The cloud isn’t just another word for basic application hosting on a single remote server. The cloud involves the notion of distributed assets that are highly available and scalable. It’s a technical paradigm that has inspired Linux vendor Red Hat to launch new open source projects to develop novel infrastructure and applications for the cloud.
Today during Red Hat’s (NASDAQ: RHT) Open Source Cloud Computing Forum, software engineers from the company revealed a number of initiatives under development for application deployment, database scaling and storage that meet the distributed needs that cloud infrastructures demand.
On the application platform side of the cloud, Red Hat is developing the BoxGrinder project. JBoss Fellow Bob McWhirter explained during the forum that one of the goals of BoxGrinder is to make is easy to grind out server configurations for a variety of virtualization fabrics.
BoxGrinder grew of a need to produce cloud versions of JBoss projects, though the current project is not limited to building JBoss-related applications. Instead of having to configure and load an application platform on multiple servers or cloud environments, BoxGrinder would enable developers to build an application platform image that could then be deployed on any cloud, and be easily replicated.
Currently BoxGrinder is able to build Fedora-based software appliances for the cloud, though McWhirter noted that the plan for the future is to be able to build appliances based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, as well.
Also in the works is a BoxGrinder Studio that will provide a Web user interface for developers to rapidly build cloud-ready software appliances. Red Hat rival Novell has a product on the market today called SUSE Studio, which enables ISVs to build software appliance images.
Applications in the cloud also require some form of scalable distributed storage, which is where the new open source Infinispan project comes into play.
Red Hat principal software engineer Manik Surtani argued that traditional databases and cloud computing usually don’t like each other. He noted that databases can be bottlenecks and potentially represent a single point of failure.
He explained that Infinispan is a data grid platform that has grown out of the JBoss Cache product, which provides a mechanism for Java middleware caching. With Infinispan, Surtani noted that developers have written new APIs so the data grid can scale to hundreds if not thousands of servers in a cloud deployment. Infinispan is also not limited to just Java middleware, but will also work with other types of applications.
“JBoss Cache has a rather complex API,” Surtani said at today’s event. “Infinispan is far more generic.”
In some respects, Infinispan will also compete against the open source memcached caching technology that is already in the market. Surtani said that Infinispan is compatible with memcached offerings, so existing memcached users could potentially use Infinispan as a drop-in replacement.
Red Hat has also written a binary protocol called “Hot Rod,” an open protocol that Surtani said is quicker than memcached.
Surtani noted that Infinispan is elastic in both directions, meaning that users can scale up when they need to and scale back down as well. Infinispan also provides fast, low-latency data access and has the ability to address a very large heap
As with BoxGrinder, which will first build Fedora Linux images for community use, Infinispan will first be available as a community project.
“Where we stand right now, we are very close to releasing GA (general availability) to the community,” Surtani said. “The reason why we’ve held back is we finally got our hands on a very large grid to test on. In the past we’ve only been testing on medium sized grid of 20 or 30 nodes and we finally got a chance to test on 1000 nodes.”
With the large grid testing, the hope is to fine-tune Infinispan to make sure it can scale and handle a large deployment.
“So we’re very close to GA, this will be the open source community version of it though, in terms of productization I’ll have to defer that to Red Hat product management,” Surtani said.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.