September 18, 2013, 12:16 PM — RightScale is one of the leading gateway tools between customers and public cloud service providers, allowing users to spin up compute and storage resources from multiple providers through a single console. Today, the company announced plans to add the ability to provision advanced networking controls just like users would handle compute and storage.
RightScale's Network Manager is both a natural evolution of the company's product strategy, and at the same time a potentially significant advancement in easing the process of creating complex cloud networking architectures, says analyst Carl Brooks of the 451 Research Group. "Network configuration is still largely a hand-driven process, so there's definitely room in this market to add automation to this process," Brooks says. But doing that is hard.
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Networking is the "biggest pain in the ass in the data center," Brooks says. Unlike virtual machines that can be spun up and stopped, paused and scaled up or down sometimes without even requiring a reboot advanced networking features that work the same way are just beginning to emerge from public cloud providers. Most of the major providers give customers IP addresses that can be public or private, and a VPN tunnel. How those are deployed and managed varies from provider to provider; some use APIs, others require manual setup. A tool that can sit between all that complexity and the customer could be valuable. But creating it could be tough, Brooks says.
RightScale says Network Manager "provides abstraction of network constructs across clouds." Even though Amazon, Google, Microsoft and CloudStack have different networking vernacular and features, the RightScale API provides a common user interface to access each of these resources. Initially, IP addresses will be exposed to customers to manage, but in future releases RightScale will allow network gateways, firewalls and routing tables to be managed. Read a blog post about how it works from RightScale here, which includes a video.
RightScale is launching Network Manager just with Amazon Web Services, which is a natural move because that's the market-leading cloud provider in terms of market share, according to Gartner, and it has some of the most advanced networking features. It hopes to add other providers to Network Manager. RightScale also launched Network Map, which is a tool to map customers' network architectures; that tool is in "alpha" and not available yet though.