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1/10/2013
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OpenStack Brain Trust Gains $10M In New Funding

Mirantis, one of the only OpenStack brain trusts outside of Rackspace, lines up backers including Dell and Intel to elevate its prominence in the cloud systems integration business.

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Mirantis, a cloud consulting firm and one of the few OpenStack brain trusts outside of Rackspace, announced Thursday that it has received $10 million in funding from Intel, Dell and WestSummit Capital. The latter is a global investment firm with ties inside China.

Mirantis' story is a little different than other startups' because the three-year-old firm has successfully self-funded its own growth thus far. CEO Adrian Ionel said it could have continued to do so. Rather than a handful of entrepreneurs working in a garage, it's already a staff of 300 consultants and engineers with a list of pedigree customers building major cloud projects, such as PayPal and AT&T.

Mirantis "is looking for organizational support," or members on its board who can boost its young reputation. Mirantis is already a close business partner of Intel Capital, which was the lead investor, as well as Dell Ventures. Mirantis is helping Intel build out an OpenStack cloud. Dell will base its own public infrastructure-as-a-service cloud on an OpenStack architecture, and Mirantis is "the designer and implementer" of that data center space, said Ionel in an interview.

Meanwhile, Mirantis, Intel and Dell are all code contributors to the OpenStack open source project, and the infusion of capital will help Mirantis both add to its consulting ranks and increase the number of OpenStack contributors that it employs. It currently has four developers working full time on the project. It will add six more in the next three to six months, said Boris Renski, co-founder and executive VP, in an interview. Renski is an elected member of the OpenStack board of directors.

[ Want to learn more about how Dell is edging into the cloud computing business? See Michael Dell Playing Enterprise Game To Win. ]

OpenStack started when NASA and Rackspace pooled their cloud building efforts in an open source project.

WestSummit Capital, the third Mirantis investor, has two headquarters: one in Palo, Alto, Calif., and the other in Beijing. Renski pointed out that an OpenStack summit in Beijing attracted 1,000 cloud developers, while a concurrent one in Shanghai attracted another 700. The most recent OpenStack Summit in San Diego last Oct. 15-18 drew 1,300 attendees.

"WestSummit is one of the largest venture capital firms in China. We needed a cultural partner" to help promote acceptance of Mirantis in China and Asia overall, Renski said.

Mirantis already has something of an international flavor. Renski is a native Russian whose family moved to California's Silicon Valley when he was 15. Two hundred of the firm's 300 employees are based in Russia, 70 in the Ukraine and 30 in Palo Alto, he said. Of the total, 250 are engineers and software developers.

Mirantis is noted for its ability to study an existing firm's infrastructure and draw up a process to move it into an OpenStack-type of cloud operation. It supplies people onsite to train a company's IT staff in OpenStack components and will turn the process of final conversion over to internal staff, if that is what the customer wants. It provides a detailed "blueprint" on how to generate the client's particular version of an OpenStack private cloud and will provide onsite assistance as well.

Mirantis hasn't necessarily generated lots of expensive, direct-conversion projects; rather it has maintained a "do it yourself" approach with the customer. Customers that have trained their own staffs in OpenStack and started a conversion often contract further with Mirantis to ensure their first projects go as planned.

Renski said it's not Mirantis' goal to produce an OpenStack distribution under its brand, even though it packages libraries of open source code and OpenStack components together for ease of customer installation. By proselytizing for OpenStack at summits and through its regular public classes on the code, "we're planting a lot of seeds with a lot of organizations," he noted, and executing the groundwork for the firm's future success.

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