Intel seeks to boost its OpenStack cred with Mirantis move

Intel's financial backing for Mirantis will aid OpenStack -- and help Intel find future customers for its hardware-based virtualization tech

OpenStack vendor Mirantis has snagged another round of nine-digit funding, less than a year after the last influx of cash. The biggest and most familiar name in the current roster of financial supporters: Intel, itself an OpenStack founding member and one of Mirantis' original funding suppliers.

What brings Intel to Mirantis, specifically? Given Intel's recent work, it's not only about OpenStack. It's also labout supporting the chipmaker's current and future improvements in hardware-level virtualization techniques.

A captive audience

With precious few exceptions, enterprise data centers run on Intel iron, and Intel likes to make a continuing case for how its hardware -- when coupled with the right software -- can provide advantages not found elsewhere.

Case in point: the Clear Linux Project for Intel Architecture, originally announced as a container-oriented OS designed to take advantage of processor extensions found in more recent Intel hardware. CoreOS took a shine to the idea and has since added support for the features to its container runtime.

Thus, the reasons for Intel to further fund Mirantis would be twofold. One, Intel could provide contributions to the project to more directly leverage its virtualization enhancements. Two, it could leverage feedback from a hopefully growing base of Mirantis customers to figure out what hardware-level virtualization features are worth baking into the next generation of CPUs.

OpenStack can use all the help it can get

Will such a team-up help OpenStack generally?

Part of Intel's pitch for getting more deeply involved with OpenStack has been its Cloud for All initiative, for "accelerat[ing] enterprise-ready, easy-to-deploy software defined infrastructure (SDI) solutions." Intel's original partner with Cloud for All was Rackspace -- another key OpenStack player -- so this may simply be Intel partnering with the most visible presence in various major OpenStack categories: cloud vendors, distribution vendors, and so on.

However, Intel is repeating a canard that's been heard many times before -- that the best way to get OpenStack into more hands is to make it easier to work with and deploy. The problems with OpenStack clearly run deeper and include larger questions of how much enterprise clouds will mix public and private resources in the future.

Mirantis seems worthy of tapping for such strategy, as it's survived the shakeouts that claimed earlier OpenStack startups (Nebula, for instance). But any blending of strengths between the two will need to do more than repeat history.

Even if the answers to those questions are straight out of the existing OpenStack playbook, Mirantis and Intel both stand to benefit -- the former by an infusion of cash and expertise, the latter by having a conduit back to potential future customers for cutting-edge virtualization technology. But revolutionizing OpenStack as a whole seems out of the hands of any one, or even two, parties.

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