At the OpenStack Summit in Vancouver last month, the enthusiasm and momentum surrounding the open source cloud architecture project was on full display. But in quiet corners of the event, away from the main-stage hype, emissaries from enterprise IT departments issued a refrain of doubts about the difficulty of deploying OpenStack.
“It’s too complex,” I heard more times than I could count. “We thought we were getting a ready-made system,” said one manager from a major financial services IT provider that has deployed OpenStack. “That’s not what it is at all, though.”
That kind of frustration is exactly what Toronto-based startup Breqwatr hopes to capitalize on with a ready-made server box running a custom OpenStack distribution and sold as a subscription-managed service. Called Breqwatr Cloud Appliance 2.0, the hyperconverged private cloud infrastructure block hit general availability on Wednesday.
It may be as close to plug-and-play as OpenStack gets, since the open source project is designed more as a toolkit than a product. The expertise needed to build a private cloud with that toolkit is significant — leading to a talent shortage that had enterprise IT departments scrambling to recruit in Vancouver.
“Their main concern is, ‘We know we need to get this, we know what we need to do, but we don’t have the resources,'” Breqwatr CEO John Kadianos tells SDxCentral. Kadianos founded the firm in 2013 as a spinout from his consulting firm Hyper Technologies, which helps companies with private cloud deployments.
What he saw those companies looking for was “a self-contained, easily deployed appliance,” he says.
Sold as a service for $15,000 a month, the Breqwatr appliance ships with 24 TBytes of solid-state storage, 1,024 GBytes of RAM, and 160 threads. It looks about like you’d expect:
The point, of course, isn’t the hardware. The unit runs a custom distribution of core OpenStack components curated for private cloud environments. The current version includes OpenStack’s Nova (compute), Cinder (volume service), Glance (image service), Heat (infrastructure orchestration), and Celometer (service management).
Breqwatr plans to include OpenStack Neutron, the software-defined networking component, in a November release. Neutron, which has been plagued by reliability complaints since its initial 2013 release, has been “very disappointing up until now,” Kadianos says. “But it’s matured and evolved up to a point that we think we should include it.”
Breqwatr is hardly the first startup to target OpenStack as a managed service. Mirantis, Canonical, Rackspace, and IBM all build and manage private cloud infrastructure running OpenStack, while others including Platform9 run virtual appliances that convert existing private infrastructure to OpenStack-powered clouds.
Shipping subscription-based OpenStack in a tightly integrated hardware-software package is a unique approach, though. Breqwatr’s pitch is that the $15,000 monthly fee is likely less than the cost of hiring developers to build and manage a private cloud. The company’s subscription business model does echo that of recent security entrant Skyport Systems, signaling a potential major shift in the IT hardware business — away from purchase orders and toward subscription services.
At roughly a dozen employees, Breqwatr is still a small shop. Kadianos says he’s holding off on taking venture funding as long as he can, with the company thus far bootstrapped to the tune of $1.7 million in self-funding.
The company’s next move will be a sales outpost in New York City, where Kadianos hopes to woo the financial services firms that are increasingly attracted to OpenStack.
“The low-hanging fruit is that cloud-allocated budget” that might otherwise go toward public cloud buys, Kadianos says. From there he hopes to crack into operations budgets. “We do not replace storage, and we do not replace compute,” he adds. “It’s about ease of use, simplicity, availability.”
Image via Flickr user la.furia, modified under CC 2.0.