Mesosphere’s new data center mother brain will blow your mind

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Mesosphere has been making a name for itself in the the world of data centers and cloud computing since 2013 with its distributed-system smarts and various introductions of open-source technologies, each designed to tackle the challenges of running tons of workloads across multiple machines. On Monday, the startup plans to announce that its much-anticipated data center operating system — the culmination of its many technologies — has been released as a private beta and will be available to the public in early 2015.

As part of the new operating system’s launch, [company]Mesosphere[/company] also plans to announce that it has raised a $36 million Series B investment round, which brings its total funding to $50 million. Khosla Ventures, a new investor, drove the financing along with Andreessen Horowitz, Fuel Capital, SV Angel and other unnamed entities.

Mesosphere’s new data center operating system, dubbed DCOS, tackles the complexity behind trying to read all of the machines inside a data center as one giant computer. Similar to how an operating system on a personal computer can distribute the necessary resources to all the installed applications, DCOS can supposedly do the same thing across the data center.

The idea comes from the fact that today’s powerful data-crunching applications and services — like Kafka, Spark and Cassandra — span multiple servers, unlike more old-school applications like [company]Microsoft[/company] Excel. Asking developers and operations staff to configure and maintain each individual machine to accommodate the new distributed applications is quite a lot, as Apache Mesos co-creator and new Mesosphere hire Benjamin Hindman explained in an essay earlier this week.

Mesosphere CEO Florian Leibert

Mesosphere CEO Florian Leibert – Source: Mesosphere

Because of this complexity, the machines are nowhere near running full steam, said Mesosphere’s senior vice president of marketing and business development Matt Trifiro.

“85 percent of a data center’s capacity is typically wasted,” said Trifiro. Although developers and operations staff have come a long way to tether pieces of the underlying system together, there hasn’t yet been a nucleus of sorts that successfully links and controls everything.

“We’ve always been talking about it — this vision,” said Mesosphere CEO Florian Leibert. “Slowly but surely the pieces came together; now is the first time we are showing the total picture.”

Building an OS

The new DCOS is essentially a bundle of all of the components Mesosphere has been rolling out — including the Mesos resource management system, the Marathon framework and Chronos job scheduler — as well as third-party applications like the Hadoop file system and YARN.

The DCOS also includes common OS features one would would find in Linux or Windows, like a graphical user interface, command-line interface and a software-development kit.

These types of interfaces and extras are important for DCOS to be a true operating system, explained Leibert. While Mesos can automate the allocation of all the data center resources to many applications, the additional features provide coders and operations staff a centralized hub from which they can monitor their data center as a whole and even program.

“We took the core [Mesos] kernel and built the consumable systems around it,” said Trifiro. “[We] added Marathon, added Chronos and added the easy install of the entire package.”

To get DCOS up and running in a data center, Mesosphere installs a small agent on all Linux OS-based machines, which in turn allows them to be read as an “uber operating system,” explained Leibert. With all of the machines’ operating systems linked up, it’s supposedly easier for distributed applications, like Google’s Kubernetes, to function and receive what they needs.

The new graphical interface and command-line interface allows an organization to see a visual representation of all of their data center machines, all the installed distributed applications and how system resources like CPU and memory are being shared.

If a developer wants to install an application in the data center, he or she simply has to enter install commands in the command-line interface and the DCOS should automatically load it up. A visual representation of the app should then appear along with indicating which machine nodes are allocating the right resources.

DCOS interface

DCOS interface

The same process goes for installing a distributed database like Cassandra; you can now “have it running in a minute or so,” said Leibert.

Installing Cassandra on DCOS

Installing Cassandra on DCOS

A scheduler is built into DCOS that takes in account certain variables a developer might want to include in order to decide which machine should deliver resources to what application; this is helpful because it allows the developer to set up the configurations and the DCOS will automatically follow through with the orders.

“We basically turn the software developer into a data center programmer,” said Leibert.

And because DCOS makes it easier for a coder to program against, it’s possible that new distributed applications could be made faster than before because the developer can now write software to a fleet of machines rather than only one.

As of today, DCOS can run on on-premise environments like bare metal and OpenStack, major cloud providers — like [company]Amazon[/company], [company]Google[/company] and [company]Microsoft[/company] — and it supports Linux variants like CoreOS and Redhat.

Changing the notion of a data center

Leibert wouldn’t name which organizations are currently trying out DCOS in beta, but it’s hard not to think that companies like Twitter, Netflix or Airbnb — all users of Mesos — haven’t considered giving it a test drive. Leibert was a former engineer at Twitter and Airbnb, after all.

Beyond the top webscale companies, Mesosphere wants to court legacy enterprises like those in the financial-services industry who have existing data centers that aren’t nearly as efficient as those seen at Google.

Banks, for example, typically use “tens of thousands of machines” in their data centers to perform risk analysis, Leibert said. With DCOS, Leibert claims that banks can run the type of complex workloads they require in a more streamlined manner if they were to link up all those machines.

And for these companies that are under tight regulation, Leibert said that Mesosphere has taken security into account.

“We built a security product into this operating system that is above and beyond any open-source system, even as a commercial plugin,” said Leibert.

As for what lies ahead for DCOS, Leibert said that his team is working on new features like distributed checkpointing, which is basically the ability to take a snapshot of a running application so that you can pause your work; the next time you start it up, the data center remembers where it left off and can deliver the right resources as if there wasn’t a break. This method is apparently good for developers working on activities like genome sequencing, he said.

Support for containers is also something Mesosphere will continue to tout, as the startup has been a believer in the technology “even before the hype of [company]Docker[/company],” said Leibert. Containers, with their ability to isolate workloads even on the same machine, are fundamental to DCOS, he said.

Mesosphere believes there will be new container technology emerging, not just the recently announced CoreOS Rocket container technology, explained Trifiro, but as of now, Docker and native Linux cgroup containers are what customers are calling for. If Rocket gains momentum in the market place, Trifiro said, Mesosphere will “absolutely implement it.”

If DCOS ultimately lives up to what it promises it can deliver, managing data centers could be a way less difficult task. With a giant pool of resources at your disposal and an easier way to write new applications to a tethered-together cluster of computers, it’s possible that next-generation applications could be developed and managed far easier than they use to be.

Correction: This post was updated at 8:30 a.m. to correctly state Leibert’s previous employers. He worked at Airbnb, not Netflix.

5 Comments

Robert Wipfel

It’s not a DCOS until it can manage storage, which afair, Opsware tried thru an acquisition that didn’t go well. OpenStack is handling some of that now (for File and Block) plus the networking (overlay) part. Unless I’m missing something, Mesos is an Orchestrator (e.g. Platform Computing) for provisioning scale-out Apps across shared resources. And like everyone that tried that before, it’ll fail unless it takes special care of administrative identity, authnz, audit, and approvals needed for GRC: https://prezi.com/o3xfs-acv1fj/what-is-iwm/

Chris

Distributed check pointing sounds an awful lot like what Erlang has built into it.

Sam Enrk

You mention that Liebert was an Engineer ar Netflix, I think it was Twitter and Airbnb instead.

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