Mirantis delivers OpenStack cloud-in-a-box appliance

Mirantis, which bills itself as the "pure play" OpenStack vendor, is rounding out its portfolio of services with turnkey appliances.

OpenStack is notorious for its complexity, but one of the biggest players in the space is now offering turnkey appliances it says will solve many of the problems around deploying the open source technology.

The Mountain View, Calif. tech vendor, one of the last remaining early OpenStack startups, this week launched Mirantis Unlocked Appliances. The services are intended to be turnkey, single- or multi-rack converged infrastructure appliances that round out its OpenStack portfolio, which also includes distribution, support services and training programs.

This addition could give enterprises more flexibility once the hardware and software offerings are expanded, said Al Sadowski, a research director at 451 Research, LLC, based in New York. For customers that pick the distribution first, it would allow them to pick and choose their preferred hardware later and vice-versa.

 "What they're trying to do is make it easier on enterprises," Sadowski said. "They're giving them a portfolio of options."

Despite OpenStack's reputation for complexity, one of the key value propositions of cloud is a general sense of simplification of infrastructure management, so applications are a sensible answer for OpenStack users, said Dave Blodgett, a senior director of global infrastructure and operations at HedgeServ Corp., a New York-based funds administrator. Blodgett worked with Mirantis to set up Expedia's hybrid cloud and is working on another OpenStack implementation at HedgeServ.

"Engineered solutions are a great way for organizations to accelerate adoption of OpenStack and to limit the risk that it represents in terms of management complexity and a dearth of available talent," Blodgett said.

Mirantis acknowledges it's still early days for its "cloud in a box" appliances, with only one option available so far. That offering focuses on developing cloud-native applications through a partnership with Redapt, Inc., a systems integrator based in Redmond, Wash. Mirantis said it expects to add more software and hardware vendors to the Unlocked Appliances program to flesh out its offerings.

The first iteration uses hardware from Dell and Juniper Networks, and configurations can range from six compute nodes and 12 TBs of usable storage to a full rack of 24 compute nodes and 24 TBs of storage. This appliance is compatible with containers or proof of concept projects, but expect partnerships for areas such as analytics, network function virtualization or telco appliances in 2016, Mirantis said.

Mirantis isn't the first OpenStack vendor to target the appliance space. Nebula, another early startup that attempted to commercialize the open source technology, offered its own appliance services. It shut down in April, citing a lack of maturity in the market.

While Mirantis said it differs from Nebula because the appliances are just one OpenStack product it offers, it makes sense to distance itself from Nebula because the core value propositions appear to be very similar, Blodgett said.

"Mirantis' big leg up is that it's a large organization and what it has in terms of the specialty set of services they offer," Blodgett said. "They've also been around a long time and have arguably the deepest bench out there."

Success where other OpenStack startups failed

Nebula is just one of several smaller OpenStack vendors that have fallen by the wayside or been swallowed up by larger providers over the past year. And while others continue to climb into the space -- including last month's entrant Breqwatr, Inc., which also targets private cloud appliances – Mirantis is seen as one of the few successful startups in a space that has largely become dominated by legacy vendors. Its customer list includes Cisco, Comcast, Ericsson, Expedia, NASA, Samsung and Symantec, and last October it received a $100 million series B funding round.

Mirantis has definitely made a name for itself, Sadowski said. It's done well to position itself as the "pure play" OpenStack provider and isn't afraid to point out the limitations of others, he added.

The industry needs Mirantis to be able to accelerate the maturation curve and represent the voice of the customer.
Dave Blodgettsenior director of global infrastructure and operations, HedgeServ

The robust training program -- Mirantis says it has trained and certified 5,000 OpenStack administrators over the past four years -- has been a big part of its success, too, Sadowski said. By offering these programs, Mirantis can plant the seed inside enterprises when these engineers get hired – something that's critical given the dearth of qualified OpenStack IT pros.

"It's the scarcest resource out there right now," Sadowski said.

OpenStack remains a specialty technology at this point even, with the entry of so many massive tech vendors, Blodgett said. But Mirantis has been successful because it hasn't veered off its original mission – and that's a good thing for the future of the open source project.

"The industry needs Mirantis to be able to accelerate the maturation curve and represent the voice of the customer," Blodgett said.

Pricing for Mirantis Unlocked Appliances is $250,000 for the entry configuration, which includes six compute components, three foundation components and three storage components. A larger configuration priced at $400,000 includes 16 compute components, three foundation components and four storage components.

Trevor Jones is news writer for TechTarget. Contact him at [email protected].

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