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Jan 09 2010

Open Source Xen Hypervisor & Xen Cloud Platform (XCP) adopted by private IaaS providers – CloudCentral

Whilst VMware reigns in the corporate world with vSphere stack, Open Enterprise-Class Cloud Infrastructures are quickly spreading across the academic community and governmental agencies.

That is no news to anyone, however slowly we are starting to see start-ups and well established corporations adopting Open Source platforms, and in some cases providing enterprise-class IaaS to general public.

Late last year I was asked to evaluate CloudCentral, an Australian IaaS start-up, and as a passionate virtualization enthusiast it was inspiring to see the adoption of Open Source Xen Hypervisor & Xen Cloud Platform (XCP).

Back in November I compared two Australian IaaS providers (Rejila and Melbourne IT) in A Bird’s-Eye Look at Cloud Computing offerings, so I suppose this is an extension of that article.

CloudCentral has created a nice and differentiated web interface to allow the management of the virtual stack. Watch the video bellow to understand it works.

CloudCentral Server Provisioning Evaluation from Andre Leibovici on Vimeo.

Despite IaaS offerings seem to be quite similar to each other the real difference is actually what we can’t see from this side of the computer. The most important factors for any provider are de levels of high availability, interoperability, CPU Guarantee and disaster recovery.

We built our cloud servers on a customized version of Xen, which provides for complete isolation at the network, compute, and storage layers; and we built our own ZFS-based SAN. We’ve created an intuitive customer portal which lets you stay in control, and a system that can get you up and running in minutes. Our state-of-the-art data centre can meet your every need for a reliable, scalable, secure, and available infrastructure that you can count on.

If you are interested in a definition of Cloud read this article from Barry Lynn, Chairman and CEO of 3Tera, Inc. In my opinion Barry synthetise in few lines what we are all expecting from Cloud providers for 2010 and moving forward. I also have discussed that in Cloud Computing Offerings – Part 2 – “Wishes”.

Back to CloudCentral, during my evaluation I found out some interesting features that have not been implemented by the other two providers and might be a strategic advantage to win corporate customers.

  • Remote desktop connections to virtual servers are digitally signed by default.
  • Administrator passwords for the virtual server are randomly generated during the provisioning, which is good as it is not pre-defined in the template.
  • PayPal payments are accepted; I see that as a huge benefit for large organizations where creditcards are not an easy currency/media to get services paid for.
  • An easy http/https load-balancing implementation is available for use with virtual servers. As I am not sure how it is implemented I can’t comment on that.
  • Firewalls rules for virtual servers can and must be applied to allow traffic, providing an additional level of security.

Here are some NOT so interesting facts I collected from my evaluation:

  • Despite the C class subnet was reserved for my servers I was able to ping and scan ports in B class subnets. Despite no ports have been detected as open, this may pose major security risks for organizations planning to store sensitive data on the cloud.
  • The administrator password for a virtual server can be reset via web interface, so if the web security is compromised all virtual servers would be exposed.
  • No reporting or billing capabilities have been implemented as part of the Beta program.
  • Currently CloudCentral is based in Canberra (Australia) with no secondary datacenter, so I don’t see how they could have a Disaster Recovery solution in place for their customers.
  • The lack of usage and billing reports is also a big caveat to be addressed.

Anyway, it is good to see providers believing and embracing the cloud. With hopes for economy uplift this year there will growth space for everyone. However providers need to find their niche because when everything start to come down to price it will be hard to compete with the big players such as Amazon and Terramark.

Finally it is important to disclaim that I was evaluating a beta version of the CloudCentral service, so everything I mention here might change in the near future. I also would like to open the channel to CloudCentral for comments and corrections.

For more information about CloudCentral visit http://www.cloudcentral.com.au/

Have Fun

3 comments

1 ping

  1. Kristoffer Sheather

    Hi Andre,

    Thanks for your review, I have a few points I’d like to make with respect to the questions you have raised:

    1. We will be adding a second deployment zone in the not too distant future, meaning customers will have a choice of deploying into a second zone, if they so choose.

    2. With regards to a compromise of the web interface resulting in a compromise of your virtual servers, I believe this would also affect other providers not just us. We have a strong focus on security and procedures to mitigate risks as best as possible.

    3. We store backups of cloud servers in a completely seperate section of the datacenter, within a seperate storage system, meaning that customer data will not be lost in the case of a fire or other disaster in the primary DC area.

    4. Usage reporting and billing will be implemented by the time the public release occurs, so customers will be able to view their resource usage down to the cloud server level.

    Regards,
    Kris

  2. Kristoffer Sheather

    @Andre Leibovici

    It will be just like Amazon, each zone is independant of the other in all respects, including layer 2 networks. You can communicate between servers in zones via public IP addresses only at this point. In future we will offer site to site VPN’s for customers to bridge their networks into the cloud, and between deployment zones.

    I’m also interested in your comments about the class B, it would be easier to discuss via skype if you have time.

  3. Andre Leibovici

    @Kristoffer Sheather
    Kristoffer,

    What does a secondary zone means?
    Will virtual servers have a fully private vlan or something similar?

  1. Cloud Central Blog » Blog Archive » Provisioning a Cloud Central Cloud Server Environment

    […] thanks to Andre Leibovici from MyVirtualCloud.net for this video showing how to create a new Cloud Central Cloud Server, add a public IP address, […]

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