Accepted wisdom (back in the day) had it that no one would adopt Windows Phone until Angry Birds was available on the platform.
In the same way, some products aren't ready for prime time until they include certain killer features. When it comes to Zero Stack, a hybrid cloud product based on OpenStack that uses on-premises hardware and cloud-based management software, its "Angry Birds" feature turns out to be high-availability (HA) functionality.
"Lots of work has been done in OpenStack, but it lacks notifications that a VM has fallen down — not just been turned off," says Steve Garrison, ZeroStack's vice president of marketing. "98% of VMWare users use that (functionality) in vSphere, so if we want to get VMware users to move (to OpenStack-based infrastructure) then we need to add some features. HA is one of those — without it these VMware users simply won't use OpenStack."
Garrison says the open source community is not always "aligned" with the needs of business users, so ZeroStack has added the HA functionality missing in OpenStack to its own product. This was announced at the end of August, along with other production features such as workload placement policies, data protection and support for external storage.
He points out that the ability to recognize when a VM has failed rather than been turned off is a very subtle distinction. "We monitor all your boxes and can tell you that your Jenkins box has failed and that we restarted it."
The company also announced deals with HP and Dell to "cloudify" their hyperconverged platforms, effectively turning Dell and HP equipment into the on-premises part of a ZeroStack hybrid cloud.
This is all part of the company's strategy of shrink-wrapping OpenStack into a product that is easy to implement and run. Garrison expects to continue forging partnerships with other companies — particularly storage vendors — in the future, he says.
One-Click Unpacking and Migrating Workloads from ESX Hypervisors to the Cloud
This month ZeroStack has introduced another new feature: the ability to unpack workloads from ESX hypervisors and migrate them to its cloud platform with one click. That gives customers access to KVM-based environments as well as OpenStack APIs. Nutanix offers something similar with its Acropolis KVM-based hypervisor.
"ESX lock-in is the basis for the VMware tax, but if you don't want to be trapped by the hypervisor then this does the move for you," says Garrison. ZeroStack can also connect to AWS clouds, so customers can create hybrid clouds using VMware, ZeroStack and Amazon's public cloud
ZeroStack has come a long way since its launch just over a year ago. But are its plans to make an OpenStack-based hybrid cloud product that's accessible to everyone working?
Garrison says the company has enjoyed exponential growth, and now has 45 employees. It also has double-digit customers, including one university, and its partnership agreements are with industry giants. Make of that what you will.
In many ways there's a parallel between what ZeroStack is doing and what's happened in the big data space: building your own Hadoop cluster, for example, is hard and time consuming. Buying an off-the-shelf setup is more practical and will often get you must-have enterprise features.
ZeroStack doesn't come with the real Angry Birds game, but Garrison reckons that it now includes enterprise-grade equivalents such as high availability. And while that doesn't guarantee the company will be a success, things sure are looking hopeful going forward.
Paul Rubens is a technology journalist and contributor to ServerWatch, EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and EnterpriseMobileToday. He has also covered technology for international newspapers and magazines including The Economist and The Financial Times since 1991.