Cisco announced it will acquire Piston Cloud Computing, a startup that began as a provider of private OpenStack cloud infrastructure on commodity hardware but earlier this year expanded via its CloudOS, becoming a provider of a simple way to deploy several open source platforms, such as Hadoop and Spark.
Cisco is acquiring Piston for its talent and expertise around distributed systems and quick and easy deployment and automation. This is a second Cisco OpenStack acquisition, following the purchase of Metacloud late last year. Both Piston and Metacloud are highly complementary to each other and in the wider Cisco "Intercloud" vision.
“Piston has focused on the deployment problem, while Metacloud has focused on the day-two probem,” said Scott Sanchez, director of Cisco OpenStack strategy. Sanchez came to Cisco via the Metacloud acquisition.
“They built a great team," he said about Piston. "One of the things they always focused on was the distributed systems aspect. They rebranded and took a step back from OpenStack to amplify the CloudOS message. It’s about how do we take these complicated platforms and make them easy to deploy in an automated way?”
Cisco's strategy has been centered on what it calls Intercloud. Intercloud is not a product but an overarching concept that basically means connected clouds, or a cloud of clouds. Sanchez said Cisco wants to play a similar role with cloud as it did with the larger internet, where it is a key player across hardware, software, and services centered on the network.
Piston is more than a talent acquisition for the Cisco OpenStack team, as it brings a lot of automated deployment technology to the table as well. Its aim is to give companies that are not quite as large as Facebook or Google data center infrastructure capabilities the likes of Facebook and Google have.
Piston accelerates Cisco's ability to help customers deploy their clouds. If a private OpenStack cloud currently takes Cisco 14 days to deploy for a customer, Piston will help shave that time down. The distributed systems expertise means its easier to deploy more complex, distributed clouds and platforms as well.
“Today, we have multiple offerings working towards a more converged stack behind the scenes,” said Sanchez.
OpenStack is just one ingredient in a larger cloud strategy for Cisco, albeit an important one.
“There’s a shift that has started to occur in the market,” said Sanchez. “It’s less about the technology platform and more about what you do with it. Cisco, Metacloud, and Piston all recognized this. OpenStack is a key part of our execution, but its just a piece of a recipe. We’re past the hype stage of OpenStack, and it's execution time. We’re seeing tremendous traction."
Last year, Cisco pledged to spend $1 billion over two years in pursuit of the cloud market. Cisco is a massive business with networking equipment at its core. Its Intercloud retains that networking angle, with the company focusing on connection of clouds. However, Intercloud isn’t a product but rather a strategy and vision of hyper-connected clouds. Cisco is building out several pieces so it can be the hub across all points of the chain, from hardware to service provider.