Antsle Offers a Lower Cost Alternative for Cloud DevOps
Many MSPs are looking to build their businesses by moving into the realm of customized web applications, which are provisioned via the cloud; however, creating an application that is cloud-native can prove to be an expensive undertaking. Not only does an MSP have to make the investments in programming skills, but they also have to pay for cloud connectivity and cloud services to develop those new cloud applications, which unfortunately can cut into profits.
“Custom software development used to be a major business for many IT service providers, but as cloud-based applications became the norm, the high cost of custom app development became untenable,” said Schyler Jones, principal at MiradorIT.
With the ready availability of cloud-based applications and the growing army of SaaS (software as a service) providers looking to sell into businesses large and small, the custom application market quickly became something of the past for numerous solution providers, who instead evolved into MSPs to maintain their businesses. Yet, the need for customized applications did not completely wane; many businesses still needed tweaks and changes made to SaaS offerings to fit their business practices, creating an opportunity for those willing to delve into the APIs and various underpinnings of those applications. One of the best examples of SaaS product customizability comes from CRM giant Salesforce, which offers a complete ecosystem of tools to customize how Salesforce operates. However, becoming a Salesforce developer can be an expensive and time-consuming chore, which might offer little in return for MSPs servicing smaller businesses or vertical markets.
Salesforce is not a unique example of what it takes to customize large SaaS applications, yet still demonstrates that custom applications still have a place in the business world. Many MSPs have recognized that as an opportunity, but developing applications that will run on public clouds is not all that simple either. Take, for example, Microsoft Azure, which offers a robust development environment that allows most anyone to build and deploy applications. But doing so requires buying Azure services and using the tools provided by Microsoft.
For those MSPs looking to break into the cloud application development market, the hyperclouds might prove to be too costly from a DevOps standpoint, requiring a significant investment in training, support, PaaS (platform as a service) licenses, and so on. What’s more, those custom applications are usually tied to the cloud provider and have limited portability, meaning that custom applications might only work on the service that they were developed under. That, in turn, creates another conundrum: How can someone build cloud-based custom applications and expect to be able to run those applications anywhere at any time? The lack of flexibility means those applications might not be able to transit across a customer’s on-premises private cloud, to a hybrid cloud, to a public cloud. Does that mean today’s MSPs should give up on the custom cloud application development market? In a word, no — there are alternative approaches to building cloud applications that don’t require any commitment to one of the hypercloud vendors.
The Antsle Approach
San Diego-based Antsle took a long, hard look at the conundrum that developers were facing in the era of the cloud and came up with the idea of building a private-cloud server aimed at developers. The resulting Antsle solution took the form of an appliance that’s designed to be more affordable than a public cloud and bring software development and the related intellectual property back on premises as a private cloud. The company now builds two different version of what they refer to as a private-cloud appliance, the Antsle One, which starts at $799, and the Antsle One XD, which starts at $1,499. Both are small form-factor devices that can be set up in a matter of minutes and can be deployed pretty much anywhere. They don’t have fans, so they are completely quiet, and sport fault-tolerant hardware, such as ECC RAM and SSDs.
The real power comes from Antsle’s integrated OS (antsleOS) and management software (antMan), which are based on Gentoo Linux and other open-source software components. Typically, the role assigned to an Anstle appliance is running as a private-cloud server, but there’s actually much more to it than that. The devices’ primary capabilities come from antMan, which allows users to build and deploy virtual servers that can be accessed from any browser. Those virtual servers can be configured to run most any OS, and Antsle includes templates for several Linux distributions, several versions of Windows, and FreeBSD. The included prebuilt templates make it very simple to bring up a new virtual server, which can then be customized to meet development needs. The device supports both the KVM Hypervisor and LXC containers, giving users flexibility around what type of virtualization technology they want to use.
Antsle’s nomenclature refers to those virtual machines as antlets, and the company claims that the Anstle One can run hundreds of antlets concurrently, meaning that several test environments can be up and running to meet development needs. The real value proposition Antsle offers comes from antMan, which makes it extremely simple to build virtual private servers (VPS) and also includes simplified container management. That means developers can spend their time on development chores as opposed to configuring host environments.
Ultimately, Antsle removes some of the barriers faced by those looking to build custom cloud applications, and it does it in such a way that developers don’t need to learn the intricacies of cloud management, provisioning and deployment.
Of course, savvy MSPs could build their own private-cloud servers; all it takes is some hardware and some open-source software, such as Gentoo Linux, KVM and LXC; however, the roll-your-own approach will not include anything along the lines of antMan, which in itself makes the Antsle One worth the price of admission.
“Anything that can lower development costs should be a boon to anyone looking to build custom applications,” said Jones.