It fits the usual mantra of offering customers choices and all that. But Mirantis’ motivations are more specific, Chief Marketing Officer Boris Renski says.
Large OpenStack deployments require some networking help. VMware’s NSX would do the trick and has been a default choice for Mirantis’ customers; it’s already supported in Mirantis OpenStack. But many customers already use a VMware environment in their data centers — banks are a good example — and they’re moving to OpenStack because they want to avoid vendor lock-in. To stay true to that philosophy, these customers would need an alternative to NSX.
Contrail is the second most popular networking choice for Mirantis’ user base, so Mirantis is expanding its partnership with Juniper. It’s adding Contrail support and providing a reference design that works with Mirantis OpenStack 6.0, which is compatible with the OpenStack Juno release that arrived last year.
This doesn’t mean that you get NSX or Contrail truly bundled in with OpenStack, by the way. The way it works is: You set up one of those networking environments yourself, and through APIs, Mirantis’ OpenStack will take advantage of it.
OpenStack Hits the Limit
Networking is becoming a bigger issue for OpenStack as deployments get more serious. The OpenStack Neutron project, which handles networking, is suitable for deployments of about 30 nodes or fewer, Renski says. Beyond that size, “everybody knows” that plain vanilla Neutron won’t scale properly, he says.
“It’s not so much about the number of nodes. It’s about the intensity of the network coverage,” he says. In other words, the scaling problem relates to how frequently nodes are activated or deactivated, or how often the network changes. “Sometimes it can get as bad as the entire cluster going down.”
So, companies often start with a small OpenStack pilot. Once it needs to grow beyond about 30 nodes, though, they need to make a networking choice. NSX-MH, the multi-hypervisor version of that software, has been the most popular choice, Renski says. Contrail, in both the commercial and open source varieties, has been second.
Renski thinks that’s because “Juniper has done a great job aligning with the OpenStack community.” The company has been active on OpenStack mailing lists and responsive when questions and problems get discussed there, he says.
“They’re on the path to be the Ceph of the networking space,” Renski says, citing the open source project that’s become the de facto block-storage standard for OpenStack. “They’re not quite there yet, but more and more customers we’re seeing are adopting Contrail.”
The “Ceph of networking” crown is still up for grabs, though. Midokura recently open-sourced its MidoNet platform in hopes of contending for that title. Akanda, which shares some lineage with Ceph, is trying the same thing.
VMware could be a candidate as well, especially now that the company offers its own OpenStack distribution in addition to NSX, providing an all-in-one package for those customers who want it.
Mirantis might add support for other network virtualization options later. Some of its customers are using Big Switch or Midokura technology; whether that warrants integration is going to be a matter of demand, Renski says.
Adding more options would help bolster Mirantis’ status as a pure OpenStack provider. Unlike HP, VMware, or even Red Hat, Mirantis doesn’t offer goods for other parts of the data center, giving it a good claim on a Switzerland style of neutrality.