The Open-Source Cloud Takes A Step Toward Simplicity

The open-source cloud platform OpenStack can be a pain to deploy. Of course, building your own cloud infrastructure—which includes wrangling all the software components on your own hardware or on servers from a public cloud provider like Amazon—is always bound to be, right?

Mirantis hopes to change that with OpenStack Express, an OpenStack-as-a-service offering hosted on IBM’s Softlayer infrastructure. It’s intended to make deploying OpenStack easier and faster, freeing developers to focus on their applications. IBM provides the data center underpinnings, and Mirantis provides the software and 24/7 support for the self-service, on-demand offering, the first of its kind in the OpenStack world.

“What Amazon does for public clouds, we do for private clouds,” said Adrian Ionel, CEO of Mirantis. OpenStack Express essentially lets you rent bare-metal servers that don’t get shared with other customers, quickly deploy software, and manage everything via a console.

See also: Red Hat May Be Stacking The Deck Against Its OpenStack Rivals

Though there are lots of other OpenStack providers—Red Hat, HP, IBM, and others—Mirantis is unique in that its business is entirely based on OpenStack. The company started out as a system integrator, working closely with Red Hat, but when Mirantis decided to offer its own OpenStack distribution that competes with Red Hat, the relationship went sour.

In Red Hat’s announcement of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7, the open source stalwart’s most significant release in years, Mirantis was noticeably missing as a partner. Mirantis OpenStack Express runs on CentOS, a clone of Red Hat’s flagship “enterprise Linux.”

The Time And Cost of Deploying OpenStack

Without OpenStack Express, the routine goes like this: buy servers, assign someone to run the project, buy the software and system integration services, and get to work. “Four to eight weeks later, you will have spent $150,000 to $200,000 at least to get to that production deployment,” Ionel said. “We replace all that in a mouse click.”

The Mirantis alternative starts at $60 a day, without a long term contract, and can be cancelled at any time, Ionel said.

Binh Phan, a senior security architect at McAfee, has been testing OpenStack Express for the past two months. “I am pretty impressed with what the Mirantis folks have done. It has real potential,” he said. 

Phan wants to build a 100% cloud-based system for McAfee’s next generation firewall that potential customers can use  for demos and testing. Rather than sending potential customers equipment to test on, he hopes to simulate a real-world environment via an OpenStack cloud. “If I can give them access to OpenStack Express and test things with them, without having to ship hardware to premises, it would shorten the sales cycle,” he said. “It could help the customer experience, and help close sales faster.”

Before using OpenStack Exprss, Phan used Amazon Web Services Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). While acknowledging that it’s difficult to draw direct comparisons, he said that on EC2, he ran into difficulty while creating a “custom image”—the operating system and other resources needed to start up a virtual server “instance” in the cloud.

“We use a custom version of Linux for our product, and Amazon doesn’t make that easy,” he said. With Mirantis, he can make changes to the source code. “It’s open. I can get more information and reverse engineer and deep dive if I have to, vs. Amazon, which is a black box. They don’t allow us to upload and create our own images.”

In the beginning, he found that OpenStack Express was set up to use flat networking, but for his purposes, he needed the product to support network segmentation and subnets. About a month after he asked for it, Mirantis had added what he needed. “I was impressed with how quickly they added that support,” he said. “It would have taken months or years with some vendors.”

Lead image by Flickr user jmv, CC 2.0

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