Nebula Unveils OpenStack-Based Appliance

By Nicole Hemsoth

August 1, 2011

Back in Spring, NASA CTO, Chris Kemp stepped down to fulfill his ambition to relocate to a Palo Alto garage in pursuit of startup glory. During his absence, a flurry of rumors about his next project ensued, but it was not until recently that Kemp’s efforts following his leave were revealed.

After turning down “tens of millions” of dollars, Kemp’s new company, Nebula (not to be confused with the NASA Nebula cloud project) came into public view this week with the announcement of its first offering, an appliance for managing scale-out cloud deployments with the help of the NASA and Rackspace OpenStack technology.

In essence, Nebula is a hardware appliance that comes loaded with a tweaked version of the OpenStack software and a bevy of Arista networking tools. The goal is to enable users to manage racks of commodity servers so that they operate as a private cloud. When the product launches it will only be available on Dell PowerEdge C micro servers and Facebook’s Open Compute servers.

As Derrick Harris reported following a discussion with Kemp:

“Nebula isn’t just loading OpenStack onto an appliance; it’s also specializing the code to meet the needs of the enterprise clientele it’s seeking. That includes creating a petabyte-scale storage system complete with the types of enterprise features and support that customers would normally have to go to EMC, NetApp or another mega-storage vendor to get. Some of the optimized code will go back into OpenStack, Kemp said, but some will remain within Nebula.”

There were no garages in Palo Alto to be had for this well-heeled entrepreneur and his company of recognizable engineers. Co-founders of the company include Devin Carlen, former CTO at Anso Labs—a company that wrote the Nova code  that supports NASA’s Nebula cloud infrastructure and forms the computational backbone of OpenStack.

Other members of the founding team include tech execs from Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Walt Disney—all supported by an undisclosed (but very likely sizable) sum from the same core group of investors that backed Google in its infancy.

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