Dan's Take

What Does the Cisco Acquisition of Piston Mean?

The number of independent OpenStack vendors is rapidly shrinking.

In a recent blog post, Cisco's Hilton Romanski announced that Cisco intends to purchase the OpenStack distributor Piston Cloud Computing. While there are still a few steps between announcing the intent and actually acquiring the company, this move is interesting and demonstrates further support for the view that OpenStack has become another hotly contested segment of the open source software market.

Here's a snippet of the announcement:

Paired with our recent acquisition of Metacloud, Piston’s distributed systems engineering and OpenStack talent will further enhance our capabilities around cloud automation, availability, and scale. The acquisition of Piston will complement our Intercloud strategy by bringing additional operational experience on the underlying infrastructure that powers Cisco OpenStack Private Cloud.

If you step back a bit and look at Cisco's move in the context of other recent moves in the open source market in general and open source cloud computing frameworks in specific, it's clear that suppliers have come to believe that OpenStack is one of the cloud computing frameworks of choice, and has taken its place in a short list of cloud frameworks that includes offerings by VMware, Microsoft and Amazon. This move also means that there are only a few independent suppliers of OpenStack left. Mirantis comes to mind immediately as one of the small list of independent suppliers.

A Place at the OpenStack Table
Cisco clearly sees that OpenStack has emerged as an important framework for both on- and off-premises cloud environments, and wants its place at the table. Rather than going it alone and building its own OpenStack distribution, it's chosen to acquire Piston Cloud Computing.

In my recent post commenting on the emergence of cloud OSes, I pointed out that suppliers are doing their best to take control of open source -- read "vendor neutral" -- computing environments by building integrated stacks of software that combine well with their hardware, software and services portfolio. Cisco, like the others, wants to make sure that the use of OpenStack-based cloud computing environments doesn't automatically lead to the adoption of some other suppliers' products and services.

Dan's Take: A Win-Win
Piston Cloud has developed a number of really interesting capabilities to create, deploy, manage and secure OpenStack-based environments, and is a worthy addition to the Cisco portfolio.

The key question that comes to mind is how Piston Cloud's partners, which include a number of hardware suppliers, will respond if this acquisition actually happens. I suspect that they'll focus more attention on selling and supporting their own OpenStack distribution rather than going forward with Piston.

This move appears good for both parties. Cisco, by acquiring Piston, would project itself into the thick of things in the growing OpenStack market. Being part of Cisco would mean that Piston would have stronger funding for its development, marketing and sales efforts.

About the Author

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.

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