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Rackspace is finally rolling out OpenStack-based cloud services to its customers. The cloud provider hopes the freedom offered by the open source platform, which contrasts sharply with the proprietary back-end systems of providers like Amazon Web Services, will revolutionize the cloud industry.
With Rackspace OpenStack software, enterprises can deploy uniform cloud services within a private cloud, in Rackspace's Open Cloud or an OpenStack cloud built by third-party providers like Hewlett-Packard Co. OpenStack provides customers and providers the interoperability they need as they continue to grow their cloud strategies, Rackspace said.
Rackspace OpenStack: Users want more independence in the cloud
"The last thing [the end user] needs is to be locked in or feel held hostage by one cloud provider," said John Engates, chief technology officer of San Antonio-based Rackspace Inc.
Rackspace's new Open Cloud is built on the open source project OpenStack and is compatible with other clouds already on the market, as well as with many private cloud deployments, he said.
By basing their cloud services on OpenStack, customers can quickly spin up new servers with Rackspace cloud servers powered by OpenStack, with or without Rackspace's help, Engates said.
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"We developed the software, but then we gave it away," he said. With OpenStack in the background, users have the freedom to move between cloud providers using OpenStack, or build their own private cloud using OpenStack technology.
"Users have the ability to pick up and move to other clouds very quickly, without having to rewrite code, retrain employees or retool applications," he added.
Rackspace hopes other service providers will also see the advantages of adopting OpenStack. Engates said other providers can use the openness of the platform as a way to compete in a quickly developing cloud market, especially newer providers, who may not have the scale or capabilities to develop their own software.
"When cloud providers have to pay a third party to run and integrate [their] software, the economic advantage is taken out of the cloud," he said.
Rackspace OpenStack versus Amazon Web Services
While large public cloud providers -- like Amazon and Google -- are seen as competitors to the Rackspace OpenStack cloud strategy, users of these services do not have the freedom to move their own data between providers or their own data center.
OpenStack was not a mature cloud computing option for large workloads until now, and the technology has added a new competitive dynamic -- openness versus proprietary -- between Rackspace and Amazon, said Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp., noting that OpenStack has gained momentum with other providers because of its interoperable nature, and because it's now being adopted by Rackspace.
"The rift between Rackspace and Amazon is beginning because real OpenStack deployments are starting," Nolle said, noting that other providers like HP are now adopting OpenStack.
Rackspace has been using OpenStack for storage since its inception, but the compute element of OpenStack is reliable enough now for Rackspace to bring it to the market, said Laurent Lachel, research director at British technology consultancy Ovum.
But Rackspace has had a focus on an open platform from the start, and isn't on the same playing field as cloud providers with proprietary software. "[Rackspace] has evolved its public cloud offering to accommodate many [customers'] cloud strategy requirements, which include privacy and security elements," Lachel noted.
"Customers want the ability to choose where the cloud is and who is providing it. They also want the ability to deploy the cloud where they see fit -- something proprietary cloud offerings have not made possible," Rackspace's Engates added, noting that a lack of flexibility in the cloud can impede adoption.
Rackspace and Amazon will still be used by customers to fulfill different needs, Lachel noted.
"Depending on the workload, location and needs of the project, [a user] might choose Rackspace over Amazon, but might select Amazon for its public cloud for another workload," he said. "It's good to keep both providers on their toes and for users to have both options."