Kemp's Nebula and another NASA alum-led startup, Piston Cloud Computing, have a similar mission: Make OpenStack deployments as easy as possible. They go about it in different ways; Nebula uses a dedicated hardware management appliance, and Piston opts for a USB-based CloudKey that can turn a rack into a cloud in 10 minutes or less. Both Kemp and Piston's CTO, Christopher McGowan, explained that their technologies are possible only by limiting the options in in a typical deployment.
Later, when I got McGowan on the phone, he told me that CloudKey works only on a specific kind of server sold by Piston. "There's no other way at this stage," said McGowan. "We can only manage this kind of simplification by reducing the number of variables, and part of that is limiting hardware options." He explained the company will expand those options in the future.
Real live OpenStack customers are hard to find, but I was able to interview one early evaluator who gave OpenStack a try and was left nonplussed. "We don't know what happened," Father Ballecer grumped on a phone call. He's the National Director of Vocation Promotion for the Jesuit Conference and the "Digital Jesuit" founder of TheTechStop; he's heavily involved in IT decision-making for the Catholic Church.
"We're testing these guys for things like moderate scalability, price-performance, maintenance capabilities, and long-term relevance," said Ballecer. "But when we ran workloads across our OpenStack test bed, we crashed the whole stack. That's not even supposed to be possible in a cloud model. We still don't know whether it was something in the code because it's beta or whether we set something up wrong."
Ballecer's misadventure is not terribly surprising -- and not just because OpenStack is early-stage technology. OpenStack is a basic set of services. If you want to make OpenStack work in the real world, you're best advised to go for a precooked solution like that provided by Piston Cloud or Nebula. Otherwise, be prepared to write your own code around those services.
Who exactly is making it work? Rackspace, for one. In mid-April, the company announced a limited-availability public cloud service powered by OpenStack, which will eventually replace Rackspace's current IaaS platform.