Cloud Distros & PaaS: Another Lightbulb Moment

Another Light Bulb Moment Building private clouds is hard work, so it is no surprise that enterprise cloud distributions are on the rise, especially OpenStack distributions. Firms are racing to fill an obvious need for enterprise-ready OpenStack deployments. As more enterprises spin up pilots of private clouds, it is becoming obvious that CIOs expect more than access to cloud computing cycles. They are looking for more “converged” systems that make it easier to deploy, administer and manage both the private clouds and the applications that run on them.

Trending Now: Cloud Distros Adding PaaS

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Recent announcements of OpenStack cloud distributions adding a Cloud Foundry-centric PaaS into their offerings at both Piston Computing and CloudScaling signal a tacit acknowledgement that no cloud distribution is complete without the inclusion of a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) layer and that private PaaS is fast becoming an integral part of any private cloud strategy.

For any cloud infrastructure to be useful, there needs to be more than the basic utilitarian functionality provided by most IaaS offerings. OpenStack delivers a massively scalable cloud operating system, but essentially remains a cloud operating system that controls large pools of computing, storage, and networking resources throughout a datacenter. These resources are managed with a dashboard that gives administrators control while empowering users to provision computing resources through a web interface.

The fact that the cloud OS is now elastic is a powerful transformation. While expensive server farms are no longer needed, there are still limitations. Developers and devops who wish to deploy applications are still left writing scripts, building VMs, creating LAMP stacks, and managing all its components. As a result, they cannot focus on building applications.

The Lightbulb Moment

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As many enterprises soon realize after they have “successfully” launched their first pilot private cloud initiative, it is not as easy as the principle “If you build it, they will come” suggests. Developers gravitated towards public PaaS offerings like Heroku and Engine Yard for a reason: handcrafting and maintaining the underpinnings of web applications is not fun, and should be automated.

Just building a private cloud and then pointing a developer to it is simply not enough. Enterprise developers expect their private cloud to come with functionality that automates the mundane administration and management tasks of deploying applications. In other words, they are expecting a private PaaS.

Enterprise private cloud builders such as Piston and CloudScaling have acknowledged this expectation, and have incorporated a private paaS in their OpenStack distributions. It is likely that others will soon follow suit.

The Rise of OpenStack Distributions

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The rise of OpenStack is often compared to Linux’s history of multiple — and often competing — distributions. With the advent of CloudScaling, Piston, Debian, Fedora, SwiftStack, SUSE, Ubuntu, Stackops, RHEL, and a few more distributions, it is obvious that there is a healthy ecosystem of providers today.

Each OpenStack distribution provider may take a different approach to PaaS and how to integrate the distribution, but it is a safe bet to say that all providers will sooner or later promote a private PaaS layer as part of their offerings. For example, CloudScaling’s decision to partner with ActiveState’s Stackato gives customers a rapid Private PaaS deployment with minimal fuss.

Piston Cloud’s Cloud Foundry integration takes advantage of Cloud Foundry’s BOSH project, an open-source tool chain used for the release engineering, deployment and lifecycle management of complex applications such as Cloud Foundry. The Piston Cloud development team worked closely with the VMware Cloud Foundry engineering team to develop the BOSH scripts to deploy and manage the OpenStack and Cloud Foundry community project. Ubuntu now has Juju Charms available for deploying Cloud Foundry, OpenShift Origin, the open source version of Red Hat’s OpenShift, will be available for the first time in Fedora 19 and more Linux distros will also mostly likely follow suit.

There are many paths to PaaS, and no matter what path the various cloud distributions choose, it is inevitable that private PaaS will be an integral part of any enterprise private cloud solution.

About Diane Mueller

Diane Mueller is a bit of a PaaS Queen & the Cloud Ecosystem Evangelist for Red Hat's OpenShift Origin the Open Source Private PaaS. She is a leading advocate for Open Cloud technologies, has authored numerous articles & white papers on emerging technologies and can often be found pontificating on various and sundry dev & open source topics at conferences ranging from OSCON, PyCon to CloudExpo, CloudConnect. You can follow her on twitter at @pythondj