Skytap, a cloud service provider with more than 1 million hosted virtual machines (VMs) provided by its cloud, has announced three improvements to its service offering that will ease the provisioning, testing and operations of new VMs. The new features provide enhanced remote access, customizable usage reports and a new burstable transfer rate that improves performance over heavy traffic conditions.
The first new enhancement focuses on improving remote access connections. Here, Skytap has created a Java-based browser app that uses Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) to connect to the Skytap cloud services. This allows users to remotely access a VM, without having to install software on their desktops.
The Java-based RDP capability, called Smart Client, works with most browsers. This means your Skytap-hosted VM can be accessed from most anywhere on any device with a compatible browser--potentially solving the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) problem faced by many IT managers.
"As cloud computing becomes broadly adopted by enterprises, smartphone and media tablet users within these firms will also want access to these services in a familiar and on-demand manner," says Cameron Haight, research VP, Gartner. "This is part of a continuing trend of the consumerization of IT--a trend that cloud service providers will need to keep in sync with that balances the needs of an increasingly mobile society while minimizing the risk to enterprises."
Many cloud services providers do offer similar remote access capabilities, but they do not encapsulate RDP into a browser-runnable Java application nor require specific setup chores to be accomplished on both the client system and the virtual machine. Skytap eliminates the need to custom-configure the VM for remote access, and offers full control directly from the browser, even supporting the ability to switch between running virtual machines, without having to establish a new connection.
Skytap’s SmartClient features a few nifty capabilities – for example, remote control starts at the boot process of the VM, meaning that you can access the BIOS on the virtual machine and run the machine in safe mode or under other diagnostic tools. Other notable capabilities include the ability to view all of your VMs from a central console screen via the browser and extensive support for generating reports.
The reporting functionality should prove to be a valuable tool for those looking to track VM usage, and supports filtering by groups, users, time periods and so on. That should help IT gain control in situations where chargebacks are involved for usage of corporate cloud services, and the reporting lends itself well to auditing and forensics tasks. Reports can be exported to a CSV file for additional analysis or for archival purposes.
"SmartClient gives us increased flexibility and performance when working with the virtualized environments we've created in Skytap Cloud," says Keith Weisel, manager of application development at Dendreon. "This translates into a real advantage and increased capability for our staff to develop the applications we need to support business-critical processes at Dendreon."
Skytap has also added the ability to configure a burstable limit above existing bandwidth subscriptions and particular resource allocations. This feature temporarily grants additional capacity and bandwidth for unique situations, where usage increases beyond what is defined in a current subscription plan, without having to make any changes to that plan. That should prove handy during high-usage scenarios that last only a short time, such as during period closes and seasonal demands.
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