Category Archives: Rackspace

Software defined storage and security drive cloud growth, say studies

Cloud securityData centre builders and cloud service developers are at loggerheads over their priorities, according to two new reports.

The explosive growth of modern data centres is being catalysed by new hyperconverged infrastructures and software defined storage, says one study. Meanwhile another claims that enthusiasm for cloud projects to run over this infrastructure is being suffocated by security fears.

A global study by ActualTech Media for Atlantis Computing suggests that a large majority of data centres are now using hyperconverged infrastructure (HCIS) and software defined storage (SDS) techniques in the race to built computing arenas. Of the 1,267 leaders quizzed in 53 countries, 71 per cent said they are using or considering HCIS and SDS to beef up their infrastructure. However, another study, conducted on behalf of hosting company Rackspace, found that security was the over riding concern among the parties who will use these facilities.

The Hyperconverged Infrastructure and Software-Defined Storage 2016 Survey proves there is much confusion and hype in these markets, according to Scott D. Lowe, a partner at ActualTech Media, who said there is not enough data about real-world usage available.

While 75 per cent of data centres surveyed use disk-based storage, only 44 per cent have long term plans for it in their infrastructure plans and 19 per cent will ditch it for HCIS or SDS. These decisions are motivated by the need for speed, convenience and money, according to the survey, with performance (72 per cent), high availability (68 per cent) and cost (68 per cent) as top requirements.

However, the developers of software seem to have a different set of priorities, according to the Anatomy of a Cloud Migration study conducted for Rackspace by market researcher Vanson Bourne. The verdict from this survey group – 500 business decision markers rather than technology builders – was that security will be the most important catalyst and can either speed or slow down cloud adoption.

Company security was the key consideration in the top three motives named by the survey group. The biggest identified threat the survey group wanted to eliminate was escalating IT costs, which 61 per cent of the group named. The next biggest threat they want to avert is downtime, with 50 per cent identifying a need for better resilience and disaster recovery from the cloud. Around a third (38 per cent) identified IT itself as a source of threats (such as viruses and denial of service) that they would want a cloud project to address.

“Cloud has long been associated with a loss of control over information,” said Rackspace’s Chief Security Officer Brian Kelly, “but businesses are now realising this is a misconception.”

Rackspace launches Carina ‘instant container’

Rackspace has launched a new ‘instant container’ offering which it says will take the strain out of building infrastructure.

The Carina by Rackspace, unveiled at the OpenStack Summit in Tokyo, has now been made available as a free beta version. Carina makes containers portable and easy to use, claims Rackspace, which devised the system for making containerized applications faster. The service uses bare-metal performance, a Docker Engine, a native container tooling and Docker Swarm in order maximise processing power without sacrificing any control.

Typically a user might be a developer, data scientist or cloud operator who wants to outsource the infrastructure management to Rackspace’s experts which, says the vendor, saves time them on building, managing and updating their container environment.

With container technology being one of the fastest-growing software development tools in computing, companies adopting this unknown technology are likely to face unforeseen management challenges. Though containers consume a fraction of the computing resources of typical virtual machines, they could eat up a lot of management time, warns Scott Crenshaw, Rackspace’s SVP of strategy and product. The savings yielded by Container technology’s instant availability, application scaling and high application density, could be neutralised by the time and money spent on learning new infrastructure management skills, he said.

The Carina service will save customer from that waste, said Crenshaw. “Our mission is to support OpenStack’s position as a leading choice for enterprise clouds,” said Crenshaw, “Carina design makes containers fast, simple and accessible to developers using OpenStack.”

With no hypervisor overhead, an easy installation process and instant support, everything is designed to run faster, said Nick Stinemates, VP business development of container maker Docker. “You can get started in under a minute. The Carina beta from Rackspace makes it fast and simple to start a Docker Swarm cluster. They have put the Docker experience front and centre without any abstraction,” said Stinemates

Carina is now available as a free beta offering on the Rackspace Public Cloud for US customers.

Rackspace ups AWS functionality and support, becomes authorised reseller

AWSManaged hosting provider Rackspace has announced a ramped up suite of products featuring enhanced support and functionality with Amazon Web Services.

The agreement with AWS, announced at re:Invent in Las Vegas this week, will see Rackspace launch managed service offerings including tools, expertise, application management and operational support for AWS Cloud. “Fanatical Support for AWS” is the core service offering featured as part of the agreement, with three beta offerings supplementing the managed service – Managed Security for AWS, Compliance Assistance for AWS and Managed Cloud for Adobe Experience Manager.

Through Fanatical Support, Rackspace tells its customers to “leave the heavy lifting to us” as it claims to take care of migration, architecture, security and operations for companies looking to adopt AWS for application hosting.

Rackspace has also become an authorised reseller at AWS, as well as a managed services partner, and has joined the AWS Partner Network. CEO Taylor Rhodes spoke about the announcement on the company’s blog page.

“Over the past year, more and more of them [customers] have told us that they love Rackspace expertise and Fanatical Support, and would like to get it for the workloads that they prefer to run on AWS,” he said. “We have spent the past several months working with those customers and with AWS, to create the best managed-service offering on that platform.”

Rhodes went on to say that AWS adds to Rackspace’s existing commitment to support a number of other platforms.

“We help businesses tap the power of the cloud without the pain and expense of managing it all themselves,” he said. “We have gone deep on support for platforms such as OpenStack, Microsoft and VMware. Our success in leading the managed cloud market for those technologies has been validated by industry experts such as Gartner, and most importantly, by our 300,000-plus business customers.”

Finally, Rhodes then highlighted how Fanatical Support has evolved with today’s announcements, and how it will benefit various customer segments.  He claims it will appeal to businesses that have desired AWS integration with existing Fanatical Support functionality; for rapidly growing businesses needing to outsource some IT functionality in order to reallocate technical resource to other areas; and for customers new to both AWS and Rackspace.

Meanwhile, AWS’s VP of worldwide partner ecosystem Terry Wise, welcomed Rackspace’s increased integration and functionality of AWS.

“We’re pleased to see Rackspace support AWS customers and achieve membership in the AWS Managed Service Program,” he said. “A growing number of businesses who want the benefit of the AWS Cloud will find value in working with AWS Managed Service Partners like Rackspace. We have been impressed with Rackspace’s commitment to include beta customers in their AWS managed services offerings, along with certifying a large number of their technical staff.”

Rackspace launches managed security and compliance service for enterprise cloud clients

Security concept with padlock icon on digital screenRackspace has announced new managed security and compliance assistance services to protect businesses and mitigate the risk of cyber threats. These services will give Rackspace clients ‘holistic’ coverage across cover complex, multi-cloud environments, it claims.

The service will provide consultation and tailored security using Rackspace’s inhouse expertise. It can both improve security while cutting the cost of vigilance, Rackspace claimed.

The Rackspace Managed Security offering is to be backed by round the clock support from the Customer Security Operations Center (CSOC) at Rackspace headquarters and will open in October. The service comprises four elements: host and network protection, vulnerability management, threat intelligence and compliance assistance.

Host and Network Protection will protect against zero-day and non-malware attacks as well as traditional compromise tactics. Security Analytics uses a security information and event management (SIEM) system paired with big data analytics to collect and analyse security data from the customer’s environment. As part of its Vulnerability Management service Rackspace will scan its clients’ environments and tailor its responses to estimated threats. Meanwhile, its Threat Intelligence will use fuse information from 20 feeds with Rackspace’s own internal data to constantly redraw the changing threat landscape.

All this information will help clients meet their governance objectives, as part of Rackspace’s Compliance Assistance service, which offers detailed proof of configuration hardening and monitoring, patch monitoring and user observance, the service provider said.

This information, in tandem with detail about file integrity, will help cloud service managers and CIOs to keep on top of their mounting compliance challenge, claimed Brian Kelly, chief security officer at Rackspace.

“Cyber-attacks are the new normal for companies,” said Kelly. It will be a lot cheaper and quicker to use Rackspace to manage cloud services, said Kelly. “We have 16 years of first-hand knowledge managing IT infrastructure and direct experience with today’s complex threats.”

Quanta intros Intel RSA Open Compute proof of concept

Quanta is mashing up Intel's RSA and Open Compute designs

Quanta is mashing up Intel’s RSA and Open Compute designs

Taiwanese datacentre vendor Quanta has introduced an Intel Rack Scale Architecture (Intel RSA) proof of concept rack solution based on Open Compute specifications which the company is pitching at hyperscale datacentre operators and cloud providers.

Intel RSA is the chip vendor’s own modular architecture design that disaggregates compute, storage and networking and weaves them together in a fabric it claims makes resources easier to pool and pod.

Now Quanta has developed a proof of concept for a server that blends Intel’s RSA specs and Open Compute designs.

The hardware vendor, which already offers hardware based on Open Compute designs, claims will significantly reduce datacentre energy consumption and costs, reduce vendor lock-in and ease management and maintenance.

“Datacentres face significant challenges to efficiency, flexibility and agility,” said Mike Yang, general manager of QCT. “Working with Intel on the Intel RSA program, we have developed our product lineup based on Open Compute to give customers the utmost in efficiency and performance, supported by open standards.”

“In addition, we provide manageability from the chassis level and rack level, up to pod level, so customers can easily pool resources across these levels to support dynamic workloads,” Yang said.

ODMs like Quanta have gained strong share in the hyperscale datacentre space because of their cost competitiveness, and at the same time the Open Compute project, an open source hardware project founded by Facebook a few years back, seems to be gaining favour among large cloud providers. Facebook, IBM, HP and Rackspace are among some of the larger providers building out Open Compute-based services at reasonable scale.

Rackspace to add AWS to Fanatical Support services

Rhodes: "We are positioned to become the dominant service provider for these cloud platforms"

Rhodes: “We are positioned to become the dominant service provider for these cloud platforms”

Rackspace is currently developing a Fanatical Support offering for AWS customers, the company’s latest move aimed at shifting its business towards managed cloud services.

Speaking about the company’s second quarter financial results earlier this week Rackspace president and chief exec Taylor Rhodes said the company plans to extend its Fanatical Support and managed cloud services to the AWS platform “later this year.”

“As I’ve advised you in earlier calls, we don’t expect significant revenue for managed services on other cloud providers in 2015, but we’re excited about the prospects for this business. We estimate that the addressable market is in the multiple billions of dollars annually and is growing in the high-double digits,” Rhodes explained in a call with analysts and journalists.

“Because of our scale and reputation for Fanatical Support, we are positioned to become the dominant service provider for these cloud platforms,” he said.

The new comes about a month after Rackspace announced it would extend its Fanatical Support services to Microsoft Azure’s public and private cloud infrastructure. The company said customers will be able to buy either bundled Azure infrastructure with support, or just support services. The offerings will be available first in the US, with plans for an international rollout “through early 2016.”

Office enlists private cloud for global expansion

Office is in the middle of a significant global expansion

Office is in the middle of a significant global expansion

Shoe retailer Office is using a private cloud and managed virtualisation services to handle spikes in online ordering ahead of one of its busiest periods.

Office has over 150 stores across Europe and the US and began rolling out its international e-commerce site earlier this year in a bid to expand its presence globally.

The company enlisted e-commerce specialist Envoy Digital to help with its broader digitisation efforts. It is using Rackspace’s private cloud platform to host the e-commerce site, which is built using the hybris platform, and VMware-based managed virtualisation in combination with load balancers to manage and distribute workloads and traffic.

“When working with any cloud provider, it’s critical that they can ensure only a minimal amount of our time is spent overseeing the IT infrastructure so that it operates smoothly,” said Robin Worthington, multichannel director, Office. “This allows us to focus on what we’re best at – helping customers find the right shoes.”

The company said it wanted to migrate its international platform to the cloud and improve the reliability of its multichannel infrastructure in advance of the summer season, which is one of the busiest for the shoe retailer.

Rackspace, Intel to coordinate ‘world’s largest OpenStack dev team’

Intel and Rackspace claim the centre will house the world's largest OpenStack development team

Intel and Rackspace claim the centre will house the world’s largest OpenStack development team

Rackspace and Intel are teaming up to launch an OpenStack Innovation Centre aimed at bolstering upstream development of the cloud platform.

The centre, housed at Rackspace’s corporate HQ in San Antonio, Texas, will bring together technical specialists from Rackspace and Intel to co-develop new features and functions for OpenStack and fix bugs in the code base, with the fruits of their efforts being contributed back upstream.

The companies will also offer OpenStack training to engineers and developers; they claim the centre will house the world’s largest dedicated OpenStack development team.

“We are excited to collaborate with Intel and look forward to working with the OpenStack community to make the world’s leading open-source cloud operating system even stronger,” said Scott Crenshaw, senior vice president of product and strategy at Rackspace.

“We don’t create proprietary OpenStack distributions.  Rackspace delivers its customers four-nines availability using entirely upstream trunk code. All of the Innovation Centre’s contributions will be made available freely, to everyone,” Crenshaw said.

Jason Waxman, vice president of the Cloud Platforms Group at Intel said: “This announcement demonstrates our continued support and commitment to open source projects. Our ongoing collaboration with Rackspace and the OpenStack community represents an ideal opportunity to accelerate the enterprise appeal of OpenStack.”

OpenStack, which this week celebrated its fifth anniversary, was founded by a few engineers from Rackspace and NASA but has since swelled to more than 520 member companies and 27,000 individual contributors globally. While the open source cloud platform is young, it has matured significantly during its brief existence and has become a defacto cloud standard embraced by many if not most of the big IT incumbents.

“The community’s goal is to foster collaboration and spur innovation that drives broad adoption,” said Jonathan Bryce, executive director of the OpenStack Foundation. “The depth of experience and community engagement that Rackspace and Intel offer makes this an exciting project, as the code contributions and large-scale testing will benefit everyone who uses OpenStack.”

Hybrid cloud issues are cultural first, technical second – Ovum

CIOs are still struggling with their hybrid cloud strategies

CIOs are still struggling with their hybrid cloud strategies

This week has seen a number of hybrid cloud deals which would suggest the industry is making significant progress delivering the platforms, services and tools necessary to make hybrid cloud practical. But if anything they also serve as a reminder that IT will forever be multimodal which creates challenges that begin with people, not technology, explains Ovum’s principle analyst of infrastructure solutions Roy Illsley.

There has been no shortage of hybrid cloud deals this week.

Rackspace and Microsoft announced a deal that would see the hosting and cloud provider expand its Fanatical Support to Microsoft Azure-based hybrid cloud platforms.

Google both announced it would support Windows technologies on its cloud platform, and that it would formally sponsor the OpenStack foundation – a move aimed at supporting container portability between multiple cloud platforms.

HP announced it would expand its cloud partner programme to include CenturyLink, which runs much of its cloud platform on HP technology, in a move aimed at bolstering HP’s hybrid cloud business and CenturyLink’s customer reach.

But one of the more interesting hybrid cloud stories this week came from the enterprise side of the industry. Copper and gold producer Freeport-McMoRan announced it is embarking on a massive overhaul of its IT systems. In a bid to become more agile the firm said it would deploy its entire application estate on a combination of private and public cloud platforms – though, and somewhat ironically, the company said the entire project would wrap up in five years (which, being pragmatic about IT overhauls, could mean far later).

“The biggest challenge with hybrid cloud isn’t the technology per se – okay, so you need to be able to have one version of the truth, one place where you can manage most the platforms and applications, one place where to the best of your abilities you can orchestrate resources, and so forth,” Illsley explains.

Of course you need all of those things, he says. There will be some systems that won’t fit into that technology model, that will likely be left out (i.e. mainframes). But there are tools out there to fit current hybrid use cases.

“When most organisations ‘do’ hybrid cloud, they tend to choose where their workloads will sit depending on their performance needs, scaling needs, cost and application architecture – and then the workloads sit there, with very little live migration of VMs or containers. Managing them while they sit there isn’t the major pain point. It’s about the business processes; it’s the organisational and cultural shifts in the IT department that are required in order to manage IT in a multimodal world.”

“What’s happening in hybrid cloud isn’t terribly different from what’s happening with DevOps. You have developers and you have operations, and sandwiching them together in one unit doesn’t change the fact that they look at the world – and the day-to-day issues they need to manage or solve – in their own developer or operations-centric ways. In effect they’re still siloed.”

The way IT is financed can also create headaches for CIOs intent on delivering a hybrid cloud strategy. Typically IT is funded in an ‘everyone pitches into the pot’ sort of way, but one of the things that led to the rise of cloud in the first place is line of businesses allocating their own budgets and going out to procure their own services.

“This can cause both a systems challenge – shadow IT and the security, visibility and management issues that come with that – and a cultural challenge, one where LOB heads see little need to fund a central organisation that is deemed too slow or inflexible to respond to customer needs. So as a result, the central pot doesn’t grow.”

While vendors continue to ease hybrid cloud headaches on the technology front with resource and financial (i.e. chargeback) management tools, app stores or catalogues, and standardised platforms that bridge the on-prem and public cloud divide, it’s less likely the cultural challenges associated with hybrid cloud will find any straightforward solutions in the short term.

“It will be like this for the next ten or fifteen years at least. And the way CIOs work with the rest of the business as well as the IT department will define how successful that hybrid strategy will be, and if you don’t do this well then whatever technologies you put in place will be totally redundant,” Illsley says.

Security as a service firm Crowdstrike bags $100 from Google, Rackspace

CrowdStrike secured $100m in funding this week from Rackspace, Google among others

CrowdStrike secured $100m in funding this week from Rackspace, Google among others

Security SaaS provider CrowdStrike completed a $100m round of funding led by Google and Rackspace this week, which the company said would be used to bolster its international expansion.

The funding round, in which Accel and Warburg Pincus also participated, brings the total investment secured by the firm to $156m.

CrowdStrike offers a range of threat intelligence, endpoint protections and cybersecurity services including a cloud-based software offering and a security operations centre -as-a-service.

The company, of which Rackspace is a customer, claims to have trebled billings revenue and employees year on year.

“It’s extremely gratifying to bring in a high-caliber investor like Google Capital which shares our passion for innovation and sees the opportunity to completely transform the security industry,” said George Kurtz, CrowdStrike’s co-founder and chief executive officer.

“As we continue to experience hyper-growth, this capital injection will help us firmly establish our SaaS-based endpoint protection platform as the leading solution to address today’s sophisticated attacks and will allow CrowdStrike to further accelerate our domestic and international expansion.”

The cloud-based security services market is growing along with enterprise adoption of cloud services in part because they can be deployed more quickly and flexibly than on-premise solutions, and because the architectures tend to be quite complimentary. Large cloud providers also see value in funding them because security services are quite capitally and operationally expensive – they require huge investments in code, infrastructure, monitoring and support staff – which means it’s challenging for these large IaaS providers to offer these services themselves. According to MarketsandMarkets the cloud security market is forecast to grow nearly 16 per cent CAGR from $4.2bn in 2014 to $8.7bn in 2019.