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Piston Updates OpenStack Cloud Platform

Every six months or so, a new release of the open-source OpenStack cloud platform debuts. The open-source release is followed by the stream of commercial vendors, including Piston Cloud Computing, that harden the upstream bits and enhance the platform with their own solutions.

Piston OpenStack 3.0 was officially released last week, and one of its key OpenStack promises is that existing Piston OpenStack users could migrate and update to the new platform without any downtime.

"We're at the point of maturity in the OpenStack market where a lot of our customers have already tried and failed with someone else's OpenStack product," Joshua McKenty CTO and co-founder of Piston, told ServerWatch. "So what we're saying is that if you're giving up on Mirantis, don't give up on OpenStack; you should try Piston."

McKenty added that the secret sauce behind Piston is a bit of Moxie. Technically speaking, it's the Moxie Runtime Environment (RTE) that is the key differentiator between Piston and the myriad of other OpenStack distributions on the market today.

Moxie leverages the Zookeeper open-source technology to do distributed consensus management. McKenty said that Piston also has a state machine that is used to track dependencies.

"In Piston 3.0 we actually have an SDK (Software Development Kit) so we're allowing partners to use our key Moxie capabilities to build additional components," McKenty said.

McKenty added that by tracking all the dependencies between OpenStack services, networking connections, and storage, an in-place migration is possible. He also noted that every OpenStack release has had an associated schema change, and it is typically not possible to update schema while services are running.

"Bearing in mind that we don't want you to have any downtime, so Piston doesn't stop any of the VMs (virtual machines) and we don't make any of the block storage unavailable," McKenty said.

McKenty explained that Piston will first upgrade one of the servers completely. He noted that all of the services in a Piston Cloud deployment are master-elected. Piston then has a very robust process for shutting down and restarting the needed servers and services, all while maintaining overall server availability.

"For each upgrade there is some number of seconds when you can't start a new VM," McKenty said. "Your existing VMs are all still running and available, and all of your storage is available, so none of your apps are interrupted."


The other big differentiator for Piston Cloud is the underlying server operating system. Rather than rely on a monolithic Linux distribution, Piston has its own Micro-Operating system that takes only the bits of Linux that are needed to run a cloud. Iocane in Piston 3.0 is using the Linux 3.10 kernel at its core.

"There are less than a hundred packages in Iocane, so from a security footprint perspective it's so much easier to maintain," McKenty said.

With Piston 3.0, McKenty is also aiming to make it easier for his customers to get help when they need it with a remote technical support feature.

"The hardest thing for us to do during pilots, is to log in and help people to set up their cluster," McKenty said. "So we now have a customer-initiated reverse SSH tunnel that connects into Piston headquarters."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at ServerWatch and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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This article was originally published on March 5, 2014
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