Adrian Ionel returns to CEO role at Mirantis as the company continues to expand beyond OpenStack

Mirantis co-founder Adrian Ionel left his CEO role in October 2015, at a time when the company was still solely focused on OpenStack. Now he is coming back to reprise his role as the company’s CEO at a time when Mirantis is looking beyond OpenStack and toward the still nascent cloud native ecosystem around Kubernetes for its next big business opportunity. Mirantis’ current CEO Alex Freedland will remain a board member.

Like other companies that made an early bet on OpenStack, Mirantis, which once described itself as “the pure play OpenStack company,” went through a series of ups and downs (it now also describes itself as the “#1 pure play open cloud company”). But just like OpenStack has now found its place, Mirantis weathered these storms as an independent company and is now able to take what it learned in the last few years in delivering OpenStack to a wider swath of products.

“The company needs to find its path forward, leveraging the present — the enormous assets we have in the cloud infrastructure business — and articulate a compelling and exciting and engaging future vision that brings us into the future,” Ionel told me. “That’s quite similar to where we were in 2010.”

For now, Mirantis’ foundation will remain its private cloud business, where it will continue to offer its managed cloud solution for OpenStack. “Private cloud is still a very large market and we have a very compelling answer,” Ionel said. And with companies like AT&T (which runs a 10,000-node OpenStack cluster with the help of Mirantis), the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, VW and others on its customer roster, this will likely remain a good part of the company’s business in the near term.

But in building out its continuous delivery platform for OpenStack, Mirantis also built the foundation for the future of the company. “We believe that our open-source toolbox — our unique approach to open source and the open-source technology out there — are central to helping companies build and run applications on any cloud and that we will use the same playbook — the continuous delivery playbook and the open approach that made us successful in OpenStack to help companies run apps in a fully automated fashion in any cloud — public or private,” Ionel explained.

Mirantis already started this journey under Freedland. With DriveTrain and its Container-as-a-Service offering, it built the kernel of the continuous delivery platform that Ionel envisions and that Mirantis needs to focus on as its customers start asking for multi-cloud solutions.

Ionel also seemed very excited about the fact that this move brings Mirantis closer to the actual applications and toward application delivery in general. “We want to give customers an autopilot for applications they want to deploy,” he said. “We will invest heavily in cloud-native continuous delivery that enables developers to deploy their code with full automation and ease.”

Returning to Mirantis wasn’t an obvious choice for Ionel, and he admitted that it took him a few months to make a decision. In part, that’s because he built another company, Dorsal, after leaving Mirantis. He also noted that he prefers to look forward in life, “so if you rejoin something, you want to think very carefully why you are doing it.” In the end, though, he decided that he would feel very much at home at Mirantis and that he would be able to help the company in this next phase.