Mirantis is a commercial distributor of the open source OpenStack platform, to which it adds its choice of databases, staging components, message queueing, and orchestration tools. OpenStack is a platform for hosting infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) on bare-metal servers.
OpenStack also brings together the principal components a data center requires to deploy a private or hybrid cloud, including compute capability, networking (through OpenStack Neutron), and storage capacity, spanning multiple x86 servers across locales. The objective of OpenStack is to establish a baseline set of open source services that participating vendors, including Mirantis, agree to deliver in a non-proprietary fashion. This way, customers avoid getting locked into a single vendor’s system of tools and services.
Mirantis offers customers OpenStack along with services over-and-above OpenStack that distinguish the company without creating vendor lock-in. One has been originated by Mirantis itself: Fuel, an OpenStack installer and rapid cloud provisioning system.
Mirantis OpenStack Components
At the time of this writing, the latest OpenStack is version 11, nicknamed Kilo. Mirantis’s distribution of Kilo is based on release number 2015.1.0, called Mirantis OpenStack Release 7.0. Among Mirantis’s bundled OpenStack partner components for this edition are the following:
- CentOS 6.6 and Ubuntu 14.04 – 64-bit Linux distributions for x86 architecture
- MongoDB 2.6.10 – NoSQL, high-availability document database
- MySQL 5.6.23 – relational database
- Puppet 3.4.2 – for configuration management and distributed applications orchestration, and Marionette Collective 2.3.3 for parallel orchestration, both by Puppet Labs
- Ceph 0.80.9 – “Firefly” for object storage
- RabbitMQ 3.5.4 – for messaging between applications
- Neutron Distributed Virtual Router (DVR) – for OpenStack networking
Mirantis OpenStack Resilience Testing
The many open source components that make up a collective platform are all developed by individual groups. Some of them may work together, and some may even include the same people, but none of them is dependent upon the other for interoperability — otherwise, components may never be declared officially released.
Mirantis OpenStack provides resilience testing, a key differentiator, which the company calls “hardening activities.” Its engineers perform continual validation testing with the latest versions of OpenStack’s open source components, and they will only officially release them as part of Mirantis OpenStack once they’ve passed the company’s rigid guidelines for interoperability. Releases are carefully synchronized (see Figure 1) so that new additions to the software lifecycle do not impair ongoing testing activities involving earlier versions.
One of the tests Mirantis performs makes use of its own data plane testing framework, called Shaker. Its purpose is to ensure the resilience of each component’s API under heavy traffic loads. As a September 2015 company blog post points out, some open source components are excluded from release when they fail to pass this or other critical tests.
OpenStack’s difficulty with installation and integration is a matter of record, even among the platform’s most adamant evangelists. In light of this, Mirantis markets its distribution, coupled with Fuel, as a path to a “minimally viable” OpenStack environment.
In a public demonstration of Mirantis OpenStack 7.0 with Fuel, compared to Red Hat OpenStack Platform 7, to the OpenStack Summit in Tokyo on October 26, 2015, Mirantis solutions architect Bruce Mathews and senior technical marketing manager Joseph Yep showed what their company calls its “secret sauce.” Specifically, they revealed detailed statistics and journal entries showing that, using Fuel, a Mirantis OpenStack environment could be completely installed on a bare metal, four-server cluster in about 90 minutes, representing 12 steps. By comparison, on an identical cluster, a Red Hat environment required 48 steps consuming 3 hours and 5 minutes.
Part of this time gap, Mathews demonstrated, was on account of Fuel leading the installer through the basic steps of determining the network configuration, prior to the installation actually starting. This includes selecting the load balancing strategy to be put in place, such as Link Aggregation Control Protocol (LACP).
Mirantis is partly funded by Intel, which invested $100 million in the company for its August 2015 funding round. As a result of this partnership, Intel deploys Mirantis OpenStack in its own testing and data centers and helps market Mirantis during company events. Mirantis also entered a technical partnership with SDN provider Brocade Networks in December 2014.