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Matthew D. Sarrel, Sarrel Group

I’ve been playing around with the newly unveiled beta of vCloud Express from Virtacore for about a week now and this is some pretty cool stuff. I can’t really do all that much right now because the beta doesn’t offer the full functionality that the service will have, but there’s enough to see that the foundation is being laid for what will ultimately become an extremely valuable service.

According to Virtacore, there are between 600 and 700 beta users. They’re planning on stopping the beta and going into production in February.

First, the caveats. I actually like the way Virtacore spells all of this out in an email they sent when they approved my application to join the beta:

As a friendly reminder, this is a beta test. While we're confident the system and platform are stable, we do not make any guarantees to that effect. We recommend you not run production or other mission critical applications on the test platform. Other things to note:

· All data will be wiped clean at the end of the beta on January 28, 2011. Virtacore will have no way to recover that data, so be sure to export any necessary information before that date.

· During the beta we will only have Centos-based cloud servers available. Additional platforms will be available with the full release.

· Each participant will be able to create up to 5 servers. 

· Support will be provided through the ‘Feedback’ area of the console. Support hours are 9AM – 9PM EST, Monday – Friday.

During the test, there will not be any charge for the cloud servers created. Some features within the vCloud control panel are still under development and not functional at this time.  This includes bandwidth/service monitoring, and creating your own templates.  We hope to have these features enabled later during the beta period.

That email also contained a temporary username and password for use during the beta. I logged in and created a new server within minutes.  For now, there’s not all that much I could do, but there are some interesting things I saw in the management console.

Virtacore

If I could point out what I think is the most exciting thing then I’d call your attention to the tab that says “My Private Cloud”.  Virtacore tells me that this is there because they are going to provide not only the “public” multitenant environment and also provide a dedicated infrastructure hosted at their data centers.  A company could us the private cloud to run mission critical workloads or satisfy specific security and compliance requirements.  More interestingly, you could have your development and QA environments run in the public cloud and then when the application is ready to go live you could move it to the private cloud simply by dragging and dropping it within the management GUI.

Also, the history button (not the history eraser button ala Ren and Stimpy will show a full audit trail. This is important because you could see who did what and when in your cloud.  This is another feature that the other vCloud Express offerings I’ve seen lack.  I think that Virtacore’s decision to include a full audit trail (and a private cloud) is an indication of their intention to build an enterprise quality cloud offering.

I looking forward to more playing with Virtacore vCloud Express, especially when it comes out of beta.  I hope you’re looking forward to reading about it.

Matthew D. Sarrel (or Matt Sarrel) is executive director of Sarrel Group, a technology product testing, editorial services, and technical marketing consulting company.  He also holds editorial positions at pcmag.com, eweek, GigaOM, and Allbusiness.com, and blogs at TopTechDog.