Vagrant creator Hashimoto launches Atlas for multicloud devops

Atlas leverages open source to manage software across its lifecycle, albeit as a proprietary, closed source product

atlas statue
Credit: Contando Estrelas

Once upon a time, back in his college dorm, Mitchell Hashimoto created Vagrant, a tool for making virtual development environments that's since become a cornerstone of the devops world. Now Hashimoto has unveiled his new project: Atlas, an application development and delivery system that builds on top of Vagrant and other open source devops tools in a proprietary, closed source product.

HashiCorp, the company Hashimoto founded, describes Atlas as "a unified dashboard and workflow for developing, deploying, and maintaining applications on any public, private, or hybrid infrastructure." Atlas manages the execution of several other open source applications as part of an application's development and deployment workflow. Vagrant is among those managed applications, but Atlas also handles Chef, Jenkins, and Docker, as well as projects that HashiCorp contributes to: Packer, Serf, Consul, and Terraform.

In a phone conference, Hashimoto explained how Atlas works across five phases of a project's lifecycle: development and testing, building, "artifact" or "registry" (such as being hosted in a repository), deployment, and maintenance. For each phase, Atlas integrates with different open source products to perform the actual heavy lifting. Each of those products is not normally aware of others or of other steps in the workflow, so Atlas's function is to orchestrate their end-to-end use on the same projects and to give teams in both dev and ops the ability to see activity across all deployments with a single dashboard.

Atlas-managed applications can be delivered on a variety of cloud services, including AWS, Google Compute Engine, Azure, and OpenStack.

"[Atlas] allows companies to focus on building an application and not worry about infrastructure," said Hashimoto, "It's easy if you're just using Heroku or AWS, but then it gets a lot trickier when trying to adopt new technologies while having your old technologies." (Atlas itself is built and deployed using Atlas, as Hashimoto noted.)

When asked about Atlas not being open source, Hashimoto defended the proprietary model as well-suited to the project since the underpinnings, the individual systems managed as-is by Atlas, are themselves open source. "We don't have an awkward, open-core type business model," he stated. "It lets us keep the open source [components] completely open, take care of the community in that way, so it's focused on the integration points as a commercial aspect."

Hashimoto contrasted Atlas with other project integration solutions in that many of the others he had seen were, in his words "very much a black box." As he noted, commercial solutions like vSphere are heavily tied to VMware and have a black-box aspect. But even open source projects that aren't a black box, he added, are often tied to a specific framework.

Atlas has not been seen in broad testing yet, but Hashimoto stated there was a circle of "about five companies" that serve as testing and integration partners for the product. Those partners, he noted, are much larger companies than HashiCorp. One of them in particular deploys to cloud infrastructures provided by five different vendors, so one of the touted advantages of Atlas is how it provides a top-down view of deployments across those infrastructures in a single UI, including service discovery and configuration.

"We feel a lot of companies are building custom solutions to go from development to production," Hashimoto said, "and they're always asking, 'Are we doing this on Docker, or AWS, or physical servers?' And that changes how they're doing the delivery. We don't see a need for that to change."

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