First commercial OpenStack VDI solution debuts

Piston Cloud Computing has signed an exclusive licensing agreement with virtualization optimization ISV GridCentric to produce the first commercially available OpenStack VDI solution based on its enterprise cloud OS.

Piston Cloud Computing has partnered with GridCentric to produce the first commercially available OpenStack-based VDI solution solution that is secure and cost effective.

On Tuesday, Piston Cloud will announce that it is bundling GridCentric's Virtual Memory Streaming (VMS) technology with its enterprise OpenStack cloud operating system software to double the numbers of desktops supported per server.

This doubling of density, Piston's co-founder and CEO says, addresses one of the key stumbling blocks to virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) adoption -- storage bottlenecks, which in turn degrade desktop performance.

A typical 20-desktop per server configuration would easily bump to 40 desktops with the VMS technology now bundled with Piston's Enterprise OS and available as a separate update in six to eight weeks. It's an on-premise VDI solution.

"It's where the rubber meets on the road on the desktop [virtualization front]," said Josh McKenty, (shown above) CEO of Piston Cloud, about the exclusive licensing deal with GridCentric, noting that getting performance up to snuff is essential for VDI to enjoy the same growth as server virtualization.

The partnership is not exactly a VDI consortia, as one source described it, but is significant because McKenty is a former NASA Nebula engineer and a pioneer of OpenStack, an open source cloud computing platform that is gaining momentum and corporate support in its battle against established proprietary cloud platforms from VMware, Microsoft and Citrix.

Red Hat is now backing OpenStack and is expected to detail its plans for implementation into its Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) platform this week at its annual summit in Boston.

VDI, which allows corporations to host, deploy and centrally manage desktops from a server, is in its early days but will likely catch on in the next two years as performance bottlenecks are eliminated, McKenty predicts.

OpenStack's Nova controller offers basic built-in remote desktop protocols and the Keystone component offers some desktop authentication and management features but robust desktop capabilities in the open source cloud OS aren't expected until 2013, after the release of the "Folsom" version of OpenStack.

The "Folsom" release will offer important storage back end performance improvements but enterprises require much more functionality to implement VDI successfully, McKenty said.

GridCentric, which was founded in 2009, offers virtualization optimization software. Its VMS technology increases the efficiency and scalability of virtual infrastructures. Interestingly, Citrix, a desktop virtualization giant, is one of its GridCentric's investors.

"Together, Piston Cloud and Gridcentric will unify the disparate components of IT infrastructure, helping enterprise buyers tackle bring-your-own-device (BYOD) challenges and making VDI simpler to deploy and manage, at a much lower CAPEX than competing solutions," the company said in a statement.

Piston is gaining clout. Recently, the San Francisco OpenStack pioneer announced a partnership with VMware to produce an OpenStack layer for VMware's open source Cloud Foundry PaaS. Given VDI's slow acceptance, it will be interesting to see how many customers elect to try out Piston's solution.