This week’s announcement that cloud storage leader Box (NYSE:BOX) is deploying an OpenStack solution from startup Platform9 is a big win for both Platform9 and the OpenStack framework of open source cloud operating software. Box is a major player in the enterprise market, with revenue of $79 million in its October quarter and 54,000 paying business customers, including 55% of the Fortune 500. So it’s a major endorsement for OpenStack. And for small startup Platform9, which only launched its software platform a year ago, it’s an important victory.
Box is using Platform9’s Managed OpenStack solution to manage the virtualized cloud environment where it develops and tests new applications. Like many tech companies, Box practices continuous development and continuous integration, which generates a constant flow of modifications to existing applications, and thousands of tests per day for each modification. Initially, Box used the Amazon Web Services (AMZN) environment for the development. But as Box reached large scale, AWS became less economic and Box pulled the projects into its own data centers. After further growth, it wanted to move from running on bare metal to running in a virtualized environment, which is both more cost-effective and more flexible. It experimented with OpenStack back in 2013, but found it too complex to implement and manage. It also looked at VMware (VMW), which is the leader in virtualization, and offers a set of management tools to enable enterprises to build their own clouds. But, says Raghuram, Box found the VMware tools did not have the built-in APIs that today’s developers favor because of their flexibility and programmability.
Platform9 simplifies the OpenStack implementation challenge. Unlike others, Platform9 can work with existing virtualization platforms and existing networking infrastructures, simply layering the cloud capabilities on top. Platform9’s solution is software-as-a-service (SaaS) with key components of the software running in Platform9’s data center, but there are also software “agents” that the customer deploys on its own servers. The most complex parts of the cloud management system are set up by Platform9, further simplifying the process. “We bring OpenStack into production in minutes,” Raghuram explains. “Five years into the project, OpenStack is still really complex [in its traditional implementation]. We enable it to be available with dramatically less complexity.”
Companies like HP Enterprise (HPE), Red Hat (RHT), and Mirantis have all put significant effort into evangelizing OpenStack. Box’s choice is a potent endorsement of Platform9’s fresh approach and its technology. Raghuram says that if all goes well, the Platform9 solution will be rolled out to more Box data centers as the storage hoster grows. He says the revenue involved in the deal is highly significant for Platform9, but even more significant is the endorsement from a recognized Silicon Valley technology leader. “We’ve won a very savvy customer who has evaluated and used AWS and VMware and has chosen us. We hope it can have a trickle-down effect and help to share the value of OpenStack as a solution for the private cloud.”
For OpenStack, the Box deployment should also be good news. “The ramp [of OpenStack] has been slower than many of us had hoped for, but it’s definitely there,” comments Raghuram. “In the last three months, we’ve seen a lot of customer interest on the vSphere side.” Platform9’s compatibility with VMware’s industry-standard vSphere virtualization is another smart move in Platform9’s strategy, because it makes it easier for the thousands of enterprises already running vSphere to try out Platform9.