Piston Cloud Computing, which promotes an OpenStack distribution to enterprise customers, has raised $8 million in series B funding from Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO), Data Collective and Swisscom Ventures join Divergent Ventures, Hummer Winblad and True Ventures as principal investors. The big question: Is a channel program on the way?

Piston Cloud's executive team includes former Zimbra General Manager Jim Morrisroe, NASA veteran Joshua McKenty, Rackspace veteran Christopher MacGown and former NASA Communications Director Gretchen Curtis (pictured).

The Piston Cloud funding shows continued momentum for OpenStack, an open source platform upon which customers can build private or public clouds. Dell, HP and Rackspace are standardizing their public clouds on OpenStack, though multiple distributions of the open source platform are emerging.

Piston Cloud hopes to be the top distribution. The company has now raised roughly $12.5 million in funding (including series A from July 2011). The company's flagship product is Piston Enterprise OpenStack, which allows enterprises to build private Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) clouds on bare-metal, converged commodity hardware. But so far, Piston is not promoting a formalized channel program for VARs and private cloud integrators. 

Also of note: The company integrates with VMware's Cloud Foundry, allowing the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offering to run on OpenStack. Another key focus area is VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) through a licensing agreement with Gridcentric.

Cisco's investment in Piston Cloud is particularly interesting. The networking giant recently invested in Parallels, another cloud platform and automation provider.