One of the clear challenges facing the companies developing solutions around OpenStack is balancing general market education about the project with specific messaging about the commercial offers. We spend significant time with customers talking about the OpenStack project, and too little on how we can help them use OpenStack as part of their IT architecture today. Don’t get me wrong – we would love to spend every minute talking to customers about why we started OpenStack, why we love it and how great the community is; but we also help customers power their business with OpenStack. I would like to explain what Rackspace is doing with OpenStack and how our customers are leveraging our expertise.
Last fall, we announced Rackspace Cloud: Private Edition. It’s a long name and doesn’t roll off the tongue, but it was meant to convey a simple concept: Rackspace will run a cloud for you anywhere – in our datacenters, in a customer’s datacenter, in a colocation facility, or in any combination. It’s the ultimate managed private cloud –- you don’t have to worry about your cloud because we will take care of it for you.
To be clear, this is NOT a software offering: this is world-class operations and support. We use OpenStack as the core component of our offering, but there is nothing unique about what we deploy. Today, it’s based on our own packaging of the code at openstack.org, but longer term it will include third-party distributions as well (see further down). What customers are buying is Rackspace’s unrivaled expertise in operating clouds. If for some reason a customer no longer needs our expertise, they can keep the technology and go. This is the epitome of no vendor lock-in. This is why we started OpenStack: the core technology is a commodity, but our Fanatical Support is not.
If a customer needs the OpenStack technology and wants to run it themselves, there are great options today. The first is as easy as getting the code from openstack.org. The second would be choosing one of the many OpenStack-based distributions, operating systems, or software solutions from companies such as Canonical, Piston, Nebula, StackOps, Cloudscaling, or many others. These companies provide innovative and opinionated technology around OpenStack, and we look forward to partnering with them in the future. They all provide OpenStack-based engines for powering clouds. But choosing this route does not solve the problem of operating your cloud – it’s just the software piece of it. You still need to add new employees, train your existing ones, or to bring on consultants with the relevant skills. But if you want someone to operate and support your entire cloud environment for you, then you want Rackspace. We do support better than anyone – it’s in our DNA. Or put another way – we take the engine and turn OpenStack into a chauffeured car service for our customers.
Since 1998, Rackspace has run customers’ IT environments for them. Not just the operating system, but everything up to the application layer (and we are starting to do that, too). We have traditionally based our solutions on industry standard offerings like Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Windows. But customers don’t come to us because we offer this software or because there is anything unique about the OS flavors we provide. They choose us because we give them Fanatical Support and assure the maximum uptime for their environments.
This is exactly what we are doing today with Rackspace Cloud: Private Edition, but with one major change: we are providing this support to environments that run in Rackspace datacenters as well as to those that do not. This is a first for our company.
So what does Rackspace’s Fanatical Support on an OpenStack-based cloud look like? Here it is at a high level:
1. You get 24/7/365 access to a support team that is both an expert on the solution as well as an expert on YOUR environment. You can pick up the phone and call or submit a ticket anytime, for anything. You know your Racker support team’s names, and they know yours. Our main goal is to keep your environment up and running.
2. It’s as much of a “black box” as you want it to be. We can handle all the pieces behind the scenes while you simply interact with it via the APIs, administrator control panel or user control panel. Or you can get under the hood and engage with us to make your cloud operate as you want it.
3. We cover everything from hardware up to the guests. Our goal is to make the cloud work. There’s no need to determine if it’s a software or hardware issue, and who is responsible for it. If it breaks, we fix it. Period.
4. You get access to engineering expertise as well. We have many of the original developers on the OpenStack project, and everyone on our team is a major contributor to the project. We know OpenStack. Want us to develop a new feature for an upcoming release? No problem. Need a bug fixed? We got it. We can handle all issues up through software engineering. We combine great operational expertise and traditional software support into one package.
5. Rackspace runs the world’s No. 2 public cloud. We also run a lot of private clouds. We have developed the tools to operate and support clouds well. And we have a vast team of experts at the controls. We have the expertise to know how to do this and do it right.
6. We keep you up to date with the latest innovations in OpenStack. We offer customers the ability to have their environments upgraded with each major project release. So you don’t have to worry about when to jump into OpenStack with both feet – we make upgrading easy.
7. We really test this stuff. Rackspace maintains its own labs for testing our private cloud reference architectures, and we actively collaborate with a variety of hardware and software partners to assure their stuff works. We also actively lead community testing efforts, and maintain our own continuous integration environment internally.
8. We are committed to training our customers and the general public. We run public and private training classes on how we deploy and operate OpenStack. You learn everything about what we do with the technology. To date, we have delivered these classes in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia, and we will continue to expand through certified partners.
9. We are a $1 billion-plus global company with presence in North America, Europe and Asia. We are closing in on 200,000 customers who have trusted us with their mission critical stuff. We are here for the long haul.
That is where we are today, but let’s look to the future…
We are rapidly developing the capability to easily run “cloud” wherever a customer wants. Forget whether it’s public or private. Imagine being able to connect an OpenStack-based private cloud seamlessly to our OpenStack-based public cloud. Take it further and connect your dedicated resources – compute, storage and network. From there you’ll be able to seamlessly manage it all through a fully integrated control panel. Rackspace will provide fully integrated monitoring, patching, ticketing and more from a single account team. This is where we are headed…and it starts now. (we are hiring too!)
We will have much more to say about our progress in the coming months.
Jim Curry, General Manager and Vice President, Rackspace Cloud Builders