OpenStack based Piston Cloud Computing gets $4.5 MM in funding

Piston Cloud Computing has just launched with $4.5 million from True Ventures (see disclosure), Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, Divergent Ventures and others, in what is both a big deal for the relatively young OpenStack platform. It’s also an expected move by the founders of what became some of the underlying code for OpenStack.

Piston was started by one of the architects of NASA’s Nebula cloud infrastructure, which served as the foundation for the computing element of OpenStack. OpenStack is an open-source cloud computing platform that was launched last year by Rackspace (s rax) and NASA. It already has more than 80 participating companies including some big names in the cloud computing world.

Joshua McKenty, Piston’s CEO and co-founder, was the cloud architect of NASA’s Nebula cloud infrastructure and holds an appointed seat on OpenStack’s Policy Board. Piston’s CTO and Co-founder, Christopher MacGown, was a technical lead at SliceHost, which was acquired by Rackspace in 2008. However, the founders of such open source platforms defecting to start their own startups to commercialize the technology has become so commonplace as to be unremarkable (10gen, Acquia, etc.), but Piston’s formation might lead to some serious competition in the OpenStack community.

Piston could use its NASA roots to compete with Rackspace’s own efforts, especially since Rackspace bought Anso Labs earlier this year as a way of supporting enterprise users of OpenStack software. It’s hard to tell now where Piston will fit in, but it expects to release its software to the public during the last quarter of the year. Then, we’ll know more.

Disclosure: Piston is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.