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Platform9, the Easy Button for Private Clouds

August 18, 2015

No matter where one stands on the religious divide of private vs. public clouds, one thing is certain: getting a private cloud up and running, and then keeping it going, is tough.

First, whereas IT Ops teams want to provide private cloud services to their internal line-of-business app-development and architecture teams, most vendors (VMware, Redhat, Mirantis) have focused on offering cloud orchestration/controller software to customers. Subbu Allamaraju, who leads eBay/PayPal’s cloud infrastructure and an early private cloud pioneer, gave a great keynote talk drawing this distinction between offering a software controller vs. creating a service. In selling orchestration software rather than a service to customers, vendors force customer IT Ops teams to be responsible for “onboarding, bootstrapping, remediation, config management, patching, packaging, upgrades, high availability, monitoring, metrics, user support, capacity forecasting and management, billing or chargeback, reclamation, security, firewalls, DNS, integration with other internal infrastructure and tools, and on and on and on” — a long and scary list! No wonder private cloud adoption has been slow, as enterprise IT teams have balked at assuming responsibility for all these functions.

Second, OpenStack or Docker have been insufficiently productized and present an uncurated dizzying array of choices for customers, resulting in purchasing decision-paralysis. If VMware is the fully-loaded SUV that you probably didn’t need, OpenStack is a kit car with an ever-increasing choice of advanced features and vendor-enhanced options, half of which don’t work with each other and 80% of which are irrelevant for most customers.

No wonder then that the most common OpenStack private-cloud deployment strategy today is for customers to hire a team of OpenStack experts/consultants to build a private cloud and then keeping them on retainer to feed/care for this private cloud. To extend my analogy — it’s like having a team of mechanics just for your stable of kit cars — and you better hope you have a TON of kit cars to make the economics of owning kit cars work.

Consequently, the reality of private-cloud Total Cost of Ownership hasn’t kept up with the popular narrative of open-source driven market disruption. Crucially, custom-building each private cloud from scratch implies that today’s deployers don’t get to benefit from the experiences, failures and learnings of yesterday’s private-cloud deployers.

Having built cloud orchestration software at VMware, and watched the friction in adoption, the team at Platform9 had incredible clarity on both these challenges. They realized that while customers just wanted a private cloud, vendors were offering them private cloud orchestrators, while simultaneously burdening customers with the upkeep of said private cloud. In the long run, it didn’t matter if your infrastructure was like pets or cattle, if you needed as many caretakers for it.

Platform9 empowers IT admins to offer private cloud, on premise on their own hardware, without needing specialized OpenStack or VMware-based cloud management skills. Platform9’s cloud controller manages private clouds remotely and keeps it running as like any other enterprise SaaS product. Internal developers get a public cloud-like experience; IT gets to retain control of expenses, venue of execution and guarantee performance.

Our hypothesis that Sirish, Madhura, Roopak, Bich and team were onto something real was confirmed when we heard customers raving about the offering. These were media, enterprises SaaS, commerce and ad-tech companies 1) looking to reduce vendor lock-in at a public-cloud vendor, 2) improve performance by building their own underlying infrastructure stack, or 3) reducing their high monthly public cloud bill by repatriating some workloads in-house.

Moreover, given the ease of demoing, deploying and operating a private cloud as a service, Platform9 truly democratizes access to private clouds — with customers moving from discovery to PoC within a few days, and to purchase within the space of weeks — like any other enterprise SaaS product but very unlike today’s multi-year cloud deployment projects.

Menlo is excited to be leading the Series B investment in Platform9, building on our firm’s focus on cloud infrastructure. Our cloud infrastructure portfolio includes Ansible, AVI Networks, Nexenta, Scality and Pluribus Networks. All of these investments underscore our thesis around creating value by easing customers through the generational re-platforming to cloud infrastructure.