MacStadium announces cloud-based Mac IaaS for developers

Kubernetes-compatible virtualization layer for Macs in the cloud...

Apple, Mac, iOS, developers, MacStadium, applications, WWDC, developers, iOS, Mac, apps

MacStadium has officially announced Orka, a Kubernetes-compatible virtualization layer for Mac cloud infrastructure designed to boost development of cloud services and solutions on Apple’s platforms.

A Mac-based cloud for developers

You may have heard of MacStadium before.

Speaking during the Mac mini launch in 2018, Apple told us how the company manages over 8,000 Mac mini systems in colocation centers.

The company now manages a global fleet of 20,000 Macs of various kinds (soon including the new Mac Pro). It is even patenting some of the technologies it uses to rack-mount these machines. Capital One, Pandora and Box are all existing MacStadium customers.

The Macs are used to run the online elements of games, apps and services, such as Candy Crush, Shopify and Day One.

The company’s new Orka solution lets developers use Macs in the cloud. It lets them apply native Kubernetes commands for macOS virtual machines (VMs) running on real Apple hardware.

MacStadium has been quietly discussing Orka (which stands for Orchestration with Kubernetes on Apple) for a few weeks, but officially unveiled the solution at DevOps World in San Francisco.

“Orka takes a standard macOS VM, puts it inside of a Docker container, and then uses Kubernetes to orchestrate everything. Spin up a virtual machine in seconds with any version of macOS, then orchestrate pods of those VMs across a Kubernetes cluster,” the company says.

Orka should make it as easy to use Mac-based cloud infrastructure as it is to use AWS, Azure, GCP, or any other generic-compute cloud service.

How will developers use Orka?

Interest in Apple's platforms continues to grow.

There are presently over 2.5 million iOS and Mac developers in the world, which means Apple’s developer community has doubled since 2015.

When it comes to development, most companies must invest in their own infrastructure, particularly since iOS development can only be engaged in using Macs.

“Most companies that aren’t MacStadium customers run their builds on a ‘pile’ of Macs that live under their desk or in a closet,” MacStadium CRO Shawn Lankton said. “Some more enterprising companies even set up mini-data centers filled with Macs.”

MacStadium already powers popular build-as-a-service and test-as-a- service tools that depend on Macs. Orka adds cloud-based Mac infrastructure as a service.

I think developers will use the cloud-based service for quality assurance purposes when building or updating new applications, Safari browser testing and trials of code at scale.

But the main use will be when developers test new code commits during the development cycle – the flexibility of using cloud-based Macs to test and run their code means they won’t be limited by the number of Macs they have to hand.

Another benefit is that the use of Kubernettes: “Enables automation so that as the team’s build needs change the infrastructure can easily adapt because it’s defined “as code” rather than configured by-hand on a one-off basis.”

The evolving Mac ecosystem

If you think about it, the introduction of the new MacStadium service reflects the changing needs of development ecosystems.

All the data shows rapid adoption of Mac and iOS technologies across the enterprise.

This is driving demand for developers and technology improvement across increasingly digital workflows.

The snag is that demand for developers far exceeds supply. This makes it necessary to support them effectively in order to bring projects home on time and within budget. Automation of processes can help achieve this.

At present, the development process usually means developers will compile and test new code every time it is committed.

In real terms, this can mean hundreds or even thousands of builds each day -- and this can require huge fleets of Macs to run the test builds – or it did.

“For developers, Orka will mean, faster builds, more reliable builds, and less queue time since it allows DevOps teams to run builds on powerful, scalable infrastructure that incorporates best practices of the cloud out-of- the-box,” Lankton said.

“The reality is that most enterprises need to develop applications for Apple platforms, but these enterprises prefer to use nimble, software-defined build environments,” said MacStadium CEO, Greg McGraw.

So, will the solution have any huge impact on Apple’s ecosystem?

Not really where you can see it, but developers should find it possible to work faster and more efficiently than before because solutions like these let them focus on building better apps, rather than figuring out how to manage infrastructure.

Enterprise IT chiefs may also benefit from the real cost savings that can be unlocked through use of cloud services when building new solutions for Apple's platforms.

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Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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