Piston launches OpenStack cloud OS for private clouds

Piston Cloud Computing came out of stealth mode today, launching an OpenStack-based cloud OS that allows enterprises to build private clouds that meet security and compliance requirements. Former NASA and Rackspace execs are leading the charge. The OS will be generally available Nov. 29.
Written by Paula Rooney, Contributor

One startup led by some of the founders of OpenStack has come out of stealth mode.

Piston Cloud Computing, which has developed a cloud operating system for enterprise private clouds, debuted today in advance of a key OpenStack conference next week.

The developer's preview of that cloud OS, dubbed pentOS, is available on October 3. General availability is expected Nov. 29.

The OpenStack project, the open source standards-based cloud platform, was originally developed by NASA and Rackspace and announced in July 2010.  It was aimed to prevent cloud lock-in.

Joshua McKenty, the former chief architect of NASA Nebula, and Christopher MacGown, formerly of the Rackspace Cloud team,  announced the formation of the 15+ person OS company in San Francisco on Sept. 27.  Piston has received a $4.5 million Series A investment round led by Hummer Winblad and True Ventures.

McKenty said Piston Cloud Computing's approach differs from that of his former colleagues at Nebula in that his offering is a full software distribution. Nebula, another OpenStack OS company founded by former NASA CTO Chris Kemp, launched a turnkey OpenStack hardware appliance in July.

McKenty said early collaborators of OpenStack focused first on the needs of public cloud service providers and telcos but next generation companies such as his are focusing on private enterprise clouds and enterprises' unique compliance, scaling and security needs.

"I felt a gap was forming and wanted to ensure that this part of the OpenStack story wasn't left behind," Mckenty said in a recent telephone interview, noting that there will be a mix of private and public clouds, just as there are still corporate LANs as the Internet evolves.  "It's an easy [to install], secure cloud OS built on OpenStack and intended fior enterprise private clouds.

More than 100 companies to date have backed OpenStack including founders NASA and Rackspace as well as Citrix, Rightscale, Dell and rPath.

VMware and Red Hat are pursuing their own cloud platforms.

McKenty said customers of pentOS will be able to count on easy deployment, robust security and flexible scaling.

For instance, pentOS is delivered into a switch from a USB key and is integrated into the customer's directory, systems monitoring nand management tools. Users can configure and edit their private cloud on a laptop, turn it on and walk away, he said.

On the security side, PentOS incorporates a hardened Linux OS and is the first implementation of CloudAudit standard. With this, customers can certify their cloud environment for HIPAA or Sarbanes-Oxley or other top compliance requirements.

Additionally, customers can buy interoperable products from any OpenStack hardware or software vendor and can add capacity on demand one server at a time. This will ease entry into the private cloud world, McKenty added.

"There are lots of customers that are data driven that went to the cloud and they love the elasticity of provisioning and capacity on demand but they want to bring it in house and preserve those cloud capabilities," McKenty said, noting that customers need private clouds to meet security and compliance needs.

He made it clear that he is in the software business -- not the service provider buisness. pentOS is priced on a per server basis (not on a per core or per-user basis) and an annual subscription.

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