When you talk about partnerships among cloud-computing companies it's often unclear what, exactly each brings to the table and what the possible benefit could be to customers.
In the case of Akamai Technologies and Rackspace, it seems obvious that an arrangement that allows one-stop-shopping at companies that are among the largest content-delivery networks (CDN) and cloud hosting services would be a no brainer.
Once you work your way through the hyperbole, you kind of wonder.
(I love this, by the way: According to DataCenterKnowledge, both Akamai (73,000) and Rackspace (64,000) are in the top 10 companies with the largest number of servers in the world. Akamai's press release on the partnership said its server count is up to 77,000.)
Vast numbers of servers aside, Akamai and Rackspace offer complementary services. Rackspace offers customers a place to house and run apps; Akamai gives them a global network on which to distribute Web-site content so it's always close enough to customers to make responses quick.
The only real level of integration the two promise in this agreement, though, is that Rackspace will add SSL encryption to its Cloud Files storage service, and will add support for canonical names in the DNS addresses of the files so cached versions distributed globally can be found using a short URL rather than a longer, more precise on pointing at a local server.
Cloud Files is Rackspace's name for an online storage service that includes disk space, redundancy and, for an extra fee, distribution through a CDN that until now has been from Limelight Networks.
Each Cloud File is a unit up to 5GB in size that can hold any number of files and that can be monitored, managed, uploaded or deleted from the cloud using a Rackspace app or through an API. Costs start at 15 cents/GB, plus 22 cents/GB for CDNed content.
The service is designed for corporations that want secure storage online, but only pay for what they need. The CDN is for content intended for public audiences through a Web site or other publishing mechanism.
CDN distribution will be included as a standard part of Rackspace's outbound bandwidth cost of about 19 cents/GB per month, though Rackspace apparently isn't cancelling its arrangement with Limelight.
The reason this is even news is the size and reputation of the companies involved -- both of which are top notch.
The reason it's ho-hum is that Rackspace already offers CDN service, Akamai already could distribute your cloud-based content, and either service could be bought easily by customers of the other.
So what's the benefit to customers? Not much. It gives Akamai another sales channel at a time when it's already having to cut prices to compete.
And it gives Rackspace customers another choice of CDN without having to leave the premises to buy it.
Now that's a time saver.