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Cisco Buys Piston, Builds Out 'Intercloud'

Cisco wants a cloud platform that connects to customer data centers. So it's buying Piston's OpenStack expertise.
IT Hiring, Budgets In 2015: 7 Telling Stats
IT Hiring, Budgets In 2015: 7 Telling Stats
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In 2012, Piston Cloud Computing was one of a handful of OpenStack startups bent on packaging OpenStack for easy implementation. By September 2014, it was clear the market wasn't ready for OpenStack packages, or they weren't as easy to implement as prospective customers hoped.

That was the month that Joshua McKenty, an architect of the NASA Nebula Cloud and co-founder of Piston Cloud Computing Inc., left the startup to become field CTO for Pivotal Software, the VMware/EMC spin-off. A field CTO does a lot of traveling to talk to customers and the company's field staff. Just how much the OpenStack market had failed to materialize, however, is now apparent: Cisco Systems on Wednesday announced it is acquiring Piston.

It's been a steep downhill slide for OpenStack firms, with the exception of Mirantis, which uses its OpenStack consultants' expertise to build private clouds for companies, then trains IT staff to operate them. It's one of the few business plans that matches the complexity and constantly changing nature of OpenStack software. But. in another case, Nebula, the company founded by Chris Kemp, former NASA CTO and CIO of the NASA – Ames Research Center, launched in 2013 and closed its doors in April 2015.

Wednesday was a busy day for OpenStack acquisitions: IBM acquired Blue Box Group, an OpenStack software-as-a-service firm in Seattle. No amounts for either the Piston or Blue Box purchases were disclosed.

[Want to learn more about Piston as a startup? See Piston's Shift Shows OpenStack's Evolving Role.]

Hilton Romanski, chief technology and strategy officer at Cisco, wrote in a blog post June 3 that Cisco wanted Piston's "distributed systems engineering and OpenStack talent." Those attributes "will further enhance our capabilities around cloud automation, availability, and scale," he wrote. Cisco offers its own distribution of OpenStack, Cisco OpenStack Private Cloud, based on its acquisition of Metacloud in September 2014.

The Piston staff will join Faiyaz Shahpurwala's team at Cisco. He is senior VP of the Cloud Infrastructure and Managed Services Organization.

Cisco announced in April that it is building a globally connected network of clouds, called Intercloud, with its partners. The Intercloud will be based on OpenStack and will give Cisco customers a public cloud extension of their data centers in which they can launch virtual machines and load them with applications. The Intercloud will be "the right hybrid cloud platform to help users take advantage of digitization and IoE [Internet of Everything]... Our partners are going to play a major role in making this a reality," wrote Nick Earle, Cisco senior VP of global cloud and managed services sales, in a blog post in April.

Like IBM, EMC and BMC, Cisco is basing a future set of enterprise cloud services on the rapidly evolving OpenStack platform. Cisco's Intercloud will pay particular attention to access controls and compliance. "In a nutshell: we’re delivering cloud the way our customers need it," Romanski wrote.