Manage Multiple Clouds with RightScale

10th Apr 2012
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I recently got a chance to work on RightScale for a proof-of-concept and I must say that they have an impressive technical architecture that reflects some of design and deployment best practices of the Cloud. I want to provide a business overview of this platform through this article.

Compared to traditional IT, Cloud does offer many benefits in the form of self-service, on-demand, elastic, and pay-as-you-go models. For example, going live with a line of business application on physical infrastructure might take anywhere between 6 to 8 weeks and by leveraging the Cloud, this can be reduced to a couple of hours! Many enterprises are seriously considering the switch to the Cloud. This includes both Private and Public Clouds. But as the investment increases in the Cloud, so is the complexity and the management overhead. IT departments need to manage disparate Cloud environments that run within and outside of their enterprise. Just on the Public Cloud, there are many challenges in dealing with multiple isolated and independent Clouds. For example, a multi-national company with global presence might want to leverage Amazon Web Services for deploying some of their business applications. The same application needs to be available across multiple continents and geographies. Even though it is a homogenous Cloud from Amazon Web Services, every Region is considered to be an independent and an isolated Cloud. Replicating the configuration and the topology of an application across multiple regions is extremely complex and expensive. An AMI that is chosen at one AWS Region may or may not be available in other AWS Regions. So, a lot of work goes into mapping the infrastructure architecture across multiple regions. Now, imagine managing the application that is deployed across multiple regions. Upgrading, patching and maintaining the application becomes extremely complex. On top of this, the enterprise IT team needs to manage a completely different environment that runs their Private Cloud. This could be running on Eucalyptus, OpenStack or CloudStack. These heterogeneous environments force the IT team to deal with proprietary APIs, tools and interfaces that reduce the efficiency. The administrators will end up writing a completely different toolset to manage Private Cloud and Public Cloud. And finally, when it comes to moving from one Cloud service provider to another, it just becomes a nightmare!

Vendor Lock-in and deployment efficiency are mutually exclusive. If you want better performance and efficiency, you might want to exploit the features provided by the Cloud. But this makes it difficult to get out of the platform. For example, on AWS, if you design your architecture around ELB, EIP, EBS, AutoScale, SQS, S3, ElastiCache and DynamoDB, it is impossible to switch to another platform. The more native services you consume, the more lock-in that you experience. But if you are on Cloud, it doesn’t make sense not to leverage some of these services offered by the providers. Effectively, it is a trade-off between vendor lock-in and deployment efficiency. At the end of the day, you can only achieve one of them.

RightScale solves the above two problems elegantly. It abstracts the underlying Cloud infrastructure and provides a unified interface and API to deal with multiple Cloud environments. On the Private Cloud front, RightScale augments the stack and brings the capabilities on par with the Public Cloud. For Public Cloud, RightScale brings more value by improving upon the existing feature set. Ultimately, IT administrators and infrastructure architects will get to deal with single pane of glass and a unified set of API to deal with their entire Cloud investments and all this without the vendor lock-in. An application can be deployed to any RightScale supported Cloud environment in minutes. This is possible because RightScale abstracts each Cloud and deals with only the fundamental building blocks of each Cloud environment those are common across any mature platform.

I will cover the technical architecture of RightScale in the future articles. Stay tuned!

- Janakiram MSV, Chief Editor, CloudStory.in

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