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Amazon, Microsoft and Google targeted by cloud provider Joyent

Brandon Butler | Nov. 9, 2012
Joyent may be the biggest cloud provider you haven't heard of.

Joyent may be the biggest cloud provider you haven't heard of.

According to the pure-play infrastructure as a service (IaaS) provider -- which was founded in 2004 and is headquartered in San Francisco -- it is a top 5 vendor of cloud-based virtual machines in the world, a stat that's backed up by Gartner. That means it's rubbing elbows with the big names of cloud computing -- Amazon Web Services, Rackspace, Microsoft and Google.

"They're the most interesting cloud company that few people talk about," says George Reese, CTO of enStratus, a company that consults with enterprises on cloud strategies and helps business deploy applications to the cloud. "When we talk to people we get questions about AWS, Rackspace, HP, and when we mention Joyent, they're like, 'Who?'"

Perhaps users should start paying attention, though. The company this week released Joyent7, the latest version of its cloud management platform named SmartOS, which it says enhances capabilities for hybrid cloud deployments between a customer data center and Joyent's cloud.

Company founder and CTO Jason Hoffman is aiming for the fences with his company, openly stating that he's looking to take on the Amazons, Googles and Microsofts of the world.

Does he have a shot?

Joyent's differentiator, Hoffman says, is its integrated stack. SmartOS is not just an operating system, but also a networking fabric and hypervisor -- it uses KVM. He describes it as analogous to a large-scale storage area network (SAN), with an integrated network between compute and data layers that run virtual machines directly on it. "We completely collapse the model into a single hardware design," he says. By doing this, new customers are easily onboarded to the cloud, with each new customer site added to Joyent's network being like the equivalent of adding another availability zone in AWS's system.

Hoffman says Joyent is cheaper and offers more compute for the buck compared to AWS. A pricing comparison chart on the company's website shows that Joyent prices are between 6% and 29% less compared to prices of similarly sized VM instance types in AWS's cloud.

Reese, the cloud consultant, says Joyent seems to have a dedicated user base, but it is still a niche play in the market. "They don't have a ton of features, but the features they do have perform really well," Reese says. VMs come up fast and are predictable and reliable, he says, based on testing he's done within enStratus for customers using Joyent's cloud.

Joyent seems optimized for customers that run large, complex, cloud-native apps in Joyent's cloud, apps from which developers want high visibility and highly reliable performance, Reese says. The focus on its core features leaves some wanting, though. Joyent doesn't have a database as a service feature, for example, nor does it have nearly the breadth of services offered by AWS or Rackspace. Ultimately, that could provide a challenge for Joyent significantly biting into Amazon or Rackspace's dominating market share.


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