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Rackspace IT: Drive To The Open Cloud

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Like many other enter­prise IT shops, Rack­space IT is turn­ing to ser­vice providers to help us design, pro­vi­sion and sup­port enterprise-class sys­tems. Our goal is to more effi­ciently and effec­tively serve our inter­nal cus­tomers. We want to take advan­tage of effi­cien­cies and scale that the open cloud can pro­vide and we need help to do it. With this in mind, we’ve kicked off a pro­gram called “Rackspace IT: Drive to the Open Cloud.” The focus of the program is for Rack­space IT to become an enter­prise cus­tomer of Rack­space, lever­ag­ing the same solu­tions Rack­space offers our many exter­nal cus­tomers and dri­ving as many of our enter­prise appli­ca­tions as pos­si­ble to the Rack­space open cloud.

Over the past three months, Rack­ers from IT, Advi­sory Ser­vices, Sup­port, Prod­uct, Finance, Mar­ket­ing and other teams across Rack­space have worked together to set high level goals for the Rackspace IT: Drive to the Open Cloud pro­gram and to scope and plan the first phase of the migra­tion. Now we are ready to go!

There are three main goals we’re focused on deliv­er­ing through the program:

  1. Lead­ing the enter­prise charge to the open cloud. Many enter­prise cus­tomers are look­ing for ser­vice providers to help with mis­sion crit­i­cal IT needs and help them move towards the open cloud. As a “friendly” enter­prise cus­tomer mak­ing this same jour­ney, Rack­space IT will be in a great posi­tion to pro­vide ongo­ing feed­back and help Rackspace’s prod­uct teams iden­tify, design and deliver addi­tional prod­ucts and ser­vices needed by enter­prise IT shops. Rack­space will gain big cred­i­bil­ity by demon­strat­ing that we under­stand and can reli­ably meet enter­prise IT’s needs. Through Rackspace IT: Drive to the Open Cloud, we will pro­duce a “play book” for the IT enterprise.
  2. Improv­ing infra­struc­ture deliv­ery and avail­abil­ity. Rack­space excels at pro­vi­sion­ing hard­ware and oper­at­ing sys­tems, keep­ing these sys­tems healthy, and when they do fail, quickly restor­ing ser­vice. Much like other enter­prise IT shops, Rack­space IT is look­ing to lever­age this capa­bil­ity and take advan­tage of Fanat­i­cal Sup­port to pro­vide improved ser­vice lev­els to our own inter­nal customers.
  3. Help­ing improve our abil­ity to sell to the IT enter­prise. Sell­ing to enter­prise cus­tomers is dif­fer­ent than sell­ing to SMB cus­tomers. It requires a deeper under­stand­ing of what enter­prise shops are asked to do and what chal­lenges they face with deliv­er­ing it. By help­ing our Sales and Advi­sory Ser­vices teams bet­ter under­stand the needs of enter­prise IT, we can help bet­ter posi­tion them to offer solu­tions that truly res­onate with enter­prise IT leaders.

With goals set, we’ve tar­geted the fol­low­ing activ­i­ties for com­ple­tion in the first half of 2013:

Migrate 10-plus IT Appli­ca­tions to the Rack­space Pub­lic Cloud. In doing so, we’ll demon­strate how enter­prise IT shops can rapidly and cost-effectively pro­vi­sion envi­ron­ments and reduce their infra­struc­ture foot­print, two goals of almost any enter­prise IT infra­struc­ture leader. Doing this using the Rack­space open cloud will cre­ate a great case study for our enter­prise cus­tomers and prospects.

Pro­vi­sion Devel­op­ment and QE Envi­ron­ments on the Rack­space Open Cloud. Devel­op­ment and test­ing can be dynamic efforts, and Devel­op­ers and Qual­ity Engi­neers will ben­e­fit from self-service access to envi­ron­ments on demand. Rack­space IT plans to accom­plish this using the Rack­space Pub­lic Cloud and, in the process, demon­strate the value of this approach to other enter­prise IT shops.

Host a Dynamic Big Data Ware­house on the Rack­space Open Cloud. The Ana­lytic Com­pute Grid (ACG) is an elas­tic data ware­house that com­bines big data tech­nolo­gies with open source tech­nolo­gies and the dynamic scale of the open cloud to deliver scal­able, cost-effective ana­lytic power. Our Enter­prise Busi­ness Intel­li­gence team is already using a pri­vate instance of OpenStack to run Rackspace’s ACG, and it’s a great story to share with other enter­prise IT shops that are hun­gry for ways to cost-effectively crunch expo­nen­tially increas­ing amounts of data.

Host Billing and Finan­cial Appli­ca­tions with Rack­space. Billing and finance appli­ca­tions are often the back­bone of enter­prise IT appli­ca­tion port­fo­lios: highly com­plex sys­tems that sup­port one or more major busi­ness func­tions. In addi­tion, any pub­licly traded com­pany must com­ply with Sar­banes Oxley (SOX) reg­u­la­tions that gov­ern the man­age­ment of such sys­tems. SOX adds a layer of com­plex­ity on top of already com­plex envi­ron­ments, and by demon­strat­ing that Rackspace can suc­cess­fully host SOX appli­ca­tions, we demon­strate that we can reduce this com­plex­ity for our cus­tomers. By host­ing our new billing sys­tem with Rack­space, we can demon­strate that we’re capa­ble of doing the same for other big cus­tomers and present them with a great case study.

Host our Enter­prise Iden­tity and Access Man­age­ment Sys­tems with Rack­space. Every enter­prise IT shop must pro­vide iden­tity and access man­age­ment ser­vices. By host­ing, mon­i­tor­ing and man­ag­ing such appli­ca­tions for IT, Rack­space will demon­strate that we can do the same for other enter­prise IT shops.

Offer Rack­space Hosted Share­Point as an Enter­prise Ser­vice. Share­Point is one of the most pop­u­lar, and at the same time com­plex, ser­vices that enter­prise IT shops are tasked with pro­vid­ing. Rackspace’s turnkey offer­ing has tremen­dous appeal for enter­prise IT and, again, we will show them how it is done via Rackspace IT: Drive to the Open Cloud.

And there’s more to come.

Rackspace IT: Drive to the Open Cloud is more than a pro­gram; it’s a new direc­tion for Rack­space IT and a new model for the enter­prise IT shop. We are already work­ing with the Prod­uct teams on plans to move Rack­space cor­po­rate email to our hosted email offer­ing and will con­tinue to move more and more of our enter­prise appli­ca­tions to Rack­space as we drive towards the open cloud. For new appli­ca­tions that we build or buy, we will start with the Rack­space Pub­lic Cloud as our pre­ferred host­ing solu­tion before we con­sider other options. As we write the enter­prise play­book for mov­ing to the open cloud, we are also defin­ing a future state for IT that lever­ages Rack­space for as many ser­vices as pos­si­ble. This will cre­ate a lean, fast enter­prise IT shop that has fewer dis­trac­tions and more abil­ity to focus on dri­ving busi­ness value.

About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by Steve Mills.

Steve Mills serves as Chief Information Officer for Rackspace.

As CIO, Steve is responsible for Rackspace’s IT systems and tools, technology operations, operational metrics and interfacing with IT suppliers and resource providers.

Steve came to Rackspace from T-Mobile USA, where he was Vice President of Enterprise Systems. Prior to that, he was Vice President of Technical Operations for T-Mobile HotSpot. His experience includes serving as Director for Technology Delivery for Texas Online, the State’s eGovernment portal, while at BearingPoint, Inc. He has also held positions with start-ups Alex eBanking and Berkom USA, as well as pcOrder.com, and E-Systems.

Steve, a Mississippi native, has a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Southern Mississippi, an M.S. in Computer Science from Southern Methodist University, an M.E. in Systems Engineering from Texas Tech University and a Ph.D in Computer Science from Southern Methodist University.


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2 Comments

Migrating 10+ enterprise apps looks to be the most challenging. How do you choose which apps can be migrated? Do you focus on apps that can support a cloud-friendly architecture or are you planning to re-architect legacy apps?

avatar Jeff Medaugh on February 19, 2013 | Reply

Great questions, Jeff. We are doing both: looking for apps that are cloud friend as well as rearchitecting legacy apps. The cloud-friendly ones are helping us build skills and get a feel for the technology and the rearchitected legacy apps will help us take big steps towards the open cloud.

We worked closely with the Rackspace Advisory Services Team in a series of application profiling workshops to identify a mix of cloud-friendly apps and apps that can be rearchitected to take advantage of the dynamic scale provided by the open cloud.

“Cloud friendly” for us in this first round means smaller, departmental applications that we developed in-house and that do not have high performance requirements or resource demands. Typically these apps can run on a single cloud server and do not need to scale dynamically or have special storage or networking connectivity requirements.

We have selected a large automation application that we developed in-house as our first target for rearchitecture. This application has historically run on several hundred dedicated servers distributed across multiple data centers. We are rearchitecting for scalability as well as to make the application both more “cloud-friendly” and more cloud-aware. We are also incorporating an autoscale engine that will support real-time provisioning and deprovisioning of cloud resources as needed by the application. We are rearchitecting in phases and expect to have the first phase up and running on the open cloud in the April/May timeframe.

avatar Steve Mills [Racker] on February 20, 2013

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