Engine Yard gives clouds a backbone

Alex Handy
January 15, 2009 —  (Page 1 of 2)
It's early yet, but Engine Yard just may be the company that brings light to a cloud-filled sky. In December, this Ruby-focused hosting and development company quietly unveiled Vertebra, an open-source project that uses DNS and XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol) to form the secure backbone of future cloud-based applications. Today, Engine Yard officially announced Vertebra 0.3.

Jayson Vantuyl, systems architect and co-founder of San Francisco-based Engine Yard, admits that the Vertebra approach is a new tack against the winds currently blowing the clouds. He said that this cloud management and development framework is focused on applications rather than tracking and maintaining virtual machines.

“We've developed something we call an operation. An operation is a negotiation over the network,” said Vantuyl, describing his company's replacement for virtualized instances of servers. “A lot of people like to put a messaging queue in the middle. We like keeping all the state in the endpoints. We've written a way that when you do your operation, [Vertebra] finds out where it needs to run and runs it.”

Jayson Vantuyl, co-founder and systems architect of Engine Yard.
Vertebra foregoes the classic SOA approach of loading state and information into an enterprise service bus or messaging queue. Instead, each machine knows which other machine it needs to communicate with, and Vertebra handles the transportation issues with XMPP. That means that service buses don't get jammed up when the network goes down, resulting in what Vantuyl says is a more fault-tolerant system.

“The whole assumption that every [server is] always working is horrifying. The scariest thing about Web services is what do you do when the network is down?” said Vantuyl.

His answer is that Vertebra makes sure every endpoint in the cloud can at least pause until things come back online. He said that this keeps Web services from exploding when the network chokes.

That's quite different from typical cloud thinking, where virtualized instances of machines run applications alongside other virtualized machines running load balancers, Web servers and databases.

Related Search Term(s): cloud computing, open source, Ruby, Vertebra, Engine Yard

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