Cloud

Nebula founder steps aside as company hires new CEO Gordon Stitt

Gordon Stitt, left, and Chris Kemp. Kemp will pass the chief executive reins of the company to Stitt later this month.

Above: Gordon Stitt, left, and Chris Kemp. Kemp will pass the chief executive reins of the company to Stitt later this month.

Image Credit: Nebula

Chris Kemp, the cofounder and chief executive of private-cloud hardware company Nebula, will step aside later this month to allow hardware business veteran Gordon Stitt to take up the chief executive position, the company said today.

The move could help the company succeed in promoting its unconventional hardware-centric cloud story.

Stitt cofounded Network Peripherals and Extreme Networks and took both companies public. Kemp, who will become Nebula’s chief strategy officer when Stitt assumes his new role on Sept. 23, has less experience with enterprise sales and has never been part of a public offering.

In the new position, Kemp said, he will promote the company’s product outwardly and drive company culture internally. But one can imagine that Kemp will also help on the technology side. He is, after all, a cofounder of OpenStack and a former chief technology officer at NASA.

“Bringing Gordon on board is the single most important thing that I’ve done as a leader here, whether as a leader of Nebula, OpenStack or anything,” Kemp told VentureBeat yesterday.

As for Stitt, he’s excited about persuading companies of the advantages of using hardware to run an efficient and reliable cloud.

The Nebula One physical device, which the company refers to as a cloud computer or cloud controller, is similar to a switch in the sense that many servers in a rack connect to it. Nebula One boxes in multiple racks can all be connected to one another to expand the system, giving it scalability. Through an interface that taps into the Nebula One boxes’ custom Cosmos operating system, it’s possible for a company’s developers to start using the compute and storage resources of the attached servers, in a similar way that they might requisition resources on a public cloud — without worrying about the individual servers behind the Nebula One boxes.

Stitt will try a wide range of strategies in order to move lots of the Nebula gear and grow the company. That could mean expanding channel sales or forming partnerships. And don’t underestimate the latter option as a path to a successful exit.

Nebula counts Comcast Ventures as an investor, and Comcast as a whole has no problem investing money in OpenStack. It’s already a corporate sponsor, and the company could well have a play at selling private clouds to businesses — albeit presumably with an on-premise flavor — if it were to acquire Nebula.

Right now Comcast offers hosting and hosted Microsoft Exchange but not a full-on cloud product the way, say, CenturyLink does with Savvis.

Nebula’s software and hardware supports OpenStack application programming interfaces (APIs). It also supports the APIs of Amazon Web Services, the top dog of public cloud providers. While plunking down a large sum and installing an on-premise cloud might be out of the question for some startups, others could find a happy medium of running stable workloads with the Nebula gear while running more volatile programs externally in Amazon’s cloud.

The trick for Stitt is to keep the company growing, with or without startups.

“The go-to-market strategy is my big challenge going forward,” Stitt told VentureBeat. “That’s what I love to do. And I don’t have an answer to all aspects of it today other than that what we’re going to do is bring this to market in enterprises in a broad range (of sizes).”

Nebula could get business out of startups, Stitt said, but the enterprise segment will more likely become more important.

Across the board, he plans to play the simplicity card when it comes to winning customers. He wants companies to bring in Nebula gear with commodity servers, rather than force them to hire a bunch of people to build a custom configuration based on OpenStack or set up a VMware cloud environment.

“To hire people (to make software work), they’re expensive, they’re finicky, and they’re hard to find,” Stitt said. “And I look at this — you can spend some cash and get something that can just plug in and work. Why on earth would I spend dozens of days or months or weeks implementing software from scratch and then not knowing how it’s going to work?”

And that shorter time to market could give companies a crucial edge on their competitors, he said.