Rackspace Ramps Up OpenStack Cloud Platform

The upgraded infrastructure, which Rackspace calls called "next generation cloud," will be moved almost entirely to the OpenStack, open-source standard.

"We think this really broadens the operability of our platform and offers better and faster performance, more scalability and more features," said Rackspace CTO John Engates in an interview.

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The products include Cloud Servers, Rackspace’s flagship product, which is now accessible via the OpenStack API as well as a control panel; Cloud Databases, which offers API access to a scalable, MySQL database; Cloud Block Storage, which gives customers a choice of high performance or standard, lower-cost, block storage; Cloud Control Panel, which includes server tagging; Cloud Networks, which manages network services; and Cloud Monitoring, which keeps track of infrastructure and applications.

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The products are being offered to a limited amount of customers in an "early access" program or in beta. Prices, which have not been announced yet, will be competitive, Engates said.

One analyst said Rackspace is moving adroitly to fine-tune its cloud service to keep pace with the fast-moving cloud market as more companies support OpenStack or its competitors.

"Now the battle lines are being drawn and the vendors will have to choose which provider to align with," said Al Hilwa, program director for Applications Development Software with analyst firm IDC. "There is also a potential to make more money by delivering a higher level of services [provided by Rackspace’s differentiated products]."

Rackspace, a cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider based in San Antonio, Texas, was a co-founder of the OpenStack open-source standard, which allows cloud users a choice of products.

Rackspace’s release of its "next generation cloud" follows close on its release last week of its control of the OpenStack process to the OpenStandard Foundation, set up to formally manage the project with bylaws and a community development process.

The new foundation was immediately endorsed by vendors, including IBM, Red Hat and Dell. Hewlett-Packard, which released its own cloud platform last week, also endorses the OpenStack standard. Other cloud service providers, including Amazon Web Services, and Citrix, which is aligning with the open-source Apache Software Foundation, compete with the OpenStack platform.

Nand Mulchandani, CEO of ScaleXtreme, a San Mateo, Calif.-based cloud systems management company and Rackspace partner, said his company is a beta user of some of Rackspace’s new products and believes the service has become more robust.

"The explosion of adoption of OpenStack means there is a whole ecosystem of off-the-shelf tools that will emerge that people can buy and use," he said. "One of the problems customers confront is the issue of cloud lock-in, of being locked in to one vendor. Rackspace and HP are using OpenStack, so customers find it’s easy to move between one and the other."

Joe Kelley of Infochimps in Austin, Texas, which offers cloud-based data services, has been using Rackspace’s new services for about a month. "We were looking to at platforms to port over to," he said. "This has all the things we need in a platform-as-a-service."