January 20, 2012, 5:28 PM — Piston Cloud Computing co-founder Josh McKenty has laid out the same objective on several occasions, from speaking to attendees at the inaugural OpenStack design summit to addressing friends and colleagues at his company's launch party.
"Let's finish where we started."
Piston Cloud Computing, the San Francisco-based company McKenty co-founded last year, recently released the first private cloud operating system based on OpenStack, the open source infrastructure-as-a-service framework that was first designed by a group of researchers, McKenty included, at NASA. For a company that is less than 1 year old, McKenty is hoping its Piston Enterprise OS is the next step to fulfilling that goal.
McKenty says Piston Enterprise OS, otherwise known as PentOS, is designed to bring customers "private cloud that you can actually use." Effectively, as McKenty described it, Piston Cloud Computing hopes to make PentOS similar to Linux, but for private cloud management. The company's aim is to provide an alternative option for private cloud management, while maintaining security, reliability and navigability for the IT managers tasked with overseeing the network.
The origin of Piston Cloud Computing as a company tells a lot about what it intends to do with its new OS. The motivation for PentOS stems from McKenty's work with NASA's Nebula Cloud Computing Platform, where he served as the technical architect on the original compute components of OpenStack. Once he got past a bit of reluctance to take the job at NASA -- a result of his entrepreneurial spirit and the known limits of federal budgets -- he joined a group of researchers that would bring groundbreaking innovation in an unlikely setting.
"We're basically startup people and we did this impossible thing of running a startup inside the federal government, at kind of a period in time where that was possible in a certain amazing way," McKenty says. "There was a lot of new optimism about the role the government could play in technology innovation."
While working with NASA Nebula, McKenty says the startup mentality could only last so long. Operating under the umbrella of the federal government meant that budgets were set far in advance, and little else was flexible. From there, the researchers' work on OpenStack would reveal a potential that McKenty thought was being ignored.