Regular readers may well remember back in eh dark ages 9and by dark ages I mean a couple of years ago””) when Mirantis was known as the “pure-play OpenStack company.” Mirantis was solely focused on helping organizations make the move to OpenStack and the company, along with its CMO and co-founder, Boris Renski, was seen as something of the enfant terrible in the OpenStack community.

Well, some things stay the same – Renski is still a much-loved stirrer – but somethings have changed immeasurably. Mirantis is no longer pure-play anything, and especially not OpenStack. In its marketing materials, the company helpfully explains that they deliver open cloud infrastructure to enterprises using OpenStack, Kubernetes and related open source technologies. So essentially they do everything open source infrastructure. Very much a pivot, as they say.

While Mirantis was, in the past, guilty of the same acts that other OpenStack vendors took, that is confusing the world about who is a product company and who a service one, today there seems to be more clarity. While Mirantis is admittedly a major contributor of code to many open infrastructure projects, their modus operandi is to follow a so-called build’’-operate-transfer model to enable enterprises to take advantage of these open source projects without the dreaded vendor-lock in.

Of course, this service-based model is a hard one to scale, and scuttlebutt suggests that Mirantis doesn’t have much luck securing repeat patronage from the 200 or so enterprises that it has helped to build and operate some of the largest open clouds in the world. Notwithstanding this repeat-custom issue, some of Mirantis’ customers include brands such as AT&T, Comcast, Shenzhen Stock Exchange, eBay, Wells Fargo Bank and Volkswagen.

Mirantis Launches Multi-Cloud CaaS with AWS Support

The company is today announcing the latest version of its Mirantis Cloud Platform (MCP) that includes a new capability to enable multi-cloud self-service Kubernetes clusters through Containers-as-a-Service (CaaS). MCP CaaS supports the use of K8S (the abbreviation that all the cool kids use for Kubernetes) on OpenStack instances on-premises, AWS instances, or both; with a suggested added bonus of additional public cloud options coming soon. The newly released MCP includes a web-based interface for managing Kubernetes clusters, making it intuitively easy for developers to immediately create and control their own Kubernetes based containers.

The value proposition here is to standardize on a single tool to manage both OpenStack and Kubernetes on whatever cloud it resides. Explains Renski:

With many new open source tools constantly being introduced into the vibrant container ecosystem every month, CaaS platforms are becoming increasingly complex to operate. Building on our experience operating OpenStack for customers like AT&T and VW, we plan to continue introducing new container services to our managed open cloud portfolio as open source projects behind them become more mature.

MyPOV

Let’s face it: Mirantis wasn’t getting to where it needed to be as a pure-play OpenStack company. That’s no criticism of the OpenStack project at all, simply a reflection that most organizations using OpenStack are doing so with an internal resource base, making it almost impossible to build a scalable, repeatable business off the back of the project.

And so it makes sense for Mirantis to look elsewhere, and Kubernetes is, of course, the natural place to look. But that doesn’t answer the existential question that remains: it’s hard to build scalable service-based businesses off the back of an open source project. And even harder to build one which includes any degree of repeatable business models. Sure there is a chance to go in to enterprises and do some one-off consulting gigs to help drive the change to these sort of platforms. And it is certainly a fact that there can be real money to be made from that model. But it doesn’t justify the sort of valuations that the hundreds of millions of dollars in venture funding that Mirantis has taken demand.

So while this move to a broader franchise absolutely makes sense for the company, if I was an investor, it wouldn’t significantly make me sleep better at night. Time will tell whether those investors made the right decision, or not.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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