Cloud In A Snow Country

One of the coolest things about life in the Cloud is learning about some of our far-flung customers—about businesses from Australia to Asia to Alaska who are leveraging cloud computing in unique ways.  Take ITS Alaska, for example. As a locally owned and managed company, based out of Wasilla, ITS has been offering web design, hosting, and general IT services since 1999. One of the more exciting projects ITS handles is the web design and hosting for The Iron Dog®—the world’s longest snowmobile race that happens in the dead of the Alaskan winter each year. We were thrilled to receive a recent letter of appreciation from a web developer at ITS. Brennan Low described how our Fanatical Support saved the day for the hosting solution that ITS uses for the Iron Dog® race website.

Some of the cool photography submitted at

But before we bask in the glow of Brennan’s kind words, we thought we’d share some of our awe for the Iron Dog® race and the way ITS brings it to life via the web (at  Granted, reading the harrowing stories of life on the trail online, or browsing the hall of fame and photos, isn’t quite the same as completing the nearly-2000 mile course, with temperatures ranging from -20 to -50 Fahrenheit.  You don’t quite feel the constant threat of frostbite (which causes some race competitors to apply duct tape directly to their faces) and the website can’t quite capture the ruggedness of this terrain (which demands serious survival skills and that all teams travel with at least two snowmobiles for safety).  But the website does a wonderful job—for competitors, spectators, volunteers, and journalists—of sharing the essential details and results of the race.  The site even manages to give you a sense—minus the wind chill—of the Iron Dog® experience. If the website transports you to the wild snow country you might find yourself signing up as a volunteer for next year’s race; or if you already make the frigid pilgrimage then you might load your photos directly to the site.  ITS has ensured that everything is taken care of for the web visitor—from ordering a souvenir jacket to downloading an entry form.

ITS first came to Cloud Servers because of its ability to dynamically scale resources. The surge in traffic to the Iron Dog® website (whose popularity has been steadily increasing over the years, fueled in part when the world learned that Sarah Palin’s husband, Todd, is a four-time champion of the race). As Brennan Low said in his letter to us

“Truly, the ability to increase available RAM for a given hosting account from the dashboard saved the day.”

But even with the increase in RAM, Brennan noticed some underlying issues with what he’d deployed and posted the symptoms on the Rackspace Cloud blog.  He was surprised—and delighted—when our Chief Cloud Architect, Adrian Otto, responded to his post.

“Adrian was able to diagnose several sub-optimal conditions in our LAMP stack, and offer assistance in addressing the deficiencies. He helped us deploy a solution that addressed our core issues, taking our RAM usage from 12 GB to under 4 GB!”

While we don’t get everything right all the time, we’re proud of our continuing efforts to evolve higher standards in customer service.  Adrian’s scrutiny of our day-to-day customer issues is one part of that wider campaign.

“Hands down, this was the highest quality customer service experience that I have had in memory.  ‘Fanatical’ is an apt descriptor,” says Brennan.

We’re thrilled we were able to help and play a small role, behind the scenes, in keeping The Iron Dog® and ITS in the race. From where I sit in San Antonio—where today it’s recently been in the 80s and its only April—the wilds of Alaska seem more like another world than another state. Who knows, maybe The Rackspace Cloud will sponsor a snowmobile team for next year’s Iron Dog® race…Rackers, any volunteers?

Dominic Smith is a writer and content strategist. Before joining Rackspace Marketing, he worked for many years as a technical writer and freelance copywriter, covering software, innovation and customer success stories for companies big and small, from startups to the Fortune 100. He also moonlights as a novelist and has taught writing at several universities, including Rice and the University of Texas at Austin.



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