As OpenStack vendors up their game, the next stage may be one that until now partly defeated the point of OpenStack: dedicated hardware appliances.
Mirantis, whose main point of distinction has been its devotion to a pure open source edition of OpenStack, is preparing to offer Mirantis Unlocked Appliances, or OpenStack on a certified hardware appliance.
The Mirantis press release describes these as "single or multi-rack converged infrastructure appliances, delivered as a flexible turnkey OpenStack deployment, and pre-validated by Mirantis and pre-integrated by Certified Rack Partners."
The main motive for providing OpenStack via appliance is ease of deployment and management. Nebula, for example, marketed its line of OpenStack appliances with the very same selling points. But Nebula misjudged the OpenStack market's size and composition, and it closed its doors earlier this year.
In light of that, how will Mirantis avoid falling into the same trap?
According to Jim Sangster, senior director of market solutions at Mirantis, Nebula stumbled in offering a modified version of OpenStack that created more work, and its entire business model relied on the appliance instead of other services. "Appliances are not for everyone, so if that is all you offer, you are limiting your market," Sangster said.
Sangster also claimed that with OpenStack "going increasingly mainstream," the market for turnkey appliance solutions is more mature now than it was when Nebula first appeared.
Mirantis will instead work with a range of existing hardware vendors, so Unlocked Appliances "have a range of choices of commodity hardware," with "standardization of (commodity in many cases) hardware for cloud deployments in rack-based increments," and prevalidated results.
"This takes all that work off the customer and puts that burden on the partners involved," said Sangster. "It goes back to choice: choice of an appliance or not (we offer it all), choice of commodity hardware or not (we will offer both, and at times combinations of both)."
OpenStack adoption outside of the telco niche (where the software has unquestionably found an audience) is tentatively gaining ground, but OpenStack outfits also face greater pressure to deliver. Those that don't fail like Nebula may find themselves becoming the property of an inner-circle OpenStack corporate contributor.
Mirantis stands a somewhat better chance of holding up to such pressure, due in big part to its existing base of customers. But it's still an open question if adding appliances to the lineup will be the special sauce that expands OpenStack's customer base.