Update 2: 3tera has added Dynamic Appliances, which are "packaged data center operations like backup, migration or SLAs that users can add to their applications to provide functionality."
Update: in an effort to help cross the chasm of how start building a website using their grid OS, 3tera is offering their Assured Success Plan. The idea is to provide training, consulting, and support so you can get started with some confidence you'll end up succeeding.
If you are starting or extending a website you have a problem: what technologies should you use?
Now there are more answers to that question than ever. One new and refreshingly innovative answer is 3tera's grid OS. In this podcast interview with Bert Armijo from 3tera, we'll learn how 3tera wants to change how you build websites.
How? By transforming the physical into the virtual and then allowing the virtual to be manipulated as if it were real. Could I possibly be more abstract? Not really. But when I think of what they are doing that's the mental model I see whirling around in my mind. Don't worry, I promise we'll drill down to how it can help you in the real world. Let's see how.
I think of 3tera's product as like staying at a nice hotel. At home you are in charge. If something needs doing you must do it. If something breaks you must fix it. But at a nice hotel everything just happens for you. Your room is cleaned, beds are made, outrageously expensive candy bars are replaced in the mini-bar, food arrives when you order it and plates disappear when you are done, and the courtesy mint is placed just so on your pillow. You are free to simply enjoy your stay. All the other details of living just happen.
That's the same sort of experience 3tera is trying to provide for your website. You can concentrate on your application and 3tera, through their GUI on the front-end and their AppLogic grid operating system on the back-end, worries about all the housekeeping.
I think Bert summed up their goal wonderfully when said their aim is to:
Get peoples hands off physical boxes and to give them a way to define complex infrastructures in a reusable way that they can then instantiate, trade, sell, or replicate, backup up and manage as individual units. This is what AppLogic that does incredibly way.
What they are doing is taking hard physical resources like CPU and storage and decoupling them from their physical sources so you can just order and use them on demand without worrying how its done under the covers. This is trend that has been happening for a while, but their grid OS takes that process to the next level.
Your physical co-lo cage is now a private virtual data center. Physical boxes, once lovingly spec'ed, bought, and installed are now allocated on demand from a phalanx of preconfigured and separately maintained servers. Physical storage, once lovingly pieced together from disks, controllers, and networks is now allocated from a vast unending sea of virtual storage. Physical load balancers are now programs you can create.
What this means for you is you can take a website architecture you've draw up on your white board and simply and quickly create it in a data center. Its all configurable from a GUI. You can bring on 10 new web servers with a simple drag and drop operation. It's basically your white board diagram come to life, only you get to skip all the nasty implementation bits. In the virtual world the nasty non application related implementation bits are someone else's problem.
3tera's value proposition pretty easy to understand:
and support a co-lo space.
With AppLogic your redundant data center is always the same because the virtual data center
is copied a unit. You can pick it up and move it anywhere you want.
hardware? Growing on a grid is more agile, incremental, and requires less upfront
model of how you should structure, grow, and maintain your system. You don't need to
code it from scratch or think it up yourself.
In short: customers don't care about your servers. Hardware and the data center do not
add value. You core competency is in your application and running your business, not playing with servers.
Well, that's it for the overview. Please listen to this podcast for all the nitty-gritty details.
Download audio file (1:16 minutes, mp3).
I know what you are probably saying. You are saying: "But Todd, the podcast is over an hour long, couldn't you have please made it longer? I have nothing else to do today and I need to waste more time!" What can I say, Bert was very knowledgeable and helpful, and this is a new model for building scalable websites so I was trying to figure out how I could physically make a website using their product. That takes a lot of questions. I am happy with the result though. I think I have a good picture of how their system works and I think its well worth investigating if you are in the market for creating or expanding a website.
Here are some notes taken from the podcast.
and manage it through a browser. You can be anywhere in the world and you can use hosting services anywhere in the world.
- You use the controller to provision a LAMP cluster.
- Then you log into Apache server and configure it how you wish.
- Then restart and it begins to serve.
- Say you want 10 front-end web servers.
- The load balancer is a virtual load balancer you program.
- You use virtual NAS.
- Upload code to the NAS.
- Then have all apache servers run off the NAS. So you don't have to log into all and upload code.
- Web Server
- Content that it's serving.
- Remember, with a VDC it's easy to pick up your whole data center and move it somewhere else. The catalog doesn't have to be copied each time. Just the data for applications can be copied over. Not so bad with a fast backbone.
- Disaster recovery can be triggered by a 3rd party or scripts.
- This model is sufficient for companies that can accept some down time.
- If no data loss can be tolerated you need replicate in an acive-active architecture.
- Let's say you have an 8 grid data center. Let's say your normal load
takes 20-30% of that.
- First thing you'll do is use more resources from within the grid.
- Then reconfigure appliances with more resources and restart them.
- Then call your provider to add more resources.
- Softlayer, for example, has a 500-1000 server inventory. So you can add servers to your grid within an hour a two. Currently this process requires human intervention.
- AppLogic in control of all resources. You can build dashboards right off the bat.
- You van plug your monitored variables into their monitoring system.
- The data are available over the web.
- Widgets are available for the display of live stats.
- Typically you put the database on fastest server. Instead, they recommend allocating high end machines to everything so your database can run anywhere. A different way of thinking about your system.
- Same with SAN. You don't need a SAN with the storage in the VDC. You are locking yourself into certain ways of thinking that don't apply in the VDC. Concept of using a SAN is just another lock-in.
Some Observations and Conclusions
I would like to thank Bert again for taking this time for the interview! May the grid be with you, always.