Monday, May 27, 2013

Exoscale, a Swiss Cloud Provider with CloudStack

Over the last couple weeks I have been using exoscale, a swiss public cloud provider based on CloudStack. They just launched after a beta testing phase that I had the chance to be part of. Their offering is primarily aimed at developers. The folks at Exoscale were kind enough to give me couple "gift cards" during the CloudStack Geneva meetup and I was able to get going. Together with PCExtreme, Leaseweb, and iKoula they are one more European public cloud provider in production with Apache CloudStack that I know of.

Their cloud is almost straightforward: two data centers in Geneva and Vernier, with hardware hosted by Equinix. They run Apache CloudStack 4.0.2, the latest release and use KVM hypervisors on Ubuntu based servers. One customization that they made and that I am aware of is that they patched CloudStack to output logs using logstash and use Kibana for visuzalization. They offer CentOS 6.4 and Ubuntu 12.04/13.04 64 bit templates with instance types from 512MB with 1 core to 32 GB with 8 cores. Their development and operations team is relatively small for such an offering but they are backed by the Veltigroup a leading IT provider in Switzerland, which gives them a 20 person team for support. Their developers are seasoned IT infrastructure enthusiasts who participate in the DevOps, openBSD, Clojure and Pallet community. The lead developer, Pierre-Yves Ritschard, formerly with, recently participated in DevOps Days Paris and has contributed a Clojure client to CloudStack: clostack. They are embracing open source, not only by using it, but also by contributing to the various communities that make up the foundation of Cloud services.

While CloudStack comes with a powerful and efficient Web UI, exoscale decided to create their own UI and integrate it with a ticketing, monitoring and billing system that they developed. It reinforces the fact the CloudStack API is extremely rich and that the default UI was actually designed as a proof of concept rather than something that all users should use. The UI will please developers by its simplicity and straigthforward ease of use. From talking to them, I know they they will soon open source the python client they developed to build the UI backend. Pierre Yves told me it resembled a little bit my toy UI that uses Flask and builds a REST wrapper on top of the CloudStack API. See a snapshot of an instance view below:

They envision an entirely public cloud, meaning that all their instances are on the public network (nb: They also have a premium service for the enterprise with secure VPN access). They use a CloudStack basic zone with security groups ala EC2. Users can get VNC access and of course ssh access to the instance using ssh keys created via the console. Since it is still in beta-testing they have currently turned off some of the features like snapshotting. These feature limitations are well documented and in their roadmap for future releases of their Cloud services. In the meantime they are also working on high level services like Jenkins continuous infrastructure services and most probably big data services. The Big Data service is just a guess on my part but would make sense considering Pierre-Yes involvement with Pallet and a recent demo he did at Eurocloud.

I have used exoscale a lot in those last two weeks and I am extremely pleased with it. It is actually becoming my favorite testbed. The UI is great as I mentioned, but all the CloudStack clients also work (of course :) ), CloudMonkey is easily setup to talk to their endpoint, I submitted patches to libcloud last week and you can now use with exoscale. I even contributed a CloudStack driver for SaltStack (an alternative to Chef and Puppet) based on testing with exoscale. Right away I felt comfortable with exoscale and even gave a lecture at HEPIA where I put 7 students on it in 20 minutes. If you want to learn more, Exoscale will be at Build a Cloud Day Paris on June 19th.

So here is the catchphrase of the blog: Exoscale, it's simple and it works

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