"I didn't believe that OpenStack should be a chance to reinvent everything or change every part about how every business does IT because you can't get adoption there where it really matters," McKenty says. "You've got to be able to make incremental progress, and a lot of that is being able to tie into existing enterprise systems. There are all these examples around lost data, around authentication systems, and around cost visibility and accounting. These are boring things, but they're really important boring things. And I guess I have this perverse mindset where I can get excited about solving boring problems."
While working with NASA Nebula, McKenty recognized that the demand for actual products and services based on the OpenStack framework was high, and would only rise as more organizations gravitated toward the private cloud as the basis for their overall IT infrastructure.
"I wanted to make it something that everyone could use," McKenty says. "The biggest challenge we had at NASA Nebula was that once we announced it and started using it, we had demand from every federal agency, from foreign governments and from state and local agencies, and we weren't allowed, we didn't have a mandate to go and provide it as a service to them. They all wanted this cloud. They all wanted what became OpenStack."
In McKenty's view, this demand would be the same, if not higher, in additional markets. So when Rackspace acquired the team of researchers McKenty had been a part of at NASA Nebula, he had a choice to make: continue working on a foundation on which many companies may one day lay their foundation, or spin off and provide products that would help such companies do so. Tempted by the opportunities and potential he saw, he chose the latter.
"Really, I love the team at Rackspace," McKenty says. "They've done a brilliant job in building a community around this project. But they're not a product company. It's not really in their DNA, and I really felt that there were important things that needed to happen with OpenStack that were not going to happen except in a startup. And that was the genesis to launch Piston Cloud."
What remains to be seen is whether the reality of the private cloud market will meet McKenty's expectations for PentOS. According to Jay Lyman, senior analyst covering enterprise software for 451 Research, a demand for alternative tools for private cloud management and IaaS tools has arisen as more enterprise customers have gravitated toward the private cloud.
"There's a lot of interest and a lot of desire to at least take some small steps by enterprise organizations into something like OpenStack, [something] other than Amazon, other than VMware," Lyman says. "Sometimes it's a matter of cost, sometimes it's a matter of performance, but they have sometimes hit a wall in wanting to have an alternative."