Cloud control systems tame the ether

3tera, Enomaly, Kaavo, and RightScale take myriad and mixed approaches to managing virtual servers in the sky

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3tera's AppLogic excels at representing an n-tier system as a collection of interoperating applications, rather than a collection of interoperating virtual OSes running applications. Abstracting out the OS is a powerfully simplifying force.

Kaavo's user interface is well laid out and easy to navigate. It is impossible to get lost with Kaavo, and it's easy to figure out where in the UI you need to go to perform a particular task.

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RightScale's approach is finer-grained -- focusing on individual machine instances -- and more demanding of the cloud architect, but its abundance of pre-written RightScripts, in-line help, and copious examples goes a long way to lowering the learning curve. In addition, RightScale's RightGrid feature provides a prebuilt grid architecture for lashing together clusters of virtual machines in a "producer-consumer" structure, making it easy to build large-scale processing systems without getting bogged down in the details.

Finally, I can only recommend Enomaly's ECP for the technically savvy. The engineers at Enomaly were extremely helpful in answering questions, and I applaud any system based on open source technology. I would heavily encourage involvement in Enomaly's community edition. But the lack of substantial documentation and missing application configuration capabilities leaves me reluctant to advocate ECP for production deployment. A new release is expected this summer, and perhaps the added features will erase my doubts.

Cloud management systems

 ReleasePlatformsPros & ConsBottom Line
3tera AppLogic2.4.8Private and hosted AppLogic clouds

+Graphical “wiring” of applications is easy to work with. +Lots of pre-built applications. +Application-centric view of system.

-ADL requires a modest learning curve. -Built on proprietary AppLogic runtime system.
3Tera's graphical user interface captures your application's architecture in an easy-to-manage form. Its treatment of components as appliances also simplifies system construction. But it locks you into 3Tera's AppLogic environment.
Enomaly ECP2.2.3Private and hosted ECP clouds

+Built on open source technology. +Freeware version available. +Runs a variety of virtual machines.

-Documentation is seriously lacking. -No visible tools for managing applications on target OSes. 
You can't argue with Enomaly's price tag: free is as good as it gets. And you are not tied to any proprietary software or cloud infrastructures. But Enomaly has a way to go before deployment is as simple as with the other tools.
Kaavo IMOD1.4.5Cloud service providers including Amazon EC2

+Excellent control panel UI. +Graphical view of application is easy to manipulate. +Lots of pre-built appliances.

-Currently only supports EC2. -Some configuration steps not readily apparent.
Kaavo's bundling of an application's descriptive and executable information into a single System Definition file unclutters application management, and allows for easy transfer of an application from one installation to another. However, it does require study of the underlying XML and Velocity syntax.
RightScaleApril 21, 2009Private clouds and cloud service providers including Amazon EC2

+Excellent documentation. +Free version available. +Large selection of RightScripts and machine images.

-Machine-centric view, rather than application-centric view. -RightScripts require understanding of scripting language. 
Where some of the other tools abstract the underlying structures of a cloud-based application, RightScripts require you to develop at the level of those structures directly. This produces some significant starting friction. Nevertheless, once mastered, RightScripts are phenomenally flexible and powerful.
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