February 11, 2013
I’m always interested to speak with companies trying to build innovative solutions outside of the US. Despite living away from the epicenter of technology myself, all to often I find myself displaying a Valley-centric perspective on companies and the solutions they bring to market. It’s good for all of us to step back and look at the global opportunities around IT and to realize that there is very much a place for companies from all parts of the globe. So I was interested to spend some time talking recently with ComodIT, a company that aims to deliver an all-encompassing management, orchestration and automation IT as a service layer.
In the view of ComodIT, there are three challenges of cloud operations
- To get provisioning under control – The simplest way to create your own server image is to start from an pre-existing one, modify it manually to match your requirements, and create a new server image from its snapshot. Besides the manual effort, this process often leads to a lack of documentation and more maintenance headaches.
- Centralize configuration management – One of the most important daily activities of system administrators is the management of server configurations (updating packages, user and access rights management, application configurations, etc). With a growing number of systems, it’s easy to lose track of configuration changes, leading to costly configuration errors and lack of proper documentation. Centralized configuration management will reduce human errors through automation, improve your documentation and provide auditing of taken actions. In addition, the best tools provide you with compliance features and alert you when a server configuration deviates from its required state.
- Orchestrate complex workflows – Scaling an infrastructure, deploying a new service and implementing disaster recovery are all examples of tasks requiring many actions to be taken at different levels of the infrastructure. They are the hardest processes to automate, but also the ones where human errors can have the most disastrous impacts. Thanks to the API exposed by cloud providers, and using the right orchestration tool, it is possible to master these tasks as well.
Anyway – wanting to solve all these pain points puts ComodIT squarely as a competitor to vendors such as RightScale and enStratus, but ComodIT also sees itself as an automation product – it has its own take on the creations and usage of so-called “recipes” and hence also encroaches on the territory of automation vendors like Chef and Puppet. This approach differs from vendors like enStratus, I talked to enStratus founder George Reese about built in recipe systems. His view is that:
We believe a proprietary recipe system is a bad idea. However, we do have a scripting-based system for people afraid of chef/puppet. But we recommend chef/puppet because there’s a huge library of recipes out there for Chef and Puppet, both great Open Source tools. Also, we believe that “cloud brokerage” is about being an orchestrator of orchestrators. That means orchestrating tools the customer picks not forcing tools upon them
ComodIT puts all this together and offers users the ability to deploy applications both on-premise and to the cloud. Not so much by moving servers or migrating binaries themselves but by redeploying a predetermined configuration – in this way it competes with CloudSwitch, CloudVelocity and the recently launched (and high profile) Ravello.
ComodIT is based in Belgium and is a seven person company that has bootstrapped itself into existence (with the help of a 500k Euro research grant). It has an on-premise product and this SaaS version was launched in October 2012. Both products have paying customers worldwide including organizations using the product to deploy physical servers. They partner with providers like Eucalyptus and Rackspace to automate hybrid clouds based on those companies’ cloud products.
As always, the right answer for any company will depend largely on their particular context. While a platform that includes automation, orchestration and management all in one is very useful, such a platform sometimes misses the value that domain expertise (for example the huge library of recipes for specific solutions like Chef and Puppet that exist) can’t be understated. Either way it’s great to see a European startup bringing some interesting cloud management products to market – it will be interesting to see the progress that ComodIT makes.