Cloud Conversations: Interview with Marten Mickos, CEO, Eucalyptus

Marten-MickosCloudStory.in caught up with Marten Mickos, CEO of Eucalyptus. He spoke to us about his entrepreneurial journey, his experience of building successful Open Source software companies, Eucalyptus in the Open Source Cloud landscape and much more. He dispels the myth that Eucalyptus is not an academic project but instead points out that the company’s focus is on Private Cloud. He adds that AWS partnership will pave way for interesting use cases and scenarios.

CloudStory: Please tell us about your background.

Marten: I was the CEO of MySQL AB, a successful open source database company and later served as the Sr. VP at Sun Microsystems after their acquisition of MySQL. I was associated with Mozilla Messaging and RightScale and then as an Entrepreneur In Residence with Benchmark Capital before joining Eucalyptus Systems in March 2010.

After MySQL and EIR, what made you choose Eucalyptus Systems?

I had exciting times at Sun Microsystems and Benchmark Capital. Having led MySQL AB, I always wanted to get back to entrepreneurship. When I met the young team at Eucalyptus, I felt that’s a great team to be in. There was a clear need for them to have someone with my background and I needed a budding startup like Eucalyptus from the Cloud domain. I was blown away by the stuff that the team was building. Just a team of six academicians coming from five different nations was building amazing stack that can power the enterprise Cloud. I thought that my business background when combined with their technical expertise and passion would take the company to places.

There is a perception that Eucalyptus is more of an academic project than a commercial Cloud implementation. What’s your take on this?

It is a fact that Eucalyptus started as an academic research project at the Computer Science Department of University of California, Santa Barbara. But right from day one, it was very clear that Eucalyptus was built to transition from a research project into a commercial implementation that could power the Private Cloud of enterprises. The strong academic connection helps us build a robust infrastructure built on the foundation of proven principles. We consider that as one of our key strengths and differentiator. Having said that, we are very strongly positioned in the enterprise IaaS space as a company that provides Private Cloud implementation.

Eucalyptus

You mentioned about your enterprise focus. But we have not seen high-end hosters or datacenter providers offering Cloud based infrastructure based on Eucalyptus. What’s your strategy for driving the adoption among the Public Cloud providers?

Right from day one, our focus has been on building the on-premise cloud computing infrastructure. We aspire to be the most preferred Private Cloud stack for the enterprises. Eucalyptus may not be the most popular among the infrastructure providers, but we are proud to have many successful deployments across the globe. Puma, Sony, NASA, NTT and many other large enterprises deployed Eucalyptus. Due to our open source philosophy, we work closely with the public sector and government agencies. In India, National Informatics Center (NIC) selected and deployed Eucalyptus as the foundation for its cloud project. They started this initiative in 2009 with a single cloud in Hyderabad, and NIC now has ten Eucalyptus clouds throughout the country. They now plan to host Eucalyptus clouds on a national level for various e-governance applications.

With the recent announcement of Citrix handing over CloudStack to Apache and OpenStack moving towards the OpenStack Foundation supported by many big brands, how do you see the future of Open Source Cloud?

Both the points that you mentioned are endorsements of the open source Cloud. It gives us the confidence that the Open Source Cloud has the industry support and there is a larger community beyond Eucalyptus who believes in the potential of Open Source. Competition is good and it will push us to be more innovative and agile in our approach. Some players in this space got more attention than us because of their marketing muscle. We are very confident that we will be leading the Open Source cloud initiative from the front!

Tell us more about your recent partnership announcement with Amazon Web Services. You had the compatibility with AWS APIs, tools and SDKs for a longtime. What does this announcement really signify?

You are right! We took a conscious decision to support the AWS API for Eucalyptus from the beginning. You can use the AWS or third party tools for managing compute, storage and networking. We were the first to bring 100% compatibility with AWS APIs. The recent announcement makes this official. This gives both of us an opportunity to work closely to improve upon the APIs. AWS will benefit from the experience we have with the enterprise deployments and we will work with AWS for future enhancements to the existing APIs. This will be an advantage for our customers. [jbox color="green" radius="1"]Click here to read our past analysis of what AWS and Eucalyptus partnership means to the ecosystem![/jbox]

It is very interesting to learn that you will be collaborating with AWS on the API front. Does this bring additional scenarios of interoperability between Eucalyptus based Private Clouds and Amazon Web Services? Will this make Cloudbursting between Eucalyptus and AWS a reality?

Very interesting question! While the AWS partnership will definitely open up interesting use cases and scenarios, it is not just targeted at Cloudbursting specifically. There are a dozen different ways of deploying the applications on the Cloud and Cloudbursting is just one of them. It is very nascent at this point and we are closely working with customers with the needs of Cloudbursting.

PaaS has been gaining a lot of momentum in the recent past. With all the building blocks like compute, storage, network and management services in place, do you have plans to build a platform abstraction layer on top of Eucalyptus to position you as a PaaS player among developers?

PaaS calls for a very different approach. We at Eucalyptus focus more on the infrastructure building blocks than the platform. We have no plans to build a PaaS layer on top of Eucalyptus.

Finally, congratulations on securing USD 30 million funding from IVP. What impact does it have on the future of Eucalyptus?

Thank you! It feels good to have funds available to us. We are a very focused company and do not spend a lot of money on things other than what is needed. We plan to hire top talent and spend most of it towards the salaries and the operations. You would see more innovation and faster releases from you in the future!

Having been a successful CEO of leading startups, what tip do you have for the young entrepreneurs?

Firstly, as an entrepreneur you must believe in doing big things – something bigger than yourself, bigger than the VCs and bigger than everything. This belief is essential for every entrepreneur out there. The second thing is customer delight! Entrepreneurs should have focus on delighting customers and building a community of happy customers. This is very important for the startups of the current generation and let me tell you that it is not an easy task to build a community of delighted customers. But those who manage to do that will be very successful in the long term.

CloudStory.in wishes Marten good luck and looks forward to having him in India soon.