Rackspace gussies up private cloud with new OpenCenter dashboard

Another day, another OpenStack announcement. Rackspace(s rax) on Wednesday unveiled an update to its OpenStack-based private cloud with a new single dashboard for deploying, configuring and running those clouds in a company’s data center.

Rackspace_Logo_08_07_2012[2]OpenCenter aims to make it easier for enterprises to automate rollout of updates and deploy their cloud in the first place.  “Deploying high-availability used to take a lot of manual steps but we can now point and click to do that in OpenCenter,” said Scott Sanchez, director of strategy for Rackspace. OpenCenter, he said, is part of an overall operations “fabric” that will let us roll things out faster, provide continuous deployment and updates right into the private cloud.

The OpenCenter code is free and available under the Apache 2 license.

More host operating systems to choose from

The new private cloud option utilizes OpenStack’s Folsom code base and will be updated to the newer Grizzly release when it comes out next month. Rackspace said its public cloud already uses Grizzly. Also with this private cloud release, customers can choose between Ubuntu, Red Hat(s rhat) Enterprise Linux or CentOS as their host operating system. In the previous private cloud, Ubuntu was the default host OS.

 San Antonio, Texas-based Rackspace hopes its use of OpenStack across private, public and hybrid cloud deployment models will resonate with enterprise customers, many of whom  still prefer to deploy workloads in their own (non-shared) data centers. Even Amazon, the king of public cloud, has started to open up to a hybrid model — with its  Virtual Private Cloud capabilities that enable a business customer to rope off a section fo the AWS cloud for its own use and then with its alliance with Eucalyptus.

Lots of clouds fighting for business

Amazon(s amzn) touts itself as the low-cost, high-volume provider of cloud services — a claim it enhanced Tuesday with yet another price cut on it EC2 reserved instances — while Rackspace wraps itself in its “fanatical support” branding, as in “hey, we may cost more, but we give you actual service and support.” Many Rackspace customers attest that the company lives up to its name by providing actual engineers for phone support and other handholding. Amazon has a way to go there, although it is busily staffing up its enterprise sales and support teams. On the other hand, Rackspace  has shown itself to be flexible on pricing as well: Last month it announced price cuts of its own.

OpenStack, in general, is a multi-vendor response to Amazon’s power in cloud computing services. But Rackspace, which helped birth the OpenStack effort with NASA three years ago, is now one of many OpenStack options. In the past year, Hewlett-Packard(s hpq), Red Hat, Cloudscaling and other vendors have rolled out OpenStack clouds. And IBM(s ibm), the king of enterprise IT players, on Monday announced plans to put all of its cloud resources on OpenStack going forward. So there will be a lot of contenders for these business workloads.