Startup Piston Cloud says it's built a better OpenStack installer

Company's cloud distribution is built around Diablo, not Essex version of OpenStack, which makes it more stable, according to CEO Joshua McKenty

There's been much buzz surrounding OpenStack as cloud players including Rackspace and Red Hat rolled out free versions of their tailored distributions of the open source framework in the span of a week. Now startup Piston Cloud Computing has thrown its hat into the ring, offering Airframe, a trial version of its OpenStack-based Piston Cloud. At the same time, the company has criticized rivals for putting unstable or incomplete OpenStack distros into customers' hands.

"OpenStack installers on the market today are either too complicated to deploy and manage or just not a complete solution," said Joshua McKenty, CEO and co-founder of Piston Cloud Computing. "We felt it was important to provide an 'easy' method of installing OpenStack that didn't require sacrificing a production-class architecture."

McKenty and his employees arguably know a thing or three about OpenStack. The founders of the company were all technical team leads for NASA and Rackspace, the creators of the OpenStack framework. But McKenty and company have their work cut out for them to convince prospective customers that Piston Cloud is superior to other OpenStack implementations, in part because Piston Cloud is based on Diablo rather than Essex, which is the newer version of OpenStack. McKenty argued that Essex simply isn't sufficiently stable to put into customers' hands.

"Our model will be a full release behind," McKenty told InfoWorld. "Diablo wasn't stable until three months after its release. I wouldn't run Essex in a production environment for at least a couple of months."

That tack, according to McKenty, means the company is putting into customers hands a "bare-metal cloud management platform that installs in less than 10 minutes and delivers 100 percent of the core OpenStack services, including compute, storage, networking, and cloud management," according to the company.

For starters, the Airframe trial version comes with all of OpenStack's core components, including swift and nova-volumes. It boasts an integrated distributed storage system (powered by Ceph); it also integrates with Cloud Foundry.

But the secret sauce, by McKenty's reckoning, is Moxie HA (high availability), which Piston designed to intelligently and dynamically allocate workloads across the cloud based on the current availability of all compute, storage, and networking resources. Without Moxie HA, according to McKenty, it wouldn't be possible to offer Airframe as a turnkey product.

Airframe is geared toward pilot deployments, POCs, and lab environments, according to Piston. It also runs on commodity hardware, and if a server goes down it won't affect the performance of the rest of the cloud, McKenty said.

McKenty criticized OpenStack installers built on Essex that have reached the market, arguing that these offerings are effectively "toys" that don't provide customers with guidance or the tools to deploy a full-fledged cloud. "Customers have 50 really important decisions to make, most of which you don't understand at all, and most of which have very consequential trade-offs," he said. "There are so many moving parts that are going to affect virtualization management across every part of the data center."

The installations that rivals are rolling out, according to McKenty, are incomplete, unstable, and cobbled together with tools such as Chef in such a way that customers will end up being locked in to a particular vendor's service plan.

That's not to say Piston isn't looking to sign up customers for its own enterprise-level support services and features, which come with an upgrade to Piston Enterprise OpenStack. That version features live migration, automated hands-free scale-out, as well as Gridcentric's virtual memory streaming (VMS) memory over-subscription and rapid instance cloning.

Airframe will be available on Aug. 27 exclusively to attendees of the VMworld 2012 conference in San Francisco. It will be generally available for download on Sept. 4.

This story, "Startup Piston Cloud says it's built a better OpenStack installer," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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