March 06, 2013, 11:47 AM — Rackspace, the major public cloud provider, is not ignoring private clouds.
The company today updated its OpenStack-powered private cloud framework, which customers can download for free to spin up private clouds analogous to Rackspace's public cloud in their own data centers behind their own firewalls.
Since August Rackspace has offered a private cloud platform, which company officials say is pure OpenStack trunk code - no forking or branching. "We made a decision to use the exact same packaging this broad community of developers is using, with Rackspace just providing the configurations," says Scott Sanchez, director of strategy for Rackspace's private cloud division.
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Today's updated version includes a variety of feature enhancements, most notably the addition of Open Center, which Sanchez calls a "fabric" for private cloud operations. This is the API layer, complete with a dashboard that shows the user all of the operations running in the private cloud. It also orchestrates various services together - compute, storage and networking, for example - while providing additional tools to automate tasks, such as creating high availability. With Rackspace's "fanatical support" - a company tag-line for its customer service - Rackspace representatives can look into this dashboard to help users set up or troubleshoot issues during service calls. The updated system also expands the host operating system from just supporting Ubuntu to now also supporting Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).
The bigger point though is that Rackspace is acknowledging customers who want to spin up private clouds in their own data centers instead of, or in addition to, using the public cloud. Amazon Web Services has not done that. "It's what customers told us they want," Sanchez says.
AWS does have a virtual private cloud service, which are dedicated, non-multi-tenant infrastructure stacks customers can reserve, but no platform for spinning up an AWS cloud in your own data center. Open source project CloudStack and Eucalyptus, a third-party AWS partner say they do. VMware powers many private clouds with its non-open source products, for example. On the OpenStack side, Piston Cloud Computing Co. has packaged an "enterprise-grade" version of the open source cloud operating system. Red Hat is expected to release its own OpenStack distribution soon, while Ubuntu and SUSE already have.
Jim Curry, general manager of Rackspace's private cloud division, says for many customers he speaks to, it's not a matter of them being anti-public cloud, it's that they believe a private cloud just better suits their needs "We're a hosting company primarily," Curry admits. "But we're not going to argue with them."
Having a common platform between the private cloud that sits behind the customer's firewall and Rackspace's public cloud creates a whole series of advantages too, Rackspace says - most notably working toward that much-anticipated hybrid cloud environment. Sanchez says many customers already have some hybrid cloud-like setups. Using configuration management tools like Chef or even third-party options like RightScale, customers can pick which environment certain workloads run in, be it the public or private cloud. But there's still work to be done in this area to allow live migrations of workloads across the environments. Further developing the underlying network connectivity between the public and private clouds is a key to achieving that, Sanchez says.