Superuser’s startup playbook series highlights startups in the OpenStack community to discuss tips for fellow newbies in the ecosystem and their perception of the current playing field.
This time, Superuser features Talligent. The Austin, Texas-based startup provides billing and capacity reporting software for on-demand clouds. Here, they talk about the "relentless pace" of OpenStack development cycles, the spirit of "coopetition" and future features.
What’s your origin story?
Talligent was created out of the realization that the shift to cloud as an IT delivery mechanism requires a new approach to management. Our founding team comes from a background of virtualization management and enterprise IT solutions and could see the impact that the shift to cloud would have on the way in which IT resources would be delivered.
A key value of cloud delivery models is on-demand, elastic self-service resources for the end users. Legacy virtualization management tools were designed for a completely different provisioning model, one where IT will be a gate keeper and will control the budget for capacity planning. With cloud, the control is put into the hands of the tenant. The tenants need the right information to know how much their project will cost so they can budget accordingly.
What challenges has Talligent overcome to be successful?
The pace of OpenStack is pretty relentless! Our customers expect that not only will we keep up with the six-month release cycle, but that we will work well with the other ecosystem partners. Our lab is pretty busy downloading and certifying with the major distributions and taking advantages of the new metrics and packaging options for Openbook.
The other big challenge is that we get a wide range of feature requests when it comes to helping customers manage OpenStack and communicate with the various audiences–tenants, administrators, and management. It forces us to focus on the core set of use cases that most OpenStack cloud operators encounter when they reach a certain scale. As the market grows and OpenStack adoption increases, there is growing appetite for third party tools to manage cost and capacity reporting and user self-service.
What tips would you have a startup that is new to the OpenStack ecosystem?
There are so many use cases that OpenStack solves, it can take a startup down a rabbit hole. It is important to do proper market validation to make sure that the problem being solved resonates with enough customers to make a worthwhile business and that the start up is not reacting to the loudest voice. Getting plugged into the community helps a lot. There is a constant dialog going on about what needs to be solved, communicated through a number of different channels. By participating in the events, the online forums, social media, and development groups, a start up can quickly get up to speed on where they can add value to the ecosystem.
OpenStack has been called both good and bad for startups – what do you think are the pros and cons?
The community activity and support has been awesome, both from the Organization as well as the other community sponsors. There is a good spirit of "coopetition" that you do not usually see in IT. We have really good relations with the various community sponsors, have found it easy to get the support we need for customers and for ourselves, and look forward to a number of joint activities around the upcoming Summit.
The Big Tent philosophy has been good for the community and innovation on the platform. However, we have seen projects start up, get some early attention, but then lose momentum and be replaced or just die off. This can happen for a number of reasons – the project doesn’t solve a big enough or common enough problem, sponsors quit or change roles, or there were not enough adoption for the sponsor to continue investing resources. That can be a problem for partners or customers that come to rely on that service.
What differentiates Talligent’s services from other companies in the ecosystem?
Talligent has chosen to go deep on OpenStack, rather than go broad across multiple platforms. By focusing on OpenStack, we have domain knowledge that our competitors do not have. For example, we are quite familiar with the metering options available in OpenStack, not just Ceilometer, but alternatives such as Monasca or connecting directly to the service APIs (Nova, Swift, Cinder, etc).
Openbook is a best of breed solution for the OpenStack community. We are not trying to re-architect a solution built for a different platform or problem set to get it to work with OpenStack. By working closely with partners and customers on OpenStack specific questions, our functionality better aligns with the needs of community. It can be deployed using the tools most commonly used in OpenStack, it integrates with the OpenStack services easily out of the box, and it provides the key views and KPIs that OpenStack operators require. Please contact us for more information about our latest release at our website: www.talligent.com.
What benefit do you see from sponsoring OpenStack events, like the OpenStack Summit? Have you sponsored any other events (OpenStack Days, meetups?)
Of course, those are the best avenues to stay plugged in with the community. Understanding the development of the OpenStack services, networking with the partners, and meeting new customers that are at different points along their OpenStack adoption. Talligent has been a frequent sponsor of the Summits and Meet-ups (meet-up organizers – please contact us if you are looking for additional sponsors!). We are waiting on details about sponsoring the OpenStack Day coming this summer to Houston, Texas.
What is the most common request from Talligent customers?
Lately, the most common requests have been around capacity planning and improved user experience. The OpenStack services do not maintain a history of resource usage and cannot show consumption and utilization trends. Our customers tell us that capacity planning becomes a bit of a black art. Since that information is available in Openbook, we can present the data and alert on key thresholds so that operators can do a better job of adding capacity and maintaining the illusion of infinite capacity in their cloud, while balancing project and budget requirements with high utilization. Utilization is a key indicator of how competitive your cloud is with other cloud alternatives.
The second common request has to do with tenant communication and self-service. As the number of users grow and the types and sizes of projects supported by our customers’ clouds increases, customers are asking for better ways to communicate with their users and make the self-service process more seamless. We are adding cost forecasting and reservation tools so that customers interacting with the Talligent tenant interface will have the information they need to not only manage their current resources but also plan for upcoming projects.
The OpenStack startup series will regularly feature playbooks from global startups. If you’re interested in sharing your company’s story, email us at [email protected]