Has Cloud Computing Found its ‘Killer App?’

By Derrick Harris

December 9, 2008

Most people talk about putting their applications in the cloud, but SOASTA has a different take. The company’s CloudTest offering brings the power of cloud computing to your application.

Here’s the history: Founders Ken Gardner and Tom Lounibos are Silicon Valley veterans, each having spent around 30 years in the Bay Area, the last 15 if which have been as partners. The duo took some companies public in the ‘90s, and have spent the last eight or nine years building dynamic Web applications. It was during this era they noticed a problem with traditional testing tools.

Not only are traditional tools designed for client-server applications, they also are prohibitively expensive, says Lounibos, who serves as SOASTA’s president and CEO.  Solutions by Mercury, Rational and Silk (since acquired by HP, IBM and Borland, respectively) were the industry standards, but you only could use them “if you had the money” — and that meant for licenses, hardware and people. Most SMBs couldn’t afford this, says Lounibos, and even some of his old companies had to cap site licenses, load testing at most 4,000 users at a cost of around $2 million.

People we’re starting to ask why testing software hadn’t changed to accommodate the increasing move from client-server apps to Web-based apps. Development cycles went from six months to daily, says Lounibos, so he and Gardner built a Web application for testing Web applications. He says SOASTA’s Ajax user interface is fundamental to the solution, and allows for distributed orientations and the ability to match development speed with test speed. “If you move to a one-day development cycle,” he says, “you need to be able to test in that one day, as well.”

Saving Time and Money in the Cloud

The result of this journey is CloudTest, a solution featuring both an appliance-based and a cloud-based approach. The dual-model approach is a great move, says Gartner’s Thomas Murphy, because not everybody is ready to move to the cloud. Having a cloud-only approach can get a company eliminated from certain deals right off the bat, he says, and even Lounibos that many companies large and small will prefer a hybrid approach. SOASTA offers both virtual and physical appliances that he says are ideal for everyday functional testing, and even some light load testing.

But if Web-scale load testing is what you need, the cloud is where it’s at. “The idea of cloud computing began to hit us, well, before it was ‘cloud computing,’ frankly,” said Lounibos. “And now, over the past year and a half, it’s emerged in a very positive way.” In SOASTA’s world, the cloud conforms itself to an application of performance testing, as it symbolizes lots of hardware, and lots of virtual users, distributed in multiple locations. Lounibos says CloudTest is “cloud-agnostic,” able to utilize VMs from Amazon, Skytap or Savvis, or wherever else might be convenient. “[A]ll we really need is physical locations,” he notes, adding that in one scenario, SOASTA is utilizing EC2, GoGrid and Mosso to simulate load from various geographic locations.

What sets CloudTest apart from other cloud testing tools is that users’ applications don’t move to the cloud, but stay right where they are in the user’s environment. With SOASTA’s model, the cloud generates users and sends them to the application. On top of that, Lounibos says, CloudTest monitors application servers, load balancers, firewalls, memory, CPU, etc., and, instead of log files to sort through, SOASTA provides real-time graphs so users can see exactly where and when a problem occurs. A 200,000-user test can generate 50GB of data, he explained, and “The key to the customer is, ‘Can I go live here?’ and ‘What are my concerns?’ and ‘Where are my issues at?’ And the key to getting that critical metric to them is how do you sort through 50GB of information to find the 1MB that’s actually relevant to that issue, to that question. That’s the core, and that’s the secret sauce for us.”  Basically, Lounibos added, SOASTA has built a real-time OLAP application for testing.

And if the flexibility doesn’t get customers on board, the cost likely will. Gartner’s Murphy believes cloud computing opens up testing to a wider variety of companies, and to “earlier-stage companies than typically would have been able to afford good, solid testing tools.” People can test 50,000 users with HP, he says, but the cost is huge by comparison — probably about $250,000 for a load that size. SOASTA costs considerably less, and small companies don’t need to worry about set-up, maintenance or software patching.  He adds that while other offerings might actually have advantages in straight-up load testing, SOASTA’s real-time metrics and functional testing capabilities, along with its abilities to get load from across the world and with different operating systems, make a big difference.

“You’re in this world now where the load on your service can grow exponentially, essentially, in a very short period of time if it’s successful,” Murphy says. “Your need to be able to be more thorough about how you test for load is important.”

Enterprises could stand to benefit from the cloud, too, especially in light of the current economy. Lounibos calls testing labs the “new age money pit,” costing, on average, $3 million annually. As a result, he says, even companies that won’t put applications in the cloud for years are looking at — and using — cloud testing to reduce both costs and constraints.

Murphy agrees. He says the cloud computing model could play well over the next couple of years of tight budgets. “The fact that [enterprises] can go to SOASTA and utilize a different business model,” he says, “gives them a disruptive position in the market, where they are changing the economic model of doing testing.”

CloudTest Lab, the cloud model, starts at $1,000 per hour for 15,000 users, and users only pay for actual testing time (meaning they don’t pay for prep time).  It might sound expensive, Lounibos acknowledges, but it’s “pretty inexpensive when you consider that most people’s largest tests are only 2,000 users, and you’d need about 50 servers to even do that.” The appliance-based SaaS approach sits inside the firewall, and annual subscriptions start at $1,000 per month.

Customers Line Up

When you have so much experience launching companies, you learn when you’ve got something good, Lounibos says, and “we’re hot.” One of its biggest customers is Hallmark, an ideal candidate for cloud computing because of the big e-card surges it experiences when holidays roll around. Lounibos says that before leveraging CloudTest, the largest test Hallmark had run was 2,000 users, because that is all they had the budget for. They wanted to test 200,000 users. While Lounibos estimates this would require 400-500 servers with a traditional solution, SOASTA was able to do it using only 225 servers in the cloud, which it provisioned in about 10 minutes.

Another major customer is Proctor & Gamble’s Pampers division, which launched a Web site only to see it crash within an hour. They contacted SOASTA, started testing within hours, and were able to find and fix a major database problem — cutting HTML load speed from more than 70 seconds down to 2 seconds. Activision uses SOASTA to ensure promotional campaigns for its new video games (including “Guitar Hero” and “Call of Duty”) run optimally, and Marvel Comics does similar things for movie promotion.

A particularly unique use case is Genentech, which wanted to move 15,000 employees to Google Calendar, but wanted to make sure Google was up to the task. Using SOASTA’s virtual appliances, the company was able to generate 15,000 users and send that load Google’s way.

Smaller customers range from iPhone application providers like Pelago (creator of Whrrl), to free music download sites like Qtrax and Grooveshark. Sony-backed Qtrax, says Lounibos, has less than 20 employees but was able to conduct a 500,000-user test so it could be ready for the “Facebook effect.”  Grooveshark, described by co-founder, vice president of products and CTO Josh Greenberg as “YouTube for music,” found out thanks to a 50,000-user test that its infrastructure was not ready for a tidal wave of users.

Greenberg and his team had been using a “hodgepodge” of open source tools — a different one for each of its testing needs — and never achieved any harmony among them. He says they liked what SOASTA had to offer, but told the company, “If we’re gonna being paying for something, it has to have a direct, cost-effective benefit to us. We can’t look at this as a money sink one way or another.” During an initial demo over the phone, CloudTest found several front-end files that were offline (a fact unbeknownst to the folks at Grooveshark), and that helped cement the decision to sign up with SOASTA. Since then (roughly six months ago), says Greenberg, Grooveshark utilizes both the cloud- and appliance-based models, and has “caught a lot of bugs.”

As for that revealing 50,000-user test, Greenberg says it exposed “a definite weakness in the way we were doing things.” “Had we not done that, we were like a week or two weeks away from a catastrophic launch, so it definitely saved us,” he admits. “I think that single event paid for SOASTA just by itself.” Grooveshark recently changed its streaming protocol and will be running another large cloud test in a few weeks.

Clear Sailing Ahead?

Gartner’s Murphy describes SOASTA as “an innovative small company that is trying to make their way in a turbulent time.” However, he says, they might just have the tools and the unique approach needed to compete with industry giants like HP, to whom he attributes a 60 percent market share. “I think as we move toward SOA and Web 2.0 and this newer generation of applications we’re hitting now, it’s another architectural shift … Web to Web 2.0, and that requires a technology shift in the testing tools that we use.”

Additionally, he says, continuing to build partnerships with complementary providers like Skytap is a good strategy. It might take cloud testing two to three years to catch on, Murphy believes, “but given the current economic conditions, it’s a good direction at this point in time.”

SOASTA’s Lounibos is a tad more optimistic, calling his form of cloud-based testing “the killer application, in some regards, for cloud computing.” It’s a service-based economy, he rationalizes, and everybody is looking for low-cost mechanisms to push services out. CloudTest lets them makes better decisions as to whether they’re ready to handle what awaits.

“Whether or not you’re Facebook or you’re MySpace, you need to make sure your site stays up, or you become a headline on the New York Times,” he warns. “And when you become a headline on the New York Times because your site crashed, the analysts look at that and say, “Well, that’s their sales channel. If they crash, MySpace users might go to Facebook,’ and all of a sudden their stock drops.”

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Microsoft, Nvidia Launch Cloud HPC

November 20, 2019

Nvidia and Microsoft have joined forces to offer a cloud HPC capability based on the GPU vendor’s V100 Tensor Core chips linked via an Infiniband network scaling up to 800 graphics processors. The partners announced Read more…

By George Leopold

Hazra Retiring from Intel Data Center Group, Successor Unknown

November 20, 2019

This article is an update to a story published earlier today. Rajeeb Hazra, corporate VP of Intel’s Data Center Group and GM for the Enterprise and Government Group, is retiring after more than 24 years at the compa Read more…

By Doug Black

Jensen Huang’s SC19 – Fast Cars, a Strong Arm, and Aiming for the Cloud(s)

November 20, 2019

We’ve come to expect Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang’s annual SC keynote to contain stunning graphics and lively bravado (with plenty of examples) in support of GPU-accelerated computing. In recent years, AI has joined the s Read more…

By John Russell

SC19 Student Cluster Competition: Know Your Teams

November 19, 2019

I’m typing this live from Denver, the location of the 2019 Student Cluster Competition… and, oh yeah, the annual SC conference too. The attendance this year should be north of 13,000 people, with the majority attende Read more…

By Dan Olds

Top500: US Maintains Performance Lead; Arm Tops Green500

November 18, 2019

The 54th Top500, revealed today at SC19, is a familiar list: the U.S. Summit (ORNL) and Sierra (LLNL) machines, offering 148.6 and 94.6 petaflops respectively, remain in first and second place. The only new entrants in t Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AWS Solution Channel

Making High Performance Computing Affordable and Accessible for Small and Medium Businesses with HPC on AWS

High performance computing (HPC) brings a powerful set of tools to a broad range of industries, helping to drive innovation and boost revenue in finance, genomics, oil and gas extraction, and other fields. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Data Management – The Key to a Successful AI Project

 

Five characteristics of an awesome AI data infrastructure

[Attend the IBM LSF & HPC User Group Meeting at SC19 in Denver on November 19!]

AI is powered by data

While neural networks seem to get all the glory, data is the unsung hero of AI projects – data lies at the heart of everything from model training to tuning to selection to validation. Read more…

ScaleMatrix and Nvidia Launch ‘Deploy Anywhere’ DGX HPC and AI in a Controlled Enclosure

November 18, 2019

HPC and AI in a phone booth: ScaleMatrix and Nvidia announced today at the SC19 conference in Denver a joint offering that puts up to 13 petaflops of Nvidia DGX-1 compute power in an air conditioned, water-cooled ScaleMa Read more…

By Doug Black

Hazra Retiring from Intel Data Center Group, Successor Unknown

November 20, 2019

This article is an update to a story published earlier today. Rajeeb Hazra, corporate VP of Intel’s Data Center Group and GM for the Enterprise and Governm Read more…

By Doug Black

Jensen Huang’s SC19 – Fast Cars, a Strong Arm, and Aiming for the Cloud(s)

November 20, 2019

We’ve come to expect Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang’s annual SC keynote to contain stunning graphics and lively bravado (with plenty of examples) in support of GPU Read more…

By John Russell

Top500: US Maintains Performance Lead; Arm Tops Green500

November 18, 2019

The 54th Top500, revealed today at SC19, is a familiar list: the U.S. Summit (ORNL) and Sierra (LLNL) machines, offering 148.6 and 94.6 petaflops respectively, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ScaleMatrix and Nvidia Launch ‘Deploy Anywhere’ DGX HPC and AI in a Controlled Enclosure

November 18, 2019

HPC and AI in a phone booth: ScaleMatrix and Nvidia announced today at the SC19 conference in Denver a joint offering that puts up to 13 petaflops of Nvidia DGX Read more…

By Doug Black

Intel Debuts New GPU – Ponte Vecchio – and Outlines Aspirations for oneAPI

November 17, 2019

Intel today revealed a few more details about its forthcoming Xe line of GPUs – the top SKU is named Ponte Vecchio and will be used in Aurora, the first plann Read more…

By John Russell

SC19: Welcome to Denver

November 17, 2019

A significant swath of the HPC community has come to Denver for SC19, which began today (Sunday) with a rich technical program. As is customary, the ribbon cutt Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC19’s HPC Impact Showcase Chair: AI + HPC a ‘Speed Train’

November 16, 2019

This year’s chair of the HPC Impact Showcase at the SC19 conference in Denver is Lori Diachin, who has spent her career at the spearhead of HPC. Currently deputy director for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Exascale Computing Project (ECP), Diachin is also... Read more…

By Doug Black

Cray, Fujitsu Both Bringing Fujitsu A64FX-based Supercomputers to Market in 2020

November 12, 2019

The number of top-tier HPC systems makers has shrunk due to a steady march of M&A activity, but there is increased diversity and choice of processing compon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Supercomputer-Powered AI Tackles a Key Fusion Energy Challenge

August 7, 2019

Fusion energy is the Holy Grail of the energy world: low-radioactivity, low-waste, zero-carbon, high-output nuclear power that can run on hydrogen or lithium. T Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Using AI to Solve One of the Most Prevailing Problems in CFD

October 17, 2019

How can artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) solve mesh generation, one of the most commonly referenced problems in computational engineering? A new study has set out to answer this question and create an industry-first AI-mesh application... Read more…

By James Sharpe

Cray Wins NNSA-Livermore ‘El Capitan’ Exascale Contract

August 13, 2019

Cray has won the bid to build the first exascale supercomputer for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laborator Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DARPA Looks to Propel Parallelism

September 4, 2019

As Moore’s law runs out of steam, new programming approaches are being pursued with the goal of greater hardware performance with less coding. The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency is launching a new programming effort aimed at leveraging the benefits of massive distributed parallelism with less sweat. Read more…

By George Leopold

AMD Launches Epyc Rome, First 7nm CPU

August 8, 2019

From a gala event at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco yesterday (Aug. 7), AMD launched its second-generation Epyc Rome x86 chips, based on its 7nm proce Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

D-Wave’s Path to 5000 Qubits; Google’s Quantum Supremacy Claim

September 24, 2019

On the heels of IBM’s quantum news last week come two more quantum items. D-Wave Systems today announced the name of its forthcoming 5000-qubit system, Advantage (yes the name choice isn’t serendipity), at its user conference being held this week in Newport, RI. Read more…

By John Russell

Ayar Labs to Demo Photonics Chiplet in FPGA Package at Hot Chips

August 19, 2019

Silicon startup Ayar Labs continues to gain momentum with its DARPA-backed optical chiplet technology that puts advanced electronics and optics on the same chip Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Crystal Ball Gazing: IBM’s Vision for the Future of Computing

October 14, 2019

Dario Gil, IBM’s relatively new director of research, painted a intriguing portrait of the future of computing along with a rough idea of how IBM thinks we’ Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

ISC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
GOOGLE
GOOGLE
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL

Intel Confirms Retreat on Omni-Path

August 1, 2019

Intel Corp.’s plans to make a big splash in the network fabric market for linking HPC and other workloads has apparently belly-flopped. The chipmaker confirmed to us the outlines of an earlier report by the website CRN that it has jettisoned plans for a second-generation version of its Omni-Path interconnect... Read more…

By Staff report

Kubernetes, Containers and HPC

September 19, 2019

Software containers and Kubernetes are important tools for building, deploying, running and managing modern enterprise applications at scale and delivering enterprise software faster and more reliably to the end user — while using resources more efficiently and reducing costs. Read more…

By Daniel Gruber, Burak Yenier and Wolfgang Gentzsch, UberCloud

Cray, Fujitsu Both Bringing Fujitsu A64FX-based Supercomputers to Market in 2020

November 12, 2019

The number of top-tier HPC systems makers has shrunk due to a steady march of M&A activity, but there is increased diversity and choice of processing compon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Dell Ramps Up HPC Testing of AMD Rome Processors

October 21, 2019

Dell Technologies is wading deeper into the AMD-based systems market with a growing evaluation program for the latest Epyc (Rome) microprocessors from AMD. In a Read more…

By John Russell

Rise of NIH’s Biowulf Mirrors the Rise of Computational Biology

July 29, 2019

The story of NIH’s supercomputer Biowulf is fascinating, important, and in many ways representative of the transformation of life sciences and biomedical res Read more…

By John Russell

Xilinx vs. Intel: FPGA Market Leaders Launch Server Accelerator Cards

August 6, 2019

The two FPGA market leaders, Intel and Xilinx, both announced new accelerator cards this week designed to handle specialized, compute-intensive workloads and un Read more…

By Doug Black

When Dense Matrix Representations Beat Sparse

September 9, 2019

In our world filled with unintended consequences, it turns out that saving memory space to help deal with GPU limitations, knowing it introduces performance pen Read more…

By James Reinders

With the Help of HPC, Astronomers Prepare to Deflect a Real Asteroid

September 26, 2019

For years, NASA has been running simulations of asteroid impacts to understand the risks (and likelihoods) of asteroids colliding with Earth. Now, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are preparing for the next, crucial step in planetary defense against asteroid impacts: physically deflecting a real asteroid. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This