ZeroStack Briefing Note
It is hard to argue with the flexibility of Amazon Web Services and similar offerings. With just a few mouse clicks or API calls, customers can have a completely operational database or web server ready for development or test operations — or even to run production applications. However, this ease of use in the beginning often comes with a number of features that people don’t like about the public cloud. Cost can skyrocket depending on how a customer uses their public cloud instances, and performance might not always be up to par either. Finally, there are security concerns that must be addressed.
Some have attempted to implement their own private cloud using VMware, OpenStack, or other products, and have found a different set of challenges. One consistent challenge is cost. The periodic operational expenditure offered by the public cloud is replaced by a large upfront capital purchase. The large outlay is then followed by the cost of hiring and keeping cloud expertise on staff. Another challenge is that building your own infrastructure takes time, delaying time to value.
ZeroStack claims they are the first complete solution for private cloud that does not require significant levels of expertise to install and operate. They also claim to be less expensive than the alternatives.
Their feature set includes most of the features that one would expect from a public cloud offering. It includes a self-service portal that supports chargeback or showback, and analytics to make sure that users of the private cloud know they are getting what they are paying for. ZeroStack also includes administration features like imaging, monitoring, orchestration, and high availability services. In short, the offering includes all of the underlying features an organization would would need to build their own cloud, including ZeroStack’s hypervisor.
Understanding that OpenStack has made quite a few inroads in this area, they’ve also included an interesting capability of 100% compatiblity with OpenStack APIs. If a customer is already using OpenStack — and especially if they have tools and API scripts that interface with OpenStack — they can continue to use those tools and scripts with ZeroStack.
ZeroStack is missing an equivalent to VMware VADP or Hyper-V VSS. (OpenStack has made some inroads in this regard with the QEMU Guest Agent, but it’s not as advanced as the commercial offerings.) They are like an early stage VMware in this regard, relying on agents in VMs or storage level snapshots for backup and recovery purposes. They say that this is not as big of an issue in the dev/test environments that they are initially targeting, but this is a feature they will need to address if they hope to branch out beyond that market.
ZeroStack appears to be a solid offering for those wishing for the flexibility of a private cloud offering for their dev/test environments without the cost or complexity typically associated with such projects. For production environments, IT professionals need to be aware of the data protection shortfall and work around that as best as possible. Once they address the need for a backup and recovery feature, it will appeal to more production environments.