Startup touts private cloud as a service

By Brandon Butler, Network World |  Cloud Computing, private cloud

You can buy pretty much anything in IT today "as a service," and now it's come to this: 2011 startup company named Metacloud claims to be one of the first to offer a cloud-based service of cloud computing resources.

Metacloud provides software that sits on customers' premises to run a private cloud, which is then managed by Metacloud to create what the company calls "private cloud as a service."

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Metacloud's founders have experience managing this sort of project. Co-founder Sean Lynch is the former senior vice president of global operations at TicketMaster, where he built a multi-tenant private cloud that served one of the largest ecommerce sites in the country. It had many tenants, represented by various business units and locations around the country that were all centrally managed by Lynch's team.

Lynch has taken an off-shoot of that idea to Metacloud. He describes it as using a software as a service (SaaS) model for delivering a private cloud. The software Metacloud is delivering is the company's CarbonOS, which an OpenStack-based software that serves as the basis for private clouds that sit on the customers' sites, but have central oversight by Metacloud.

This approach has numerous advantages, Lynch says. For one, Metacloud is managing the cloud, including monitoring it for problems and fixing them, updating it with new features, installing security patches and optimizing it based on varying workloads. CarbonOS is an overlay software based on OpenStack that uses the Kernel Virtual Machine (KVM) hypervisor to create a private cloud on customers' premises. Metacloud can run CarbonOS on a variety of x86 hardware options, including Cisco UCS, Open Compute Project hardware, HP Moonshot and IBM Flexpods, among others, Lynch says. Metacloud charges a per-seat price, but does not disclose specific pricing details.

Even though the cloud is centrally managed by Metacloud, the private clouds on the customers' premises do not have to be connected to Metacloud to run, so if for some reason the connection between Metacloud and the customer's premise is severed, the customer's cloud can still run.

Metacloud is collecting data about usage, patterns to optimizing the system, but it is not run-time dependent. The software requires root-level access to the bare metal so that CarbonOS can manage software updates and system upgrades. The latest update to CarbonOS released this week includes features that were part of the Grizzly release of OpenStack, which includes integration with open source block storage system Ceph, an enhanced web interface and additional features for scaling out and disaster recovery.

David Linthicum, a consultant at Cloud Technology Partners, says Metacloud is an interesting idea, but much of the "cloud as a cloud-based service" is a marketing pitch; the service is basically a software for building a private cloud, he says. The problem he sees with Metacloud is how scalable it is. "It's not a public cloud with thousands of servers available to provide elastically, thus you're limited by the capacity of your hardware," he says. "They do provide public cloud integration, but that could be overly complex and difficult to manage."

While it sounds like somewhat of a crazy concept to deliver a cloud as a cloud service (hence the name meta), there are various other companies providing similar-types of services. SoftLayer, which IBM recently acquired, has a private cloud option that is managed by the company but sits on customer premises. Many cloud providers, even big-name providers like Rackspace and Amazon Web Services, offer private clouds that sit on the vendors' premises which run on hardware dedicated for individual customers. Oracle has an option to house Oracle-owned database hardware on customer premises, but it is owned and managed by the company.

The Pasadena, Calif.-based company has seed funding from Yahoo founder Jerry Yang and is searching for a first round of venture financing.

Network World senior writer Brandon Butler coverscloud computingand social collaboration. He can be reached atBButler@nww.comand found onTwitterat @BButlerNWW.

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