Skytap Adds Secure Connections For Hybrid Cloud Computing

A self-provisioning system and secure networking links lets IT administrators easily build connections between a corporate data center and a virtual Skytap data center.

Skytap, a supplier of self-service cloud systems, is offering secure, two-way networking between an enterprise data center and a Skytap data center as a way to implement hybrid cloud computing.

The Skytap Hybrid Cloud announced Feb. 14 gives IT developers or administrators a point-and-click interface for setting IPsec VPN connections between their data center and a virtual data center that they build in a Skytap cloud processing center. The connection may be allowed to connect to various subnetworks at the destination, or be prohibited from touching certain subnets. Role-based privileges can be assigned to users.

At the same time developers or administrators may create via self service a virtual private data center of multiple virtual machines in the cloud. A user is given a search box with which to seek software components. He might, for example, ask for Linux-based virtual machines with four CPUs and four gigabytes of RAM. One might be designated to run Oracle 11g and be tied to another over a secure network connection. Certain insecure virtual machine configurations would be specifically prohibited from connecting to the database system.

The server templates provided by Skytap now have secure network connections built for operation between public and private facilities.

The goal, Sundar Raghavan, chief marketing officer, said in an interview, is to produce a hybrid cloud operation between two data centers in which IT management can have confidence. “We have taken the time to figure out how to make the process as simple and seamless as possible,” Raghavan said.

Skytap previously offered infrastructure as a service from its own publicly accessible data centers. Now the enterprise cloud administrator can connect to Skytap and treat it as a secure extension of his data center. It’s trying to tie the two together by allowing self-provisioning inside its public data centers, making virtual servers there an extension of its customer’s own data center.

The management console it supplies can also be used to manage virtual machines in Amazon Web Services’ EC2 and Google’’ App Engine as well as Skytap’s own data center.

Skytap supports virtual machines created under VMware’s ESX Server or Citrix Systems’ XenServer. It has said previously that it plans to add Microsoft’s Hyper-V, but no reference to Hyper-V was included in the Feb. 14 announcement.

Skytap claims 125 customers, with 25 added in the previous quarter. Some 40% of its customers use its self-provisioning system for development and testing; 25% use it for training users on complex software applications, giving each trainee his own virtual machine; and the remainder use it for IT operations and new product demonstrations by sales teams.

The Skytap Hybrid Cloud will become part of Skytap’s core system, which includes Skytap Virtual Private Cloud. The self-provisioning system also provides for hourly billing and charge-back, based on number and sized of server resources created.

An example of a Skytap monthly subscription allows 20-25 users using 20-25 virtual servers to compute for 1,000 hours or enough usage “to meet business needs” for $1,000 per month. A subscriptions for fewer users starts at $500 a month.

Skytap is a startup that was spun out of the University of Washington’s computer science department in Seattle in 2006. In January, it received $10 million in a C series funding from a new venture partner, Open View Partners, and previous participating venture capital firms Ignition Partners, Madrona Venture Group, and the Washington Research Foundation.