Chris Tozzi, Data Center KnowledgeMay 11, 2021

The champion of the open source alternative to proprietary hybrid cloud frameworks says its flexibility is unrivaled.

Proprietary platforms like AWS Outposts and Azure Arc have dominated the hybrid cloud headlines in recent years. But proprietary software is not the only way to build a hybrid cloud. Starting long before Amazon and Microsoft entered this market, Eucalyptus offered an open source solution for creating hybrid and private cloud environments.

Where does the Eucalyptus project stand today, and what are the platform’s developers doing to ensure that Eucalyptus meets the requirements of modern hybrid cloud use cases? To find out, we spoke to Woody Rollins, CEO of AppScale Systems, the company that takes the lead in developing and supporting the Eucalyptus platform.

Eucalyptus Cloud Overview

Eucalyptus, which makes it possible to extend the core AWS APIs (like S3 and EC2) into private data centers, debuted all the way back in 2008 -- long before most organizations had migrated to the public cloud, let alone made plans to move to hybrid architectures.

Hewlett-Packard acquired Eucalyptus in 2014, raising hopes in the open source community that the platform would become a widely used alternative to proprietary cloud frameworks. But that didn't quite pan out: Eucalyptus fell through the cracks that opened following HP’s split into separate enterprise and consumer businesses, and development of the platform stopped in 2017.

That prompted AppScale Systems, whose team included many of the original Eucalyptus developers, to take the helm in leading Eucalyptus development and offering commercial support for the platform.

The AppScale pivot saved Eucalyptus from the dustbin. By 2017 the hybrid cloud world was looking very different than it was in 2008. The public cloud vendors were rolling out platforms like AWS Outposts and Azure Stack, which seemed like obvious hybrid solutions for businesses that were already heavily invested in the AWS or Azure ecosystems.

Eucalyptus Cloud Today

To bring Eucalyptus up to speed, AppScale has focused not just on enhancing the platform's features, but also on introducing fully managed offerings for data center and colocation providers who want to offer AWS-compatible hybrid environments to their customers.

Feature-wise, Eucalyptus, which is currently in its fifth major release, has gained full support for compatibility with AWS VPCs. Developers are also working on supporting Route53 and SQS, which are currently in technical preview.

They have built new deployment features as well. "The focus on Eucalyptus 5 was to simplify large data center installations," Rollins said "We focused on scripts, tools, and functionalities like Ansible playbooks to simplify the replication of specific deployments, as well as to simplify operations like adding and removing nodes and handling certificates."

Going forward, Rollins said, Eucalyptus developers plan on "adding integration points for third-party monitoring systems, automating BGP, and network integrations. Some of this work will percolate onto the on-premise deployment capabilities for specific use cases like air-gapped deployments."

Rollins also mentioned further enhancements to the APIs that Eucalyptus supports, including RDS, ELB, Lambda, and the AWS Kubernetes services.

While Eucalyptus developers expand the platform, AppScale is working with colocation providers to offer "a fully managed white-labeled solution for their customers," Rollins said. This service is currently available in data centers owned by Markley, a Boston-based colocation company.

Businesses can deploy "an AWS-style cloud built on Eucalyptus that is fully managed by AppScale and Markley," Rollins said. "Customers save upwards of 70 percent over the cost of AWS and have more control over their infrastructure. Customers pay a fixed monthly cost vs metered usage, and that creates huge savings for customers."

Open Source Hybrid Cloud vs. Proprietary Hybrid Cloud

Notably, Rollins didn't place too much emphasis on the open source nature of Eucalyptus. He doesn't appear to believe that the fact of being open source is a key selling point in the eyes of most users.

Instead, AppScale's strategy hinges on partnering with colocation providers to offer a simpler hybrid cloud deployment strategy than most of the proprietary hybrid cloud frameworks provide.

At the same time, Rollins pointed to Eucalyptus's flexibility as one of its core strengths. The platform is "the only fully extensible and portable hybrid cloud technology," he said. "It can be deployed using a variety of underlying storage, network, and computing configurations."

He also mentioned Eucalyptus's full support for disconnected mode -- meaning configurations where workloads disconnect entirely from the public internet -- as a second key differentiator for the platform, and one that gives Eucalyptus an advantage in industries like defense. Most of the proprietary hybrid frameworks don't support disconnected deployment.

As for Outposts, that solution "validates the original vision for Eucalyptus," Rollins said, in that it shows that businesses want an easy deployment solution for hybrid cloud environments. But he believes Eucalyptus will prevail in the long run, because it makes it possible "to drive costs down significantly compared to AWS Outposts and Azure Arc and or to increase performance through specializations that these other technologies do not support."

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