Rackspace Adds Four Nines SLA To Its Private Cloud

Rackspace, a company best known for its IaaS and managed hosting products, on Thursday beefed up its private cloud offering with an unrivaled uptime guarantee.

Bryan Thompson, director of product at Rackspace, told CRN that the San Antonio-based company is the first to offer guaranteed uptime of 99.99 percent for an OpenStack-powered cloud.

The four nines SLA means Rackspace will pay a service credit to customers whose OpenStack APIs are down more than four minutes per month. The latest version of the private cloud also increases scalability to hundreds of nodes and offers DevOps automation services for application lifecycle management, according to Thompson.

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The new release is immediately available in the U.S. and will be rolled out in October internationally.

Users can deploy Rackspace private clouds on their premises, in a partner's facility or in Rackspace datacenters. Roughly half of Rackspace private clouds are deployed on-premises in customer facilities that use the prescribed reference architecture and supported hardware, according to the company.

The SLA includes the on-prem deployments within the constraint that any availability lapses are not due to infrastructure failure of the customer's hardware or networking platforms.

"We're coming out with a strong message that you keep your resources focused on developing mission-critical resources for your company, and we in turn will provide the infrastructure that will deliver four nines," Thompson said.

Sarah Unverferth, president of IT Ops Consulting, a Rackspace partner based in San Francisco, told CRN, "the Rackspace private cloud is probably [the] single most underutilized yet highly valuable product in [the] channel today."

When considering her clients' operational needs, the Rackspace offering is a vital product in the IT Ops portfolio for both total cost of ownership and a functional purpose, Unverferth said.

"From a channel perspective, when you combine the product with the support model you have a perfect storm and the aftermath is more revenue with less investment and a happier, more productive clientele," she said.

Because of the dearth of talent in the OpenStack community and the high salaries commanded by engineers with true OpenStack expertise, building an OpenStack cloud is prohibitively difficult and expensive for many businesses. Much of the value proposition in the Rackspace offering comes from the company's expertise with the open source technology it developed in collaboration with NASA, said Darrin Hanson, Rackspace VP of private cloud.

"It's an acknowledgement of being able to do it better for less, with the expertise that manages over 100 private cloud implementations big and small," Hanson told CRN.

The managed private cloud offering includes assistance to DevOps teams with automation through the popular Chef configuration-management tool.

And because the private clouds are built on the same OpenStack technology as the company's IaaS product, they can burst effortlessly into the public cloud when needed.

Rackspace's technical support philosophy of "Fanatical Support" extends to the private cloud, and it includes the option to add a dedicated OpenStack engineer to their account. Rackspace also allows users to choose private cloud solutions around VMware and Microsoft technologies, if that's what they prefer.

NEXT: Evolution Of The Private Cloud

Thompson told CRN the private cloud offering "slowly matured over time."

The project was born around 2011 as a custom program that allowed customers to leverage the company's expertise in OpenStack. A group within Rackspace called Cloudbuilders would build custom OpenStack deployments.

It was an awkward business model to sustain, especially for a company whose strongest selling point was Fanatical Support -- a guarantee of the most-hands-on technical support in the industry.

"Before we got down that road with just three or four customers, we realized what we were doing wasn't in line with Fanatical Support," Hanson said.

"We very quickly discovered that was a dark alley to go down," he said, and the company opted instead to develop "a repeatable, standardized, opinionated and scalable offering based on our best practices and the lessons we learned operating one of the largest OpenStack clouds on the planet."

This week's release represents the latest iteration of that "more-sustainable model," Thompson said.

Customers who opt to host their private clouds at Rackspace datacenters can provision servers and networking components just as they would any other managed hosting services. Rackspace then manages the provisioning and deployment of OpenStack for the customer and operates that private cloud for them by providing monitoring, management and support.

For deploying on-premises, Rackspace will send an OpenStack engineer or the installation can be done remotely if the customers properly prep the site.