Private OpenStack on demand: Mirantis puts a cloud in SoftLayer's cloud

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Private OpenStack on demand:

Mirantis puts a cloud in SoftLayer's


Analyst: Carl Brooks

26 Jun, 2014

Mirantis is an established systems integrator and development house that specializes in OpenStack, and currently has the most collective expertise in using and installing OpenStack outside of Rackspace. It also contributes the most code and development to the project outside of the major vendor sponsors (like Red Hat). OpenStack is the very popular, open source IaaS platform that has gained a large share of enterprise attention over the last two years. 451 Research survey data shows that OpenStack has a clear awareness advantage over both more mature and technically viable open source cloud platforms like CloudStack, and proprietary vendor approaches for building IaaS.

Mirantis has taken its technical advantages in OpenStack and applied them to the cloud computing paradigm – it has put an on-demand, fully automated and self-service OpenStack environment on the market. Called OpenStack Express, it allows for full remote control of the physical server infrastructure as well as the OpenStack platform. This is a major accomplishment and very much worth some attention. OpenStack Express is a perfect example of how to broaden the scope of infrastructure delivery and do it in a way that advances the ability of users to get what they want, when they want, without caveats or commitment traps: the only touchstone for cloud that matters.

The 451 Take

If an OpenStack cloud all to oneself is what's wanted, this is the easiest way to get it. It also means that anyone who cares to can become an OpenStack-based IaaS provider in his or her own right overnight. Mirantis (and SoftLayer) is first to the market with a true


cloud-as-a-service offering that allows a user to control the entire stack from top to bottom almost as though the user owned the hardware, and to do that at an inexpensive price point. If Mirantis as a company had the reach and scope of Microsoft or Amazon, this launch would have upset the entire cloud marketplace overnight – as it stands, it is a testament to the fact that some companies are actually pushing cloud computing and service delivery forward even as mega vendors talk about investment instead of innovation. However, Rackspace is due to launch a direct competitor in July, and others are sure to follow, so Mirantis will be in good company very soon. Moreover, enterprises still essentially want handholding and IT services when it comes to long-term IT spending, so OpenStack Express may be a useful testing ground but not much more for some.

OpenStack Express

What Mirantis has done is deceptively simple – it has partnered with SoftLayer to use that firm's physical IaaS services, combined with Mirantis' OpenStack distribution (Mirantis 5.0). The servers are provisioned and operated via the Fuel module in OpenStack, which orchestrates provisioning hosts and managing physical components. After selecting criteria for various parameters in OpenStack, the software is launched, server images deployed and the OpenStack Horizon dashboard is turned on. From there, users can flip between their physical controller and node dashboard and OpenStack proper, where they can do all of the things typical in an IaaS environment.

All of this is done entirely self-service and on-demand; physical capacity can be added or taken away at will, and the full set of OpenStack and Fuel APIs are exposed to the users. Pricing and servers are fully disclosed – it starts at $59.95 per day for two servers (a controller and a host server) and goes up to $1,499/day for 50 (one controller and 49 hosts). The minimum configuration can therefore run 60 virtual machines of moderate capacity at about $0.04/hour, which is

cost-competitive with all the major IaaS providers. Why this is important

It's hard to overstate how impressive this is from a technical perspective and from a vision perspective. Mirantis says that it took a full year of development and work on what it needed in OpenStack (primarily Fuel development) and partnering with SoftLayer to ensure that this would be robust and fully automated. SoftLayer's physical IaaS platform has all the APIs necessary to do the


provisioning, but Mirantis had to automate the workflows for any number of user scenarios, the provisioning steps themselves, make it elastic and build in failovers.

In return for all that work that the user will never see, OpenStack Express is an idealized hosted private cloud. It is by far the easiest way to provision a cloud with nearly complete ownership on the market today – all that is needed is a few mouse clicks and robust credit and any user, from a team at the largest enterprises to a single hobbyist, can have a working OpenStack environment all to their own. 451 Research clearly identifies hosted private clouds – environments that have the characteristics of IaaS but are physically segregated from other customers as the preferred mode of deployment and consumption, and this is orders of magnitude faster and easier than all other methods of getting that.


The advantages are clear – this is doubling down on the cloud model – putting a cloud in your cloud, as it were, but as with every kind of productization, there are drawbacks. This isn't complete

freedom on the hardware side – most managed infrastructure providers that offer hosted private cloud can do much better on sharing access and control with users (albeit with human

engagement), and the choices are limited to what's on the menu – Intel E5s with moderate amounts of RAM on stock Supermicro servers. It is trivial to spec out better-performing, more cost-effective hardware stacks. There is no access 'under the hood' – users must take OpenStack as Mirantis gives it and that means no tinkering.

OpenStack itself is far from the best IaaS platform to use – it's below more mature software such as CA Technologies' AppLogic, CloudStack or Eucalyptus in polish and feature set. You must bring your own ISOs and do all your own work using this. Support is remote and engagement is deliberately low – in short, all of the drawbacks that attended public IaaS services. And Rackspace has

announced a similarly themed completive offering, with more to come as infrastructure providers continue to 'cloudify' their operations. This is a bravura feat of service delivery right now – in three years it could be normal fare.

SWOT Analysis

Strengths Weaknesses

This is as perfect as an execution in the cloud computing mode can get, re-inventing what Amazon Web Services did, but breaking further ground at highly competitive prices.

OpenStack has the lion's share of enterprise attention for the enterprise in the near term and Mirantis is a leader in


This is a highly constrained offering at the hardware level and service and support are minimal.


Opportunities Threats The opportunity here is likely to be in the millions of dollars for

Mirantis over the near to midterm; however, a lot of that revenue goes to SoftLayer, but there is a significant business here and a chance that it will balloon if OpenStack matures to the point of competitive advantage.

If Mirantis can do it, so can anybody else with access to a hardware stack and datacenter automation. Rackspace is launching a similar service in July, and it's a short step from typical 'hosted private cloud' to this kind of true IaaS experience.


Reproduced by permission of The 451 Group; © 2014. This report was originally published within 451 Research's Daily T1R. For additional information on 451 Research or to apply for trial access, go to:




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