​Catalyst Cloud readies platform services, eyes Auckland site

OpenStack cloud developer Catalyst says Internal Affairs' policies are placing too many restrictions on the cloud services New Zealand government agencies can use.

Wellington-based Catalyst is expanding its Catalyst Cloud with new platform services and scoping local hosting in Auckland.

Bruno Lago, Catalyst's cloud general manager, says the company's OpenStack-based service now offers compute, network, storage, object storage and VPN as a service.

With that infrastructure layer in place, the development emphasis has shifted to platforms. The first of these is already launched - a cloud orchestration service based on OpenStack's Heat format that exposes the infrastructure layer for management and the installation for applications.

"To us that's a milestone for the Catalyst Cloud and for New Zealand," Lago says. "We think it's the first time a cloud service can do that in New Zealand."

When Lago talks about cloud he expects to see two key features: orchestration and the ability for customers to interact with the cloud through APIs.

"I see the word cloud being used in many services. I see it being used in Datacom, Revera, and many other providers. However, we believe there are certain essential characteristics of a cloud to call it a cloud and one of them is that it is 100 percent automated," he says.

That means when a customer wants a server no one is running around with cables to set one up, he says. The datacentre is software defined and 100 percent automated.

"The second one is exposing that through APIs so people can interact with your cloud," he says. "As far as I can tell, and I keep on asking people in the market, we are still the only one delivering that capability for such a wide breadth of services.

"We believe we have finally got to the point where people building SaaS in New Zealand can point to our cloud and use APIs to interact."

Lago said Catalyst's cloud service is growing at 30 percent a month. Customers include the Electoral Commission for New Zealand's election system, which has to be hosted locally.

Other users come to Catalyst to avoid heavy international data rates by serving customers on the local data network or to avoid latency issues, Lago says.

Other users include legal software provider ActionStep, SugarCRM as a service provider CloudTech, Dragonfly for data analysis and big data, and NZ Registry Services, which manages the .nz domain. Maori Television also uses the cloud to serve some workloads.

In addition to the Electoral Commission, public sector clients include the Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Authority, Careers NZ, the Ministry of Education, LINZ, and the NZ Racing Board.

"There is still a lot for us to do and a lot for us to build," Lago says.

Next up is database as a service. Catalyst Cloud users can already deploy databases on its cloud through orchestration but the company would like to be able to offer databases such as Cassandra, Postgres and MySQL fully managed.

Message Queues as a service is also being developed.

"We want to get to point where customer can come with source code, maybe on a repository like GitHub, and the cloud will provision and run it on their behalf and also take care of the lifecycle of the applications - releasing code from dev to test to production and so on."

Catalyst Cloud is currently hosted in two regions - Wellington central and Porirua, at the former Defence datacentre. Both are fully operated by the company.

However, an Auckland presence is also planned. For that Catalyst might partner and discussions are already being held.

"They are interested and we are interested in how fast we can go to market," Lago says.

Lago is a fan of the Department of Internal Affairs' Cloud Guidance document for government agencies, saying it is "well executed" through prompting questions rather than being prescriptive.

However, he says, limiting the services agencies can use due to historical procurement processes is less helpful.

"There are options emerging not only in New Zealand but outside and still pushing agencies to use certain services I find that counter-intuitive. People should be using solutions because they fulfill their use case, their requirements, are good for them financially and good for the delivery of their services.

"Right now I do find a lot of government agencies who are limited in what they can do and what options they have due to those decisions."