Why you can't win by focusing on software

Credit: Swapnil Bhartiya

Mirantis cofounder Boris Renski has bad news for infrastructure software companies: They need to "change their business model or perish."


Boris Renski, co-founder and CMO of cloud computing services company Mirantis, wrote a blog post today sending a dire warning to the software industry. In his words: "numbered are the days of any company whose core business is pinned to selling licenses or subscriptions to infrastructure software bits."

I interviewed him to understand more about what that means and how Mirantis is changing and evolving with the market. Here is an edited version of that interview.

What exactly will be the product sold by Mirantis? Is it going to be something similar to AWS where users have no concern about infrastructure maintenance? Can you explain a bit about it?

There is no change in what we deliver to the customers — we help customers build, run and ultimately own enterprise cloud infrastructure in any data center with no vendor lock-in. We differentiate through an outcomes focused delivery model, rather than on building software bits with proprietary hooks.

What led to this shift?

I'd call it more of a final act in our plan, rather than a shift. Our first act was building services competency around OpenStack to help early adopters with building and running custom OpenStack clouds. Our second act was about delivering these same services faster, cheaper and in a more repeatable fashion by basing them on OpenStack distribution and operations tooling that we've been investing in over the last four years. (Fuel is now the #1 purpose build  installer for OpenStack). Our next and final act is about tying the buffet of these services and software into a cohesive Build-Run-Own cloud delivery model for enterprise customers.

Mirantis can’t do all of it on it’s own, or so I presume. Who are your partners on this?

Our exclusive focus on OpenStack puts us in a unique position to be friends with most everybody in the infrastructure industry, except folks that directly compete with us like Red Hat.

So we now have over 200 partners in the space building Fuel plug-ins or OEMing our distribution. But the two that are worth special recognition have been Intel and Google. Intel believes in our vision of innovating on no lock-in cloud delivery models and supported us throughout the years by sharing their roadmap, co-engineering OpenStack features and, of course, investing in us. Meanwhile, Google with Kubernetes and containers is accelerating technology innovation that makes building and running any distributed applications (including OpenStack) in any data center much more repeatable and straightforward.

Is deployment and operation of OpenStack still a big challenge? How is Mirantis changing that?

That was the case for OpenStack 5 years ago. It can still be the case today if the customer is interested in inventing their own reference architectures for cloud instead of focusing on the business outcome. If the customer is interested in having an AWS experience in-house as an outcome and is willing to subscribe to our opinion of how OpenStack should run, you can have a cloud data center in a day. At AT&T we've setup 74 data centers in a few months.

How will this shift in focus toward customer outcomes affect industry ‘veterans’?

Veterans need to change their business model or perish. It can't be about building software bits and then shipping them to a customer. It has to be about getting the customer to an outcome by helping them run the software as a first priority; actually building the software is a distant second priority.

How do you see this changing the market dynamics?

I don't think there is going to be a dramatic change in dynamics because what I am talking about is not really a big secret. Big guys like Oracle, VMware, Red Hat all know that unless they focus on innovating on the software delivery model and operations instead of innovating on software itself they won't win. It's just too damn hard for the big guys with their existing momentum and investments to change the way they've been doing things.

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