Category Archives: Rackspace

Rackspace Technology partners with Google Cloud to offer generative AI services

Rackspace Technology, and end-to-end, multicloud solutions company, has extended its partnership with Google Cloud. Foundry for Generative AI by Rackspace (FAIR) for Google Cloud is dedicated to accelerating the secure, responsible, and sustainable adoption of generative AI solutions in enterprises across all industries. “This partnership is a force multiplier to accelerate the pragmatic and secure… Read more »

The post Rackspace Technology partners with Google Cloud to offer generative AI services appeared first on Cloud Computing News.

Rackspace extends Azure Fanatical Support footprint to Europe

Europe At Golden Sunrise - View From SpaceRackspace has announced the unlimited availability launch of its Fanatical Support services for Microsoft Azure customers in the UK, Benelux and DACH regions, as well as two new service levels, Navigator and Aviator.

The Fanatical Support was previously available in US markets, though the expansion puts the Azure service in line with its other offerings, such as for Amazon Web Services. The Navigator service offers access to tools and automation, whereas Aviator does the same, and goes further to offer a fully-managed Azure experience, providing increased man-hours, custom architecture design and all-year support, as well as performing environment build and deployment activities.

“It’s been nearly a year since Rackspace announced Fanatical Support for Microsoft Azure, which we launched to assist customers who want to run IaaS workloads on the powerful Azure cloud, but prefer not to architect, secure and operate them first-hand,” said Jeff DeVerter, Chief Technologist for Microsoft Technology at Rackspace.

“Our launch of this offering marked an important expansion of our strategy to offer the world’s best expertise and service on industry-leading technologies, and is a natural progression of our 14-year relationship with Microsoft.”

As part of the announcement, the confirmed Help for Heroes would be one of the first UK organizations to utilize the new offering. The company has been utilizing the Azure platform for some time now, as a means to counter website downtime during periods of high traffic volume during fundraising campaigns.

“Being able to scale up quickly is important, but so is scaling down during times that are quieter,” said Charles Bikhazi, Head of Application Services at Help for Heroes. “As with any charity, we’re always looking to make cost savings where possible and that’s exactly what this solution has delivered. Now, we only pay for infrastructure that’s actually being used which ensures that costs don’t spiral out of control. The new offering gives us access to this much needed scalability and resilience without the burden of having to run the platform ourselves.”

Rackspace CTO: no-one is bigger than the software revolution

Rackspace - John Engates

Rackspace CTO John Engates speaking at Rackspace: Solve 2016

While the concept of cloud computing has been normalized to a degree, the industry is now leaning towards the perceived benefits which can be derived from the technology on the whole. For the majority of companies who are evaluating cloud technologies, reducing CAPEX and OPEX simply isn’t a strong enough business case anymore.

This is certainly the case for Rackspace CTO John Engates. In fact, we’re starting to see the beginning of a new trend which will define the future of a vast number of organizations, the ability and desire to experiment. Those who can experiment with new technology, and are prepared to fail, will succeed. And those who don’t, won’t.

Although there can be savings made through the transition to a cloud environment, early adopters are now looking beyond. Cloud will underpin the growth and success of the new wave of next generation technologies, whether it is virtual reality, artificial intelligence or autonomous vehicles. The early adopters are already defining how these technologies will take their business to the next level, though the risk for the rest is how far they will get left behind is they don’t get up to speed quickly.

“Cloud as a technology is just about hitting the mainstream now,” said Engates. “Everything pre-2015 has been early adopters, but for mass markets it was business as usual.

“The main problem is that the majority of these companies are two or three steps away from the cloud. The cloud is not about saving money, but freeing up your developers so they can experiment with new technologies, learn new language and take the company forward. If you’re not thinking about these technologies now, how far behind are you. And you’re probably going to be in a very difficult position in a couple of years.”

Blockbuster is a classic example. Blockbuster and Netflix were in a similar position pre-digitalization, as most people now forget Netflix initially rose to fame through the delivery of DVD’s to its customers through the post. Fast forward to the digital era, where Netflix evolved and created its current market position, one in which a number of major player are now trying to emulate, and Blockbuster no longer exists.

For Engates, this example highlights the importance of experimentation. Netflix was a company which allowed its developers to play with new technologies and methods of delivery, whereas Blockbuster attempted to hold onto the traditional model. This will be the same for other verticals in the coming years, those who embrace the new digital era, adapt their models and allow their developers’ freedom to innovate will continue to be competitive, those who don’t will take the same route as Blockbuster.

Sports woman overcoming challenges“The successful companies of the future will be software companies,” said Engates. “They may not sell software but they will use it as a means to define their business and be creative in the marketplace. The likes of Google, Facebook, Uber and Netflix are all software companies. They aren’t people companies or infrastructure companies, they are software. If you want to compete with these companies you need to get better at creating the software experience.”

Nike and Under Armour are two more companies highlighted by Engates. While both are lifestyle and sportswear brands, both have had to create a digital experience to meet the demands of customers. A few years ago industry giants such as Nike and Under Armour were too big to be bothered by such trends, but the cloud computing era has levelled the playing field. No-one is bigger than the software revolution.

“I think that companies have to enable some of their organization to be innovative and to be creative,” said Engates. “Most of IT has been behind the wall; they haven’t been innovators, they’ve been keeping the lights on. It wasn’t about transforming the company into something new and different that was product development’s job or marketing. But today, inventing the new it-thing means you have to have a digital component, to connect with you users through your mobile device.”

Mobile devices are now redefining business and consumer attitudes. For the most part this is how the consumer connects with new companies; it’s almost exclusively digital and if you’re company is not embracing this, Engates thinks it won’t be too long before you’re not relevant.

But will companies take those risks? “Not all of them will,” said Engates. “Not every company will make that leap. The ones that don’t will be left behind. Now even banks are starting to do this as you’re starting to see more automated investing and digital advisors. Why would you need to go to the branch if you can do it over the phone?”

For innovation to occur within an organization, the conditions have to be right. In the majority of large scale organizations, innovation is very difficult to achieve. There are too many risks, too much red tape and too much politics. The notion that a new idea might not succeed, or reap short term benefits, scares the board and stakeholders, which in turn will inhibit innovation. It’s a difficult loop to get out of, and for a number of larger, stodgy organizations, it will be immensely difficult.

“The reason cloud is so important is because to innovate you need to be using the most modern tools, for example data science, continuous integration, containers,” said Engates. “You need APIs to interact with, you don’t want to wait six weeks on a server. You want to experiment and do things quickly. If you want to do analytics, you need storage and compute power; you need to have the cloud.

“A lot of the people who want to work on these projects have a lot of options. There are a lot of smaller companies who have these conditions to be innovative, so they attract these developers. Companies have to adapt to them, not force them to adapt to the company. Decision makers need to change their organization to have the modern environment for these developers to work in, to be innovative and to make the company competitive in the digital era.”

Rackspace prioritises AWS and Azure partnerships for future growth

Taylor Rhodes

Taylor Rhodes, President and CEO at Rackspace

Rackspace has reported healthy growth for Q1 2016, as the team continues its transition to become managed services provider, leveraging partnerships with AWS and Microsoft Azure.

Revenues for the first quarter were reported at $518 million, a year-on-year growth of 9.9%, while profits grew 77.5%. Although the growth of the business over the last 12 months has been viewed as generally positive, industry commentators highlighted the $24 million gain from the divestiture of Jungle Disk, and what could be perceived as a lacklustre outlook for the rest of 2016 has dampened the news. The exec team expects revenues of between $519 million and $524 million for the second quarter.

“First, we saw a strong demand for our expertise and support on the AWS and Microsoft Clouds and for our OpenStack private cloud offer. Collectively, we now serve more than 400 customers on these platforms and our demand is scaling rapidly,” Taylor Rhodes, President and CEO at Rackspace. “From the October launch of our AWS service through the end of April, we’ve been actively marketing with AWS and have signed 187 customers across every firm size, geography, and vertical.”

The transition to a managed cloud services company began a number of years ago with the launch of Rackspace’s Fanatical Support services, though seemingly began making real traction within the industry last year, as the team announced expanded partnerships with Microsoft in July, when Azure public and private cloud infrastructure was incorporated into the offering, and AWS in August. The team also recently announced a new partnership with Cloud Technology Partners, which it believes will increase cloud adoption rates.

The partnerships are also enabling the company to diversify its geographical focus as over 40% of the AWS customers are coming from non-U.S. regions. Rhodes also believes the new capital-light business models employed enables the company to roll-out new offerings worldwide. Previously, new products were rolled out first in the USA, due to capital intensity, and then phased out over time into other regions worldwide, however the new model is claimed to offer Rackspace increased flexibility and agility in bringing new offerings to the market.

The shift in strategic direction is supported by a renewed effort in the marketing department, as Rhodes highlighted campaigns will now be directed towards driving brand awareness and demand generation for the managed cloud services business, specifically the Fanatical Support services offered to AWS and Microsoft Azure customers.

“Our new head of Global Sales and Marketing, Alex Pinchev, started work at the beginning of Q1,” said Rhodes. “He and his team are moving aggressively to shift resources toward our new fast-growing offers while sustaining our core business. They are training more of our sales teams to sell our new offers and are hiring additional specialists in areas of high demand. We advised you last quarter that these sales and marketing efforts will take time to gain full traction, that transition contributed to our slow start to the year”

Efforts for Rackspace on the OpenStack front would also appear to be bearing fruit, with the launch of OpenStack Everywhere, Next Generation Bare Metal Servers and the Private Cloud Powered by Red Hat offering. All three offerings would seemingly demonstrate the company’s drive towards the OpenStack private and hybrid cloud market segments. The team are confident in the growth potential of the OpenStack private cloud market, and highlighted a number of major customers wins were through this aspect of the business.

“Our role as the co-founder of OpenStack has given us unique capabilities in software development, DevOps, continuous integration and deployment, and other key disciplines,” said Rhodes. “Those capabilities provide a major differentiation for us versus other managed services providers as we expand to provide managed cloud services on AWS and the Microsoft Cloud.

“We’ve really seen a tipping point, what really looks like a significant tipping point in the market for OpenStack private clouds in the last six months to nine months. Some of our largest deals that we closed in March were OpenStack private cloud deals and some of the largest deals that we have in our pipeline today are OpenStack private cloud deal. So, really that’s the traction that we’re seeing.”

Rackspace and Cloud Technology Partners announce strategic partnership

Partnership hand holdingRackspace and Cloud Technology Partners have announced a strategic partnership to deliver professional and managed services, geared around the AWS public cloud offering.

The partnership will focus on a number of areas including cloud strategy & economics, security & governance, application portfolio assessment, DevOps & automation and application modernisation, migration & development, with the aim of accelerating enterprise adoption of cloud technologies.

“We are seeing increasing demand from enterprises that are seeking help moving to AWS and Azure, and then successfully managing their environments once deployed,” said Taylor Rhodes, CEO of Rackspace. “CTP is a recognised leader in helping enterprises move to the cloud and is a natural complement to our managed services expertise. Together, we provide the market leading solution that helps enterprises accelerate their realisation of cloud benefits.”

The partnership is seemingly build on the perception an enterprises adoption of cloud technologies is slowed due to the digital transformation programmes which are needed before the benefits of the cloud can be realized. The new partnership claims this process can be accelerated through combining the expertise of both organizations into one offering; Cloud Technology Partners will offer initial integrations and ongoing optimization work, whereas Rackspace provide managed services.

“Working with Rackspace was an obvious fit based on their managed cloud leadership and our shared emphasis on supporting customers through every phase of their cloud journey,” said Chris Greendale, CEO of Cloud Technology Partners. “Our prescriptive approach to public cloud adoption has been hugely successful for enterprise customers and we are very excited at the opportunity these combined services provide for both companies.”

Rackspace launches ‘cloud in a box’ offering for any data centre

Open gift boxRackspace has announced the launch of OpenStack Everywhere, delivering OpenStack as a managed service in any data centre the customer chooses.

Backing OpenStack as the preferred private cloud platform for enterprise, the company has built its new offering on the assumption that the complexity and cost of hiring talent to deploy and operate will boost demand for OpenStack as a managed service.

“Companies realise they can free up money and resources for more strategic business investments when they turn their IT capital expenses into operating expenses,” said Darrin Hanson, GM of OpenStack Private Cloud at Rackspace. “When OpenStack is consumed as a managed service, businesses can remove non-core operations, reduce software licensing, and minimise infrastructure acquisition and IT operations costs.”

In previous years, organizations wanting to enter into the OpenStack world would have had to front hardware and infrastructure costs, as well as hire experts for deployment and continuous management. The new product offers Rackspace support, on OpenStack, in a private cloud environment; the customer provides the floor space, power and cooling systems, but Rackspace does everything else.

The new ‘cloud in a box’ enables Rackspace to provide an integrated software, hardware and services product, which can be deployed in any data centre around the world. “Take for example I’m the IT Director for a German company who has a subsidiary in Italy,” said Frank Weyns, Director, OpenStack International at Rackspace “I want to give them local cloud capabilities, but ensure they are using the same technology as the subsidiaries in the UK and America. We can ship a complete hardware, software and services package to Italy, which operates on the same cloud platform as the rest of the business worldwide”

While the complexity of the cloud is no longer a particular challenge, Frank highlighted the main hurdle surrounding cloud computing, in particular OpenStack, is the internal resources. Now OpenStack is moving from the early adopter through to mass market stage, uptake is moving from the IT industry through to other verticals that wouldn’t necessarily have the same expertise internally. The demand for OpenStack may be present for these organizations, however the internal man power to successfully manage the platform at production level isn’t always there.

“The biggest hurdle for these companies to consume cloud, public, private or any cloud, is knowledge. Knowledge about the cloud, but also their internal resource,” said Weyns. “Using the cloud is not difficult; having a team which can manage the cloud 24/7 in a production environment is very different from a PoC however. This is the main reason we have created Rackspace in a box using OpenStack. We can deliver a product to any customer, irrelevant of where they are in their cloud journey, which works in production.

“The biggest concern now is how a business can remain true to their core operations. If you’re not an IT business, say you’re a bank or a car manufacturer, how can you ensure that you are operating in the cloud 24/7 without worrying about downtime or effective management of the technology? You probably won’t have the expertise in-house. This is a major barrier to adoption, and this is where Rackspace can help.”

Will containers change the world of cloud?

Global Container TradeThe rise of containers as a technology has been glorious and confusing in equal measure. While touted by some as the saviour of developers, and by others as the end of VM’s, the majority simply don’t understand containers as a concept or a technology.

In the simplest of terms, containers let you pack more computing workloads onto a single server and in theory, that means you can buy less hardware, build or rent less data centre space, and hire fewer people to manage that equipment.

“In the earlier years of computing, we had dedicated servers which later evolved with virtualisation,” say Giri Fox, Director of Technical Services at Rackspace. “Containers are part of the next evolution of servers, and have gained large media and technologist attention. In essence, containers are the lightest way to define an application and to transport it between servers. They enable an application to be sliced into small elements and distributed on one or more servers, which in turn improves resource usage and can even reduce costs.”

There are some clear differences between containers and virtual machines though. Linux containers give each application, its own isolated environment in which to run, but multiple containers share the host servers’ operating system. Since you don’t have to boot up an operating system, you can create containers in seconds not minutes like virtual machines. They are faster, require less memory space, offer higher-level isolation and are highly portable.

“Containers are more responsive and can run the same task faster,” adds Fox. “They increase the velocity of application development, and can make continuous integration and deployment easier. They often offer reduced costs for IT; testing and production environments can be smaller than without containers. Plus, the density of applications on a server can be increased which leads to better utilisation.

“As a direct result of these two benefits, the scope for innovation is greater than its previous technologies. This can facilitate application modernisation and allow more room to experiment.”

So the benefits are pretty open-ended. Speed of deployment, flexibility to run anywhere, no more expensive licenses, more reliable and more opportunity for innovation.

Which all sounds great, doesn’t it?

CaptureThat said, a recent survey from the Cloud & DevOps World team brought out some very interesting statistics, first and foremost the understanding of the technology. 76% of respondents agreed with the statement “Everyone has heard of containers, but no-one really understands what containers are”.

While containers have the potential to be
the next big thing in the cloud industry, unless those in the ecosystem understand the concept and perceived benefits, it is unlikely to take off.

“Containers are evolving rapidly and present an interesting runtime option for application development,” says Joe Pynadath, ‎GM of EMEA for Chef. “We know that with today’s distributed and lightweight apps, businesses, whether they are a new start-up’s to traditional enterprise, must accelerate their capabilities for building, testing, and delivering modern applications that drive revenue.

“One result of the ever-greater focus on software development is the use of new tools to build applications more rapidly and it is here that containers have emerged as an interesting route for developers. This is because they allow you to quickly build applications in a portable and lightweight manner. This provides a huge benefit for developers in speeding up the application building process. However, despite this, containers are not able to solve the complexities of taking an application from build through test to production, which presents a range of management challenges for developers and operations engineers looking to use them.”

There is certainly potential for containers within the enterprise environment, but as with all emerging technologies there is a certain level of confusion as to how they will integrate within the current business model, and how the introduction will impact the IT department on a day-to-day basis.

“Some of the questions we’re regularly asked by businesses looking to use containers are “How do you configure and tune the OS that will host them? How do you adapt your containers at run time to the needs of the dev, test and production environments they’re in?” comments Pynadath.

While containers allow you to use discovery services or roll your own solutions, the need to monitor and manage them in an automated way remains a challenge for IT teams. At Chef, we understand the benefits containers can bring to developers and are excited to help them automate many of the complex elements that are necessary to support containerized workflows in production”

Vendors are confident that the introduction of containers will drive further efficiencies and speed within the industry, though we’re yet to see a firm commitment from the mass market to demonstrate the technology will take off. The early adopter uptake is promising, and there are case studies to demonstrate the much lauded potential, but it’s still early days.

In short, containers are good, but most people just need to learn what they are.

Data, data, data. The importance of backing up data

Cloud datacentreMore often than not when browsing the internet each morning you’ll soon discover that in fact, this morning is “Talk Like a Pirate Day”, or “Hug a Vegetarian Day”, or something equally humorous. Today is an awareness day which, conversely, holds some use to the world on the whole.

World Backup Day encourages consumers to back up their family photos, home videos, documents and emails, on more than one device. The World Backup Day website lists numerous ways in which a consumer’s data or documents can be lost, however this day is also very applicable to the world of enterprise IT.

“The rapid increase in the amount of data that consumers and organisations store is one of the biggest challenges facing the backup industry,” says Giri Fox, Director of Technical Services at Rackspace. “Organisations aren’t always sure what data they should be keeping, so to make sure they don’t discard any important data they sometimes end up keeping everything which adds to this swell of data.

“For many companies, a simple backup tool is no longer enough to make sure all these company assets are safe and available, they need support in keeping up with the sheer scale of data and to fix problems when a valuable file or database goes missing.”

The volume of data being utilized (and in some cases not utilized) has grown astronomically, but to a certain degree, security and employee behaviour has not kept pace with this growth. Cyber criminals always seem to be one step ahead of ahead of enterprise when attempting to access data, but what is more worrying is the trend of employee indifference to IT security.

A recent survey highlighted employee negligence and indifference to IT policy is one of the most significant inhibitors to cloud security with only 35% of respondents highlighting that they use passwords in work.

Giri Fox, Director of Technical Services at Rackspace

Giri Fox, Director of Technical Services at Rackspace

“Over recent years, organisations have become far more aware of the importance of backing up their data and we’ve noticed the impact here at Rackspace, where currently we backup 120 PB per month globally,” adds Fox. “One of the main challenges for us is that businesses don’t just want to back-up more data than ever before, they want it to be done quicker than ever before.

“Also, the process of doing so has become more complex than it used to be because companies are more conscious than ever of the compliance regulations they have to adhere to. Fortunately, with the development of deduplication techniques, we are now able to back-up unique sections of data rather than duplicating large pools continuously, which has sped-up the backing-up process.”

Outside of employee indifference to cloud security, changes to EU-US data protection policy have highlighted the significance of data-backup and prevention of data loss. An instance of data loss could be crippling for an organization, whether it is financial penalties or the loss of information which could prove to be invaluable in the future.

“Initiatives like World Backup Day are a great way of highlighting the importance of backing up in an age where, as Ann Winbald put it, ‘data is the new oil’,” comments Fox.

In a world where data can be seen as one of the most important commodities to any business, the value of securing, backing up and encrypting data cannot be underplayed. That said, the majority of the working world (outside of the IT department), do not appreciate the value of security, mostly not out of malice, more because they don’t know any better.

“In the post-Edward Snowden era we’re also seeing just how seriously companies are thinking about encryption. Many companies now want to make sure their backed up data is no longer just encrypted when it goes outside the four walls of a data centre, but inside it as well,” says Fox.

Rackspace updates OpenStack-powered cloud server, OnMetal

Cisco and IBM are teaming up on converged hardware solutions

Rackspace has updated its OpenStack-powered cloud server, OnMetal, focusing its new features on building connectivity between public cloud and dedicated hardware.

The company highlighted it delivers enhanced compute power, and is designed for customers aiming to run workloads such as Cassandra, Docker and Spark, which require intensive data processing as well as the ability to quickly scale and deploy.

“With the combination of new features and performance capabilities in the next generation of OnMetal, it can be a solution for many customers seeking OpenStack as the platform to run their most demanding workloads,” said Paul Voccio, VP Software Development at Rackspace.

The new servers, designed from Open Compute Project specs, feature the Intel Xeon E5-2600 v3 processors, and build on Rackspace’s journey to lead the OpenStack market. Last month, Rackspace added an OpenStack-as-a-Service option, in partnership with Red Hat, to its proposition while highlighting its ambitions “to deliver the most reliable and easy-to-use OpenStack private and hybrid clouds in the world.”

Rackspace claims app performance and reliability indicators are increased with OnMetal cloud servers. The bare metal offering, generally associated with increased security, has helped its customer Brigade avoid performance limitations common with virtualized environments.

“OnMetal has played a significant role in our ability to deliver the Brigade app with optimal uptime, and to innovate and grow the application with the performance of a dedicated environment,” said John Thrall, CTO of Brigade.

Rackspace grows Q4 2015 net revenue 11%, hopes riding on AWS performance

Rackspace logoRackspace has reported results that surpassed expectations for the final quarter of 2015 but it acknowledged its faces an uphill struggle and fortunes may now be tied to Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Though the Texas-based managed cloud company reported net revenue for the fourth quarter of 2015 to be up by 10.7% on the same period in 2014 it expects a fall in the next financial quarter. Rackspace predicted that the Q4 revenue total of $523 million will fall to around $517 million in the next quarter (Q1 2016). For the full year of 2016, Rackspace expects revenue to be between $2.08 billion and $2.16 billion.

Top of the highlights that Rackspace listed for the year 2015 was the strategy to support AWS, Microsoft’s Azure public cloud and Microsoft Office 365. These moves will open up ‘huge and fast-growing new markets’, predicted CEO Taylor Rhodes. “We intend to be the number one managed services provider for AWS, and we are well on our way toward that goal.”

Outsourcing has made the company more dynamics, according to Rhodes: “Our business is becoming less capital intensive, resulting in higher free cash flow.”

Capital efficiency initiatives helped Rackspace reduce capital expenditures to 23% of its revenue, and the company’s adjusted free cash flow rose to $196 million for 2015. Rackspace shared its increased Adjusted Free Cash Flow with stockholders through a major share buyback that is still underway.

Since the October launch of Rackspace Fanatical Support for AWS, Rackspace has won 100 customers, while its technical support team has collectively earned 230 AWS technical certifications and more than 1,100 business and technical accreditations. In January 2016 Rackspace appointed Brian Stein as its new head of global engineering. According to Rhodes, the support team is the key to expansion, as it aims to sell its managed services customers more products. The tide of recent events has seen incremental workloads go to AWS, which slowed growth but Rackspace’s new multi-cloud portfolio can “reignite that essential part of our growth engine,” Rhodes said.

Of the AWS customers Rackspace has signed, 70% have chosen Rackspace’s highest service level, Aviator. “This indicates we are adding significant value on top of the AWS infrastructure,” said Rhodes.