NetKernel News Volume 3 Issue 15

February 24th 2012

What's new this week?

Catch up on last week's news here

Repository Updates

There are no updates this week.

Tom Latest

Here's the latest from Tom - careful he skirts dangerously close to Rodgers-style philosophising about the nature of temporal reality - you've been warned.

Please also don't forget that it would be really great if you can lend Tom some time to read/review the current draft of the Practical NetKernel Book.

Today I take a look at and discuss the WayBack Machine.

As always your questions, opinions and ideas for future posts are welcomed at practicalnetkernelgmailcom.

Lovely Rita: Meter, Made

We've been quite busy since the start of the New Year. One of the important use-cases we've been focusing attention on, is to be able to very rapidly scale-up a cluster of NetKernel instances to meet transient demand spikes or to satisfy seasonal usage peaks.

30 Second Target

Our target is for a NetKernel instance to go from zero, to booted, to running the stem system, to installed with packaged application images, to fully operational in less than thirty seconds.

On a typical server, a stem NetKernel (the core standard distribution) boots in about 5 seconds, loading a set of packaged applications from a local Apposite repository is similar - lets say 10 seconds. So 30 seconds is a comfortable and realistic target.

But there is a fly in the ointment...

The Unspeakable

You know and I know that licensing is a complete and utter pain. After all, it is an artificially manufactured constraint which is introduced to deliberately make your life difficult. Whilst at the same time, it makes our life just as difficult - not least in that we feel the pain that we are imposing, but more practically it takes time and effort to support and administer.

The friction of licensing is present in order that we can share in some of the value that is delivered to you by using NetKernel and which, in turn, is derived from the literally years and years of effort that have gone into creating ROC and implementing NetKernel.


Just as an old lady will use a euphemism to refer to the passing of wind, I cannot bear to speak of this sordid matter and so refer to the necessity for empirical restitution as: the dark side. I am, of course, referring to that most inappropriate of dinner party conversational topics, the unspeakable impurity that is The World of Commerce.

There. I have said it.

And, tempting as it is personally to live an ascetic existence, we cannot morally (or legally) impose this on our children. Nor, alas, as in times fondly remembered, can we delegate our child-raising responsibilities to the munificence of the workhouse.

Therefore, low and squalid act that it is, we are faced with the dilemma of crossing to the dark side to seek financial recompense.

Friends, let us speak of this no more.

Business Success When Everyone Wins

In short. We have to make money. The license is a pain. You don't want the license. We don't want the license. And worse still, obtaining and installing a license for an on-demand NK instance would obliterate the 30 second target.

In an ideal world, it would be sufficient to have an honesty box - to simply ask you to tell us how many instances have been deployed. But unfortunately experience has taught us the hard lesson that not everyone plays fair.

More prosaically, an honesty box also imposes its own burden. Somebody has to keep track and count the instances. Which is a surprisingly difficult thing to do with today's distributed cloud data centers. It also leaves the rather unpleasant consequence of potentially having to pay too much for capacity that exceeds current requirements - we are all about the thermodynamic minimisation of systems, therefore over-provision is fundamentally antithetical and, quite simply, sucks.

Our business philosophy is not to encourage saggy, overweight systems, so that, through flabby inefficiency alone, we might extract lazy revenue. This would be morally repugnant.

No, our aim is to enable the leanest and most efficient possible solutions. But our belief (actually, our certain knowledge) is that these solutions will evolve and grow and scale to brand-new and here-to-for unknown heights.

Therefore our moral and philosophical basis for commercial success is to enable you to succeed beyond measure and, in so doing, for you to quite naturally require more from us in order to deliver the new possibilities.

In short, our business objective is mutual success.

I said "beyond measure", well not entirely beyond measure, as we shall now see...

Utility Model

We are currently in the final stages of testing a Utility Licensing solution. This will allow fine-grained licensing of on-demand instances with effectively zero latency.

This is how it works:

A standard NKEE instance will be deployed with a "Meter-Client" module together with a declarative list of "Meter-Servers". Upon booting, the Meter-Client will make a request for a license from the Meter-Server. The Meter-Server records the host, its capabilities and the requested duration of the license and issues a license. The NKEE instance does a normal boot-deploy-live cycle. When the license period expires, the Meter-Client will request a renewal. If the NKEE instance is no longer needed it can be torn down and incur no further cost.

The license issued by the Meter-Server will satisfy the expressed capabilities of the system. So there are no up-front limits on cores, hostname etc etc. You provision what you need, when you need it. The Meter-Server just records the client's capabilities and the requested usage period. You are free to have whatever granularity you wish on the license period - from one-hour upwards.

The Meter-Server will allow you to get real-time usage reports. It also provides tools to allow you to generate a non-repudiable usage report which will be submitted to us once a month (or your preferred period). We will analyse the usage according to your agreed usage tariff and generate an invoice.

Zero Configuration

Here's how it works...

Cluster Node (Meter Client)

  • You install the "Meter-Client" module to the stem NKEE instance. (Put it in modules/ and add an entry to modules.xml).
  • You create a list of Meter-Servers and put this in the /etc/ directory of a snapshot stem NKEE instance.
  • The snapshot stem NKEE instance is ready to go.
  • You fire up as many or as few NKEE instances as you need. You're always less than 30 seconds away from a new fully operational server.

Meter Server

  • You ask us for a Meter-Server module. We will cut you a Meter-Server that is pre-baked with your NK services account information.
  • You stand-up one (or several for failover) Meter-Server NKEE instance(s) with the Meter-Server module installed. (A single NKEE instance can be both a client and server if you like).
  • Thats it.
  • Every month we send you a polite reminder to generate and submit a usage report to us.

The idea is that both Meter-Servers and metered NKEE instances have zero config and are ready for cloud-based automated deployment.


How much will this cost? We're working on the pricing details but it'll be similar to what you'd expect to pay for an hourly hosted cloud server. There'll be low-cost dirt-cheap rates (based on cores and JVM memory) progressing to higher end rates for large numbers of cores/very large heaps etc.

So if you're thinking hourly rates from 10's of cents to a few dollars you'd be correct.

Cloud Metering

Initially we'll provide this capability to corporate customers on their own private clouds/data centers. However later on we will be operating redundant public Cloud-Meter-Servers with independent credit card billing through your NKEE portal account.

One Stop ROC Shop

You may already know that NKEE supports encrypted modules using multiple PKI trust levels. One of the capabilities this offers is that we can bless your own encryption keys and so you can create your own encrypted modules which will be decrypted if a valid license is present.

The Meter-Server has the ability to record and issue licenses for non-1060 modules. It is therefore very straightforward to provide utility metering of 3rd party tools and services.

It doesn't take a genius to see that the next step will be to host a "ROC-shop".

So if you've got a great idea for a product or service and want to share in the bonanza of ROC - then the facilities to encrypt, license, meter and bill for that tool are in place.

For those about to ROC, we salute you.

Missionary Work

I shall be on missionary work spreading the word of ROC in the United State of America again next week. Which means there may not be time for a newsletter.

Have a great weekend.


Please feel free to comment on the NetKernel Forum

Follow on Twitter:

@pjr1060 for day-to-day NK/ROC updates
@netkernel for announcements
@tab1060 for the hard-core stuff

To subscribe for news and alerts

Join the NetKernel Portal to get news, announcements and extra features.

NetKernel will ROC your world

Download now
NetKernel, ROC, Resource Oriented Computing are registered trademarks of 1060 Research

© 2008-2011, 1060 Research Limited