Former NASA CTO Launches Nebula For Web-Scale Private Clouds

July 27, 2011 Off By Hoofer
Grazed from Forbes.  Author: Tomio Geron.

Large Internet companies such as Facebook and Google have each built their own private cloud computing infrastructure to save money and increase speed and efficiency. A new start-up, Nebula, founded by former NASA CTO Chris Kemp is providing open source-based technology so that any company can build its own private cloud computing system like those Internet giants…

 

At NASA, Chris Kemp started the Nebula project, a private cloud computing system to handle the massive data load of the U.S. space agency. NASA eventually made the underlying technology into an open source project called OpenStack, which now has been supported by companies like Rackspace Hosting. OpenStack enables companies to set up their own private cloud computing networks that are otherwise offered as services by companies such as Amazon with its EC2 service.

Kemp has now started his own company called Nebula to provide a full-service turnkey appliance for companies to quickly build their own private cloud computing based on OpenStack. Customers get a Nebula box that handles security and integration with other existing applications. As with other open source services such as Linux, Nebula has taken a number of open source technologies and integrated them into one service, which includes security and monitoring tools.

With the massive growth of cloud computing in recent years, the opportunity here looks big. Nebula has high profile investors, including Google’s first investors Andy Bechtolsheim, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, David Cheriton and Ram Shriram. Nebula also raised unspecified Series A financing led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers with participation from Highland Capital Partners.

OpenStack is a raw open source technology that doesn’t include enhancements such as security and management tools. To build such features, companies in the past would hire a large team of engineers to build their own cloud in the way that Google and Facebook did. Or they would hire large companies such as IBM, Cisco, EMC or VMWare to custom-build a system for them.

Nebula, however, is designed to provide a high-quality private cloud and is designed to be relatively cheap and easy to set up. The Nebula service will even be cheaper than using Amazon’s EC2 service, Kemp says. “We’re trying to democratize access to web-scale infrastructure that only elite Silicon Valley companies had access to,” Kemp says. “We want to make sure every company in the world has the same foundation to build innovative products on… Some IT manager who’s never heard of the cloud can buy our box and plug in a server and have their own Amazon (EC2) behind a firewall.”

Nebula is also supporting Facebook’s OpenCompute platform, so that companies can deploy servers and data centers that are compatible with what a number of other manufacturers are now building. Because Nebula is built on open source standards, it is still compatible with other services such as Amazon EC2 and Rackspace in case companies want to add public cloud capabilities.

As with other open source companies, Nebula will make money by selling its box and support services. Nebula is testing the service now with five companies in biotechnology, energy, finance and media as it ramps up manufacturing of its hardware box.