Cloud provider Skytap announced today that they have beefed up their service to enable more complex virtual environments. The enhancements are significant and represent a new moment in cloud computing to deliver complex computing services without requiring specialized IT knowledge to set them up.
They have added two self-service processes today. First is a cloud orchestration interface to stage which particular VMs are started and in a particular sequence. As our clouds become full of virtual servers, we need these tools so that your database server starts after your directory server, for example. There are rules for both startup and shutdown sequences, along with scheduling operations of particular VMs.
I haven't heard of any public cloud provider doing this, and while there are very expensive cloud orchestration tools from IBM, Novell, CA and the like, this is a great idea for Skytap and a way to differentiate their service from the dozens of competitors.
The second part of today's announcement is being able to connect different virtual networks to each other within your particular account. Again, this is accomplished with just a few simple keystrokes. Other hosting providers make these connections difficult or impossible, although you can create a single network that connects a group of machines together in most services. So I could have an entire testing network and connect it with a different server to see if the test falls over or continues to run. The screenshot below shows you how easy this is to accomplish - just with a few mouse clicks. You don't need to stop any of your running VMs and reconfigure their network settings, everything happens on the fly and is instantly active.
With this release, Skytap allows users to create a traditional "server hub / spoke" scenario in the cloud by offering the ability to connect any number of configurations to one server machine. As a result, IT organizations can re-create in-house environments, eliminate redundant servers and avoid server set-up errors.
The really good news is that there is no additional cost for these features, they are rolled into Skytap's existing environment and available immediately for all customers. With this announcement earlier this summer about supporting HP's lifecycle tools, they are well positioning themselves to support the most complex virtual environments.