Cloud Networks: The Next Chapter In The Open Cloud

Wow! 2012 has been a great year for the open cloud at Rackspace. Actually, it’s been the year of the open cloud for us and our customers. Over the past few months, our vision of what the open cloud can mean has really gained momentum — we’ve launched Cloud Databases, Cloud Servers powered by OpenStack, Cloud Monitoring and a new Cloud Control Panel. Also, just last week, we made Cloud Block Storage available to all of our customers. And we’re not done yet.

We plan to drive this momentum by continuing to leverage open technology to bring solutions to market that truly help solve our customers immediate business needs. With that said, we’d like to mark the culmination of 2012 with another great announcement.

Today, we make an exciting new feature available on our next-generation Cloud Servers: Cloud Networks!

What is Cloud Networks?

Cloud Networks allows you to create isolated, multi-tiered networks on our Cloud Servers powered by OpenStack, all with the click of a button. It greatly simplifies networking in the cloud. Cloud Networks allows you to:

  • Enhance the network security for your Cloud Servers by running web application and database servers on an isolated network to filter illegitimate traffic from your web server(s).
  • Increase the agility of complex applications by controlling and managing your application tiers. Cloud-aware applications can now not only control compute and storage resources, they can create networks and add resources to secure networks as needed.
  • Improve the scalability and ensure the higher availability of your servers by building clusters with broadcast and multicast – supported by Cloud Networks

Best of all, we’ve placed no restrictions on your isolated networks. With Cloud Networks, you’re free to design virtual networks that look like traditional Layer 2 networks in both architecture and function, without restrictions to capabilities such as broadcast and multicast.

What is the technology behind Cloud Networks?

Historically, the networking architecture for the Rackspace Cloud has provided access to the Internet via PublicNet and inter-server communication through a “private” network called ServiceNet. ServiceNet allows you to access services like Backup, Storage and Monitoring. Like most other cloud hosting providers using traditional networking, this type of architecture (called a flat network) doesn’t allow for network segmentation or the ability to completely isolate mission-critical data from external threats.

By leveraging Open vSwitch managed by Nicira’s Network Virtualization Platform, we replaced traditional network bridges in our cloud network architecture and enabled software-defined networking for enhanced network security in the cloud.

Creating an isolated network

You will be able to create an isolated network by simply clicking the “Create Network” button when provisioning a next generation Cloud Server in the Cloud Control Panel:

You’ll then have the opportunity to name your network and create it together with your new server instance (or just select one if you have previously created it).

When can I get it?

We are gradually phasing in the availability of Cloud Networks across our cloud infrastructure to avoid performance degradation and to maintain an appropriate level of service and Fanatical Support. If you don’t have access to it today, you definitely will in the near future. However, if you’re as excited as we are about Cloud Networks and just can’t wait to have it rolled out to your environment, you can request access now by visiting and completing the simple request form. We will review your request and provide you with access as soon as possible.

Please note that Cloud Networks is currently only available for next-generation Cloud Servers at creation time. We’re actively working to enable Cloud Networks for existing, next-generation Cloud Servers and anticipate availability soon. In the meantime, if you are a next-generation Cloud Servers customer and you would like to use Cloud Networks for an existing server, you can simply create a snapshot of your server and then build a new server from that snapshot. Be aware that your server IP address will change during this process.

What’s next?

Now, where it gets really exciting is when we take Cloud Networks to the next level by adding virtual appliances and allowing you to create advanced, networking configurations spanning multiple regions.

This is only the beginning for the open cloud at Rackspace. Stay tuned!

To learn more about Cloud Networks and how you can use them in your environment, check back soon for a post that takes a deeper dive into the use cases for Cloud Networks.


James "Jamey" Meredith is an Instructional Designer for Rackspace. He previously served as a product manager for Open Cloud, responsible for the Cloud Networks offering. He has more than 20 years of experience in the networking industry, with the last one and a half at Rackspace. Prior to joining Rackspace, Meredith served a variety of networking-related roles, including a 13-year stint with BMC Software, where he last served as a product manager for network and e-commerce management products.


    • Cloud Networks is available to Managed Cloud Servers with a couple of caveats. Managed servers are required to be connected to PublicNet (the Internet) and ServiceNet (the Rackspace private network) in addition to any Cloud Networks they are attached to. We are working toward eliminating the PublicNet requirement but they will always need to be attached to ServiceNet so that Rackers can access them and so we can rotate the passwords that Rackers use to log on.

  1. Cloud Networks is a feature of the Rackspace public cloud.

    I haven’t seen any customers implement private clouds with this sort of functionality as of yet.

  2. Currently the only cost for Cloud Networks is the normal cost of the servers that are connected to them. The networks themselves are free.

  3. What is the performance of cloud networks going to be? We tried to change to a semi cloud solution where we had web servers on the cloud, talking to a physical database server, all hosted in DFW. But the networking performance from the cloud servers to the physical DB server (and between cloud servers) was sooo much slower than from a physical web server to the physical DB server, that we had to abandon the plan. Web pages would literally take 6x as long to render on the cloud server compared to the physical web server when talking to a MySQL server on a different machine. When we moved MySQL onto the cloud server for testing purposes, it was blindingly fast. So the cloud server itself had excellent performance, but the networking performance we saw was far, far from optimal.

    We really want to move to the cloud at some point in the near future, but for now we went back to physical servers as the price/performance ratio is actually considerably better on physical servers. If the cloud was way cheaper than physical servers we probably would have stuck with it, but today it is not and ended up costing a lot more for less performance in our scenario.

    But I do look forward to the day when the performance will catch up 🙂

    • Kendall,

      Sorry to hear that you had a poor experience with our hybrid hosting product. The kind of latency you saw is not normal for that product, so I suspect some issue other than straight network performance was going on. Even so, I hope you’ll give cloud networks a try. I’ll let Jamey chime in on the performance question as he’s the expert.

    • Right now you can use ServiceNet (the Rackspace private network) to access your DB servers. Of course this means the servers requiring access will either have to be attached directly to ServiceNet or will need some sort of routing appliance to get there. We are working toward a capability of attaching Cloud Database Servers to your Cloud Networks.

    • I assume you’re talking about multiple public Internet IPv4 addresses on a Cloud Server. Cloud Networks doesn’t directly solve this problem, but additional IPs should be available soon for Next Gen Cloud Servers. I believe the limit will contiue at 5 addresses per server.

  4. It’s been more than three months since the announcement of “Cloud networks” and it’s still not generally available.

    Any update on this?

    • Right now a Cloud Network is confined to a single data center.

      Also, the data isn’t encrypted on Cloud Networks.

  5. How does it work… between hypervisors is it encrypted… is encryption optional for those who want to do their own encryption over the wire (or no encryption because they don’t want encryption) also what about cross datacenter transparency? Federation is great and all, but its just overcomplicating my automation stack and id prefer transparency and adapative replication and quorum wherever applicable.)


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