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Rackspace Joins Microsoft Cloud OS Partner Network

Rackspace announced during its third quarter earnings report on Monday that it is joining Microsoft's Cloud OS Network, an elite hosting program that aims to provide Microsoft Azure-compatible third-party cloud services.

Microsoft and Rackspace are longtime partners, with Rackspace recently extending its Hyper-V-compatible offerings and dedicated Exchange, SharePoint and Lync services. However, Rackspace also has a formidable cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) that competes with Azure. The news that Rackspace now will provide Azure-compatible cloud services signals a boost for both companies.

For Microsoft, the move brings one of the world's largest public clouds and dedicated hosting providers into the Azure fold. While the core of the Rackspace business is still the OpenStack-based infrastructure, a healthy VMware offering, and the newly launched Google Apps practice, Rackspace has a lot of Exchange and SharePoint hosting customers who may want to move to an Azure-like model but want to use it with the service level that Rackspace emphasizes.

"Those who are down in the managed 'co-lo' world, they don't want to be managing the infrastructure. They want us to do that," said Jeff DeVerter, general manager of Microsoft's Private Cloud business at Rackspace. "They're happy to let that go and get back into the business of running the applications that run that business."

Customers will be able to provision Azure private cloud instances in the Rackspace cloud and use the Windows Azure Pack to manage and view workloads. This is not a multitenant offering like Azure or similar IaaS clouds, DeVerter pointed out.

"These are truly private clouds from storage to compute to the networking layer, and then the private cloud that gets deployed inside of their environment is dedicated to theirs," he said. "We deploy a private cloud into all of our datacenters [and] it puts the customers' cloud dual-homing some of their management and reporting back to us so that we can manage hundreds and then thousands of our customers' clouds through one management cloud."

Microsoft first launched the Cloud OS Network nearly a year ago with just 25 partners. It now has more than 100 members. Marco Limena, vice president of hosting service providers at Microsoft, claimed in a blog post late last month that there are in excess of 600 Cloud OS local datacenters in 100 companies serving 3.7 million customers. Microsoft believes this network model will address the barriers among customers who have data sovereignty and other compliance requirements.

Among the Cloud OS Network's members, which are listed in an online directory, are Bell Canada, CapGemini, Datapipe, Dimension Data and SherWeb.

"Microsoft works closely with network members to enable best-practice solutions for hybrid cloud deployments including connections to the Microsoft Azure global cloud," Limena said.

Asked if it's in the works for Rackspace to enable Cloud OS private cloud customers to burst workloads to Azure, DeVerter said: "Those are active conversations today that we're having internally and having with Microsoft. But right now our focus is around making that private cloud run the best it can at Rackspace."

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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