Piston Cloud has made the tough private cloud decisions for you

Experts at the company have built big private clouds and know what to put in, what to leave out. One hint: Don't use blade servers

Joshua McKenty, co-founder and chief executive officer of Piston Cloud, what he calls The Enterprise OpenStack Company, was in on the ground floor of OpenStack's creation, working as he was on the Anso Labs team at NASA to build a compute cloud on top of open source platform Eucalyptus. The team eventually gave up on that and wrote Nova, which NASA uses today to power its Nebula Cloud environment, and Nova was ultimately contributed to the OpenStack project, which it formed with Rackspace. McKenty left NASA after Anso was acquired by Rackspace in 2010, and formed Piston Cloud in 2011 with co-founders Gretchen Curtis (also of NASA) and Christopher MacGown of Rackspace. Network World Editor in Chief John Dix recently caught up with McKenty for a deep dive on why OpenStack matters and where Piston Cloud fits in.

When OpenStack launched and vendors started joining in, most of the development focus was on what service providers needed to operate at scale, and not what enterprise needed as far as security, regulatory compliance, ease of use and performance. So we kicked off Piston Cloud with a focus on making an OpenStack distribution specifically geared toward enterprise, and solving some of the really hard security problems. Our first product is Piston Enterprise OS, and it's essentially a very opinionated distribution of OpenStack that addresses the issues around making it easy to build a private cloud environment that meets regulatory requirements.


OpenStack supports six different hypervisors and five network models and three different ways you can configure the storage backend. So there are a vast number of configurations of OpenStack that don't work at all. And there are a number of features that are only available given specific configurations.

Consider live migration, a feature everybody wants. How do I move a running VM from one server to another? It works really well with OpenStack but only if you are using the right hypervisor on the right shared storage backend with the right network configuration and a little bit of sophisticated understanding of your underlying hardware configuration. Look at Red Hat. Linux itself supports a number of different hypervisors. Red Hat supports one. So the distribution is the opinionated version of the software that is fit for a specific use case.

We only support one hypervisor. We only support one network model. We only support one method of storage. And we support that really, really well. So we can guarantee benchmarks on performance given a certain set of hardware because we're only supporting a configuration we know can achieve the optimal performance for a given use case.

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