OpenStack Startup Nebula Closes After Four Years In Business

OpenStack startup Nebula announced on April 1 that it is “ceasing operations” after approximately four years in business. Nebula attempted to productize OpenStack for enterprise-grade deployments but realized that the company had “exhausted all potential options” and therefore decided to close shop. Nebula-based private clouds will continue to operate but will no longer have the benefit of support from Nebula. In a note on its website, the Nebula management team reflected on the company’s decision to suspend operations by remarking:

…We are deeply disappointed that the market will likely take another several years to mature. As a venture backed start up, we did not have the resources to wait.

In total, Nebula raised $38.5M in equity and debt financing from investors such as Comcast Ventures, Highland Capital Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Innovation Endeavors and well known individual investors Andy Bechtolsheim, David Cheriton and Ram Shriram. The Nebula Management team’s assessment that the enterprise OpenStack “market will likely take another several years to mature” raises questions about the viability of OpenStack startups in a commercial IaaS market that is increasingly dominated by technology behemoths with the capital to acquire cloud-based startups and integrate them into a larger portfolio of cloud and Big Data products and services.

On one hand, OpenStack startups such as Metacloud and Cloudscaling have enjoyed extraordinary successes as evinced by acquisitions led by Cisco and EMC, respectively. On the other hand, Nebula’s failure raises deep questions about the ability of OpenStack startups to gain market traction in the private cloud IaaS space, particularly given the stellar credentials of a leadership team that included Chris Kemp, former NASA CTO and Devin Carlen and Steve O’Hara. That said, another reason for Nebula’s failure could simply involve a deeply flawed business model, but it remains to be seen whether the cloud computing space will ever receive a detailed post-mortem analysis of the reasons underpinning the company’s failure to succeed.


Nebula Launches Latest Release Of OpenStack-based Nebula Cosmos Enterprise

Nebula today announces an enhancement to Nebula Cosmos Enterprise, its turnkey OpenStack product that streamlines and simplifies the deployment and management of OpenStack private clouds. Notably, the latest release of Nebula Cosmos Enterprise brings the power of VLANS to OpenStack by allowing for the creation of VLANs within Nebula that connect to VLANs that are already part of a customer’s networking topology. By bringing VLAN technology to OpenStack, Nebula Cosmos Enterprise enables customers to benefit from its segmentation of network traffic and the attendant operational advantages of managing discrete networking pathways. Moreover, the latest release of Nebula Cosmos Enterprise boasts enhanced identity management functionality and integration with LDAP and Active Directory. Nebula Cosmos Enterprise also features advanced monitoring and performance management tools as well as integration with the NetApp storage infrastructure as illustrated by the graphic below:

The Nebula Cosmos Enterprise platform strives to bring the performance and economies of scale enjoyed by internet giants such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo to enterprises by means of turnkey solution for private cloud deployment, management and monitoring. While the goal of bringing the computing power, operational simplicity and economics enjoyed by Facebook and Google to the enterprise has morphed into the holy grail of contemporary cloud computing, the latest release of Nebula Cosmos stands to make its mark in the commercial OpenStack space by optimizing the operationalization of OpenStack-based private cloud deployment and management. Given that enterprises typically begin their cloud adoption journey by means of private clouds, Nebula’s VLAN technology promises to deliver one of the few OpenStack products with an enterprise-friendly networking infrastructure that allows customers to choose to avoid the complexities of software defined networking. As such, Nebula may well stand in line for acquisition by a larger technology player keen to get its hands on productized OpenStack technology as exemplified by EMC’s acquisition of Cloudscaling and Cisco’s purchase of Metacloud.

Nebula Secures $25 Million In Series B Funding

IaaS, private cloud startup Nebula today announced the finalization of a $25 million round of Series B funding led by Comcast Ventures, with additional participation from Highland Capital Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Innovation Endeavors and well known investors Andy Bechtolsheim, David Cheriton and Ram Shriram. Other investors include Harris Barton, William Hearst III, Scott McNealy and Maynard Webb as well as the Silicon Valley Bank.

The $25 million in equity and debt financing will enable the expansion of the private Beta that was launched in March for unnamed companies in the technology, financial services, biopharma and media verticals. The funding round also enables the expansion of Nebula’s product development team, development of a “petascale test system” and the overall acceleration of the delivery of its products.

Founded by former NASA CTO Chris Kemp, Nebula plays in the private cloud space for enterprises. Nebula’s core technology is based on OpenStack and provides a means for enterprises to quickly create a massive private cloud ecosystem. Details of the Nebula platform have been scant but Nebula the core concept consists of a streamlined approach to turning a private enterprise data center into an Infrastructure as a Service cloud that runs behind the enterprise firewall.

Chris Kemp Announces Launch of Nebula And OpenStack Based Hardware Appliance

On July 27 at OSCON, the Open Source Convention in Portland, Oregon, former NASA CTO Chris Kemp announced details of Nebula, the startup that he launched in Palo Alto with the help of co-founders Devin Carlen and Steve O’Hara. Carlen, Nebula’s Vice President of Engineering, was formerly CTO of Anso Labs while O’Hara, Vice President of Business Development, is the founder of Prime Networks, OnFiber, and CoreLogic.

Nebula provides enterprise customers with a hardware appliance that enables rapid deployment of a private cloud environment using standardized hardware specifications. The appliance comes loaded with OpenStack software. On the hardware side, each appliance has a 10 GB switch with 48 ports that allow connections to 24 two rack (U) servers. Kemp elaborated on the features of Nebula’s appliance as follows:

Our little box has a 10 gigabit ethernet switch built into it. You can plug cheap commodity servers into the rack. You don’t have to turn them on. It will do that. The interface is like Amazon Services. These servers act as monitors by this appliance, including log files and flow data. What we do is create interface points to all of the common CMDB [Configuration Management Database] tools, managing tools, security tools, like ArcSight or Splunk.

In addition to OpenStack, the appliance comes loaded with security, management and networking functionality that allows it to integrate seamlessly with the requirements of an enterprise IT infrastructure. Users could well decide to connect multiple appliances together to obtain more storage capacity. Nebula’s appliance is intended to support Dell Series C servers as well as servers compatible with the Facebook Open Compute project. Intended for release in Q4 of 2011, the appliance is expected to democratize cloud computing by “allowing businesses to easily, securely and inexpensively deploy large private cloud computing infrastructures from thousands of inexpensive computers with minimal effort,” according to Nebula’s press release.