OpenStack is a platform, an archipelago of open source projects that help you run a cloud. But some assembly is required. Both Platform9 and ZeroStack are operating on the theory that OpenStack will better succeed if it’s turned into more of a shrink-wrapped product.
ZeroStack does this by offering an enterprise cloud that comes in an appliance. The management software is run by ZeroStack offsite. Platform9 similarly offers OpenStack management in software-as-a-service form (SaaS), with the added aspect of letting the enterprise keep the data plane on-premises.
Adding a feature like high availability could help OpenStack stay on par with public clouds such as Amazon Web Services (AWS).
“For the vice president of ‘cloud’ at an enterprise to deliver the same kind of SLA [service-level agreement] that a public cloud offers — which is their main competition — with their existing infrastructure is difficult to do,” says Madhura Maskasky, a founder and vice president of Platform9.
Another barrier to OpenStack, though, is the robustness of an enterprise’s own infrastructure, which is commonly based on VMware software. VMware offers high availability for its own virtual machines, but OpenStack lacks that feature. Being able to match that offering would be “one of the last triggers to help customers escape the gravity of VMware,” Maskasky says.
“High availability” refers to the ability to produce a backup quickly if some network element goes down. In today’s announcements, Platform9 and ZeroStack are talking specifically about providing high availability for virtual machines in a VMware environment. If a virtual machine’s host goes down, OpenStack should be able to create a replacement virtual machine on some other server, the startups say.
OpenStack doesn’t provide this inherently, because the OpenStack platform isn’t wedded to VMware. Rather, the platform was built to allow a choice of hypervisors. In practice, though, many enterprises don’t really have a choice; they’ve built a VMware environment and want to keep it, says Steve Garrison, ZeroStack’s vice president of marketing.
High availability becomes even more important with highly distributed applications, which are being built in the form of nodes, Maskasky says. The hope is that when one node goes down, the others will survive, allowing the whole application to keep running.
Platform9 intends to provide high availability for those kinds of applications, using OpenStack Heat (the platform’s orchestration software) to create application nodes in different network domains.
ZeroStack is announcing a couple of other enterprise features in addition to high availability. One involves automating the decisions around where to place workloads, based on knowledge of which servers have the necessary CPU cycles and memory available.
Another is a data protection feature. Most storage companies have OpenStack APIs, but “the IT pro expects that to be integrated with the platform,” Garrison says. So, ZeroStack is doing some of that integration.
Photo: Noah Wilke, via Pexels.