One of the most interesting meetings I had during my last week in San Francisco was the one with Joyent. Joyent was founded in 2004 and they define themselves as a cloud software infrastructure provider.
The company is growing, is well financed and has offices in US, EMEA and Asia.
In these years Joyent has been very active with a strong recruitment campaign bringing aboard many former Sun and Oracle strategic developers.
I have known the company brand for years and I’ve followed their evolution from the beginning because some friends of mine are very fond of their services.

What Joyent does

Joyent does two things: they have the second largest public cloud (after Amazon) and a private cloud solution called SmartDataCenter. Joyent’s team is also engaged in developing some open source projects like SmartOS (a Solaris derived operating system that is at the base of their whole commercial proposition) and Node.js (a server side Javascript framework to develop internet applications), for which they deliver some professional services too.
I haven’t got a lot to say regarding the public side of their services: they are well known in the industry for delivering good service at a reasonable price, but I’ve never personally tested the service. It’s clear that Joyent’s goal in the public cloud sector is to attract enterprise customers delivering a better service with a small price difference when compared to the market leader.

Intriguing private cloud

I found SmartDataCenter to be Joyent’s most intriguing product.
Actually, it’s the same platform they are using internally re-packaged and sold as a product. Indeed, they are not alone: other cloud providers are making similar moves (i.e. RackSpace will be out soon with an openstack offering) but I’m sure that rivals aren’t comparable at the moment.

I think that the first (very big) advantage of the SmartDataCenter is SmartOS. This operating system, which is based on Solaris kernel with ZFS and Dtrace, could be a very strong foundation for a cloud infrastructure. Joyent did a lot of work on this Solaris fork by adding features like KVM support and making it a true hypervisor (a goal that Sun itself failed to achieve with xVM). Actually, it deserves an in depth look, especially if you were a pre-Oracle Solaris fan like me! (not to mention that it could be a good candidate to move away from Oracle’s x86 Solaris…)
The list of supported operating systems is good enough: very far away from what you were used to seeing with VMware, but SmartOS supports the latest generations of many Linux,BSD and Microsoft Windows operating systems, as well as native SmartOS Solaris-like instances.

On top of SmartOS we can find a full featured orchestration layer aimed to support both the system administrators and final users. Here you can find features like management portals, Analytics and a full set of APIs to interoperate with the platform (things like chargeback for billing aren’t included!!!).

The great thing with SmartDataCenter is that it runs on standard x86 commodity hardware and it doesn’t need a specialized hardware stack like the ones from VCE, Dell, HP or NetApp. 

SmartDatacenter is essentially a software (with services and support on top) and it is licensed according to the number of cores/nodes. The good thing here is that you can start with a minimal number of nodes for high availability and then grow based on your needs. The result is a small (sometime very tiny) private cloud that you can expand locally, it has the ability to move some workloads to public SmartDataCenter based local ISP (like Libero in Italy) or on Joyent’s huge public cloud! 

Bottom line

Private clouds are here and the game is starting again.
In a first phase we saw infrastructure based stacks (like the ones from HP, Dell, VCE and NetApp) with poor software integrations but now the game is heating up on the software side!
The focus is no  longer onvirtualization, where it’s clear that VMware is the clear winner, but “cloudization”: orchestration, application integration, self/auto provisioning/monitoring, scale out architectures and so on. Vmware is a player with a good enterprise solution and tools. On the other hand the big cloud providers have much more know-how to face these challenges. Furthermore, their architectures wannabe-products are proven to be designed from the ground up to solve these problems in a different way and with a different scalability if compared to traditional virtualization solutions!
It will be very interesting to see who will prevail in this “post virtualization” era.