News: Piston Cloud and Gridcentric Partner to Deliver First Commercial OpenStack VDI Platform

Piston Cloud Computing raised a few eyebrows on Tuesday with the announcement that it was extending its Piston Enterprise OS (PentOS) to provide a platform for hosting virtual desktops (VDI) through an exclusive licensing deal with Toronto-based Gridcentric for its innovative Virtual Memory Streaming (VMS) technology.

Gridcentric VMS combines highly-granular transparent page sharing, cloning, and read caching, with an innovative snapshotting process that utilizes a “golden snapshot” of a pre-booted virtual desktop, which work together to eliminate the boot storm IOPS and significantly reduce the memory footprint of individual virtual desktop sessions. Gridcentric’s initial development focus has Citrix XenServer, but it has recently announced has developed extensions to the OpenStack project that enable VMS to run on OpenStack Virtual Machine (VM) instances for both KVM and Xen Hypervisors. Preliminary testing of pre-beta code on XenServer suggests that VMS is capable of dramatically reducing IOPS load during virtual desktop startup, achieving a 70% IOPS reduction over conventional SAN storage. At the same time, VMS enables a memory overcommit of more than 100%, significantly greater than that achieved by any memory overcommit technologies offered as part of currently available hypervisors.

“Until now, there have been several challenges to VDI adoption in the enterprise, including prohibitive costs, security issues and complexity,” said Joshua McKenty, co-founder and CEO of Piston Cloud. “Bundling VMS technology with Piston Enterprise OS doubles the virtual machine density per server, requiring less physical RAM without any impact to user customization or application performance. This is the first truly affordable, easily-managed OpenStack VDI solution available.”  McKenty, who is also former NASA Nebula Chief Technical Architect and a co-founder of the OpenStack open source cloud project, launched Piston Cloud in early 2011 to develop a commercial cloud OS offering based on OpenStack, for creating public and private clouds.

In a Monday briefing, McKenty indicated that while while Piston Cloud is currently targeting large private cloud environments for its VDI platform, it has received significant interest from public cloud providers looking for an alternative to current DaaS platforms. The combination of OpenStack and VDI should be an attractive combination for some large enterprises; with over 150 companies participating in developing Open Stack as well as high profile customers including  Deutsche Telekom, HP, NASA, Rackspace, AT&T, MercadoLibre.com, and KT (formerly Korea Telecom), the likelihood that Piston Cloud will find willing customers is high. Higher education and developing market enthusiasm for open source underpinnings are hardly likely to hurt Piston Cloud either. Needless to say, support for Xen amd KVM brings with it support for Linux as well as Windows virtual machines, making the project all the more attractive to organizations looking to extract the maximum benefit from limited funds. Most importantly, while the focus of today’s announcement was on the using of Piston Enterprise OS  and Gridcentric Virtual Memory Streaming (VMS) for VDI, Piston Cloud’s license permits it to offer VMS as an integral part of Piston Enterprise OS going forwards. So while there is immediate value to be had by using VMS to address the high infrastructure cost and boot storm challenges associated with VDI today, as cloud markets mature and the  ability to rapidly provision cloud workloads of all types increases in importance, so an exclusive license to incorporate Gridcentric’s technology in Piston Enterprise OS will place Piston Cloud in an ideal position to capitalize on both public and private cloud growth.

Simon Bramfitt (119 Posts)

Simon is an independent industry analyst covering enterprise desktop, mobile and application virtualization, delivery and management technologies. He is an experienced solutions architect with unmatched insight into the challenges of designing large (200,000 seat plus) high availability presentation and desktop virtualization systems. Simon was invited to join the Citrix Technology Professionals (CTP) group in May 2010 and joined the Virtualization Practice in September 2010

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