Rich Wolski on Eucalyptus: Open Source Cloud Computing (Video Interview – 1/2)

A month ago we reported on how you can build your own open source cloud on clusters to make your personal cloud dreams come true!  Simply put your datacenter to use by ordering Xen virtualization on the Rocks and then carefully roll it in fresh Eucalyptus leaves.

In order to learn what makes these clouds tick, we have sent our enthusiastic cloud computing koala Toon Vanagt to San Francisco to interview Eucalyptus Director Rich Wolski at the O’Reilly Velocity conference. Below, you can find the first part of this exclusive video interview (we’ll post the second part tomorrow).

Rich’s students came up with EUCALYPTUS, which stands for ‘Elastic Utility Computing Architecture for Linking Your Programs To Useful Systems’ as an open-source tool for doing “cloud computing”. Their tool is designed to stimulate the development, interest, experiments and research into the nascent concept and industry of cloud computing.

Eucalyptus was build in a modular fashion, so it can “mimic” the interface of popular commercial clouds, like the one they started off with, Amazon EC2. The team plans support for several cloud interfaces as long as they are public and well documented.

Rich underlined that Eucalyptus is designed to experiment and not to compete with industrial strength clouds as Amazon EC2. Although with some engineering, one could take parts of Eucalyptus, mature those and scale to specific needs.

When asked about the underlying virtualization experience, Xen is seen as a very useful technology in ‘cloud’ regards. Rich complements Xen on being well documented and conceptually easy to understand and he looks back at the Xen selection as a good first hypervisor choice. Due to the nature of their specific use, parts of Xen would ‘break’ under load and were modified to meet certain stability needs.

As LibVert is used, Eucalyptus should in theory be relatively easy be able to support other hypervisors such as VMware and KVM. If no major wrinkles appear on the development surface, Eucalyptus therefore expects to support VMware and KVM with its 2.0 release, scheduled for early September 2008.

Rich supportively points to the Enomalism elastic computing platform, an open source cloud platform that enables a scalable enterprise IT and local cloud infrastructure. as an alternative open source virtualization system.

Security remains an issue but in some respects, accountability and authentication are an even bigger problem to the open source community than within commercial projects. “In an academic space, where you are not paying for usage, it is not a credit card that you are accounting to, but a user”. So Eucalyptus had to devise a user accounting system that is based on certificates. On top of that components should not be ‘spoofable’, as there is no message encryption in Eucalyptus (yet). Because these messages can be spoofed, Rich’s team had to take care of an open source implementation of Web Services Security to make sure the cloud controllers cannot be ‘fooled’ by malicious messages of doubtful origin.

The shortage of public IP addresses in university environments was solved by using the open source technology VDE (Virtual Distributed Ethernet). [VDE is an ethernet compliant virtual network that can be spawned over a set of physical computer over the Internet. You can see VDE as the software incarnation of a hardware network switch plus attached cables. Using the vde_switch and vde_plug programs you are able to create quite complex virtual analogies of a network that can span several hosts, even across the Internet.

By creating a virtual Ethernet for every cluster allocation and make that a set of user space processes can tunnel through NATs (Network Address Translation). As a downside to this VDE implementation comes a performance penalty. So Eucaluptus is offered with 2 flavors, linked to the SLA-nature in cloud computing. The first option uses the described very flexible ‘Virtual VLAN’ independent of IP-addresses. The second option bypasses VDE and is faster but less scalable as limits user requests to the confines of a single cluster.

Tomorrow, we’ll publish the second part of this exclusive interview. Stay tuned!

About the author

I'm a Belgian based internet entrepreneur and the owner of Virtualization.com & Virtualisation.com. I failed at raising venture capital for my X86 virtualization venture in 1999 and moved on to found Casius.com, Virtualisers.be & Data.be... This is where I keep my finger on the Virtualization pulse.

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