Rackspace, Amazon Face Off Over Cloud Services


Cloud services provider Rackspace resumed its criticism of rival Amazon Wednesday as Rackspace President Lew Moorman at a San Francisco conference accused Amazon of locking customers into its services and limiting customization.

Werner Vogels, CTO and vice president of Amazon.com, following soon after Moorman at the GigaOM Structure 2012 conference, avoided the issue when asked about competition with Rackspace and said his company was focused on customers.

Rackspace, a leader of OpenStack, the open-source standards movement for interoperability in building clouds, has come out against Amazon in the past. Amazon, the largest cloud services provider, does not follow OpenStack standards.

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Moorman said Amazon Web Services limits the ability of developers to customize cloud applications, thereby making services less robust and more costly.

“Once you are integrated into a cloud provider, it’s very tempting to use its proprietary features for the cloud,” Moorman said. “Amazon has made great advances and launched great services … But once you use their applications, and once you use these components, you are truly fused to that cloud provider.”

Moorman said some people have asked that Amazon’s APIs, which can link software programs in the cloud, be “cloned” to make it easier to build Amazon clouds. But Moorman said such a stance would stunt creativity and interoperability in building cloud stacks.

“What I want to say is cloning APIs in this way is not possible,” Moorman said. “This is not what’s going to happen."

Cloud builders want to customize services to take account of regions, costs and creativity.

“The truth of the matter is there hasn’t been good choice,” Moorman said. “What’s the answer? A true, end-to-end, open, scalable cloud. You choose the features. And of course, this is what we started OpenStack for.”

Following minutes after Moorman, Amazon’s Vogels was interviewed by GigaOM’s founder, Om Malik, who asked him about competitors such as Rackspace.

“We’ve always thought that this would not be a winner-take-all-market,” Vogels said. “I do think you have to be customer focused.”

Vogels said Amazon does not intensely follow cloud competitors.

“There’s two ways of doing business,” Vogels said. “One way is you can focus on your competitor, blindly running behind them. It’s not a strategy that works for us. We allow our customers to drive our innovations, and we are 100 percent focused on that instead of looking around at the ecosystem.”

In April, Rackspace CEO Lanham Napier said its cloud services were superior because "Amazon's proprietary system cultivates customer lock-in."

Terry Wise, director of business development for Amazon Web Services, responded in a manner similar to Vogels. “We believe the market is huge,” Wise said. “We believe there will be multiple winners.”

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