for extreme scale. We try to minimize lock-in by supporting existing Java and .NET components, but there is a little."
In the conversation, Charrington goes on to describe an open application packaging format for apps deployed to their engine called a FAR (fabric archive). Basically it's just a zip with your app code, files, media, etc and some XML they call a Service Definition Template. You can think of a FAR as a kind of OVF (Open Virtualization Format) for application centric cloud environments. Given the simplicity of the FAR spec, my recommendation is that they open up the FAR format under an open source license such as BSD.
What is exciting about this news is the work we've been doing with Appistry on the Unified Cloud Interface project. Their platform uses a set of open and extensible APIs, allowing enterprises to integrate CloudIQ Manager with existing management tools such as the Enomaly ECP platform, VMware and others to create what they describe as next-generation "cloud management mashups." More specifically CloudIQ will be among the first platforms to support the UCI (Unified Cloud Interface) specification from a platform-as-a-service point of view. Together this will allow users to universally bridge application workloads among a world wide cloud of compute providers. (Keep posted for more "UCI" news in the near future) Combining UCI and FAR would make for a killer "open cloud" application stack!