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Piston Cloud Gets New Leadership

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Piston Cloud Computing is one of the leading companies in the Open Source OpenStack effort. Piston is now getting some new leadership of its own, appointing industry veteran Jim Morrisroe as CEO.

Piston Cloud was founded by Joshua McKenty, one of the leaders of the open source Nebula platform at NASA, that became the core Nova compute module in OpenStack. McKenty had previously held the role of CEO and will now be the CTO.

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Morrisroe had previously been the President and General Manager of Zimbra, an open source email startup that was acquired by Yahoo in 2007 and then sold to VMwarefor in 2010.

Morrisroe told Datamation that he left VMware in May of this year and took some time to unwind. He then sought out a company in a growing market and found Piston Cloud. In his view, the potential market size that OpenStack represents is a very large one. OpenStack got its start originally with just NASA and Rackspace and has since grown to include many major IT vendors, including IBM, Dell, HP and Intel and many others.

Piston Cloud founder Joshua McKenty noted that he had always planned on bringing in professional management to help guide his company. In terms of timing, McKenty said that the rapid growth of OpenStack is what is driving the need for Piston Cloud to have a new CEO now. McKenty is one of the leaders of the OpenStack Foundation, which is a non-trivial time commitment.

“If OpenStack loses, Piston has nothing of value,” McKenty said. “So I really need to make sure we’re doing everything we can for OpenStack as well as for the Piston Cloud business and this is the only way I see that I can move them both forward.”

Open Source vs. Proprietary

OpenStack is an open source effort, with many vendors, including Piston Cloud, extending the system with proprietary value-added features. It’s a model that new CEO Morrisroe is familiar with, since it’s very similar to the way that Zimbra operated.

“The situation here at Piston Cloud will be a little easier than it was at Zimbra,” Morrisroe said.

He added that OpenStack and private cloud is still relatively new, no matter what technology choices a company makes, which is a bit different than the market that Zimbra was going after.

“The greenfield opportunity to help enterprises move into this new era is certainly a big challenge but it is a little less daunting than ripping out someone’s email server out and replacing it with another, which is what our task was at Zimbra,” Morrisroe said.

Revenue and Exit Strategy

The core business of Piston Cloud is to bring OpenStack to the enterprise and it’s a business that will continue to grow in 2013.

From a strategic perspective, as a startup company Piston Cloud could continue as a standalone company and head toward an IPO, or it could get acquired. From Morrisroe’s perspective all of those options are on the table.

“We have got a lot of work to do before any of those options are real,” Morrisroe said. “Right now we’re focused on and keeping the Piston brand in the front and center of OpenStack and taking care of more customers.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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