VANCOUVER, British Columbia—Cloud services vendor Blue Box Cloud is expanding its model to deliver an on-premises OpenStack software and hardware platform. To date, Blue Box has only offered a hosted edition that enables organizations to deploy their own private OpenStack clouds.
The move toward hardware comes at an interesting inflection point for OpenStack after the failure of OpenStack vendor Nebula, which also focused on on-premises hardware deployments.
“The on-premises installation changes the location of where the hardware is installed,” Jesse Proudman, founder and CTO of Blue Box Cloud, told eWEEK at the OpenStack Summit here. “The product we have today is all installed in data centers we control, while the on-premises version is hosted wherever the customer wants it.”
The Blue Box OpenStack on-premises offering is configured as an engineered platform, with a fully integrated rack of networking, compute, storage and software components. Proudman said the approach is similar to how VCE has vBlock converged virtualization systems.
“You can think of our solution as vBlock for OpenStack,” Proudman said.
Blue Box is working with value-added Reseller (VAR) partner Alliance Technology Group to build and provision the preconfigured OpenStack rack. In terms of the actual hardware, the Dell R630 delivers the compute elements, while the Dell FX series will be used for the OpenStack control plane. Storage components come from Nimble, and the networking components come from Juniper Networks.
Typically, a converged system will have a regular top-of-rack networking switch, but that’s not the approach that Blue Box is taking. Proudman noted that the Juniper SRX series is being used, providing firewall and virtual private network (VPN) capabilities, while the QFX5100 provides the basic switching fabric. Blue Box is including an MX-3D router as well.
“Since this is a fully managed product, our intent with having a router is for the converged system to be able to sit as an independent entity in a customer deployment, then use BGP [Border Gateway Protocol] to speak to the rest of the customer’s network,” he said.
By having a separate router for the Blue Box OpenStack on-premises platform, it will be easy to integrate the platform into a customer environment, according to Proudman. From a security perspective, the Blue Box approach allows for a simple segregation point.
“By using BGP, customers can have a firewall deployment based on how they want to interconnect with the rest of their network,” he said.
Proudman emphasized that the Blue Box OpenStack on-premises edition will ship as a fully integrated rack to a customer site. All a customer needs to do is plug the rack into a power source and connect it to the network. Once powered up, the rack will contact the Blue Box management node to register the system and get any updates that may have become available in the time since the rack was shipped and the time it is installed at a customer location. Blue Box handles remote management of the OpenStack hardware and software platform, while customers manage their own workloads that run on top of the platform.
By taking a hardware approach, Blue Box is now differentiating itself from many in the OpenStack ecosystem.
“The challenge is that many vendors have approached OpenStack as simply a software problem, and we fundamentally believe that is a flawed approach,” Proudman said. “The complexity of OpenStack and distributed systems is much more difficult to manage than a traditional software implementation.”
Blue Box Cloud Brings OpenStack On-Premises
Blue Box’s managed model is an attempt to relieve organizations of the burden of dealing with OpenStack management complexity, as Blue Box’s management technology allows for operational efficiency, according to Proudman.
“There is a whole operational platform that we call Box Panel that collects data objects that are needed to operate and manage an OpenStack cloud and provides all the information on a centralized portal,” he said. “It’s that portal that allows us to drive our margins up and our prices down.”
Currently, the Box Panel is delivered as a hosted component, though Proudman said his company is working on enabling the management piece to be available as an on-premises option in the future. Proudman emphasized that Blue Box has taken multiple precautions to provide security for the Box Panel hosted component.
“All the actual data for an environment stays on the customer’s site; we’re simply querying the data remotely through a VPN connection,” he said.
From an OpenStack cloud software perspective, Blue Box has its own OpenStack technology called “Ursula” that is available as open source on GitHub.
Blue Box isn’t the first company with the idea of providing a managed hardware platform for OpenStack; it is something that failed startup Nebula had tried as well. There are some lessons learned from Nebula, which ceased operations on April 1, that Proudman is taking to heart as he deploys Blue Box OpenStack on-premises. He said Nebula was trying to build, operate and manage OpenStack while also building its own custom hardware with the Cosmos controller.
“We made the decision to use off-the-shelf hardware devices that meet our OpenStack management requirements,” Proudman said. “We are able to use other vendors’ components instead of having to architect everything on our own.”
Along with the on-premises platform, Blue Box is pushing forward with a new hosted edition. The Blue Box Enterprise Edition is a step up from the company’s current hosted offering—while the existing Blue Box offering makes use of AMD processors, the new offering uses more powerful Intel-based compute platforms. “We’ve doubled the capabilities of the compute platform,” Proudman said.
Included with the Blue Box Enterprise Edition are the Tesora enterprise database-as-a-service platform based on the OpenStack Trove project and technology from AlertLogic that provides security as a service. Blue Box Enterprise also integrates Trillio Data for data backup capabilities.
“The goal is to pull together the capabilities that enterprises need into a unified package that can be easily consumed,” Proudman said.
Blue Box is privately held and raised $14 million in Series B funding in two segments, the first coming in October 2014 and the second in January of this year. In total, Blue Box has raised $26.6 million in funding. Proudman said Blue Box still has cash in the bank from the latest funding round, and he is still investing in product development.
“We think the market is ripe for innovation, and we’re putting our money where our mouth is in that regard,” Proudman said. “We feel confident about our runway and our capability to grow the business.”
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.