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NASA-Kissed Start-Up Stuffs Giant Cloud in a Black Box

Former NASA CTO Chris Kemp has started a company called Nebula after his NASA project

Some of the NASA boys mean to get a piece of this promising OpenStack action that they helped create at NASA on the taxpayers' dime.

Former NASA CTO Chris Kemp has started a company called Nebula after his NASA project that will field a customized turnkey OpenStack hardware appliance that's supposed let businesses - and I quote - "easily, securely and inexpensively deploy large private cloud computing infrastructures from thousands of inexpensive computers with minimal effort."

It claims the widget will shift the fundamental economics of computing.

Its black box is supposed to be able to configure a private cloud in minutes, even the massive clouds that used to be the private preserve of, well, NASA, that are capable of handling Big Data and running Big Analytics.

Nebula's thinking IaaS and PaaS, as well as petabyte-scale storage, which will need software support, and partnerships with Hadoop and NoSQL concerns.

Its widget can control 20 compute and storage nodes. Customers are supposed to buy clutches of them at a time to stick between racks of commodity servers. No hint of pricing yet.

Andy Bechtolsheim, David Cheriton and Ram Shriram, the star-kissed Google early investor crew, have sprinkled their peculiar brand of angel dust over the start-up. It's also gotten venture financing from the redoubtable Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Highland Capital Partners, but won't talk about the size of bankroll. Kemp claims he turned down a king's ransom.

According to John Doerr, Kleiner's top partner, "Nebula will disrupt and democratize cloud computing. As original creators of OpenStack, this team has the unique expertise to deliver simplicity, scale, speed and low cost for enterprise cloud computing."

The start-up even managed to get an atypical canned quote out of Bechtolsheim, who reached into his past and said, "Nebula embracing OpenStack today is similar to Sun embracing Berkeley Unix in the 1980s. Proprietary systems did not have a chance against open platforms. I see Nebula as the company that will bring OpenStack to the private enterprise cloud."

Of course, somewhere in this whole thing there's a slot for Andy's Arista Networking 10GB switches.

Besides supporting garden-variety commodity servers, Nebula will support Facebook's stripped-down energy-efficient Open Compute servers expected to start trickling out soon as motherboards from Synnex, the ODM.

Nebula will eventually certify reference architectures as Open Compute-compliant. Otherwise the reference architecture of the "hardware failure-tolerant" scale-out architecture is a Dell PowerEdge C server. Apparently HP will follow. Dell just launched an OpenStack effort of its own.

Product trials reportedly with energy, finance, biotech and media companies are expected to begin in Q4. Apparently Nebula is going to chase the Big Data folks like the American healthcare industry, Europe's public sector and retail. One might expect optimization depending on use case like the genome.

Nebula's co-founders include engineering VP Devin Carlen, the former CTO of Anso Labs, which wrote the Nova code to power NASA's Nebula cloud, now OpenStack's compute piece.

Nebula will compete against that other new OpenStack start-up Piston Cloud Computing run by Joshua McKenty, the cloud architect on NASA's Nebula cloud infrastructure, which just got $4.5 million from Hummer Winblad, True Venture and Divergent Ventures as well as the newly Citrix-bought Cloud.com. But that's just in its own backyard.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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