Introducing Cycle v2: bare-metal private clouds, built for containers.
Containers have revolutionized the way that applications and services are deployed, managed and scaled, with technologies like Docker and Kubernetes taking the concept of containerization mainstream. Gone are the days of manually configuring hundreds of virtual machines and using bash scripts or deployment tools, like Puppet and Chef, to push new application releases.
The Year of Container Orchestrators
During 2017, the market experienced a huge shift away from the development of containerization tools. Instead, developers began to focus on services aimed at deploying and managing containers. These container orchestration tools, most notably Kubernetes and Docker Swarm, greatly simplified the process of importing and hosting containers.
Unfortunately, the setup and management of container orchestrators has become a huge burden on development teams, one that is preventing many companies from fully embracing the benefits of containers.
We developed the Cycle platform to solve a couple critical issues we’ve seen across the container ecosystem:
- Businesses don’t want to deal with the burdens of configuring and maintaining container orchestrators.
- Many container hosting services have resorted to a public cloud (virtualization) approach during a time when bare-metal (physical/dedicated servers) hosting has begun to see a resurgence.
- Deploying containers is still harder than it should be.
Simplicity is key
From the beginning of Cycle’s development, we knew that simplicity had to be our core focus — other orchestrators were too difficult to maintain for companies who didn’t have a full dev-ops team. A developer or system administrator shouldn’t have to read a manual, configure a client, or even open a command line interface to deploy containers.
To make containers easy, our team developed a beautiful portal and an incredibly robust API. Through the portal, users can provision physical infrastructure in data centers around the world and deploy containers to those servers within 15 minutes. Cycle’s API enables businesses to fully integrate with the platform, automating the most complex of tasks. In fact, Cycle’s portal is a consumer of the API — theoretically, users could develop their own Cycle portals if they desired.
Unlike other container orchestrators in the market, Cycle can be used without spending any time configuring infrastructure. At its base, Cycle is a thin (<50MB) linux operating system built specifically for running containers. The operating system is so small that, rather than being installed on servers, the latest CycleOS release is downloaded into memory during every boot. Once online, Cycle will automatically pull service updates and patches. Because of this self-updating process, businesses don’t need to spend precious time and capital managing infrastructure.
The Resurgence of Bare-Metal Servers
From bare-metal servers to virtual machines and now … back to bare-metal servers? For those who may not be familiar, ‘bare-metal’ refers to the concept of running applications as close to the processor/hardware as possible — no virtualization involved. By removing virtualization, we greatly simplify the execution stack and thus benefit from large performance increases.
Today, almost every website or service is hosted on clouds composed of hundreds of thousands of virtual machines. Companies like AWS, Microsoft Azure, DigitalOcean and others use virtual machines as the building blocks for their cloud services. Simply, the virtual machine is the foundation of the modern cloud.
Starting around 2006, virtual machines exploded in popularity due to their ability to:
- Deploy applications quickly without having to provision and manage physical infrastructure.
- Splice large legacy monolithic applications into smaller micro-services that were easier to develop and update.
- Scale quickly without having to acquire more physical infrastructure.
- Offered vastly better security and resource management over shared hosting which was very popular pre-2005.
But times are changing. With the advent of containers, developers can now build and test their applications locally then atomically deploy those applications to any number of cloud providers. Rather than having to use tools like Chef or Puppet to maintain complex configurations for virtual machines, containers enable developers to deploy 1:1 copies of their applications without moving massive virtual machine files between hosts.
Containers, at their simplest, are a directory of files (aka: a root file system) that get executed and isolated as one-off processes. Unlike virtual machines, containers don’t have a traditional operating system which allows them to start within half a second. Throw those containers onto bare-metal and they only get faster.
Increase Security, Limit Risks
When most people talk about ‘the cloud’, they’re usually referring to ‘public cloud’ like AWS, DigitalOcean, Azure and so on. A public cloud is a large collection of servers spread across many different data centers that act as a single pool of resources and networks. When a user creates a virtual machine on one of these public clouds, the provider will automatically choose a physical server for that VM to exist on. Public clouds are ‘multi-tenant’ meaning that workloads uploaded by one user will be running along side those uploaded by others. With virtualization, these workloads aren’t supposed to know about each other — but that’s not always the case. As we saw last month with Intel’s Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities, there are always risks when sharing the same physical machines. Even with an incredibly talented development team, a company’s data may still be at risk because of the vulnerabilities mentioned above.
With Cycle, we shift towards private cloud. And no, not even virtual private clouds (VPC) like most companies are advertising these days. Instead, Cycle enables businesses to gain the benefits of bare-metal private clouds without the extensive cost and labor of maintaining them. Unlike public clouds, private clouds give exclusive control to a single entity. This control gives users the power to determine everything from resource allocations to what applications can be run — greatly reducing external security risks.
Since Cycle deploys bare-metal private clouds, users can be at peace knowing physical separation exists between their data and the rest of the web. Even with future vulnerabilities that haven’t yet been discovered, businesses deploying on Cycle will inherently be at a lower risk than their public-cloud or virtual private cloud (VPC) counterparts.
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About Cycle: Cycle deploys and manages bare-metal private clouds built for containers, revolutionizing container orchestration by making the process simple, secure, and fast. Learn more at cycle.io. Based in Reno, Nevada, Cycle.io is a subsidiary of Petrichor, Inc.