Justin Santa Barbara’s blog

Databases, Clouds and More

On Panamax

Things I learned from the panamax.io competition

Panamax.io is a new piece of open source software, from CenturyLink. Really, it’s from Lucas Carlson and the team behind PHPFog/AppFog. Centurylink is a fairly traditional telecoms company that has been buying into cloud by snapping up some interesting players: notably Savvis, AppFog and Tier 3. Rumor has it that Rackspace might be next (1). It’s a great strategy; most of the communications incumbents have good cash flow but declining businesses as we move towards dumb pipes; it makes a lot of sense to invest that cash in businesses that have more future growth potential.

With Panamax, we’ve got our first look at what those new businesses might look like. Panamax combines CoreOS, fleet and Docker, but puts a nice graphical front-end on it. It’s described as “Docker for humans”. I’ll be honest: it’s really early and I still found a number of bugs which rather mean it’s not quite ready yet for production usage by average humans, but you can definitely see where this is heading: taking Docker and making it mass-market, instead of a geek plaything. It solves some real pain-points with Docker, and it’s definitely one to watch; they are fixing the issues and it’s getting better all the time.

One of the biggest shortcomings I encountered was that I had all these great templates that I could install in seconds, but I would have to wait a long time for it to download (mostly because of the Docker registry’s questionable design). So I created a proxy-server template; with just a few clicks you can cache all those big downloads.

I also tried creating a more ambitious ELK stack (ElasticSearch, LogStash, Kibana), but even with the faster downloading that I was able to get by using my cache, there are still a few problems (my own, not Panamax’s) that I couldn’t get ironed out in the time I had. So the ELK stack template maybe isn’t quite ready for humans either. But, like Panamax, it will improve rapidly!

(1): I have no inside knowledge on Rackspace/Centurylink, and the asking price for Rackspace would seem to make it a difficult purchase for Centurylink. Strategically it makes a lot of sense: Rackspace has a great customer base, and the people are top-notch on both the business and technical sides. Despite OpenStack’s problems, I don’t see how a non-OpenStack strategy makes sense for anyone other than AWS. And to the extent Rackspace is struggling, it is mostly because everyone in the business is struggling to compete with AWS. I have some ideas on how to compete here also, and it probably involves things that look a lot like Panamx, but I digress… Underpin Rackspace’s efforts with the solid cashflow from another business and you have a real contender. Combine it with technologies like Panamax, CoreOS & Docker and things get really interesting.