Rumors continue to abound that Rackspace is on the verge of acquisition, but we’ve heard little in the way of definitive news about a prospective vendor just yet. On September 7, Bloomberg reported that CenturyLink is interested in acquiring the San Antonio-based IaaS vendor turned managed cloud hosting provider. A CenturyLink acquisition of Rackspace would make sense given its cash on hand and previous acquisitions of Savvis and Tier 3. That said, Rackspace’s market value of $5.6B based on share prices renders it an extremely expensive purchase that may not easily yield the return on investment sought by its acquirer. Moreover, Rackspace’s recent decision to pivot on its core IaaS offering by delivering managed cloud hosting services fails, at a glance at least, to deliver reusable intellectual property to the degree required of a $5.6B purchase. In any case, Rackspace’s decision to transition toward managed cloud hosting represented a strategic maneuver that materialized far too late for it to remain even remotely competitive in a market landscape featuring the likes of Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Compute Engine. The only hope for the San Antonio-based company, now, is that a buyer emerges with the cash and strategic vision to subsume Rackspace’s technology, people and processes into a larger enterprise infrastructure on the scale of a telecommunications provider such as CenturyLink. The more that rumors proliferate about Rackspace’s acquisition with no ensuing result, however, the more deleterious the result will be for Rackspace in its attempt to find its footing, let alone a buyer.
Rackspace has partnered with San Jose-based Vormetric to deliver encryption solutions for the Rackspace cloud via Vormetric’s Transparent Encryption Solution. Vormetric’s Transparent Encryption provides encryption at rest solutions for Rackspace’s managed cloud offerings without compromising the performance of the encrypted infrastructure. Rackspace joins the Vormetric Cloud Partner Program and offers its customers encryption and key management services that not only bolster cloud data security, but also facilitate the achievement of compliance regulations that require encryption. With Vormetric, Rackspace customers can maintain control of the encryption keys, implement advanced role based access and receive notifications that suggest whether a security breach is in progress. Rackspace’s inclusion in the Vormetric Cloud Partner Program further consolidates the positioning of Vormetric as a leader in the cloud data security space. Other participants in Vormetric’s Cloud Partner Program include Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure and Virtustream.
Rackspace and Datapipe Take Leadership Positions In Gartner Magic Quadrant For Cloud-Enabled Managed Hosting, North America
Datapipe and Rackspace take the two leadership positions in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Cloud-Enabled Managed Hosting, North America as illustrated below. Datapipe offers fully managed hosting solutions on Amazon Web Services in addition to private cloud and hybrid cloud solutions. Rackspace, meanwhile, recently introduced a managed cloud service that builds upon its branding for “fanatical support” by delivering managed infrastructure and managed operations solutions. CenturyLink was also positioned strongly as a visionary with a strong ability to execute. Managed hosting solutions are likely to play a critical role in the next phase of the evolution of IaaS adoption as organizations increasingly strive to simplify and streamline IaaS adoption by transferring responsibility for provisioning, managing and troubleshooting IaaS environments to vendors who specialize in managed cloud solution delivery.
Disclaimer: This graphic was published by Gartner, Inc. as part of a larger research document and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document. The Gartner document is available upon request from Datapipe here or Rackspace here. Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.
Rackspace recently announced details of a managed cloud service plan that gives customers the opportunity to take advantage of managed services for their cloud deployments. The managed cloud service plan comes in two forms: (1) managed infrastructure, which provides advisory services regarding infrastructure set-up and architecture; and (2) managed operations, which enables Rackspace engineers to access customer servers to tweak code as necessary. The managed infrastructure and operations offerings represent Rackspace’s attempt to differentiate itself from competitors such as Amazon Web Services and Windows Azure, both of which demand greater responsibility on the part of developers and IT staff to provision, configure, deploy and manage Infrastructure as a Service environments. The introduction of the managed cloud service pivots on Rackspace’s famed “fanatical support” by building on the company’s strengths as a leader in consultative support for IaaS deployment and management. Rackspace President Taylor Rhodes summarized the new managed cloud offerings as follows:
Our basic level, called Managed Infrastructure, offers Fanatical Support with much more managed service than do the more-expensive, premium service levels offered by many of our competitors. Our higher service level, called Managed Operations, provides even more managed services, up the stack into the support of application level — addressing customer needs that most of our rivals won’t even touch.
Components of the managed infrastructure offering include architectural advice, support for workload migration and scaling, launch assistance and round the clock availability of cloud engineers to troubleshoot and resolve issues. Managed operations additionally delivers support for operating systems, web servers, database servers, cloud databases, cloud backup and monitoring and user provisioning and permissions. Rackspace’s managed infrastructure offering is priced at $.005/GB, assuming a $50 minimum per month while managed operations is priced at $.02/GB, with a $500 monthly minimum. In addition to its managed cloud service, Rackspace announced details of an expanded program for developers and more transparent pricing. Altogether, Rackspace’s new managed cloud offering is likely to give it some short term publicity and inject new life into its ailing IaaS positioning, but the San Antonio-based company will need a deeper transformation if it intends to seriously compete with the big players in the IaaS space, particularly given that competitors such as Amazon Web Services already partner with other vendors to offer managed services comparable to those revealed by Rackspace last Tuesday.
Rackspace Renders Hadoop Available Via Hortonworks Data Platform On Its Public Cloud and Managed Hosting Platform
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.
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.