From Boston to Austin: Mike Aeschliman’s Journey To The Rackspace Cloud

Mike Aeschliman recently joined Rackspace as the head of product and engineering for Rackspace Private Cloud, a role he moved halfway across the country to take on.

Here, I talk to Mike about his journey, OpenStack and Rackspace.

Tell us about your journey to cloud computing:
My journey in cloud happened in a haphazard way. Most of my career was spent in financial services. I spent almost 17 years on various technology teams at Fidelity Investments in Boston. I really enjoyed my time at Fidelity – it was a great fit for me as it combined my interest in finance as well as technology, and I loved the entrepreneurial culture (the company is extremely diverse with many different businesses). During my stint at Fidelity, I spent 10 years on the development side, tasked with building and delivering business critical web applications and the rest of my time was spent working on the infrastructure team.

My last position as Chief Architect for Fidelity’s cloud initiative where I was chartered with building an internal cloud to support Fidelity’s global IT efforts. It was disruptive to the normal way IT has traditionally been delivered – exactly what the business wanted. Our goal was to model ourselves after the best web 2.0 and cloud companies (like Rackspace) borrowing concepts from them around using as much open source as possible.

How did you hear about OpenStack?
During my time at Fidelity, Jim Curry and Lew Moorman of Rackspace reached out to me. They talked about this idea of open sourcing some cloud computing code with NASA. We had a few conversations about the concept and about what I was building at Fidelity. I was really intrigued about their ideas because it was an open source project that was an alternative to vendor-based software. I had felt the pain points of having to deal with closed, proprietary systems (both internally developed as well as commercial solutions). I didn’t want to be locked in to a vendor-based solution that would come with costly licensing fees. The project had unique needs that would best be solved if we chose something open—and here were Lew and Jim seriously considering the first open source “cloud operating system” called “OpenStack.” It was the first truly open cloud platform that I had come across. Ultimately my conversations with Jim and Lew turned into an opportunity to work for Rackspace, where I now serve as the head of product and engineering for the Rackspace Cloud team.

Why did you ultimately decide to move your family from Boston to Austin to join Rackspace?
I truly believe in the power of cloud computing to transform IT and what Rackspace is doing with OpenStack. It’s an open platform, free from vendor lock in, that combines resources running both inside and outside of a customer’s data center. This is critical to how enterprises are thinking about their IT investments. I felt like I had a unique opportunity to join an exciting, growing company with an innovative culture. I’m able to use my experience building enterprise clouds; productizing it and taking it to a broader market; delivering highly-scalable, highly-productized IT services to customers wherever they want it; and it’s all backed by Fanatical Support. Rackspace has been great at delivering support and managed services inside of our own data centers, and I believe in our mission to leverage OpenStack and our tool set to deliver support and managed services for Rackspace Private Clouds to the broader world. It was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

How has the transition been from Fidelity to Rackspace?
I think I’m finally starting to acclimate! Folks jokingly gave me a hard time about the dress slacks and button down shirts when I first joined. That lasted about a week, and now my dress clothes are in the back of my closet. I’m still getting used to the word “y’all” (it’s a commonly used word in these parts) and people around here are acclimating to my northeastern accent. I had heard about the Rackspace culture, but didn’t know it would be this dynamic. It’s hard to explain unless you experience it firsthand – the days fly by, decisions are made quickly and everyone is completely committed to making OpenStack a reality. I spend my time split between our San Antonio and Austin offices, but it’s clear that in both offices, Rackspace really does foster individuality and hard work. In a time when other companies are still struggling from the economy, Rackspace continues to grow, aggressively hiring to support the demand we are seeing from customers.

Where do you see Rackspace in five years?
­­­­­­I see Rackspace uniquely positioned to not only be managing customers’ private clouds that run all over the world but to help companies interconnect them and interoperate with our public cloud and other OpenStack clouds. Cloud computing is going to revolutionize how IT is done – both for internal and external IT (think IT as a Service). Much like the shifts we’ve seen with client server and from mainframes to PCs, cloud will drastically change how services are delivered. I see Rackspace delivering everything as a service (infrastructure, platform, software, etc.), which can be used within or outside customer data centers. Customers will have a clear, measurable benefit on time-to-market and cost savings with our broad portfolio of open cloud solutions. Lastly, we will use our strong market position to fuel a wave of innovative technologies and companies around OpenStack – continuing on our mission to build a robust ecosystem that will vastly accelerate cloud in the enterprise over the next few years. I’m excited to be along for the ride!


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