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Flexiant readies OpenStack support with plug-in-friendly Orchestrator release

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Flexiant, a company that sells service providers software to help them start offering cloud services, has always maintained that its customers are able to differentiate themselves from one another. There’s now a whole lot more to that claim, after Flexiant released a new version of its Orchestrator product that effectively opens up its platform to customization.

Orchestrator version 4, released on Monday, brings in the concept of plug-ins – both from Flexiant itself and from third parties. In fact, service providers can write their own plug-ins, as the so-called “Flexiant Development Language” is the lightweight Lua language with added helper functions.

Plug-in, baby

So, what kinds of functionality are we talking about?

“It isn’t a very simple web hook [like IFTTT]. It can do that, but it can do a lot more than that,” Flexiant founder Tony Lucas (pictured above) told me. “The plug-ins can have their own logic in them. They can manipulate data, run commands, send emails, update files, do JSON – they can also run API calls themselves and can modify the direct behaviour of the platform to actually work differently.”

If a server fails when it starts, for example, a plug-in might automatically put a ticket in the support system. Or the creation of a virtual server might automatically result in two monitoring systems being called out. These are examples of the plug-ins Flexiant has itself released, and it’s made them open source too.

In a particularly useful move, it is also possible to create plug-ins for new payment providers. So let’s say an Azerbaijani cloud provider wants to allow payment from some local platform – previously, this would have had to be added to Flexiant’s roadmap; now it just needs the cloud provider or Flexiant to drum up a plug-in.

OpenStack prep

Flexiant also said that, as of version 4.5, Orchestrator will run on OpenStack for the first time, in much the same way as it runs today on KVM or HyperV(s msft). “We’re not giving up on our bottom layer of the stack,” Lucas said, noting that some customers will still want this.

“OpenStack is getting there and has built some decent technology, but one thing it doesn’t do is help a service provider build a business… There is still a lot of work to do, a lot of functionality that’s missing. We’re not [releasing] a new distribution – we’re likely to build on top of the Ubuntu distribution, because our software is built on Ubuntu. It’s all the stuff beside it.”

The most recent version of Ubuntu aims to make OpenStack less of a pain to deploy, so that seems like a fortunate distro to use. But George Knox, Flexiant’s CEO, also chipped in to give a further reason for the company’s OpenStack embrace.

“We’ve been speaking with major hardware vendors and they’ve struggled [with OpenStack],” Knox claimed. “They’ve been realizing huge growth in the service provider markets… but a lot of sales stalled because they can’t get it [up and running] in less than 18 months.”

“We’ve had a few distress sales who spent millions on OpenStack projects and have not delivered. They came to Flexiant and were [operational] within weeks. We’re finally giving the service provider community a service provider-ready solution underpinned by OpenStack but with Flexiant on top.”

OpenStack’s deployment complexity is a well-known problem, but this week also sees the OpenStack Summit taking place in Hong Kong, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see others soon tackling it with service providers in mind, too.