Rackspace CTO: Gartner is missing the point about OpenStack

Update: Lydia Leong, the Gartner analyst who wrote the report about OpenStack, refuted some of Engates comments. Via Twitter, she said that Gartner's clients aren't only enterprises, but include tech companies of all sizes, even start-ups.

She also said that "what cloud is for" has nothing to do with OpenStack's chances of success. AWS, she noted, was originally dev-centric, new-apps-oriented, yet Gartner is very positive on it.

Finally, she said that it's important to distinguish between her comments on the current state of OpenStack and its future. "Report notes likely eventual OpenStack success," she wrote.

Are Gartner -- and its clients -- out of touch?

Rackspace's CTO, commenting on a scathing late summer report from Gartner about OpenStack, says yes.

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John Engates, CTO, Rackspace

Gartner's September report said OpenStack is dominated by vendor self-interest, plagued by interoperability issues and a relatively closed system. It advised companies to proceed with caution and not to put OpenStack at the core of their data centers.

Given Gartner's customers, those comments aren't surprising, John Engates, Rackspace's CTO, told me.

"We have a lot of respect for Gartner. They spend their days talking to an enterprise audience that is used to buying very packaged and very prescriptive architectures. The CIOs they talk to tend to be fairly conservative. They're middle America conservative CIOs that are used to buying technology off the shelf. I think the world is changing in a big way."

Right now, the consumers of cloud services like Rackspace's new OpenStack infrastructure-as-a-service offering, are startups and Silicon Valley companies that are building a new breed of apps, he said.

"That's what cloud is really for in its first wave, the new generation of apps. It's not just taking legacy apps and moving them somewhere else. When you look at the spectrum of services, there's Amazon and Rackspace building clouds for the next generation of apps and then there are all the traditional enterprise service providers that maybe outsource, if you will. They're trying to build cloud, in quotes, really for moving your existing enterprise apps as-is to another location. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just not necessarily the cloud we're talking about. We're talking about a dev-centric cloud that's driven by APIs and automated to the core."

Compared to Gartner, "I think we have a little different perspective on what the cloud is for and where the cloud resonates over time," he said. "Where we see OpenStack resonating today are with companies that are on the leading edge."

That doesn't mean he thinks that all enterprises are stodgy and stuck in the past. Around a quarter of Fortune 100 companies have downloaded Rackspace's packaged OpenStack distribution that's designed for building private clouds, he said. "So there is interest. I'm just not sure if it's across the board with CIOs or in pockets somewhere in a CTO group or r & d function," he said.

Even though Engates lumped Rackspace in with Amazon in terms of a new breed of cloud, there's one thing he said that will always set the companies apart: price and service. Rather than enter into what feels like a price war kicked off by AWS and Google, "we intend to be the guys who add more value and services on the cloud rather than driving price to the bottom. We have really no interest in participating in a race to the bottom," he said.

Still, some of the new services that he mentioned Rackspace plans to add next year will help it catch up to AWS, not surpass it. For instance, Engates said the company plans to tackle big data next year, with a Hadoop distribution based on Hortonworks in the works. That's next year; AWS made announcements last week about new services aimed at big data users.

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