3Tera Unbundles Applogic and Unveils a Virtual Data Center

Virtualization holds lots of promise: Move your physical machines to virtual ones, and you’ll reclaim capacity at the same time that you make operations easier. But applications seldom run on one machine; instead they’re a combination of servers, switches and routers. 3Tera’s recently announced product road map may let companies provision whole data centers atop cloud grids like Amazon’s EC2. Call it a Virtual Data Center.

“Most large-scale systems, in order to move up the ladder and serve more customers, require more and more resources,” said Bert Armijo, 3Tera’s VP of product and marketing. “If you manage them as individual virtual machines, the problem is that the human load — the ability to actually remember what’s running where and to manipulate it all — becomes overwhelming. At some point, somebody makes a very small mistake that results in a very large outage.”

3Tera’s Applogic makes software that runs on a grid of hardware: A flat array of commodity servers, Gigabit Ethernet and direct-attached storage. The software turns this into a resource pool that can be provisioned to users. A graphical front-end, called an infrastructure editor, lets administrators drag and drop data center components like firewalls and load balancers.

3Tera sells to enterprises that want to run their own grids, as well as to roughly 20 managed service providers that want to offer on-demand data centers to their customers. Pricing starts at $500 a month for the smallest virtual data center, which is a single 8-core node, 8GB of RAM, 750 GB of storage and 2TB of transfer, though the company recommends a minimum of a three-server configuration. Within that, the manager can slice up the virtual resources into 100 individual servers in the VDC. In recent months, the firm is increasing utilization at roughly 15 percent per month.

3Tera was bootstrapped on its founders’ pocketbooks, but in April it took in a first financing of $3.7 million; the largest investor in the round was Japanese distribution partner Net One Systems. At the same time, the firm announced plans to open up its software to work with third-party components by unbundling its software into execution, catalog and control components. “We’ve proven out the ability to move applications between data centers and to abstract infrastructure definition from physical hardware,” said Armijo. “Now, somebody could write a connector between our control interface and the [Amazon] EC2 execution engine.”

3Tera has strong parallels to firms such as Elastra. While they look like competitors, Armijo says he thinks VDC companies need to cooperate. “It’s in our interest to show interoperability and the ability to run applications that span both systems. This is what will inspire users to put their applications into the cloud.”