On Monday, Rackspace announced the availability of the Hortonworks Data Platform (HDP) powered by Apache Hadoop within both its managed hosting environment and public cloud infrastructure. Customers can additionally choose a hybrid approach to leveraging the Hortonworks distribution of Apache Hadoop on Rackspace’s offering by using the managed hosting offering for Hadoop hosted within a private cloud in conjunction with a Hadoop deployment on its public cloud platform. The news of the availability of HDP as part of Rackspace’s suite of offerings represents part of a broader move by the San Antonio-based company to offer databases and datastores over and beyond SQL and Oracle. Rackspace’s recent acquisition of ObjectRocket and Exceptional Cloud Services, for example, means that, in addition to Hadoop, it will be offering MongoDB as well as Redis To Go as a service in the near future as well. The integration of HDP within the Rackspace platform illustrates the phenomenon of convergence within the IT industry whereby cloud platforms are converging with Big Data platforms as both technologies become sufficiently maintstream such that customers feel comfortable experimenting with the conjunction of both cloud hosting environments and the likes of Hadoop and MongoDB. More specifically, cloud adoption appears to be accelerating Big Data adoption given that customers now have ample opportunities to experiment with cloud-based Hadoop environments without shouldering the burden of its deployment and maintenance.
Rackspace Renders Hadoop Available Via Hortonworks Data Platform On Its Public Cloud and Managed Hosting Platform
In June 2012, Google introduced its IaaS offering, Google Compute Engine (GCE). GCE allows users to deploy Linux Virtual Machines on the same infrastructure that powers Google’s world-class data centers and IT infrastructure. GCE complements Google’s related cloud offerings such as Google App Engine, Google Cloud Storage, and Google BigQuery and represents a significant competitive play to grab market share from Amazon Web Services (AWS), the undisputed market leader in the IaaS space. GCE’s value proposition rests upon Google’s reputation for scalability, performance, ability to compete in price and the allure that Google’s global technical infrastructure may prove itself virtually immune to the service disruptions that have affected both Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure over the last year.
Upon its launch in June, GCE offered users instances in four sizes constituted by 1,2,4 and 8 virtual cores with 3.75GB of memory per virtual core. Since then, GCE has added a constellation of additional instance options that include high memory and high CPU instances in addition to a diskless option for users that do not need dedicated disk storage attacked to their server. Pricing is competitive with AWS: the AWS medium Linux instance featuring 3.75GB costs $.130/hour in comparison to GCE’s $.138/hour. Similarly, AWS’s extra large, 15 GB instance runs at $.520/hour in comparison to GCE’s $.552/hour.
Cloud Computing Today spoke with Floyd Strimling, Technical Evangelist and the Senior Director of Marketing & Community at Zenoss, about the positioning of Google and its Google Compute Engine IaaS platform in relation to AWS:
Cloud Computing Today:
Which vendor poses the biggest threat to the market share leadership had by Amazon Web Services?
The reality is Amazon’s biggest threat comes from themselves as they must keep innovating while improving performance, availability, and reliability. Surprisingly, Microsoft has both the technical implementation and pricing structure to threaten Amazon. However, they have a perception problem that could be the subject of another article. Finally, Google has all the pieces to compete but must answer questions about their privacy, customer support, and long term commitment to the enterprise.
One last thought, Rackspace is really the wild card as they have all their bases covered. The main threat for Rackspace is the maturity of OpenStack and the effort it will take to get their cloud offerings to match Amazon’s solutions. Given how fast Amazon is innovating, this is not an easy feat.
Cloud Computing Today:
What advantages does Google have over other vendors, or even over Amazon Web Services?
Google is simply an overwhelming powerhouse that has great admiration and respect within the industry. They own/lease their own fiber connections, are building out Google Fiber in Kansas City, have the dominant search engine and mobile platform, are threatening Microsoft/OpenOffice with Google Docs, and maintain everything from file sharing to email and everything in between. Yet their greatest strength may lie within their ability to monetize their services via advertising.
Cloud Computing Today:
What are the most significant challenges Google faces as it gears up to pose a competitive, IaaS challenge to Amazon Web Services?
Privacy – Google must prove to the Enterprise that they will safe guard and not abuse the information they are collecting.
Customer Support – Google must understand that customer support is the key to Enterprise market. Customer support is more than simply posting questions on a forum and waiting for answers. If I was Google, I’d take a trip out to San Antonio and learn from the best, Rackspace.
Long-Term Commitment – Google has a history of endless betas and, now, shutting down services. They must prove to the Enterprise that they are in this for the long haul and will work with their customers to refine any and all solutions.
Market Mobility Within The IaaS Space Remains Significant
Although Amazon Web Services has clearly differentiated itself from the pack of IaaS vendors by way of its pricing and breathtaking track record of innovation, its rate of innovation represents a double-edged sword insofar as the industry expects AWS to roll out feature after feature and relentlessly redefine the meaning of the much maligned phrase “cloud computing”. That said, AWS’s record of innovation generates a converse pressure on potential rivals such as Rackspace and the commercial OpenStack community to similarly innovate at a rate faster than currently permitted by OpenStack’s six month release cycle. Nevertheless, Rackspace’s experience in the IaaS space and impeccable customer support pedigree renders it a key player that could well leverage OpenStack’s inter-operability to good measure.
Microsoft and Google both have the capital and wherewithal to compete with Amazon Web Services in price, but both struggle with “perception problems” of different flavors. The bottom line is that the IaaS race still remains wide open, particularly given the commitments made by tech giants and startups alike to platforms with similar functionality and visions. Strimling makes no mention of CloudStack, here, but one can assume they constitute a major player as well.
Google Will Need To Overcome Multiple Perception Problems To Compete With AWS
Even though Google has the technological infrastructure to pose a significant threat to AWS, it will need to shed its reputation for lack of dedication to enterprise customers. Admittedly, Google Docs has done some of the work of orienting Google towards the enterprise, but there is still much work to be done if Google wants to be perceived as less than fickle with respect to its history of rolling out products in Beta that it subsequently retracts. Moreover, given Google’s virtually unparalleled capability for searching through machine data, customers are likely to be wary of placing sensitive information in an infrastructure that permits Google to indulge its penchant for data mining. Google will need to appease customer concerns about privacy and security with strong, unequivocal customer agreements and licensing terms that guarantee the safety of its data from prying eyes qua search algorithms. Finally, Google will need a thought leader in the form of an outward facing CTO that can explain its technology and infrastructure to the enterprise in terms that CIOs, CTOs and the blogosphere understands and trusts. Just as Werner Vogels became the face of Amazon Web Services, Google will need to brand another cloud visionary with the ability to build trust amongst enterprise customers, developers and the “cloud computing” community more generally.
RightScale And Rackspace Partnership Signals Turning Point In Battle For OpenStack Commercial Market Share
This week, RightScale made two important announcements related to OpenStack. First, the Santa Barbara-based cloud management company announced it will become a corporate sponsor of the OpenStack Foundation. Because RightScale has delivered cloud management support for OpenStack-based private and hybrid clouds for years, it stands well poised to differentiate itself as a cloud management provider that can “seamlessly integrate” with OpenStack due to its extensive history of involvement with the OpenStack community. Mark Collier, Chief Operating Officer of the OpenStack Foundation, pointed to RightScale’s experience with large enterprises and the importance of the availability of cloud management products for OpenStack deployments:
RightScale’s support of the OpenStack Foundation and involvement in the community are very important to OpenStack users, who expect the cloud management tools they use today to seamlessly integrate with OpenStack. RightScale brings a lot of experience working with large enterprises, and can contribute that valuable insight to the community.
Bailey Caldwell, VP of Business Development at RightScale, noted that the corporate sponsor relationship provided opportunities for RightScale to assist with large-scale OpenStack deployments as well as to receive product-related feedback that would help the company enhance its cloud management platform:
The OpenStack foundation is a robust group of members and companies. We’re excited to expand our participation in the community by becoming a Corporate Sponsor. We look forward to sharing our experience of deploying and managing applications on the cloud at scale, as well as the valuable feedback we’ll receive from other members of the Foundation.
RightScale’s deepened relationship with OpenStack as a corporate sponsor empowers it to position itself as the de facto cloud management vendor of choice for the OpenStack community, although it stands to face fierce competition from the likes of Puppet and Opscode, both of which have significant experience delivering cloud management infrastructures to the OpenStack platform themselves.
Meanwhile, just as it pledged support for OpenStack in general, RightScale and Rackspace jointly announced an agreement to integrate RightScale’s cloud management platform into the Rackspace Open Cloud, which is based on OpenStack. RightScale’s CEO, Michael Crandell, commented that the choice of Rackspace as an OpenStack partner “minimizes proprietary extensions” to the “trunk code base” that third party OpenStack vendors may impose on the core OpenStack product. Here, Crandell suggests that other commercial purveyors of OpenStack were more likely than Rackspace to customize the OpenStack core code in ways that rendered it less portable and interoperable than the allegedly purer, Rackspace version.
The Rackspace blog trumped up the partnership with RightScale as another step on the road to a cloud landscape free of vendor lock-in and commitments to proprietary cloud platforms:
The pairing between Rackspace and RightScale is another step in the fight against vendor lock-in. With the launches of our new cloud products this year like Cloud Block Storage, Cloud Networks andCloud Databases, RightScale users now have a broader selection of cloud alternatives and we believe they’ll be looking at Rackspace. The deep product integration will also include the OpenStack-powered Rackspace Private Cloud, which lets users deploy a Rackspace cloud in their data center of choice — be it their own data center, a colo facility or in one of Rackspace’s global data centers.
The integration of RightScale with Rackspace empowers users to transport or disperse applications between the Rackspace public cloud, an on premise Rackspace private cloud or a private cloud hosted by Rackspace. Customers can now create hybrid cloud infrastructures by deploying applications to public and private cloud environments alike, all from within a “single pane of glass” as signified by the RightScale platform. Creating a failsafe infrastructure marked by the availability of applications in public and private cloud environments has never been easier for Rackspace customers.
The partnership represents a huge coup for both RightScale and Rackspace, both of whom stand to synergistically gain from the pairing of cloud management and an enterprise-grade OpenStack platform. Rackspace, in particular, stands to profit from the partnership given that RightScale has expressly recommended Rackspace to its customers. After all, the very title of RightScale’s press release about the partnership reads “RightScale Recommends Rackspace to Customers for OpenStack-Powered Clouds.” The agreement signals an intensification for market share amongst the crop of private vendors that have commercialized OpenStack and is likely to prefigure other partnerships that enable commercial OpenStack vendors to claim a competitive advantage over each other.
Research firm William Blair reported that Rackspace is likely to win business from Wal-Mart for the purpose of Big Data analytics in the retail sector. According to William Blair analyst Jim Breen, Wal-Mart is hiring OpenStack technical resources and outsourcing cloud-related services to Rackspace. Wal-Mart is reportedly in the process of combining its EMC and IBM-based retail data platforms into one aggregated Big Data platform. Breen wrote that Wal-Mart’s ten online portals currently use segregated data siloes and that the larger corporate vision is to combine these discrete platforms into one massive data repository that enables richer insights about consumer behavior and operations. Breen spoke of the significance of Rackspace’s collaboration with Wal-Mart by noting:
From a broad perspective, we believe Rackspace’s ability to gain traction with Wal-Mart for big data reflects early success of the OpenStack platform and foreshadows new market opportunities.
What is surprising about Breen’s report is that, while Rackspace is recognized as an OpenStack founder and visionary, the San Antonio-based company is less well known as a key player in the Big Data space. Rackspace may be planning to count on leveraging its ability to aggregate web-based data using OpenStack object and block storage as the infrastructure for a Big Data platform for Wal-Mart, but details of the Big Data analytic and querying tools it plans to use for the collaboration have yet to emerge. In any case, shares of Rackspace closed up 2% in early trading on Wednesday after the William Blair announcement. Rackspace shares are up nearly 60% for the entire year.
Hot on the heels of Red Hat’s announcement of the preview release of its OpenStack distribution, Rackspace revealed the availability of its Private Cloud Software branded Alamo. Available as a free download on its website, Alamo intends to accelerate the adoption of OpenStack across enterprises, with a particular focus on enterprise IT administrators that have little prior experience with OpenStack. Alamo represents an important step in Rackspace’s efforts to transition from its proprietary cloud based software to OpenStack-based solutions given that, earlier this month, Rackspace converted its public cloud service to OpenStack. Alamo allows Rackspace to target private cloud enterprise customers that may elect to leverage Rackspace’s Escalation support solutions alongside its free OpenStack download.
Jim Curry, general manager of Cloud Builders, Rackspace’s private cloud division, positioned the release of Alamo within the broader community of cloud and OpenStack users as follows:
“To date most of the market for OpenStack has been people who were experts in it. We wanted to make it so a systems administrator who doesn’t know anything about OpenStack and maybe knows a little bit about cloud, can easily get an OpenStack cloud up and running so they can evaluate and determine if it’s a good solution on the same day.”
Alamo consists of the Essex release of OpenStack Nova compute, the Glance library of images, the Horizon dashboard and Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) hypervisor. The distribution also includes Canonical’s Ubuntu distribution of Linux and Opscode’s chef cloud automation software. Rackspace intends to support Red Hat’s distribution of Linux soon as well.
With the release of Alamo, Rackspace intends to streamline OpenStack installation and productize its entry into the enterprise IT ecosystem. Rackspace President Lew Moorman noted that the installation allows IT administrators to install OpenStack “anywhere within minutes” and quickly appraise its utility as a supplement to existing data center and cloud options. In addition to establishing Rackspace’s footprint firmly within the private cloud enterprise OpenStack space, Alamo is likely to accelerate OpenStack adoption more generally and lend credence to OpenStack’s status as a credible alternative to proprietary IaaS cloud solutions. Rackspace’s release of Alamo marks the intensification of a battle for market share within the private cloud OpenStack space that is likely to feature competition from Red Hat and vendors such as Piston Cloud and Nebula as well.
Today, Rackspace announced the launch of an OpenStack-based cloud that draws a “line in the sand against proprietary cloud providers,” according to Rackspace CEO Lanham Napier. Rackspace’s OpenStack-based cloud will come loaded with the company’s famed “fanatical support” and venerable history of delivering enterprise-grade IaaS cloud solutions. Rackspace’s OpenStack-based cloud features the following components in varying modes of readiness for production release to customers:
• Cloud Servers: the OpenStack-based cloud that leverages OpenStack Compute.
• Cloud Control Panel: An intuitive control panel designed especially for Rackspace’s OpenStack cloud.
Early Access (Production ready products with limited support)
• Cloud Databases: A high availability MySQL database.
• Cloud Monitoring: A platform that enables customers to keep track of the performance of their cloud ecosystems.
Preview (Products still in the testing phase)
• Cloud Block Storage: Elastic storage capability.
• Cloud Networks: A solution for managing virtual networks.
Cloud Servers is available to a limited pool of customers at present but will be generally available starting May 1. The Cloud Servers, Cloud Databases, Cloud Block Storage and Cloud Networks products are all powered by OpenStack. Rackspace’s launch of its OpenStack-based cloud makes it the first vendor to come to market with a public cloud solution based on Essex, the latest OpenStack release. HP is scheduled to unroll a public Beta of its OpenStack public cloud based on Essex in May.
This week, Rackspace announced that testing for its OpenStack based cloud product had graduated to the Beta testing phase after completion of the alpha phase. The transition to the Beta phase represents a “huge milestone for OpenStack and for the Open era of the cloud” insofar as it constitutes an important step toward commercializing the world’s largest open source collaboration on cloud computing. Backed by over 150 companies including AMD, Canonical, Cisco, Dell, Intel and AT&T, OpenStack promises to revolutionize cloud computing by offering vendors non-proprietary Infrastructure as a Service cloud solutions that allow customers to avoid vendor lock-in with respect to their cloud service provider. In the last year, OpenStack’s popularity has soared as more and more companies have joined the collaboration and public awareness of OpenStack skyrocketed. Moreover, OpenStack’s fortunes have been buoyed by a cottage industry of commercial OpenStack offerings by vendors such as Citrix Systems, Dell, HP, Internap, Nebula, Piston and Cloudscaling that have collectively begun to illustrate commercial interest in and the viability of OpenStack-based cloud products and services.
Rackspace’s OpenStack-based cloud offering promises to dramatically alter the cloud computing market landscape by lending even greater legitimacy to OpenStack, particularly given that Rackspace operates one of the largest proprietary public clouds in the world. In a blog post, Rackspace elaborated on OpenStack’s graduation to Beta testing as follows:
Rackspace is powering one of the largest public clouds in the world. We have the capability to test tens of thousands of instances in our Beta environment and we are committed to testing OpenStack at a new level of service provider scale and performance. We will continue developing and testing until it reaches the level of stability and reliability that our customers expect. Our bar is high. In fact, we have invested thousands of man-hours and millions of dollars in the infrastructure alone.
Alpha testing enabled improvements to “API responsiveness” and a user’s ability to deploy a fleet of servers. Beta testing promises to consolidate the transition to “production scale deployments” and additionally feature improvements to the user experience. The Beta phase includes a new control panel and a more robust API for developers. Beta testing will also feature stress testing on tens of thousands of compute instances as opposed to the hundreds that were used in alpha testing. Rackspace’s position as one of the largest cloud providers in the world enables it to “invest thousands of man-hours and millions of dollars in the infrastructure alone” and commit to markedly high testing standards for commercializing OpenStack.
Rightscale, a well known cloud computing management software vendor, participated in the alpha testing and noted that “Rackspace’s leadership in the OpenStack community has positioned them well to make Cloud Servers faster, more scalable and provide a reliable platform for partners like us and for their customers.” Moreover, Rackspace’s scale and experience in enterprise IaaS deployments uniquely qualifies it to deliver an enterprise-grade version of OpenStack. As such, Rackspace’s achievement of the Beta testing milestone for OpenStack marks a significant step toward increased cloud computing inter-operability and transparent cloud standards that are likely to accelerate market adoption of cloud computing technology even further. If testing goes well, Rackspace branded OpenStack clouds are expected to be ready for commercial deployment in the third or fourth quarter of 2012.
Rackspace has partnered with Redapt to deliver Rackspace Cloud: Private Edition, featuring deployment of an OpenStack-based private cloud offering in addition to support. Under the partnership, Redapt will deliver hardware installed with OpenStack that conforms to Rackspace’s infrastructure specifications. Redapt will perform all hardware-related integration testing off customer premises such that the “hardware will arrive at a customer’s data center of choice in as few as 14 days after ordering, needing only power and network connectivity.” While the Rackspace Cloud: Private Edition is based on Rackspace’s customized version of OpenStack, the San Antonio based company is looking forward to offering support for other deployments of OpenStack from vendors that similarly deliver commercial OpenStack deployments. Partnerships with other commercial OpenStack distributors would allow other vendors to take advantage of Rackspace’s legendary support services while increasing their distribution channel. Meanwhile, Rackspace’s partnership with Redapt illustrates the commercial interest in enterprise grade private clouds based on the OpenStack cloud operating system.