Building An Autoscaling Hybrid Cloud With UniCloud

    As your managed server environments get more complex, throwing cloud computing into the mix can cause even more stress. Fortunately, Rackspace Cloud partner Univa has designed their UniCloud product to make hybrid hosting simpler and more consistent, while still giving you the ability to tailor the configuration to your needs.

    UniCloud uses a VPN to create a secure, consistent network between your physical and cloud hosts. This new VPN IP space allows all servers in your environment to have a standardized network that spans multiple datacenters and hosting environments. UniCloud handles this VPN setup automatically, along with providing DNS services for it, saving you the headache of tweaking VPN configurations when you bring new nodes online. This VPN can also be used to transfer reasonably-sized data sets up to compute nodes.

    Additionally, UniCloud abstracts representations of compute environments (local, cloud, etc) into various resource adapters. Multiple resource adapters can exist in any given compute environment, making it easy to scale workloads over different local and remote computing providers for a single job. This also means that as new compute environments come to market, Univa can add support for them as a resource adapter and easily expand your options.

    Coupled with these resource adapters is the notion of application mobility. With different computing options available, there needs to be a way to move applications and configurations from one environment to another with a high degree of consistency and control. UniCloud’s solution to this problem comes in the form of “application kits.”. These kits provide a self-contained bundle consisting of the application binaries or source, configuration data, and install/uninstall scripts. A kit or collection of kits can be used to encapsulate one particular piece of software, or an entire application stack. Once a kit is created, it can be added to a central software repository and then managed using policy rules. These kits are what allow applications to move from system to system, without a large amount of custom configuration.

    So you can see how UniCloud makes it easy to manage compute resources, but its rule engine is what really sets UniCloud apart. As an application that really cut its teeth on the Sun/Oracle Grid Engine, UniCloud was engineered to solve problems involving very large-scale data processing requirements. Being able to solve those types of problems means that it UniCloud also works for many common use cases.

    The Python-based rules engine can monitor nearly any aspect of a system or the environment as a whole, and can take actions based on the results. For example, imagine that one UniCloud user has a private physical-server cluster environment where they run an image analysis program through a distributed batch system. When the computing needs exceed the capacity of their local systems, they use UniCloud to “cloud burst” into both Rackspace Cloud Servers and Amazon EC2. This allows them to get the CPU cycles that they need, while avoiding the need for a large CapEx in local servers to handle these peak loads. For this customer, UniCloud dynamically creates a single distributed batch infrastructure on Grid Engine. From their end user’s point of view, nothing changes – they submit jobs as usual and it’s UniCloud on the back-end that allocates cloud nodes and moves jobs around. The UniCloud policy engine can even take a cost metric into account (for the cost and latency differential between local and cloud nodes, or different cloud provider costs) to intelligently spin up the most cost-effective environments.

    Such a use case is a great reason to look at cloud computing – being able to seamlessly spin up cloud nodes to handle unusual workloads, while paying only pennies per hour. Add to that other useful features such as synchronized user accounts, push-based file systems, and more, and it becomes clear that UniCloud is a great option for a company that does not want to buy another rack of servers to deal with spikes in computing needs.

    Want to find out more? Contact Rackspace Cloud partner Univa about UniCloud. They’ll be glad to help you out!

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    1. This all looks great. But I am wondering if there are real customers using it in production environment, how much scale their environment are.

      • Just to add more detail.

        Creating a Rackspace hybrid cloud environment is pretty easy with UniCloud, you do however need to allow https traffic in and out of your infrastructure and allow ssh/scp access from your private infrastructure to really take advantage of the system. We use OpenVPN to create tunnel(s) from your private infrastructure to the Rackspace cloud nodes and if you do need to log into the cloud nodes then your IT department does need to allow ssh/scp through your corporate firewall.



    2. @cchen317

      Yes, there are real enterprises using this in production, with many more such enterprises in the testing, validation and planning phase. Scale depends on the specific customer need and application but there are small systems (under 50), medium (up to 120) and large (over 500).

      If you reach out directly to Univa we can discuss the details and specific use cases (including applications and industries)…as a teaser, we can describe to the leading price/performance of Rackspace versus other providers…

      you can reach our team @