While working for NASA as a cloud architect, Joshua McKenty helped to build the Nebula compute project and start the OpenStack open source cloud platform. McKenty has since gone on to found Piston Cloud computing, which launched its first public release in September of 2011.
Piston is now updating its OpenStack solution in a 2.0 release that aims improve and ease the management of cloud deployments.
"We are still the better, faster, easier way to get up and running with OpenStack," McKenty told Datamation.
McKenty's vision for an enterprise OpenStack company has been greeted by an influx of $12.5 million in venture capital. Among Piston's investors is networking giant Cisco Systems.
"When we said we were an OpenStack company, people assumed that what is in our product is OpenStack and that's it," McKenty said.
Reality is the while OpenStack forms the core of the Piston solution, there are many other important components. Piston includes the open source OpenStack command line tools, dashboard and the services layer that provide APIs.
McKenty added that in order for the core of OpenStack to be valuable, it needs resource pools. To that end, Piston Enterprise OpenStack 2.0 includes Ceph for object and block storage. Ceph is an open source filesystem that is now backed by a commercial startup called Inktank.
Additionally the Piston 2.0 solution includes the KVM virtualization hypervisor, including commercial Virtual Memory Streaming (VMS) capabilities.VMS is intended to improve virtual machine live migration performance.
In order to setup the resource pools and manage physical hardware, there is also a need for bare metal provisioning and service orchestration technology. That's where Piston's own Moxie HA technology comes into play. There are other tools that different OpenStack vendors uses for orchestration, but in McKenty's view they're not as capable for the cloud as Moxie HA. At the San Diego OpenStack Summit in October of 2012, Ubuntu Founder, Mark Shuttleworth demonstrated before a live audience how his company's Juju tool could be used to orchestrate the cloud.
"Everything from Ubuntu Juju, to Chef and Puppet exists in this tier but we built our own tools because we didn't feel that any of those were appropriate for running cloud," McKenty said.
Puppies and Cows
As an analogy, McKenty said that there are some servers that are treated like puppies, that are nurtured and cared for if they are ill. Then there are classes of scale-out servers that are just herded like cows, that can be terminated if they are ill, without remorse.
"The saddest thing I can imagine is a server administrator trying to nurse a puppy back to health in the dark and cold of a data center," McKenty said. "Pets don't belong in the data center."
The Piston OpenStack Enterprise 2.0 solution takes the cow herding approach for virtual machines. Virtual machines now have ephemeral storage and can be brought up and down as needed. Piston has also improved the monitoring and integration of its platform for IT administrators. The GUI has been improved such that it has block and object storage controls in the dashboard.
Getting up and running with Piston OpenStack has also been improved with new hardware diagnostic capabilities.
"We discovered that the number of people that tried to get Piston OpenStack up and running on hardware that wouldn't boot the software to start with, was surprising," McKenty said. "Labs seem to have random old gear."
So with the 2.0 release, Piston is providing richer feedback capabilities to diagnose the setup of the hardware environment.
Folsom vs. Grizzly
The Piston OpenStack Enterprise 2.0 release is based on the OpenStack Folsom release that first debuted in September of 2012. The new OpenStack Grizzly release officially hit general availability last week. Grizzly is set to be the foundation for Red Hat's OpenStack Enterprise release later this year.
In terms of why Piston 2.0 is based on Folsom, McKenty stressed that his customers are looking for stability and reliability.
"I look at the rate of security defects found against the brand new release and I don't think my customers want to be to be on the bleeding edge," McKenty said. "They want cutting edge, but they don't want to be bleeding from it."