Byzantine Reality

Searching for Byzantine failures in the world around us


A huge amount of buzz in the internets and especially cloud-computing land is about Amazon EC2. With EC2 you can go pay Amazon some money and get a nice little virtual computer with its own IP and all that fun stuff and throw up your web site on it. Other cloud computing vendors offer software that runs on it to make sure the apps you put on EC2 stay up no matter what (e.g., put a web site on it and make sure that no matter how much traffic it gets, it’s still able to stay functional).

But what if you wanted an open-source alternative? Enter Eucalyptus.

Disclaimer: Since Eucalyptus is a UCSB product and I’m at UCSB, I’m not entirely unbiased. But presumably you realize I’m biased and to some extent, you are too.

Eucalyptus for people who have a cluster and want to run it in the same fashion that Amazon EC2 is done. To do so, it’s API-compliant, meaning that the tools you use to talk to EC2 work exactly the same on Eucalyptus.

Eucalyptus puts a pretty front end around your cluster and virtualization tools in (presumably) a similar fashion as Amazon EC2. Virtualization is done via Xen but since they use the libvirt library, which claims to be virtualization-agnostic, you’ll be able to use other tools down the line.

You can see all this info and more in a presentation Rich Wolski gave at Velocity a few months ago, but my initial observations come from a different angle. I had wanted to try out EC2 for quite some time but wasn’t sure how much I’d have to pay to try it out. With Eucalyptus, if you happen to have a few (relatively recent) boxes lying around you can be up and going in no time. For free.

And the whole thing has been a giant learning experience for me. Learning about Xen, making images, all that stuff has been an awesome time. I’ve got a few images I’m going to upload to Eucalyptus soon and fiddle with, and it’s something I definitely recommend doing if you’ve got some spare time on your hands and a few boxes.

If you don’t, and you have some cash lying around (how much is uncertain to me), give EC2 a try. Let me know how much it takes you to get up and going and how it is.