Cloud

StackStorm emerges from stealth, shows off “self-driving data center”

Above: From left, StackStorm principal architect Michael Richmond; "Stormer" Manas Kelshikar; co-co-founder and chief technology officer Dmitri Zimine; and co-founder and chief executive Evan Powell.

Image Credit: StackStorm

If you really must maintain your own data center, it’s nice if you can minimize the number of people who work there. A startup called StackStorm wants to help you do that.

Stackstorm, which has operated in stealth mode until today, intends to help stodgy enterprises run their facilities like Facebook, where a single person can be responsible for tens of thousands of servers, not just a couple of hundred, which is more common.

“There’s a massive shift happening — and maybe it’s already happened with top operators, being several times, not 10 times more productive, but 100, and in some extreme cases, 1,000 times more productive,” said StackStorm cofounder and chief executive Evan Powell in an interview with VentureBeat. Powell and his team believe such productivity gains can trickle down, with the right technology and business model.

They’ve built software for automating common tasks. And they believe that software can help data center operations teams become as nimble as software developers turning out new code all the time, in a workflow sometimes known as devops, merging, you guessed it, development and operations.

Devops tools like Puppet, Chef, SaltStack, and Ansible have gained popularity, and StackStorm can work with those, rather than compete with them, Powell said.

At least initially, StackStorm will target data centers running the OpenStack cloud software, rather than systems for Microsoft- or VMware-based cloud environments. OpenStack has been around for less than four years, and deployments are becoming more common as vendors continue to support it and offer products based on it.

Investors like the idea of specializing in OpenStack; XSeed Capital led a recent round in the startup.

“We believe that the Self-Driving Data Center is a massive opportunity, and the market is ready for the right solution,” XSeed partner Alan Chiu wrote in a blog post scheduled to go online tomorrow.

Powell said the startup will introduce its software for everyone to use in the fall. It will sell annual software licenses for on-premises data centers. StackStorm will eventually provide a hosted version of the software, too.

One competitor, Chef, uses “recipes” to let people come up with instructions for controlling lots of servers, while another, Ansible, uses “playbooks.” StackStorm will let operations people run commands with what it calls stactions — a StackStorm variation on the word “action.” The idea is to let people share their stactions online and foster a large user community.

Meanwhile, the company has “committed to be 100 percent open-source,” rather than keeping some parts of its software proprietary. That should help the technology become common.

StackStorm started last year and keeps its headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif.

Powell, formerly founding chief executive of Nexenta Systems, came across fellow cofounder Dmitri Zimine while Powell was an entrepreneur in residence at XSeed Capital.

Zimine spent five years at VMware and worked on two major releases of the company’s vSphere software. Before that, Zimine was chief architect at Opalis, which worked on data center automation software before Microsoft bought it in 2009.

StackStorm employs about 12 people and, with the funding, plans to double its team.


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