The Virtualization Room

Sep 10 2008   9:49AM GMT

Is the cloud a better place for your virtual lab?

Alex Barrett Alex Barrett Profile: Alex Barrett

Long before virtualization was used to run applications in production, it was used for test and development, quality assurance, training and the like. You could say that those were the applications on which early x86 virtualization platforms cut their teeth.

SkyTap, a virtual lab management software provider has taken things one step further and has told customers to run their labs not just in virtual machines, but in virtual machines (VMs) running in the cloud.

“Highly dynamic environments where you need to quickly build up and tear down environments are a good fit for the cloud,” said Steve Brodie, SkyTap chief product and marketing officer. The availability of on-demand, shared resources brings speed, while multi-tenancy makes a cloud-based virtual lab more cost-effective than hosting virtual lab management software in-house, he said.

For example, SkyTap says its customers can get to a cloud-based virtual lab for as little as $500 a month. Surgient, the granddaddy of virtual lab management software, prices its traditional hosted and in-house virtual lab management software starting at $25,000.

Brodie attributes this discrepancy to the fact that Surgient uses a traditional managed hosting model, in which it dedicates physical resources for its individual customers. Setting up new lab management resources is thus expensive, to say nothing of being time-consuming.

Cost aside, SkyTap is announcing a couple of other new features to help grease the wheels of its cloud offering. For one, customers can now run their virtual lab VMs on their VPNs, giving the VMs in their virtual lab access to in-house resources. SkyTap calls this “hybrid cloud computing,” and its appeal is simple: “Customers don’t want to have [their virtual lab] in house, but they want to feel like it’s in-house,” Brodie said.

Second, SkyTap has given developers access to a REST-based Web services application programming interface to give developers programmatic control of a virtual SkyTap lab. This way, a SkyTap virtual lab can be integrated into a customer’s development environment or learning management system, for example.

On another note, SkyTap confirmed that it will participate in a VMware announcement at VMworld next week. Brodie would not specify what VMware would announce, and certainly not why, but for months now, VMware has been beating the cloud drum.

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