The startup ZeroStack is courting would-be private cloud buyers with what it hopes is a friendly and functional incarnation of OpenStack.
The startup offers private cloud software, based on OpenStack, that it claims is simple to deploy and operate. The company’s messaging emphasizes that customers don’t need to be OpenStack experts to use this product.
The software includes the KVM hypervisor to run compute workloads, Ceph for storage, and Open vSwitch plus OpenStack Neutron for networking.
While the servers run KVM, ZeroStack says it has a pre-packaged scripting option that can migrate an application that runs on ESX to KVM. It also supports Docker and Kubernetes for container-based applications.
ZeroStack says its software is built around a distributed architecture to provide high availability and self-healing. If a hardware component fails, the software will automatically rebalance workloads until the underlying resource can be brought back online.
The startup is targeting application developers who might otherwise look to the public cloud and its ability to spin up resources with a few clicks. The company says it can also run production applications.
ZeroStack also integrates with Amazon for customers who want to move applications and data between their own private cloud and AWS.
Customers also get lots of hardware choices:
- ZeroStack will sell you a 2U appliance that includes its software, servers, and up to 96Tbytes of storage, or…
- Customers can go through their favorite reseller to get ZeroStack-validated, converged hardware from Dell, HPE, Cisco, or SuperMicro, or…
- Customers can use servers and storage they’ve already got in house, with some input from ZeroStack on what it will support.
While the hardware and workloads run on premises, the ZeroStack infrastructure is managed from a cloud environment hosted by ZeroStack. Administrators log in remotely to monitor operations, configure the hardware and allocate capacity, set up a self-service portal for internal consumers, manage users, and so on.
ZeroStack says it automatically handles software updates and patches for customers. Customers can decide when to accept and run updates, but they don’t have to fetch or install them themselves.
ZeroStack also includes an app store to make it easy for users, such as developers, to grab applications. The app store currently includes tools such as MySQL, Jenkins, and Hadoop.
List price for the software is $6,500 per socket, with volume discounts.
To see a demo of ZeroStack, check out its Tech Field Day presentations.
I’m confident there’s an appetite for private cloud or hyperconverged infrastructure (or however you want to classify on-premises hardware and software that mimics the accessibility of public cloud and hides complex integration behind layers of software abstraction).
I also think this appetite is large enough to support more than just Nutanix. That’s the good news for ZeroStack.
The less good news is that OpenStack, on which the startup is betting the house, hasn’t set the world of private cloud on fire. One reason is that OpenStack a complex beast with a lot of moving parts.
But another problem is OpenStack’s openness. The fact that it can be made to run across a variety of hardware platforms is a strength for sure. But it also means organizations can get snagged on all the dependencies and quirks that arise when you take general-purpose software and actually load it onto X, Y, and Z hardware and have to make it run.
And not just run–it has to provision compute, allocate storage, and provide network connectivity as seamlessly as AWS and its private cloud ilk do, or else no one will bother with it.
If ZeroStack has mastered the complexity problem of OpenStack (or at least can successfully hide most of it from customers), it will have leaped a significant hurdle.
And ZeroStack looks like it’s trying to sand down some of these hardware snags by offering an pre-integrated appliance option or a limited range of pre-blessed, third-party metal.
Aside from technology challenges, ZeroStack also runs into a mess of competitors with similar, though not identical, approaches. They include the hyperconverged upstarts; plus Cisco, HPE, and Dell; and a raft of startups such as Cloudistics and Igneous Systems.
It’s interesting times for ZeroStack and others, with all the good and bad that phrase signifies.
ZeroStack was founded in 2014. The company has raised $21.6 million to date, including a $16M Series B round in 2015. Its founders are CEO Ajay Gulati and CTO Kiran Bondalapati. Gulati was formerly senior architect and R&D lead at VMware. Kiran was a founding engineer at Bromium.