The new trend in cloud computing appears to be app-store-like marketplaces where software vendors and infrastructure experts can share their operational know-how. Cloud-computing management platform RightScale became the latest to hop on the trend today with its MultiCloud Marketplace. RightScale follows other recent efforts by server-monitoring startup ServerDensity and systems-management startup ScaleXtreme. The purpose of such efforts is simple: enable advanced use cases without having to offer them as services within the platform itself.
In the case of a company like RightScale, which provides a management layer to ease the task of launching and running resources on Infrastructure-as-a-Service clouds such as Amazon Web Services and Rackspace, a configuration marketplace is primarily about letting users expand their RightScale use at their own speeds. One might also view the MultiCloud Marketplace as an answer to the growing portfolio of AWS services such as CloudFormation and Elastic MapReduce, which can negate the value of a service such as RightScale by making AWS more of a manageable and complete experience. By opening an avenue for contributed configurations, RightScale users will have an easier time launching advanced software and infrastructure resources, but RightScale is freed of the burden of having to develop them internally and offer them as services.
Already, the marketplace features a wide variety of vendor-contributed templates, including the Gluster Storage Appliance, IBM’s Hadoop-based BigInsights analytics engine and Datapipe’s CDN-like Web Acceleration Stack. It also features a number of RightScale- and user-contributed configurations for everything from application servers to memcached.
As noted above, RightScale’s efforts appears similar in aim to recent efforts by ServerDensity and ScaleXtreme. In those cases, the companies are offering SaaS versions of what usually are fairly complex software products, so they’re trying to keep them as simple as possible to achieve an ideal SaaS experience. Their marketplaces for plugins and management scripts gives users access to advanced functions that might not be included in the current version of the services, with the theory being that everybody’s a winner. The companies can focus on the core capabilities and interface, while users who might need an obscure capability they’ve become accustomed to in a legacy product can develop it and share it with the community.
Many cloud computing providers — including RightScale — also partner with other software vendors to offer preconfigured instances and environments, but those generally require fees above the base price of the provider’s service. The marketplace approach might require a bit more effort by users, but it also generally enables free or relatively low-cost experimentation.
Whatever the case, they’re all examples of how cloud computing companies are trying to make infrastructure management as flexible, yet simple, as possible to align with growing expectations of what cloud services should be. RightScale will be among the companies present at Structure 2011 to discuss how cloud computing will evolve and what users might expect in the years to come.
Image courtesy of Flickr user NatalieMaynor.