In this second part of our video interview with Rich Wolski (see the first part here), recorded at the O’Reilly Velocity conference, we learn how Eucalyptus came around the Amazon subscription method, where credit cards are the key to authentication. Offering ‘free and open’ clouds in university environments was achieved by introducing a system administrator in between the user account request and the issuing of certificates. Upon user request, the Eucalyptus user subscription interface generates an e-mail to an administrator, who will then perform a ‘manual’ verification. This can be a phone call or a physical meeting.
Users did not like Rocks (leading open source cloud management tool), but the community (in smaller community/ deployment supports) preferred to do this manually. So Eucalyptus 1.1 provides Guidance, a script to build from scratch by hand.
A ‘build with one button’ remains the goal for future versions.
The full Eucalyptus image is only 55 Mb (without Linux image) and includes the necessary packages in order to make sure all of the revision-levels are fully compatible. Eucalyptus comes as Free BSD Open-Source license with a small disclaimer that the University of Santa Barbara explicitly wants to avoid any intellectual property infringements and will take necessary steps if needed.
Virtualization is supported by Xen 3.1 for security sake (3.0 works too, but is discouraged).
Lessons learned in building clouds from open source are quite rare. Here are a few from Rich:
Unlike commercial environments (where one controls the configuration, hardware purchase and networking), the architectural decisions are very different in open source environment, where one does not know the installation. One of the current challenges is to build a system depending on the control you have over your specific installation, you could successfully remove more of the portability from the system as you needs fit.
A second lesson is that people do things by hand and this is an opportunity for automation. Nobody is deploying Linux manually, instead sys admin use distributions. Shouldn’t there be a similar cloud distribution product out there? The people at Puppet were eager to help on providing such scripts for cloud deployments. According to Rich, this illustrates how O’Reilly should be credited for creating a good atmosphere at the Velocity 08 conference where a lot of cross-fertilization happened.
Rich ends the interview by throwing a fundamental question at the cloud community. He classifies current cloud initiatives on a scale based on the ‘closeness’ of the application layer to the cloud API. At the one end of this spectrum, he puts Google Apps (with Python oriented function calls) and at the other end Amazon EC2 (a set of very simple web service interfaces to the underlying virtualization technology) and all other cloud offerings float in between. This impacts what you can do with virtualization. Google AppEngine becomes your compiler on their end of the scale.
Rich wonders if this tighter link to the Google AppEngine will become a liability or an asset in the future when it comes to virtualization capabilities?
We invite you to provide your answers in the comments below!