OnApp’s federated cloud storage platform hits production

OnApp is one of the most interesting European cloud players, as it offers traditional hosting providers a way to fight Amazon(s amzn) by federating the spare capacity in their data centers — it also has more than 500 of these providers as customers around the world, so this is a serious endeavor. Now the company has launched version 3 of the OnApp Cloud platform, taking its distributed storage piece out of beta, improving its content delivery network offering and adding support for VMware hypervisors.

The VMware(s vmw) support is a big deal for OnApp as it helps the company’s service-provider customers better target the enterprise (OnApp already supported Xen and KVM hypervisors, and still intends to support Hyper-V). A new feature called Cloud Boot was introduced to automate the deployment of hypervisors, and there’s a new support console for cloud administrators and end users too.

OnApp CCO Kosten MetreweliBut it’s the OnApp Storage piece that is particularly critical for the company, Kosten Metreweli, OnApp’s chief commercial officer, told me. This is partly because it solves performance problems for providers, but also because it lays the foundation for OnApp’s upcoming federated compute play.

There are two advantages to this kind of federated storage: it utilizes spare capacity in providers’ data centers, pooling it then slicing up the aggregate into virtual disks, and it also removes the typical bottleneck found in the SAN controller. According to Metreweli, OnApp’s unified approach makes for speedier I/O as well:

“Other distributed storage platforms that have tried to this have required high network bandwidth to work, so we have introduced a clever piece of tech called VM-aware. Because we know where the workloads sit, and we control where the storage sits, we can say at any one point in time we can ensure there’s at least one copy of the data that you’re storing on your virtual disk sitting on the same hypervisor as the compute that’s using it.

“You take away any of the network requirements from a read perspective. You’re getting 95 percent of raw disk performance on what is effectively an enterprise-class SAN, which is pretty unheard-of.”

The content delivery network (CDN) boost is also significant: OnApp’s year-old federated CDN was previously limited to static content and non-real-time “pseudostreaming” — think YouTube(s goog) – but it now also has a livestreaming capacility.

“We feel that over the last 12 months we’ve validated the concept and proved that this federated CDN capability can work,” Metreweli said.

“We just finished a project with Europe’s largest dance music festival using our distributed CDN to distribute content on a global basis, so now we feel we can take the next step into pushing higher capacity traffic across that CDN. Members of our CDN federation will be able to make more money out of their infrastructure, because there will be more content going over the CDN.”

Others such as VMware(s mvw) and the OpenStack players are also working on the federated cloud idea, and OnApp’s CDN capabilities clearly take on the likes of Akamai(s akam), but it’s tricky to identify a direct rival for the sum of what OnApp is doing. Its entrenched network of service provider customers puts it in a good place.