Rackspace to telcos: build your OpenStack cloud on us

Rackspace(s rax) fancies itself as the OpenStack supplier to the stars. The company says it will provide telcos and other service providers with OpenStack technology that will enable them to compete better with Amazon(s amzn) Web Services — although you could argue it is arming other large companies to compete with its own OpenStack offerings. This announcement is no doubt just the start of a flurry of press releases timed for this week’s OpenStack Summit in Portland.

Rackspace_Logo_08_07_2012[2]Big IT vendors, telcos and hosting companies have watched Amazon’s growing dominance in public cloud computing with concern and that’s why many of them — AT&T(s T), IBM(s ibm), HP(s hpq) and Red Hat(s rhat), soon to be joined by Ericsson and Juniper(s jnpr)Networks et al. — have glommed onto OpenStack, as an open-source cloud underpinning to jump-start their efforts. Now, Rackspace says it can give them an even better head-start, sharing all its best practices and blueprints for OpenStack-based public clouds.

Rackpace CTO John Engates said telcos and service providers have “approached us for years about helping them to get into the cloud business — they want the same category of service that we offer specifically around OpenStack … They want to go faster without having to do all the heavy lifting. They see us as uniquely positioned in that we know how to operate OpenStack, we have a public cloud.”

A federated set of OpenStack clouds

As part of this program, Rackspace will specify hardware and software infrastructure “powered by OpenStack” and handle automated testing and delivery of updates. It will likewise take care of patching, tuning and monitoring the resulting cloud with “carrier-grade”  service level agreements or SLAs.

Rackspace CTO John Engates

Rackspace CTO John Engates

Scott Sanchez, director of strategy for the San Antonio, Texas company, described what could emerge as a network of interconnected OpenStack-based clouds, operated by different telcos but all federated to support multi-national companies as needed. “We’ll treat their data centers as our data centers. they’ll all run technology that is interconnected, we can link them all. So customers of one provider will see all the zones of all the providers in this network,” he said.

In some ways Rackspace’s pitch to embed its OpenStack into third-party clouds mimics VMware’s initial go-to-market for vCloud Director. VMware’s vision initially focused on moving legacy applications to the cloud while Amazon attacked new applications, said Gary Chen, IDC research manager for cloud and virtualization software. But now, VMware  and Amazon are encroaching on each other’s turf and different flavors of OpenStack, depending on the provider, are attacking both old and new applications as well.

Target: Amazon Web Services

Rackspace would not name any telcos or service providers who have signed on, but Sanchez said telcos that are the incumbents or dominate in a given region are likely prospects.

With the latest, seventh release of OpenStack, code-named Grizzly, OpenStack has gained maturity and features but still lags far behind features and functions that Amazon has churned out since the AWS launch in 2007. But the desire for an AWS alternative remains strong.

“This is all about OpenStack as a global infrastructure-as-a-service platform available to customers in every geography,” Engates said.

Sanchez shrugged off the notion that Rackspace may be fostering more competition for its own cloud services: “In a way we did that three years ago when we took our code and open sourced it to people who may have been considered our competitors. The goal here is to help people be more successful as cloud providers.”

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock user SOMKKU