Rackspace Gives Cloud Elite Some Competition

By Dennis Barker

October 24, 2008

Rackspace Hosting took to a stage in Austin, Texas, earlier this week to announce its new cloud computing initiative. The stage normally is used for “Austin City Limits” concerts — a good fit if you consider that Rackspace wants to do for cloud computing what “Austin City Limits” did for certain types of Texas music: make it accessible to a much bigger audience.

Among the top managed services providers in the world (about 40,000 servers worldwide), Rackspace says it intends to use its capacity, expertise, experience and support to bring the benefits of cloud computing to virtually all. In fact, in its official announcement, company CEO Lanham Napier promises “simple, cost-effective products that everyone can use.”

CTO John Engates says the new strategy will give a broader class of customers the ability to achieve a nimble, scalable infrastructure that matches IT expenditures to revenues. “When we first saw the Amazon cloud, we thought they had a solid offering, but it didn’t strike us that it was as powerful as the cloud could be,” Engates says. “We started investing in our own cloud, working on it the past two years, and now we’re ready to take that power and make it accessible to businesses and even individuals. Most businesses we talk to tell us they’re not using the cloud because they don’t know how to use it. With the three new services we’re now offering, we’re going to make the cloud easier to use, and for a broader range of applications.”

The company will have competitors in Amazon, Google and Microsoft, among others, but Tier1 Research analyst Daniel Golding thinks Rackspace has several advantages. “Amazon sells books, Microsoft sells software, Google sells ads. Rackspace is a customer service company, combined with a good set of products and services,” he explains. “These other companies do other things; hosting is what Rackspace does. It could have a very outsized impact on the market.”

Furthermore, “Rackspace gets it in terms of cloud computing,” Golding says. “There are a bunch of ingredients you need, and they understand that. You need an easy on-ramp and fast provisioning and storage on demand. All of Rackspace’s services are available on demand, rapidly provisioned and ultrafast.”

The Power of Three

Rackspace is now offering three cloud services, all of which fall under its cloud hosting division, Mosso. Cloud Sites used to be The Hosting Cloud, Mosso’s original cloud. “This is our platform for sites that need to handle huge traffic spikes on demand. It’s where you’d put your Web site that needs to scale,” Engates says. “We’ve tried to make cloud technologies accessible and simplified for this type of customer. Cloud Sites is very simple to navigate, very straightforward to use.”

Cloud Servers provides hosting for a more technically advanced crowd that needs “high-performance server capacity on demand,” Engates says. To offer this type of service, the company has acquired Slicehost, “a leader in Xen-based virtual machine hosting with datacenters globally and very experienced meeting the requirements of big business.” Slicehost’s development team brings expertise that will let Rackspace offer new types of cloud capabilities throughout its portfolio, he says.

Then there is what you might call Rackspace’s version of Amazon S3. Cloud Files is built on the company’s CloudFS Internet storage service, but with advances by way of Rackspace’s acquisition of Jungle Disk. Jungle Disk provides an easy-to-use online file storage service that uses S3 as its backend but will be ported to Rackspace and support both clouds. “You can store a lot of data in the cloud very inexpensively, but the trouble is the cloud can be technically difficult to use,” explains Engates. “Jungle Disk makes it easy to set up an online backup solution with virtually unlimited drive capacity. You can drop files into a virtual folder and they magically replicate in the cloud.”

“Cloud Files will give customers instant access to enterprise-class storage, scalable storage, at massive scale, without investing in infrastructure. We offer an industry-leading service level agreement, and our pricing model is very competitive. Replicated storage starts at about 15 cents a gigabyte.

Later this year, developers will be able to blast Cloud Files content “to millions of end users around the world” via Rackspace’s new partnership with Limelight Networks, a leader in content delivery systems. “You’ll be able to share files publicly through Limelight’s technology. Essentially, we’re putting a strong content delivery network on top of our cloud,” says Engates.

Rackspace also announced a deal with Sonian Networks to port its cloud-based mail-archiving program to Rackspace’s cloud, and Sonian will provide archiving for users of Rackspace’s Mailtrust e-mail hosting solution.

However, despite the myriad announcements, Rackspace is not going all cloud all the time. “By integrating our cloud with traditional managed hosting, we want to enable that mix that needs to happen,” Engates says. “You will always have those applications that best run in the cloud and those that run out of the cloud.”

Customers in the Clouds

Expand your products and you can expand your customer base, especially when back it up with service. “We do managed hosting for 15,000 customers, and many of them run very public sites, the kind of sites that get a black eye if they go down,” Engates says, citing Marines.com as one he can mention. “We want to bring that level of customer service to the cloud. With these new offerings and acquisitions, we expect to open cloud computing to not just more businesses, but different types of businesses and users.”

He believes enterprises eventually will come around to hosting mission-critical applications in the cloud, and there always will be start-ups. As points out, YouTube built its business at Rackspace before being acquired by Google, and there are thousands of small businesses that do not want to manage their Web site and e-mail in-house.

“As we move even further into the cloud, we’ll attract more developers, some advanced hobbyists, and the lone tech guy in the Fortune 500 company who wants to do a pilot project and can’t get the servers he needs because of budget cuts and red tape. We bring the costs down significantly, with no burdensome contract terms,” Engates says.

“Now with the addition of Jungle Disk and simple, scalable cloud storage,” he adds “we hit smaller businesses, and even the consumer market.”

However, not everyone can take advantage of the new offerings, particularly users with high-performance or extreme applications. “We’ve talked to folks in financial services, pharma, oil and gas, scientific research, and they’re interested in the benefits of a cloud infrastructure,” Engates says, “but Cloud Servers is not yet geared toward their needs. It wasn’t designed for HPC.” Rackspace does expect the Slicehost technology to extend to a broader audience, though, and its ability to provision a VM in just minutes should appeal to companies that do not want a permanent grid but do occasionally need a couple hundred servers. “The cloud will be a great place to do that, and that’s part of our roadmap,” Engates says.

Rackspace’s biggest task in meeting its cloud objectives will be “getting the word out,” Tier1’s Golding says. “Educating IT buyers that they have another option is a big challenge, especially when no one really knows what cloud computing is. It’s amorphous. People are doing lots of hand-waving and not getting down to brass tacks. Rackspace is good at having products you can actually use. And, more significantly, their services are available on demand, pay as you go.”

That could be the ticket. “At the end of the day,” Golding says, “even if you work for a large IT company, if you’ve been tasked to find a solution, you’re more likely to use the one where you can just put your credit card down.”

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Fluid HPC: How Extreme-Scale Computing Should Respond to Meltdown and Spectre

February 15, 2018

The Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities are proving difficult to fix, and initial experiments suggest security patches will cause significant performance penalties to HPC applications. Even as these patches are rolled o Read more…

By Pete Beckman

Intel Touts Silicon Spin Qubits for Quantum Computing

February 14, 2018

Debate around what makes a good qubit and how best to manufacture them is a sprawling topic. There are many insistent voices favoring one or another approach. Referencing a paper published today in Nature, Intel has offe Read more…

By John Russell

Brookhaven Ramps Up Computing for National Security Effort

February 14, 2018

Last week, Dan Coats, the director of Director of National Intelligence for the U.S., warned the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russia was likely to meddle in the 2018 mid-term U.S. elections, much as it stands accused of doing in the 2016 Presidential election. Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Safeguard Your HPC Environment with the World’s Most Secure Industry Standard Servers

Today’s organizations operate in an environment with ever-evolving threats, and in order to protect themselves they must continuously bolster their security strategy. Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Intel® are addressing modern security challenges with the world’s most secure industry standard servers powered by the latest generation of Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors. Read more…

AI Cloud Competition Heats Up: Google’s TPUs, Amazon Building AI Chip

February 12, 2018

Competition in the white hot AI (and public cloud) market pits Google against Amazon this week, with Google offering AI hardware on its cloud platform intended to make it easier, faster and cheaper to train and run machi Read more…

By Doug Black

Fluid HPC: How Extreme-Scale Computing Should Respond to Meltdown and Spectre

February 15, 2018

The Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities are proving difficult to fix, and initial experiments suggest security patches will cause significant performance penal Read more…

By Pete Beckman

Brookhaven Ramps Up Computing for National Security Effort

February 14, 2018

Last week, Dan Coats, the director of Director of National Intelligence for the U.S., warned the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russia was likely to meddle in the 2018 mid-term U.S. elections, much as it stands accused of doing in the 2016 Presidential election. Read more…

By John Russell

AI Cloud Competition Heats Up: Google’s TPUs, Amazon Building AI Chip

February 12, 2018

Competition in the white hot AI (and public cloud) market pits Google against Amazon this week, with Google offering AI hardware on its cloud platform intended Read more…

By Doug Black

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Food Industry’s Next Journey — from Mars to Exascale

February 12, 2018

Global food producer and one of the world's leading chocolate companies Mars Inc. has a unique perspective on the impact that exascale computing will have on the food industry. Read more…

By Scott Gibson, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Singularity HPC Container Start-Up – Sylabs – Emerges from Stealth

February 8, 2018

The driving force behind Singularity, the popular HPC container technology, is bringing the open source platform to the enterprise with the launch of a new vent Read more…

By George Leopold

Dell EMC Debuts PowerEdge Servers with AMD EPYC Chips

February 6, 2018

AMD notched another EPYC processor win today with Dell EMC’s introduction of three PowerEdge servers (R6415, R7415, and R7425) based on the EPYC 7000-series p Read more…

By John Russell

‘Next Generation’ Universe Simulation Is Most Advanced Yet

February 5, 2018

The research group that gave us the most detailed time-lapse simulation of the universe’s evolution in 2014, spanning 13.8 billion years of cosmic evolution, is back in the spotlight with an even more advanced cosmological model that is providing new insights into how black holes influence the distribution of dark matter, how heavy elements are produced and distributed, and where magnetic fields originate. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Inventor Claims to Have Solved Floating Point Error Problem

January 17, 2018

"The decades-old floating point error problem has been solved," proclaims a press release from inventor Alan Jorgensen. The computer scientist has filed for and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Japan Unveils Quantum Neural Network

November 22, 2017

The U.S. and China are leading the race toward productive quantum computing, but it's early enough that ultimate leadership is still something of an open questi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Showcases Growing Portfolio of EPYC and Radeon-based Systems at SC17

November 13, 2017

AMD’s charge back into HPC and the datacenter is on full display at SC17. Having launched the EPYC processor line in June along with its MI25 GPU the focus he Read more…

By John Russell

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Perspective: What Really Happened at SC17?

November 22, 2017

SC is over. Now comes the myriad of follow-ups. Inboxes are filled with templated emails from vendors and other exhibitors hoping to win a place in the post-SC thinking of booth visitors. Attendees of tutorials, workshops and other technical sessions will be inundated with requests for feedback. Read more…

By Andrew Jones

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

GlobalFoundries, Ayar Labs Team Up to Commercialize Optical I/O

December 4, 2017

GlobalFoundries (GF) and Ayar Labs, a startup focused on using light, instead of electricity, to transfer data between chips, today announced they've entered in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tensors Come of Age: Why the AI Revolution Will Help HPC

November 13, 2017

Thirty years ago, parallel computing was coming of age. A bitter battle began between stalwart vector computing supporters and advocates of various approaches to parallel computing. IBM skeptic Alan Karp, reacting to announcements of nCUBE’s 1024-microprocessor system and Thinking Machines’ 65,536-element array, made a public $100 wager that no one could get a parallel speedup of over 200 on real HPC workloads. Read more…

By John Gustafson & Lenore Mullin

Flipping the Flops and Reading the Top500 Tea Leaves

November 13, 2017

The 50th edition of the Top500 list, the biannual publication of the world’s fastest supercomputers based on public Linpack benchmarking results, was released Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

V100 Good but not Great on Select Deep Learning Aps, Says Xcelerit

November 27, 2017

Wringing optimum performance from hardware to accelerate deep learning applications is a challenge that often depends on the specific application in use. A benc Read more…

By John Russell

2017 Gordon Bell Prize Finalists Named

October 23, 2017

The three finalists for this year’s Gordon Bell Prize in High Performance Computing have been announced. They include two papers on projects run on China’s Read more…

By John Russell

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This