For more than three years, the folks at OnApp have been hard at work building the world’s largest federated cloud… but before we dive into the detail, let’s first talk about what federation means from a network/computing perspective. According to Wikipedia:
A Federation is multiple computing and/or network providers agreeing upon standards of operation in a collective fashion.
Quite a mouthful, but what it boils down to is a networked computing environment in which different participants use a common protocol, so that everyone can use each other’s resources. The OnApp federation brings this to the world of cloud hosting, and that’s an amazing thing for cloud providers and for their customers.
Why? Let’s start with the providers.
Cloud anywhere, through one control panel
By federating with other clouds, a provider can bring remote resources to their clients through a single control panel. So you might be a provider with a single cloud, say in New York: by joining the federation you can give your customers access to capacity in any cloud that’s part of the federation, without having to spend a fortune building your own remote datacenters and hiring the teams to manage them. The federation becomes like an extension of your New York datacenter, and your clients just see it as one big pool of capacity.
Federation in action
The first example of this model in action was the OnApp CDN federation. This allowed clouds worldwide to be used as a caching stations for web pages, videos, files and apps. Anyone could build a Content Delivery Network (CDN) service by tapping into those federated resources, and their clients could distribute their content from the same interface they used to managed their virtual machines.
It proved to be a winning recipe, and providers and their clients loved having access to this enormous pool of resources for content distribution.
In 2013, OnApp then set out to change the landscape of the CDN market with CDN.NET, which gave end users instant access to over 100 points of presence for their content – democratising a CDN market that was previously open only to companies with very deep pockets.
From content to compute
Content was just the tip of the iceberg. The next challenge was to do the same for customer VMs, for the compute resources they use to host applications.
That’s what we’ve been working on at OnApp for the past few years, allowing cloud providers to federate their infrastructure so they can give clients the ability to deploy VMs remotely, in any location available through the federation. OnApp will be launching this capability to the world of providers in the near future… and cloud.net will be the marketplace for end users to take advantage of it.
We’ve talked about the benefit for providers. So how it will work for end users?
Cloud everywhere, through one marketplace
Cloud.net will be a global cloud marketplace that gives users instant access to dozens of locations and providers, on demand. You’ll be able to choose any location and any provider you like to host your VMs, at the best prices on the market. But it isn’t just about price – as an end user, cloud.net will bring many other benefits:
- No need to shop around: instead of trawling through countless websites to find the best price and location for your VM, you’ll have one place to go to see all the options available: just tell us where you need cloud resources, and we’ll tell you what’s available, what datacenter it’s in and how much it’ll cost. When you find the right service on cloud.net, we fulfil the order and deliver you the VM. We’re also your single point of contact for the service, regardless of how many providers are involved in fulfilling your needs – we support you and manage the service for you.
- No lock in: you don’t become locked in to a single provider. If you want to move your VM to a provider with better performance, or lower pricing, or to a different region, no problem: you can move your VM at will, all from the same interface.
- Massive scale: the marketplace gives you instant access to an enormous pool of compute resources, more than any single provider could ever deploy. If your application requires sudden massive scale, you can spread it over as many datacenters and locations as you need to – and scale it back again, on demand.
- Unified hourly billing: while hourly billing isn’t new, the ability to have unified billing for resources spread over multiple locations and providers, is… you can deploy anywhere and everywhere, and have it all unified in a single invoice.
We’re pretty excited by these possibilities, and as we get closer to launch, we can’t wait to bring all this power and functionality to you through cloud.net. We’re on target to start a private beta test towards the end of April.
Registration for the beta will open here soon… watch this space, and follow @cloud on Twitter for more news!