Saturday, January 12, 2013

Joyent Anniversary: What's Next

It was just over a year ago I wrote about some of my initial thoughts regarding Joyent's Smart Data Center product and SmartOS in general. A lot has changed since then and the product has both matured and found more acceptance.

I never really got into the "Why" of using the product. We make decisions on product use entirely based on technical and strategic directions. Our use of virtual machine technology is not as common as what one would see among Amazon AWS or Joyent Public Cloud customers. Rather, the requirements have consisted of large, non-transient VMs used for simulations, CAD (of the chip variety) layout, and large data manipulation. We provide hardware for VMs that each require 16-64GBs of RAM, dozens of gigabytes of local storage, and easily 12-16 cores a piece. Up to now, the solutions chosen in academia have been the likes of VMware ESX, Xen, etc. The problem is that the performance, stability, and data integrity requirements either tend to the more expensive end of the product matrix of the above. Perhaps a novel scale-out cloud VM solution on premise would work out better. This second option can be found in either Joyent, which is ready to go now, or OpenStack and friends which will some day achieve similar levels of maturity and flexibility.

Not everything is rosy in Joyent land though. Its primary focus here to now has been to match Amazon AWS in most customer requirements, inclusive of a multitude of transient VMs. This has left the 6.5 revision of the product wanting in areas such as conversion/migration of existing thirty party VMs into the cloud instance, migrating VMs and settings/state between compute nodes, and even migration of head nodes between hardware. Over time, and with help from staff at Joyent, I've worked my way around these edge cases utilizing dataset and package templating, low level use of ZFS snapshots and send/recv, and sometimes just plain old reinstallation of components.

With the announcement of Joyent 7, most of the above issues are being addressed, and we hope to both utilize the newer version and push for more change down the line to make this our go-to tool for virtualization of our entire environment. Where we best hope to help it is in the network space, as we have an obvious preference for the adoption of OpenFlow (SDN) to enable ease of multi-datacenter deployments.

2013 looks like a good year for our VM directions, and I expect others out there will see similar benefit if they just give this technology a try. I didn't give Joyent much thought until the KVM port. A year later, I'm glad we did.