Eucalyptus refreshes IaaS platform, isn’t dead yet

Eucalyptus Systems released the third generation of its pioneering private cloud computing software on Wednesday, complete with high-availability capabilities to ensure maximum uptime. Rumors of Eucalyptus’s demise have been circulating since OpenStack (s rax) launched its open-source cloud project last summer, but the company hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down.

Because OpenStack is based on the Nimbula Nebula software that NASA built in order to address scalability concerns with Eucalyptus, and because OpenStack has attracted so much industry and developer support, many have speculated that Eucalyptus and its open-source software were goners. However, Eucalyptus just keeps on adding users and expanding its business.

The new version of its flagship product, Eucalyptus 3, is just the latest major undertaking for the company. According to CEO Marten Mickos, large customers have been asking for high availability for a long time, and that broad interest in the capability really picked up during this year, perhaps because of the high-profile public cloud outages over the past few months.

“HA is a known science, but it’s difficult to implement in any given product,” said Mickos, which is why it took a while to build and why Eucalyptus is particularly proud of the feature. An oversimplified explanation of how Eucalyptus’s HA works is that it runs all the software’s components in multiple places, with active components handling requests and passive components monitoring system activity. If something goes wrong with an active component, a passive one steps in to fill the void.

Eucalyptus, which is unique because of its tight integration with the Amazon Web Services (s amzn) API and AWS-like architecture, also added the ability to boot storage images directly from AWS Elastic Block Storage. Given the performance and reliability concerns swirling around EBS — the cause of AWS’s four-day outage in April — Eucalyptus’s new capability might prove particularly popular because it will make it easier to bring data stored in AWS back behind the firewall.

Mickos thinks strong AWS compatibility is critical because it has such strong command of public cloud market share. Companies are increasingly pulling workloads from public clouds back in-house, he noted, and most of that is coming from AWS, if only because it has so many users to begin with. Plinga, a European social-gaming startup, moved 400 AWS servers onto a Eucalyptus’s cloud, and now runs a hybrid cloud infrastructure, Mickos said.

Eucalyptus upgraded its Resource Access Control capabilities in Eucalyptus 3 to support AWS’s new Identity Access Management feature, as well as to be able to map identities from LDAP and Active Directory servers.

So, Eucalyptus isn’t dead?

Hardly, says Mickos. He said Eucalyptus has been growing nicely, particularly in emerging economies such as China that don’t have a lot of legacy applications and infrastructure in place. Eucalyptus is a great fit in greenfield situations, he explained, because it targets enterprise applications rather than service providers trying to launch their own clouds. Thus far, service providers have been driving most private-cloud software sales.

As U.S. companies begin looking to cloud computing for maximum resource utilization instead of just elasticity, Mickos thinks Eucalyptus’s business will grow even more. Not only do many U.S. companies already have legacy software in place, he said, but load for legacy applications is fairly static, which means they don’t have to worry too much using cloud computing to tackle demand spikes. As the discussion matures, though, so will the use cases.

OpenStack: Competition or complement?

Regarding OpenStack, Mickos doesn’t seem too worried because there aren’t many (or any) production OpenStack private clouds running at this point. That could change, of course, as companies such as Citrix (s ctxs), Nebula and Piston Cloud Computing started rolling out their OpenStack distributions.

For now, though, Eucalyptus appears to view OpenStack primarily as an AWS alternative for public clouds, and Mickos said Eucalyptus is ready to support the OpenStack API if demand arises. Whereas OpenStack views itself as an AWS alternative, Mickos explained, Eucalyptus views itself as an AWS complement. And it could play that role with OpenStack, too.

Where Eucalyptus does see competition, though, is from other private cloud IaaS startups such as (now part of Citrix) and Abiquo, as well as from established vendors such as VMware (s vmw) with vCloud Director. That market is shaping up to be very competitive, with VMware having the advantage in terms of installed base and salespeople, winning high-profile customers, and Abiquo and Platform Computing getting analyst props recently.