"If Amazon is going for scale, cost and breadth of services, Rackspace is going for its services, including what it calls its fanatical support for customers," says Forrester analyst Dave Bartonelli. "They're really trying to make the play that they're the safer enterprise choice and with OpenStack, they want to be known as the non-Amazon."
The open source aspect of Rackspace's cloud appeals to customers concerned about vendor lock-in, Bartonelli says. An open source architecture may give customers additional freedom to move workloads among OpenStack-powered clouds, although Gartner has disputed the significance of that.
One Rackspace strength is its ability to roll out the latest and greatest OpenStack features. The latest OpenStack code, for example, incorporated virtual networking capabilities, which Rackspace has since rolled out, and hopes to advance the functionality of it in the coming months.
There is a view by some though that Rackspace has married itself to OpenStack, perhaps to its own detriment. As the Gartner report on OpenStack states, OpenStack can be successful independently of Rackspace's success now that the company has ceded control of the project to a foundation. Overall, Bartonelli says Rackspace's involvement in OpenStack is positive for the company and will only help to position it as a leading alternative to Amazon.
And for good reason, he says. Microsoft owns a lot of back office IT operations for enterprises between Office, Exchange and SharePoint. Because of that real estate the company already has in the enterprise market, Microsoft has an opportunity to extend those customers into its cloud, Bowker says. Microsoft has been more aggressive than ever in recent months about encouraging customers and partners to join its cloud. Earlier this year the company rolled out on-demand Windows and Linux-based virtual machines and cloud storage to accompany its platform as a service as well.