Yes, you can fit a cloud on a USB stick.
Founded by several of the brains who conceived OpenStack – the open source software platform for building Amazon-like “infrastructure clouds” – San Francisco startup Piston Cloud Computing has squeezed the platform onto a memory stick in an effort to streamline the creation of such clouds behind the firewall.
Set for an unveiling at next week’s OpenStack conference in Boston, this “cloud key” also includes Piston’s Linux-based PentOS. According to the company, when plugged into a network switch, the key lets you configure an OpenStack cloud in a matter of minutes.
“This is the boot disk of your private cloud,” Piston CEO Joshua McKenty tells Wired, noting that the key was inspired by old Linux-based portable firewall, FloppyFW. “You take away all the configuration at the hardware side. Let the software figure out which servers to run.”
The way McKenty describes it, an IT manager plugs the key into a PC and sets the parameters for a cloud – an online service that provides access to readily scalable resources, including computing power and storage. A technician then takes the key into the data center and plugs it into the network switch on a server rack. According to McKenty, PentOS automatically loads, discovers the appropriate servers, and configures the cloud.
The Piston cloud key is set for an unveiling next week at an OpenStack conference in Boston. In addition to easing the setup process, it’s meant to improve the security of your “private cloud”. With the key, McKenty says, you can easily limit server access to a single employee, and it’s one of the first products to embrace CloudAudit, a fledgling standard meant to ensure that cloud comply with the Federal Internet Security Management Act, HIPPA, PCI, and other government regulations.
McKenty was the technical architect of NASA’s Nebula project, an effort to build an Amazon EC2-like infrastructure cloud for use within the space agency and across the federal government. Last year, NASA open sourced the code behind the project, and it soon teamed with webhost Rackspace to create the OpenStack project. The Nebula code became the OpenStack computing platform, and Rackspace open sourced the code for the storage platform.
NASA originally built Nebula with Eucalyptus, an open source project started at the University of California, Santa Barbara. But after the Eucalyptus founders launched a startup to commercial the platform, the space agency felt that the project wasn’t as open as it could be, that they couldn’t contribute the code they needn’t to contribute. At least in part, OpenStack is an answer to these frustrations.
“We’re committed to keeping this open,” McKenty says, before boasting that Piston hosts weekly meetups with what you might think of as its competitors in the cloud computing space. They even share beers, he adds. But he takes a very different approach to VMware, which is tackling this same space with its proprietary VCloud platform. “OpenStack versus VMWare is Linux versus Microsoft all over again,” he says.