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Virtualisation Field Day 6 Preview: ZeroStack

November 10th, 2015

Virtualisation Field Day 6 is happening in Silicon Valley, California from 18th-20th November and I’m very lucky to be invited as a delegate.

I’ve been previewing the companies attending, have a look at my introductory post:I’m heading to Virtualisation Field Day 6.

image Zerostack is another start-up just emerging from stealth mode. It offers a hyper-converged OpenStack appliance with cloud management.

As a start-up its worth looking at who is involved & it has quite a pedigree. Founded by Ajay Gulati who spent 6 years at VMware working on Storage I/O control, Storage DRS and DRS, and Kiran Bondalapati who was a founding engineer at Bromium which has a very clever product for secure OS and hardware virtualisation. Justin King who used to work for VMware and was heavily involved in vCenter is now Technical Marketing at ZeroStack. Very interesting, I wonder if he saw the future and was as worried as I am which I wrote about in my recent article on the issues surrounding vCenter!


ZeroStack also has some interesting people as board members and advisors from across the industry. Mark Leslie, now an investor and past Veritas boss, Mohit Aron, founder of storage start-up Cohesity,  Carl Waldspurger, ex-VMware and DRS architect, Umesh Maheshwari co-founder of Nimble Storage and Denis Murphy, Nimble’s Sales boss as well as Mike Dvorkin, co-founder of Insieme Networks which became Cisco’s ACI. That seems some serious cross-industry advice. It has raised $21.6m in funding.

Private Cloud

ZeroStack certainly touches on something I’ve been saying for years, private cloud is hellishly difficult to achieve and it’s not just the organisational challenges that are hard but just think about the current software options. VMware vRealize Automation is VMware’s private cloud software and it is terrible to install and hugely complicated and expensive to run. (Justin King likely knows this intimately!). Microsoft has System Center, enough said! These complicated software suites mean only large companies can invest the time and energy to properly build a private cloud yet mid-market companies really would love to be able to do the same without the deep pockets. I so wish private cloud was easier so I’m championing them so far just for this & think its crazy VMware and Microsoft haven’t made this simple yet.

So, ZeroStack is, erm, zeroing in on building private clouds for mid-market companies. It must have grand ambitions as it is intent on challenging quite a few other vendors. It combines hardware with a hyper-converged appliance and software with OpenStack as well as a cloud managed service. This means it is going up against anyone doing OpenStack (managed or not), hyper-converged vendors, particularly Nutanix, and cloud management companies like Platform9, that’s a lot!

ZeroStack runs KVM, uses OpenStack as a management layer and then runs its ZeroStack SaaS layer on top. It’s apparently incredibly easy to set up, give it an IP address and off you go. Rolling updates are all managed from the cloud. It is designed to look like AWS but run in your private cloud. OpenStack has big ambitions and big issues including being difficult to set up. ZeroStack takes all the pain away.

The basic setup is a hyper-converged 2U node with four servers, 128 GB of RAM with a 4 TB SATA drive + 1.6-TB SSD drive.

OK, so it seems to solve a private cloud problem we can recognise but there are still significant headwinds.


Hardware wise, Nebula did hyper-converged on OpenStack and failed miserably, why does ZeroStack think it can do it this time? I fully believe hyper-converged should be used for the vast majority of virtual workloads but many companies are not there yet on the trust scale. Companies already have hardware for virtualisation, why would they want to trust another vendor with unproven technology? Nutanix, an already trusted vendor, already has a KVM hypervisor and I’m sure is working feverishly to provide a seamless OpenStack layer to get rid of the reliance on VMware and continue its march to make the hypervisor invisible. Is Scale Computing looking at putting OpenStack on top of its appliances.


Software wise. OpenStack is still unproven, despite some companies trying it out. There are so many issues ahead just for OpenStack that many companies are playing a wait and see game and are not ready to dump VMware yet. Private cloud only is another of ZeroStack/OpenStack’s issues. There is no bridge with the public cloud, a big failing. HP has just pulled out of its public cloud based on OpenStack so a private cloud only solution sounds like it isn’t ready for the future as more workloads over time move to the public cloud (a fact that really shouldn’t be disputed any more in my opinion). It currently looks like AWS but it isn’t actually AWS so can ZeroStack keep up and what interoperability is there. What about containers, the DevOps drling, it isn’t all about deploying VMs nowadays is it?

Cloud Management

The last issue is cloud management ala Platform9. I fully believe cloud management will be the future but is this too soon? Companies are struggling enough moving workloads to the cloud but are hesitant to have private cloud managed from public clouds. Ironically what will ease tensions and provide comfort is Microsoft doing this with Azure management of on-prem and VMware if they ever manage to do vCenter/vRealize Automation from the cloud but this is a while away.

Are companies willing to bet on an unproven hardware vendor together with OpenStack with it’s uncertain future coupled with hesitant cloud management. Is this a trifecta ZeroStack will be able to overcome. I am certainly very interested to hear more.

Gestalt IT is paying for travel, accommodation and things to eat to attend Virtualisation Field Day but aren’t paying a penny for me to write anything good or bad about anyone.

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