Rackspace formally announced a program designed to target start-up companies as customers for its cloud computing products and services on March 11. Titled the “Rackspace Startup Program,” the strategy makes available Rackspace’s cloud computing offering to startups that are part of incubator and accelerator programs such as 500 Startups, TechStars, Y Combinator and General Assembly. Based on the understanding that Rackspace itself was a startup, the program offers customized guidance about deploying applications within a cloud computing environment alongside its Rackspace and OpenStack cloud resources. The program offers yet another illustration of divergences between Rackspace’s business model and that of Amazon Web Services. Whereas Amazon Web Services represents a pure product offering, Rackspace provides product enhanced services that complement its cloud offering with consulting services such as those recently formalized by its Cloud Builders service line. Dubset marks an example of a startup that uses Rackspace’s services to stream music and track and perform analytics on what gets played. In a note on Rackspace’s blog, Dubset reports that their “costs are low and we never have to worry about our Cloud Servers.” Alongside the release of its Startup Program, Rackspace also announced the availability of version 2.0 of its cloud computing application, Rackspace Cloud 2.0, which can additionally be accessed by iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The free iPhone and iPod Touch application enables cloud managers and development teams to access and transform their cloud computing environments while away from their desktop or laptop consoles.
Rackspace, Dell and Equinix have decided to launch a demonstration environment of OpenStack, an open source, Infrastructure as a Service cloud computing platform. The OpenStack demonstration environment is intended to entice customers to investigate OpenStack’s cloud computing facilities to the point where they subsequently decide to purchase service offerings that manage the process of building and maintaining a customer’s application environment in the cloud. Rackspace, for example, has a service offering called Cloud Builders that facilitates the process of transitioning a customer’s internally hosted applications into a cloud computing environment. Cloud Builders assists customers design and launch applications either within a public cloud analogous to Amazon Web Services, or a private cloud behind the customer’s own firewall within their own data center.
The OpenStack demo environment will be available in three locations: the Rackspace data center in Chicago, and Equinix data centers in Silicon Valley and Ashburn, VA. The platform will run on Dell’s PowerEdge Intel C based server technology, Platform Equinix, a delivery platform for data centers across the U.S., OpenStack’s open source cloud computing code and Rackspace’s Cloud Builders services and support. OpenStack began in October 2010 as a collaboration between NASA and Rackspace designed to deliver a scalable, open source cloud computing operating system. The project features OpenStack Compute and OpenStack Storage, which respectively provide services to provision virtual servers and deliver an infrastructure for storing terabytes and petabytes of data. Today, over 50 companies have participated in the OpenStack project by providing technical expertise, mindshare, capital and real-time application deployments from partners such as Dell, AMD, Intel, Citrix and Cisco.
The demo of OpenStack represents an important moment for Rackspace, one of the key leaders in the OpenStack initiative. With the release of Cloud Builders, Rackspace has elected to pursue a business model diametrically opposed to Amazon Web Services because it offers customers an array of services to complement its product offering. Amazon Web Services, in contrast, delivers a highly streamlined, flexible, inexpensive deployment environment and experience that explicitly eschews consultative sales and service offerings, with minor exceptions for its premium support customers. If successful, the demo of OpenStack should make Rackspace an even more attractive target for acquisition amidst a flurry of impending acquisition speculations following the recent purchases of Terremark by Verizon and NaviSite by Time Warner. Rackspace CEO, Lanham Napier, denies interest in acquisition conversations in favor of a continued policy of organic growth and revenue stemming from its own acquisitions, such as cloud computing developer Anso Labs in February of 2011. Rackspace also acquired Cloudkick, the cloud monitoring company, in December of last year.