Mind the Byte seeks secure clouds to transmit research

Pharmaceutical and chemical research firm Mind the Byte is using vCider, which aims to take the sting out of managing and securing virtual private clouds across different infrastructure providers.

There's plenty of talk about enterprises building hybrid clouds that contain the appropriate mix of public cloud and private resources. But there's not a lot of choices available to securely move or manage workloads across such disparate environments.

This was a challenge faced by Barcelona, Spain-based pharmaceutical and chemical research firm Mind the Byte. Mind the Byte provides its chemo and bioinformatics web platform iMols to researchers who need to compile various molecules, proteins and activities databases. Results, according to Mind the Byte founder Alfons Nonell-Canals, are delivered within a few seconds, or days.

Like many companies, this one chose to deploy its services on clouds rather than build their own data center. Today, Mind the Byte manages its systems from Barcelona, stores its biochemical data in Amazon S3 and accesses and processes them via iMols running on EC2 instances in Amazon's Virginia data center. For a time the company also ran part of its systems within a Netherlands-based data center, close to its European customers.

In the competitive pharmaceuticals industry were research is one of the greatest assets, keeping all of those geographically dispersed systems securely connected is crucial, and that required that Mind the Byte build a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC). "We tried the native Amazon VPC service because most of our servers were hosted on Amazon EC2. The Amazon VPC is pretty good, but it is closed to Amazon," says Nonell-Canals. "There is no easy way to attach external systems to the virtual network. Now, you can open VPN connections from an Amazon VPC, but that approach isn't flexible enough," he says.

Nonell-Canals found a way to create secure virtual private clouds as he was researching on-demand virtual networking software provider vCider as a possible way to boost the performance of his Apache Cassandra data stores. The vendor recently released version vCider 2.0 of its VPC service, which provides secure virtual private clouds across different cloud-service providers such as Amazon EC2 and Rackspace, including extending one's own infrastructure to the cloud, as well as cloud providers.

According to Chris Marino, CEO at vCider, his company provides kernel-level encryption and "cloaks" clouds to protect VPC traffic from attackers. According to Marino, vCider includes a Web-based management console and drivers that need to be installed on systems within the VPC. Customers can configure their VPC with IP addresses and gateways through the console, or through the vCider application interface and their current cloud management platform.

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