An interview with Toph Whitmore on ActiveState’s Stackato PaaS

Colo and Cloud spent some time with Toph Whitmore, and asked about ActiveState’s Stackato PaaS.

How did Stackato come about?

ActiveState has been making products focused on solving developers’ needs for 15 years. Developers told us that it was too difficult to develop, deploy, and manage cloud applications — They spent far too much time worrying about the infrastructure and dealing with their IT teams. We saw this need and began to develop Stackato to address this gap. We recognized the open-source Cloud Foundry platform as the perfect foundation upon which to build an enterprise-ready solution.

Released in early 2012, Stackato is the application platform for creating a private, secure, flexible enterprise Platform as a Service (PaaS) using any language on any stack on any cloud. It started as a fork of Cloud Foundry, but has evolved to become a more mature product with significant security, feature, and architectural advances, allowing for a more flexible (turnkey) implementation with a more complete and compelling end-user experience.

What makes Stackato so appealing?

Stackato delivers measurable value to enterprise development, DevOps, and management audiences:

• Developers can simulate a production environment on a local machine, code, test, and then launch an application to any cloud all without requiring IT assistance. Developers can be as agile as they want to be.

• Enterprise IT can achieve new levels of data security and compliance, speedier deployments, and gain greater control over the cloud. Thanks to Stackato’s best-in-class management tools, DevOps can foster development innovation without imposing distracting reporting procedures.

• Technology Leaders will see immediate ROI with faster time to market and increased productivity and innovation.

What differentiates Stackato from other PaaS providers?

Stackato is software, “PaaS in a box” so to speak. Enterprise Stackato deployments are each unique, with systems tailored to specific customer needs. That contrasts with the commodity services offered by most public PaaS providers, who deliver the same thing to all customers.

Stackato customers are enterprises looking to benefit from cloud architecture (e.g., scalability, convenience) with the added security, control, and regulatory compliance private PaaS can offer. Public cloud services scale with data. Stackato scales with enterprise business growth. Stackato’s customer value benefits (agility, control, ROI) aren’t its only differentiators.

Stackato offers a compelling (and distinguishable) feature set:

Multi-Choice Cloud Application Platform

Stackato lets the real-world enterprise choose the languages, frameworks, and services that are right for its business (and not those dictated by a third-party provider). Stackato works with multiple hypervisor/infrastructure layers, including vSphere, EC2, OpenStack, KVM, Xen and HP CS.

Best-in-class Development Polyglot Support

Stackato offers the most breadth of development language support in the industry. Stackato recently extended its market leadership in PaaS polyglot compatibility by offering support for .NET. Enterprises can now deploy .NET applications to Stackato via technology integration with the Iron Foundry platform: Stackato’s automatic configuration tool links with Iron Foundry to support .NET apps in a Stackato PaaS cloud. In addition to .NET, Stackato supports applications coded in enterprise development languages like Java, Ruby, Python, Perl, PHP, Node.JS, Clojure, Scala, Erlang, and more.

Best-in-class Cloud Application Security

Stackato offers a unique, proprietary approach to cloud application security via Linux containerization, or LXC. With Stackato, all application instances are enveloped in their own secure virtual container with their own web server and runtime. This allows applications to be fully isolated from each other while protecting the host operating system from misbehaving applications and ensuring that CPU and memory limits are strictly enforced. If a containerized application crashes for whatever reason, it is unable to affect any other application.

No Vendor Lock-in

The real-world enterprise using Stackato can set up its cloud without being tied to particular IaaS providers or infrastructure. The Stackato enterprise can easily change infrastructure if business needs dictated. Stackato delivers true application portability across systems, along with automatic configuration. For example, Stackato offers compatibility with Heroku buildpacks, so customers using Heroku can easily shift from the Heroku public service to a private cloud (without recoding).

Persistent File-system Sharing

Stackato’s technical innovations include support for file system persistence. That enables file-system dependent applications such as Drupal CMS to share storage between multiple user instances, while getting the security that comes with private PaaS.

Customizable App Store

Stackato includes its own App Store framework: The Stackato enterprise can manage its enterprise applications within its own App Store, pulling applications from any specified source (e.g., any Git repository) into a single interface, so that users can install them on-demand.

Web-based Management Console

Cloud administrators can use Stackato’s web-based Management Console to oversee users, groups, applications, memory usage, languages, data services, and cluster nodes, all within an intuitive web interface.

What features do you have planned to add?

ActiveState doesn’t publish its technology roadmaps. But it’s fair to say that upcoming Stackato releases will include more groundbreaking features based on how enterprise customers’ work in the cloud will evolve. For instance, in the coming years, enterprise developers will be better able to leverage cloud technology in the way they work, and Stackato will continue to evolve to support hybrid cloud deployment models.

Where do you see Stackato in the next few years?

Stackato will be ubiquitous, a standard middleware component of all enterprise cloud deployments, be they public, private, or hybrid. But more importantly, Stackato enterprises will be realizing its benefits of efficiency, security, control, flexibility, and accelerated speed to market.

Shows operations details for that same .NET Orchard application running in a Stackato private PaaS.

Shows the Stackato 2.0 Web Management Console listing a .NET Orchard application starting up.

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