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Rackspace To Help Others Build Clouds with OpenStack

In a departure from its traditional cloud hosting business, Rackspace today launched a new service that will help those who want to build their own clouds.

The company's new Rackspace Cloud Builders program is a training, certification and deployment offering based on the OpenStack cloud compute and storage platform. As I recently wrote, the open source OpenStack effort is gaining momentum with more than 50 members now supporting it since the project was formed eight months ago.

The OpenStack cloud operating system originated with code developed by Rackspace and NASA, which built the NASA Nebula Cloud Computing Platform. A new telco-grade version of OpenStack, code-named Cactus, is due next month.

Now companies will be able to contract with Rackspace, which will train and support them as they build their own OpenStack-based clouds. Specifically, Rackspace Cloud Builders will offer formal training and certification, deployment services, and support and management.

That Rackspace is helping others build clouds is a major shift for the company, which has never offered services outside its datacenter before. "For the first time, people will be running the same software that we write and that we operate at scale," said Mark Collier, VP of marketing and business development for Rackspace Cloud Builders.

Rackspace will be offering the paid service to those who want to build their own private clouds, including businesses and government agencies, as well as service providers. But why would Rackspace want to enable service providers, who are potential competitors? Collier sees it as broadening the market for OpenStack.

"Our crown jewels are not technology. It's the people, it's the service and support that we're known for," he said. "If you put aside cloud and just think about managed hosting, which has been the historical business we've been in, we have the exact same technology as everyone else. We want to see technology standardized. That's good for our industry and it floats all boats in the end. We're actually good with that outcome."

Rackspace is able to offer this service thanks to last month's acquisition of Anso Labs, a professional services firm that has already helped a number of large businesses and government agencies build private clouds based on the OpenStack platform, including NASA's Nebula.

The goal with OpenStack is to provide a viable ecosystem that can scale in order to provide an alternative to the market leader, Amazon Web Services, Collier explained. "There are very few alternatives out there that can help you scale to Amazon's scale and meet the aggressive price points to be competitive, and we know for a fact you can achieve that with OpenStack," Collier said. "The OpenStack code base is designed to run on standard hardware across the industry. It's not tied to any proprietary high-end storage or proprietary databases, and the software itself is free."

While Rackspace believes OpenStack will help provide an alternative open source cloud environment, it does not see its new Cloud Builders offering as a major revenue booster. "We are not expecting it to be material for the foreseeable future," Collier said. "Time will tell how much money there is in it, but we definitely think there is a huge demand for OpenStack and we want to see that succeed and that's our first priority."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on March 08, 2011