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June 30, 2015

Mirantis co-founder: Taking on Red Hat & HP in OpenStack

CBR spoke with Boris Renski, co-founder of Mirantis about the challenges facing OpenStack and how operating as an independent company means it can offer what the customer wants, rather than just its own solution.

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James Nunns spoke with Boris Renski as a follow up to the 10 most powerful OpenStack companies, which had placed his company at number seven.

Mirantis, which only offers OpenStack is competing against Red Hat and HP which Renski says offers: "An opinionated integrated stack that primarily consists of technology that they have in their portfolio."

Both Red Hat and HP have their own solutions to offer within OpenStack, for Renski, Red Hat’s is: "This glued together stack of Red Hat technologies."

Mirantis operates by only offering what the customer wants, it doesn’t compete with storage, networking or virtualisation vendors’ or PaaS vendors.

"What we do is, instead of investing in integrating with all these technologies, we integrate with what is most in demand by OpenStack adopters today."

While this appeases customers who want the most popular or talked about solution, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best available, there is a reason why customers pick and choose what suits them best rather than just what is most popular.

Red Hat pushes its OpenShift onto customers as it has an interested in seeing it deployed, but Renski points out: "OpenShift hasn’t really gained much traction, it’s plagued with lack of adoption." So Mirantis opted to integrate with Cloud Foundry.

"Cloud foundry has a much bigger market share and much broader adoption than OpenShift in the market. So instead of spending effort integrating it we integrated Cloud Foundry."

The company is using this policy throughout the stack but faces a number of challenges due to its size and how it competes with the likes of HP and Red Hat.

Renski says that, "You compete not on technology differentiation – you compete on scale and process. We have 750 people but Red Hat has 6,000 and HP 100,000. Their scale is much bigger and although their process might go un-optimised because they are bigger and bulkier, their scale is much bigger."

Mirantis then has to effectively give away countries in what he calls an Open Stack ‘land grab’. HP for example has global scale so can push this technology everywhere around the world, Mirantis is forced to focus on a much smaller scale.

Size is clearly an issue for the company and it will be something which customers are aware of. Why go to Mirantis to deploy OpenStack when you can pick and choose from a vendor like HP or Red Hat which has much greater power to integrate with a wider range of solutions than Mirantis.

The increased adoption of OpenStack has seen vendor politics reduced: "Customer adoption created a counter balance to vendor politics, so the more customer adoption there is the less vendor politics there is."

If a customer wants to use Red Hat but wants EMC storage, then it is forced by the customer to solve the problem at the code level, the same applies to all.

"Red Hat, us, HP, we all had to stop battling for who could plug in their solution better, we are much more concerned with how to make OpenStack work well at the customer side."

Despite solving this problem, some others still remain with a lack of skills which is hurting adoption and causing the solution to be more expensive than it should be.

"There is an enormous demand for OpenStack skills and there are not enough skills out there in the market."

This he blames on OpenStack being a fairly new technology and is something that the company is working on with 10 classes a week training a thousand students. He expects that this solution will solve itself in time, however, if it isn’t solved soon then adoption will be hurt.

Cloud technologies aren’t alone in having a skills gap, take Hadoop for example in the Big Data world. While training is one way to ease the problem, it is something that takes time to become fully knowledgeable. In the meantime, the technology needs to be simplified and companies such as Mirantis need to provide the tools to do it.

"In a couple of years the situation will get a lot better because the whole open cloud market is consolidated around OpenStack, said Renski. In those ‘couple of years’ though the problem remains and in the meantime OpenStack becomes a less appealing option.

"People are no longer wasting their time learning Eucalyptus or CloudStack, everybody who wants to be in an open cloud are in and learning OpenStack."

One final area that Renski expects to solve itself is those companies that claim to be OpenStack but don’t contribute: "I would say that we are not very happy with some organisations that scream a lot about OpenStack, but do not contribute anything back to the community."

In the end, he expects that those companies: "Will end up shooting themselves in the foot in the long term."

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