Mariano Cunietti, CTO, Enter/Cloudup
Leading Internet Service Provider launches first Italian Pay-As-You-Go service using OpenStack's public cloud infrastructure
Cloudup, a subsidiary of Italian Internet Service Provider (ISP) Enter, had one goal from the company’s beginning: to be the first Italian cloud service provider to offer a true pay-as-you go cloud service. When Cloudup launched, it also had the market advantage of Enter's underlying robust infrastructure including a company-owned network and datacenter recently integrated into a 10 GbE ring linking European data centers in Milan, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London and Paris.
OpenStack played a primary role bringing Cloudup’s public cloud dream to market in May 2012. The company has grown its infrastructure five times over its original deployment size since launch in less than a year. This OpenStack-based public cloud offering is completely scalable and easy-to-use with less than 5 clicks from start to server activation.
“When we started designing the product, Italian ISP’s offering access to computing resources were either traditional providers, who came from the world of telecommunications or hosting services; or newcomers, often retailers, without a proprietary infrastructure of their own,” said Martina Casani, marketing manager at Enter/Cloudup. Vendors were charging for pre-paid virtual machines only, Casani explained, and IT services normally required highly technical skills. Cloudup wanted the real-time scaling functionality of an on-demand auto-provisioning cloud service instead.
Choosing a cloud platform
Cloudup began its selection process by reviewing and testing other viable proprietary and open source cloud vendors. Even though proprietary systems proved to be highly stable, Cloudup disliked the idea of being tied to an inflexible licensing system that would limit competition especially in the end user market. After ruling out proprietary systems, the company began reviewing and testing open source cloud platforms, but deemed many of them as immature or poorly documented. Ultimately Cloudup chose to build its public cloud infrastructure with OpenStack because it was a mature, scalable offering that had the well-written documentation Cloudup needed.
OpenStack is the fastest growing open cloud community, building software to power public and private clouds for a growing number of organizations like CERN, eBay, HP, Intel, MercadoLibre and Rackspace. The software controls and automates pools of compute, storage and networking resources to turn standard hardware into a powerful cloud computing environment.
Cloudup selected OpenStack, not only because it is fully open source and well documented, but also due to the project’s modular, pluggable architecture and constantly evolving tool set that allows for integration into other service providers’ infrastructures. Although OpenStack was still a bit new to the market Cloudup decided to “…wager everything on this,” according to Mariano Cunietti, CTO at Enter/Cloudup. Cloudup also understood the project’s code, but didn’t maintain a development shop; therefore, establishing close ties with OpenStack developers was critical. It’s what lead Cunietti to definitively state, "After several years in this field, today we truly believe that OpenStack is the Linux of cloud computing.”
Building a cloud business
Enter developed compute services based on the past two releases of OpenStack for its Cloudup and Selfserver offerings. "So far, the product has been very well received, with over 2000 trials to date after just 10 months on the market," said Casani. Since the beginning of February, after Cloudup appeared in several IT forums, subscriptions from abroad began pouring in and have rocketed to an average of a hundred a day.
Still as demand matures, Cloudup has faced some challenges with the early cloud market in Italy. Casani said they must continue to explain the benefits of the cloud’s flexibility to the market, as well as combat any fears related to security. Also, the inconsistent availability of broadband connections in Italy presents a significant challenge for those wanting to try this type of service. To address these challenges, the company built a “configurator” to make it easier for customers to understand and customize cloud choices and offerings. In the future, Cloudup plans to provide a disaster recovery service to help alleviate some of the perceived uncertainties about data security as well.
On a broader level, Cloudup recently launched new collaborative efforts to support its integrated service management platforms. These new developments complement Cloudup's existing infrastructure and will be made available to the OpenStack community under the Apache license. Cloudup's future plans are to release an Object Storage service built on OpenStack and publish a Cloud 2.0 release with exposed APIs and fully developed servies. Cloudup also plans to activate nodes in the European 10 GbE proprietary ring interconnecting five major European Union datacenters thus releasing a truly distributed cloud computing architecture.
Community fuels continued growth
As Casani and Cunietti contend, the strength of the OpenStack community played a major role in their decision making process. Being part of the OpenStack community has even brought them marketing benefits. “Use cases and best practices help us communicate product benefits and overcome perceptions in the market. Feedback from the community is also valuable in terms of understanding market trends,” said Casani. Cloudup has seen real returns from attending OpenStack events and building its brand in the powerful OpenStack community as it furthered the company’s partnerships with top technology companies.
On the technical side, the community is Cloudup’s primary source of information on product updates, releases and bug fixes as well as assisting Cloudup in making long-term plans. Being part of the community Cunietti said gave Cloudup, “…the ability to help define and shape the future of the projects that better fit our roadmap needs.”