The Rackspace Experience, Part 3: Operating Your OpenStack Private Cloud

This is the third in a three part series about the fanatical experience you’ll receive with a managed OpenStack private cloud from Rackspace.

As one of OpenStack’s initial creators, Rackspace has been an OpenStack provider and contributor longer than anyone. We manage and operate thousands of nodes for hundreds of customers, and we exceed a 99.99 percent uptime for all OpenStack core services.

That’s in large part because we’ve developed a process for modeling, delivering and operating OpenStack private clouds that’s been proven across hundreds of deployments of all sizes. Simply put, our process gives you the successful outcomes you deserve.

If you haven’t read them already, please take a look at part 1, “Modeling Your OpenStack Cloud,” and part 2, “Delivering Your OpenStack Cloud,” before reading this post.

How we operate your cloud

The Rackspace Private Cloud team specializes in operating and managing your cloud, allowing  you to focus on your core business. Our managed service provides the following benefits:

Dedicated account manager: As a Rackspace private cloud customer, you are assigned a dedicated account manager, with in-depth knowledge of your environment and serves as your “go to” resource to help you with any questions, issues, or planning needs for your cloud, such as expanding or upgrading.

To manage daily operations, your dedicated account manager will set up a “runbook” specific to your environment. Stored securely in an SSO-protected, access-controlled repository,  your runbook will include your cloud configuration (e.g., software details, deployment modifications, device locations, architecture), key technical and executive contact information, a list of any customized items in your environment, escalation processes, and a change management log to document all changes to your environment.

You will have regular meetings with your dedicated account manager to review your account, discuss your cloud performance metrics and utilization, help you plan for the future and  update your run book as necessary.

Proactive monitoring and maintenance: Our team of OpenStack experts proactively monitor and maintain the health of your cloud 24x7x365. Our monitoring service continually checks, for example, your hardware metrics, including disk space, disk utilization, CPU idle time and memory capacity as well as verifying that the OpenStack services (e.g., Horizon, Keystone, Neutron, etc.) and other services (e.g., Galera, RabbitMQ, HAProxy, etc.) in your cloud are responding to calls as intended.

Beyond product defined default settings, your account manager can work with you to customize your settings, to help ensure the service meets your needs. Through this collaborative customization process, you are able to set the frequency for how often your monitoring checks are run (e.g., every minute, every five minutes, etc.), define which ports are used for each test, set the thresholds for your compute, disk, and memory-related alerts and determine which members of your organization will receive an auto-generated notification for each alert.

Thanks to custom threshold settings, our monitoring service issues an alert if a threshold is exceeded — giving you insight into a potential problem before a warning or failure occurs. Each alert is assigned a severity level that includes an associated live response time guarantee. The following table includes a definition of each severity level and its associated guaranteed live response time:

Severity Level Initial Live Response
Emergency — instances are failing or the OpenStack cloud is partially or wholly inoperable 15 minutes
Urgent — inability to launch or terminate new instances 1 hour
Standard — delay in launching new instances or in interacting with the OpenStack API 4 hours

In addition to monitoring your cloud, we continually maintain the health and security of your environment. We proactively address security vulnerabilities and software bugs with patches; and if desired, we will work with you to develop a customized patching plan that helps meet your unique needs and usage patterns.

We also keep your cloud updated so you benefit from the security enhancements and features associated with our latest software release. Thanks to our experience in operating hundreds of clouds at scale, we can provide you with an in-place upgrade from one RPC software release to the next that minimizes interruptions or downtime.

Scaling support: As your business and cloud demands grow, we help ensure your environment scales to meet your needs. This includes optimizing your environment through performance benchmarking, future-proofing your cloud through capacity planning and scaling your OpenStack services as needed.

We can run performance benchmarks if needed to identify and mitigate an issue. Examples of improvements we might make include updating network configurations and bonding network interfaces to increase throughput, calibrating a MariaDB cluster to improve API response times and moving to solid state drives for enhanced IOPS performance.

To ensure your cloud keeps up with your business demands, your dedicated account manager will help you plan for future capacity needs by providing growth recommendations based on your current and projected resource utilization. This includes planning for select events like a major promotion or holiday that you expect will drive a significant increase in activity to your cloud services, such as a substantial spike in visits to your website.

Another critical success factor in scaling your cloud is ensuring each OpenStack service is able to meet your unique demands. Typically, your workload will generate varying levels of demand between the multiple OpenStack services. For example, if your workload is network intensive, it might require a scaling event for your networking service, but not for the other OpenStack services in your environment. In this case, our operations and support team would scale your Neutron networking service.

Most providers require you to scale all OpenStack services together, even if you only need to scale one service, often due to limitations in their architecture — and that can lead to excess hardware spend on unnecessary service upgrades. But with Rackspace Private Cloud, we can scale services individually.

24x7x365 access to our OpenStack experts: We provide you with direct access to our team of OpenStack experts. Many providers require their customers to submit a ticket and wait for a non-technical representative to respond before speaking with a technical representative who can solve their problem.

With Rackspace Private Cloud, you have direct access to our engineers, who will help answer questions like “How do I boot an instance with a root file system on Cinder?” and help you work through any challenges you may be experiencing. And in striving for ongoing improvement, we greatly value your feedback, providing you the opportunity to “rate us” after each interaction and through a quarterly Net Promoter Score survey; In our world, customers are the only group with the right to define excellence.

Additional services

In addition to our standard offerings, we offer several other services to help you move to, optimize, and get the most out of your Rackspace Private Cloud:

Dedicated OpenStack architect: This service provides you with a single point of contact for your technical needs. In collaboration with your dedicated account manager, your dedicated OpenStack architect will lead the life cycle management of your cloud and provide you with ongoing training to help you optimize your environment and keep you updated on the latest features and capabilities of OpenStack.

Professional Services: Accelerate your cloud adoption and modernize, automate and optimize your environment. Our professional services include:

  • Application modernization: Modernize an application to run on your OpenStack private cloud and conduct application and infrastructure assessments from basic to full spectrum security hardening, performance tuning, and environmental health checks.
  • Agile methodology: Helps you transform traditional “waterfall” development processes into a continuous integration/continuous delivery pipeline.
  • Big data: Provide you with best practices and consultation for designing, deploying and running big data solutions (e.g., Hadoop, Cassandra, Elasticsearch, Redis, MongoDB) on an OpenStack private cloud.
  • Authentication and federation: Integrate your existing authentication solutions (e.g., Active Directory, LDAP) into your OpenStack private cloud and help design federated authentication models for infrastructure and applications across multiple clouds using Active Directory or LDAP.
  • Advanced cloud optimization: Provides best practices for encapsulating an application with Docker containers and helps you achieve compliance targets by providing a security architecture template that can be customized for your specific infrastructure design.

Training: Our team of training experts offer both private and public training courses ranging from an introduction to OpenStack to advanced aspects of Neutron networking. Our private courses are delivered at the location of your choice and include multiple hands-on-experiences in a lab environment. Our newest training program, The Rackspace Tech Series, provides students with the “building blocks” of OpenStack through remote, one hour online courses. The first episode of the tech series, The “Hello World” of OpenStack, is now open for registration.

Many businesses are looking at private clouds to help accelerate their IT transformation. Private clouds provide many advantages, but they are exceedingly complex and require someone to manage them.

Many providers can help deploy a private cloud, but then they leave it up to you to operate and support it. And because they don’t have to operate or support it, they are willing to “customize” your cloud in ways that might make it difficult for you to run, scale or upgrade it in the future. Other providers will help you deploy a cloud and will support their cloud software, but won’t actually manage and operate your cloud environment.

Rackspace specializes in managing your private cloud so you can focus on your core business. We deliver a production- ready private cloud that is backed by Fanatical Support and an industry-leading OpenStack API uptime SLA.

To learn whether private cloud as a service might be a good fit for your organization, take advantage of a free strategy session with a private cloud expert  — no strings attached. SIGN UP NOW.

Steve Ribble serves as Director of Operations for Rackspace’s OpenStack Private Cloud offering. In this role, Steve leads technical and operational teams delivering a world-class customer experience through open source technology stacks. Prior to his current role, Steve spent seven years assisting Rackspace’s enterprise offering build-out where he led a service delivery group for its largest and most complex customer base. His goal over the last 10 years has been a relentless focus on the end user experience taking traditional technical support structures and transforming them into a customized, value-differentiated managed services model, at scale. Steve holds a B.S. in Business Management from Trinity University in San Antonio, where he also currently resides with his beautiful wife Lyndsey and two wonderful sons, William and Caden.

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