Joyent takes aim at Amazon with public cloud upgrade

The company will now charge from 8.5 cents per hour for its computing power

Joyent is upgrading its public cloud service with better analytics and the ability to run Linux and Windows, as it hopes to persuade CIOs to move more applications to the company's cloud, it said on Thursday.

So far, enterprises that want to run their applications on Joyent's cloud have had to rewrite their software to run on Joyent's SmartOS. But now the company has added the ability to run applications on Windows or Linux, as well.

"There are a lot of developers out there that say, 'I just want Linux or I just want Windows. I don't want to worry about a couple of small differences, even if they are minor, before I code,'" said Steve Tuck, general manager for Joyent Cloud.

Getting applications up and running on a cloud is just the first step, what comes next can quickly get complicated. For example, finding out why a cloud-based application underperforms can today be very challenging, according to Tuck. The company hopes to address that by adding deeper analytics to its public cloud.

"Customers are going to get, in their user interface, the ability to measure real-time latency from the infrastructure all the way up through the application stack," said Tuck.

That, in turn, will allow the IT department to more quickly pinpoint what is causing a performance problem and solve it, according to Tuck.

However, there is a catch. To get the most out of the analytics features, users will have to run their applications on SmartOS, which also brings the added bonus of better caching functionality. The latter is a standard feature in Joyent's offering.

Last but not least, Joyent is also changing its pricing model. The company has moved to an on-demand billing model, where users now pay from US8.5 cents per hour.

Joyent, which is based in San Francisco, hopes to grab a larger share of the U.S. public cloud market with the improvements and its use of the ZFS file system, which ensures data consistency, and container-based virtualization, which allows enterprises to quickly add more processing power when using SmartOS.

The company will need any advantage it can get, because the U.S. market is becoming increasingly crowded and competitive. For example, Dell recently announced that it will launch the company's first cloud infrastructure service later this year through a partnership with VMware.

"At first, [the crowded market] will confuse customers. Because, frankly, a lot of the larger companies in the traditional technology space haven't put forth a clear vision in terms of what they are going to do," said Tuck.

Eventually, the wide variety of choices will be good for the overall industry as different solutions will fill different needs, according to Tuck.

But vendors that are just entering the cloud space will have a difficult time competing with companies like Joyent that already have years of experience, he said.

In general, Tuck is excited about the future for cloud computing, drawing from his experience working at Dell when VMware's original product hit the market.

In 2002, CIOs were very, very tentative, saying they are not going to run anything critical using virtualization. But fast forward two years, if a CIO didn't have a virtualization strategy on his roadmap, his job was at risk, according to Tuck.

"So you very quickly saw a pivot from it being an interesting thing that brought some benefits, but a lot of risk, to a mainstay of how certain parts of organizations were going to deliver compute," said Tuck.

Cloud computing is not quite at that tipping point, but the growing popularity of Web applications along with tablets and smartphones are forcing enterprises to rethink how they run IT, according to Tuck.

Besides its public cloud for the U.S. market, Joyent is working with a number of service providers around the world who will license the company's SmartDataCenter product to run their own public, private, or hybrid clouds.

Joyent has already announced the licensing deals with First Server in Japan, Uniserve in Canada and XYBASE in Malaysia. More international announcements are planned for the coming weeks, the company said.

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Mikael Ricknäs

IDG News Service
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