Hi – this is my first post as a Racker. I am responsible for Product Marketing for the Rackspace Cloud and I want to share our vision for Slicehost customers.
The transition to Rackspace Cloud Servers will probably have some impact for a few customers, but we are working to make it as transparent and seamless as possible. We have been reading every post to this forum and all the feedback you have shared directly. I know you have a lot of questions about the change – I will try to clarify as much as I can.
What’s the Same
Cloud Servers is built on the same codebase as Slicehost. Both run on Xen hypervisors, so the foundation for the two products is the same. From a feature perspective Cloud Servers does everything Slicehost does today, with a few exceptions:
• 32-bit instances
• “Intermediate” flavor sizes – 384MB, 768MB, 1.5GB, 3GB
There was some demand for these features amongst Slice customers so we introduced them only in Slicehost. The uptake however has been relatively low (e.g. at the time of this writing, all 32-bit images combined represent just 4% of all active slices), so we will not be carrying these features into Cloud Servers.
Slicehost also includes the ability to manage DNS. Cloud Servers has no DNS management capabilities but that’s simply because we view DNS as an independent service.Rackspace Cloud DNS is currently in public beta and will be generally available by the time Slicehost customers are transitioned to Cloud Servers. Although I list it under “What’s the Same,” the reality is Cloud DNS is superior to what’s in Slicehost today. As an example, behind Rackspace Cloud DNS is a globally distributed IP anycast DNS network, ensuring uptime and quick resolution for your domains anywhere in the world.
It’s important to note that resize down will continue to be a feature available in Linux Cloud Servers. We are moving to a new disk format that will give customers more control (e.g. more file systems in addition to ext3, multiple partitions, etc.). To achieve that we had to sacrifice some simplicity and automation, including resize down. We heard from both Cloud Server and Slicehost customers alike that more control is good, but they also want simplicity and don’t want to give up resize down.
We’ve heard you loud and clear and our new plan is to offer you both! We will continue to offer simplicity and resize down for customers who are fine with our default file system and partition standards AND control for people who desire to change those – you choose. More on that as this feature rolls out, but the key point is that resize down is back and will be available when you transition to Cloud Servers.
Advantages of Cloud Servers
Once you look beyond the foundation, the upside of Cloud Servers is significant. Slicehost customers will be on one of the most advanced web platforms available. Once your server is in the Rackspace Cloud infrastructure you will have access to new capabilities and features. Rackspace has an R&D team of hundreds of people working on making the cloud platform better for you.
Here are some of the advantages of Cloud Servers above and beyond what Slicehost offers today:
1. New Rackspace Cloud capabilities. First and foremost, Rackspace Cloud is a suite of services. Compute (Cloud Servers) is simply one piece of the puzzle. As a Rackspace Cloud customer, in addition to Cloud Servers, you will have access to:
2. Lower costs, for many – Cloud Servers works on a utility model – you only pay for what you use. For most customers this means you will pay less than what you are paying now. We are looking at options for customers who consume lots of bandwidth in order to offer them a fair deal.
3. IPv6 support – The world is running out of IPv4 addresses; the central IP distribution authority (IANA) handed out its final IPv4 allotments on 2/3/11. IPv4 exhaustion is imminent. The Internet is moving to the newer standard, IPv6. The Rackspace network is now IPv6 ready and Cloud Servers will soon begin offering dual-stack instances. Slicehost will not support IPv6. Read more
4. Better Storage with Cloud Files – Cloud Files persistent storage allows you to store unlimited on-demand images of your server and use it to create more servers. Slicehost customers are currently limited to three images of a server (daily, weekly, and on-demand) because images are stored peer to peer. With Cloud Servers, storing images in Cloud Files means you can have an unlimited number of on-demand images (we keep one daily and weekly for convenience purposes but plan to offer a more robust retention scheme at some point). Note that since Rackspace Cloud is utility priced, image storage is charged at the normal Cloud Files rate of $0.15/GB/mo.
5.More OS choice. Many Slicehost customers have been asking for FreeBSD for years. We will be rolling this out to Cloud Servers in the next month or so and it will be available as an option when Slicehost customers transition. For any Slicehost customers interested in Windows, this is available in Cloud Servers today.
6. Cloud Tools is a growing collection of partner resources available to Cloud Server customers. A few examples: SendGrid (Rackspace customers can send up to 40,000 transactional emails per month for free), Security Tools, Kaltura and Zencoder for video, Apica for load testing. And many more. You will find all Cloud Tools here
7. OpenStack™ – Cloud Servers is in the process of transitioning to OpenStack. OpenStack was launched by Rackspace and NASA and is a growing suite of open source cloud software services that has gained incredible momentum and support in its first year. It is quickly becoming the standard OS for the cloud. What does this mean for you? Openness, choice, and lock-in avoidance. The benefit for Cloud Servers customers is that over time, as more and more OpenStack compute environments are deployed (both public and private), the ability to move workloads, burst, federate, etc. will become a reality. This is not the case with a proprietary system like Slicehost.
8.Improved mobile management. There are Rackspace Cloud apps for iPhone and iPad as well as Android . These apps give you not only robust mobile management of compute, but of multiple services in the Rackspace Cloud portfolio. While there are iPhone and Android apps for Slicehost, they are somewhat antiquated as current investments are in Rackspace Cloud mobile management.
9.Managed support level. At Rackspace we’re known for our Fanatical Support® (that’s one of the things that made the Slicehost acquisition work so well – we both had the same passion and commitment to customers). We’ve taken the Cloud Servers product and placed a managed support level on top. We call it managed cloud . If you not only want on-demand compute, but want someone to monitor and patch your servers, you’ll have that option in Cloud Servers.
10. More geographic diversity. Cloud Servers is available today in both the US and the UK. We continue to expand our regional footprint, which means you have more options when choosing where to host in order to better serve a global customer base.
11.API advantages. The Cloud Servers API is RESTful and supports the JSON and XML serialization formats. We often hear that it is elegant and easy to use and it has become the OpenStack compute API standard. In addition to supporting all the compute features of Slicehost (remember DNS is a separate service) we have expanded the things you can do programmatically. For example, sharing IPs in Slicehost requires that you contact support whereas it is self-service in the Cloud Servers API.
12. Kernel control. Slicehost maintains kernels outside the instance (though there are a small number of customers who were manually configured to have kernels inside the slice, at their request). The Cloud Servers model going forward moves the Linux kernel inside the instance. This means you can control and change the kernel as you’d like. Our first Linux image to support this was Fedora 15 and we’re actively rolling out additional distros. By the time the transition to Cloud Servers occurs all Linux distro images will be enabled for kernel management, so any customers desiring more kernel control will have it on Cloud Servers by default.
As you can see Slicehost is evolving into a very complete and powerful web platform. You are gaining a lot with the move to Cloud Servers.
I invite you to share your ideas and product suggestions at http://feedback.rackspacecloud.com . Thank you for working with us to create the future of the Web.
Gerardo A. Dada
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