The user interface seems to have many options available, and is seemingly procedurally and productively simple, but we found lots of gotchas. Our mission was to deploy two ESXi servers, and during that process, our molehill turned into a mountain. After trial, error and HP support, we were able to get the VMs running.
We also had to do a lot of manual work inside of VMware to perform associations to the CloudSystem for our ESXi servers. The documents, while somewhat useful, didn't prepare us for the daunting experience that we had.
CloudSystem Matrix is complex, but it has the capacity to manage and potentially "remarket" a variety of infrastructure assets.
Puppet Labs MCollective
We first saw MCollective in our review of Ubuntu 11.04 Server and Cloud editions. What intrigued us was its ability to rapidly provision instances of operating systems, but also applications. It's poised toward developers, and is limited currently to Linux instances.
Despite the fact that the Marionette Collective/MCollective ("mc") tools are CLI, it achieves astounding speed at communicating with potentially thousands of instances as fast as the wire speed can move the messages, no matter where the instances are located. The mc tools are middleware that use a multicast-like push messaging system to controlled nodes. There is no artistic drag-and-drop rack configuration. There are no library-like user interface Web pages that one can "check out" an instance of a desired application. If CloudSystem Matrix and Abiquo 1.7 are sky-management generals-of-the-armies, MCollective is the battalion commander, bereft of the niceties, pomp and circumstance.
Inside instances that mc controls are two mc agent daemons installed from RPMs. The daemons are based on Ruby code, and can manage inter-process communications and managing packages. The client has similar components. The "collective," therefore, consists of nodes, which in turn have servers running in them -- agents that are the messengers that speak to middleware, in the client. The collective is a living and dynamic thing -- but is totally bereft of security as an object.
This means that communications must be performed over VPN links and SSH, and applications like Apache or a LAMP installation must have their own security components enabled outside of what mc manages. Fortunately, much of this can be done via mc -- but application security and link security for the collective object are two different things, we found.
The MCollective can spin up applications with frightening speed. We deployed a single instance, provisioning it with mc. We had 40 instances done in approximately 29 seconds.