Mirantis deals point to complexity behind deploying OpenStack

Even large enterprises like PayPal can't do it themselves

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Source: pixelatedpete, via Flickr

Given Red Hat’s investment in Mirantis last week, this announcement was perhaps obvious: Fuel, Mirantis’ product designed to make it easy to deploy and run OpenStack clouds, will support Red Hat’s yet-to-be-released OpenStack distribution.

Given that Red Hat’s distribution isn’t even available, this announcement is of marginal interest. But in talking to Mirantis’ president and CEO Adrian Ionel about the new arrangement, I got a sense for how much of a challenge OpenStack deployment is.

In fact, I learned that some of the marquee OpenStack deployments have leaned on Mirantis for help.

I’ve been wanting to find examples of OpenStack deployments on the smaller side that are used for more general purpose applications (still looking!). Most of the case studies I hear about, including most of those featured during the recent OpenStack Summit, are big custom deployments by large customers that I figured had deep enough pockets to hire the engineers required to work it out.

Turns out, some of those deployments used Mirantis rather than their own internal people. PayPal, NASA, Cloudera, Webex and The Gap are among Mirantis’ customers, Ionel said.

“Even somebody like PayPal uses a large Mirantis contingent to build their OpenStack cloud,” he said. PayPal’s cloud was built “soup to nuts” using Fuel, he said.

Vendor distributions are meant to take some of the pain out of deploying open source software. But it appears even they need some help. Fuel already supports CentOS and Ubuntu. Red Hat will make the third supported distribution.

OpenStack risks losing some potential customers with its complexity. It will need to become easier to deploy in order to sustain growth. I would expect that, given the volume of companies backing it and the number of people developing it, a lot of the complexity will get ironed out in time.

Even last week’s news of new Mirantis investors points to the complexity problem. Last week, Mirantis said that SAP, Ericsson and Red Hat invested in the company. They join investors Dell Ventures, Intel Capital and West Summit Capital.

What the technology companies have in common, according to Ionel, is the need for help deploying OpenStack for their customers. Even those like Dell and Ericsson that have services businesses around building OpenStack clouds for customers, are keen to use Mirantis for help.

I was curious about why those companies invested in Mirantis rather than simply hiring it. “They believe by investing they can have a deeper relationship and deeper integration than is possible just by signing a business arrangement,” Ionel said.

I'm still a bit baffled by so many technology companies investing in Mirantis. Typically, these kind of investments tend to include a VC or two and maybe one tech company. I’m not sure what the end game is for Mirtantis in having so many tech company investors. I’ll just have to wait and see.

Read more of Nancy Gohring's "To the Cloud" blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @ngohring and on Google+. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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