Here’s the weird part of Intel’s $100 million investment in cloud company Mirantis

A company called Mirantis has landed yet another $US100 million investment, led by Intel.

But this one is not your typical equity investment.

Including this round, Mirantis has now sort-of-raised $US220 million total. This includes a massive $US100 million series B round less than a year ago, in October, 2014, led by Insight Venture Partners, but which also included Intel, Ericsson, Sapphire Ventures (a VC company spun out from SAP). Intel also led the company’s Series A $US10 million in 2013.

For this $US100 million round, Mirantis did sell off more equity to Intel, as well as to Goldman Sachs and existing investors like August Capital, Insight Venture Partners, Ericsson, Sapphire Ventures (formerly SAP Ventures) and WestSummit Capital.

But some unknown part of that $US100 million wasn’t an investment at all.

Intel is also paying Mirantis for some joint development work.

Business Insider asked Mirantis for more details on that, but a spokesperson declined to describe it, saying, “The total funding round is $US100 million, led by Intel. We’re not disclosing the breakdown of the funding. Some of the funding is related to our technology collaboration with Intel and is not equity.”

So, it’s odd that a startup would label funds received for a joint development project as part of a Series C.

And it’s also interesting that Intel is not only investing a lot of money into Mirantis, but is also ready to pony up more for this work.

The OpenStack wars

Mirantis is a kingpin in a part of the cloud computing market called OpenStack. OpenStack is like an operating system for building a cloud data center.

OpenStack’s claim to fame is that it doesn’t lock an enterprise into one vendor like Amazon does. A company can run apps on OpenStack in their data center and move those applications around to any number of cloud providers who also support OpenStack of which there are many such as HP and Rackspace.

OpenStack was developed by a huge consortium of tech vendors and is free and open source software. Anyone can take it, use it, change it.

Adrian Ionel
Mirantis CEO Adrian Ionel Mirantis

But there are two issues with OpenStack that Mirantis is trying to solve.

  • OpenStack is really hard to work with and deploy.
  • Because it has become so popular, finding people with OpenStack skills is really hard.

Mirantis is an OpenStack consultant that employs about 600 people, according to its LinkedIn page. It helps companies like Intel, Cisco, and many others create versions of OpenStack that they can sell to their customers. It also sells a version of OpenStack to enterprises that is easier to deploy.

OpenStack has become very critical for Intel. As more companies opt to ditch their own centres and rent cloud computing services from Amazon, Microsoft, IBM and others, that reduces the number of enterprises buying large numbers of Intel-powered servers for their own, private data centres.

Intel needs to make sure its technology dominates the OpenStack market, so that everyone keeps buying servers powered by its chips.

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