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API Promises to Ease Virtual Development

Skytap releases app-programming interface that simplifies usage of its new cloud-based service.

Looking to simplify usage of its new cloud-based service, closely held Skytap Inc. recently released an application-programming interface for its virtual infrastructure.

Skytap came out of stealth mode this summer, funded by former Microsoft executive Brad Silverberg's Ignition Partners, Madrona Venture Group Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. CEO Jeff Bezos.

Spun off from the University of Washington's Computer Science Department, Skytap provides usage-based virtual-computing services for programmers who don't have the resources to set up their own server infrastructure. It's intended for dynamic environments where developers may need to turn their usage of compute resources up or down.

"If you look at cloud platforms out there, like Amazon's EC 2 and Google's App Engine, and some of the Microsoft 'Red Dog,' a lot of these are platforms for developing applications that are intended for running in the cloud," says Ian Knox, Skytap's director of product management. Red Dog is the code name for Microsoft's reported cloud-based technology.

The release of the API will offer a VPN interface that will make Skytap Virtual Lab available to developers on demand, according to the company. With the API, developers working in Visual Studio can compile their code, generate an MSBuild and then run multiple virtual machines (VMs).

"You can scale up the infrastructure when you need it, add your builds, really streamline the interaction between new development and testing and an IT operations team," Knox says.

Virtual Lab
The API is a REST-based Web services interface that allows developers to programmatically utilize the Skytap Virtual Lab. The API enables public and private IP addresses to access the service, features a "one-click" VPN interface and automatically uploads all VMs and software that developers choose to run on the service, according to the company.

Eric Lee, founder and president of Seattle-based CounterPunch Software, is among those who have tested the API with the service. Lee often trains groups of 20 to 30 developers in a classroom setting at their sites. Rather than install Visual Studio configured to his specifications and some sample code onto all of those machines, Lee says he can have the developers access Visual Studio running on the Skytap Virtual Lab.

"Having these virtual machines hosted, I can configure right up until the point of the training session and just start up 30 instances," says Lee. "The students remote into that machine and they're up and going."

Building Partnerships
Skytap this month also launched an ISV alliance program. Among those so far that have signed on are AutomatedQA Corp., Borland Software Corp., iTKO LISA, SmarteSoft Inc. and SOASTA Inc. Lee, who uses AutomatedQA's load-testing tools, says the ISV alliance program should simplify use of those tools in Virtual Lab.

"If you wanted to run a load test, it's not typical that you'd have 10 or 20 machines that you can dedicate to that, so it would be nice to be able to spin that up in SkyTap," Lee says.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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