In a new InformationWeek Report on the Piston Cloud OpenStack Environment, Kurt Marko finds that "its unique setup process can enable enterprise IT teams to build a private cloud in an afternoon, with commodity gear."
Piston Cloud is one of the first major commercial releases based out of the growing OpenStack open source cloud community, and Marko writes that it offers a much easier path to the private cloud.
"Want a private cloud? Can you rack up a few servers, cable in a couple of [top-of-rack] switches, edit a config file on a vendor-supplied USB key, and use the key to reboot and flash the edge switch, power up the servers, and wait 10 or 20 minutes?" he asks in the report. "If so, you can build a private cloud that’s compatible with Amazon Web Services and ready to accept virtualized workloads, over a virtualized network, using server-based distributed file systems."
Piston Cloud takes the core of the OpenStack project and adds a hardened Linux distribution (pentOS), a distributed software control plane, a user provision portal and the vastly simplified installation procedure described above, and makes fairly high-end cloud features available to enterprises, even those whose private clouds are nascent enough to just include a handful of white-box servers at this point.
It’s pentOS, which aims to be "the cloud OS," that represents the biggest innovation in Piston Cloud and powers the simplified installation and setup of a Piston Cloud infrastructure, Marko writes. Setup begins by simply plugging the provided USB key (cleverly branded the CloudKey by Piston) into a top-of-rack switch, and the OS takes over, automatically installing and configuring all systems on its edge network into its newly formed cloud domain.
Like most OpenStack reference architectures, Piston Cloud is designed to work on a simple assemblage of hardware, including a collection of commodity x86 servers as nodes, and Arista 10-Gbps Ethernet switches. It’s the switches that form the heart of the Piston hardware design, Marko writes, because the cloud infrastructure depends on the 10-Gbps connections maintained by the networking gear and because the flexible reprogrammability of the switches allows them to move into the role of master software controller for any server brought into the private cloud.
The reference stack for Piston Cloud includes an Arista 7120T-4S, Arista 7050T-4S or Dell PowerConnect 8024 data switch; an HP ProCurve 2510G-24, Dell PowerConnect 6054 or 2824 as an L2 management switch; a Dell R410 boot node; and at least five connected servers, which must feature at least two Xeon processors, 96 Gbytes of memory, 600 Gbytes of SSD storage and 4 Tbytes of hard drive storage, as well as 10-Gbps Ethernet support.