Run Like Rackspace: An Open Cloud In Your Data Center

The words “run like Rackspace” are something we hear from customers and prospects all the time. Everyone from enterprise CIOs to ISV development leads want to build private clouds that look, feel and operate like our open public cloud. They want the same software, the same configuration and the same operations that power our public cloud, but they want it all to themselves, most often in their own data centers.

Two years ago, when we first started in the private cloud world supporting clouds in customers’ data centers, we operated as a consultancy.

We took raw OpenStack code and used our expertise in running a large public cloud to build custom private clouds for customers.

Every customer had a different idea of what their private cloud should look like, and we’d end up helping them build what I like to call “Crazy Cloud™” (trademark inflection is my own). You can define Crazy Cloud as an unsupportable mixed bag of bits that fits well in the existing enterprise model. Basically, we were building one offs that were difficult to support but were exactly what the customers were asking us for at the time.

What we learned very quickly from customers was that they wanted to work with us more once we expressed our strong opinions on what they should be building and running on their premise rather than letting them tell us what to build. This was the opposite of our initial assumptions that people wanted our expertise to build them a custom cloud – the reality is that they just wanted the Rackspace Cloud in their own data center.

In addition to being prescriptive about what a “good” private cloud looks like from a software and infrastructure perspective, we also believe strongly in the operations model of cloud. Last month I blogged about how your cloud needs a pit crew and how software and hardware makes up 25 percent of your cloud and good operations makes up the other 75 percent.

When customers say they want to “run like Rackspace,” what they really mean is that they want the experience of just being able to use their cloud. They want our bits, for sure – and those are free and open source with our OpenStack-powered Rackspace Private Cloud Software. But in addition to the software, customers want our expertise in configuring, operating, upgrading and the overall care and feeding of their private cloud. This is what we’re really good at. We do it for our public cloud, and we’re doing it now for a growing number of enterprises.

There were some Twitter and blog discussion last week about how the only thing we would operate is our own OpenStack-powered Rackspace Private Cloud Software. The biggest source of discussion that I saw was a question that went like this: “is Rackspace Private Cloud a fork of OpenStack and that’s why they won’t/can’t provide operations for other versions?”

Short answer: No, we deliver community OpenStack with a proven Rackspace Cloud configuration, tools and deployment model – not a fork. We work hard to be completely open and transparent in the community about what we’re doing.  Everything we do for Rackspace Private Cloud is on github, and Rackspace Private Cloud leverages the fully open source community packages for the OpenStack components (Nova, Swift, Glance, Horizon, Keystone, Cinder, Quantum, etc.) directly from the Ubuntu package repository. These are the same exact packages that the OpenStack developers themselves use for their development and test environments. Rackspace Private Cloud Software then deploys and configures those packages “the Rackspace way” using more open source tools and cookbooks that we’ve built (all available at

The reason we aren’t offering private cloud operations for other private cloud software is simply market demand – customers are asking to run like Rackspace, which is hard to do on someone else’s interpretation of what a cloud should look like (see: Crazy Cloud, above).

Don’t build Crazy Cloud!  Our Rackspace Private Cloud Software is free and open source, we have published reference architectures for private cloud that are open and freely available on our website and you don’t have to pay us for anything or worry you are getting a fork of OpenStack when you choose to do things the Rackspace way.

Remember the cloud equation: software and hardware are 25 percent, operations is 75 percent. If you truly want to run like Rackspace, there’s only one way to do that – let us use our experience in operating large OpenStack-powered open clouds to operate your private cloud so you can focus on the real value of cloud: using it.

Questions or comments about this blog post? Let me know below or on Twitter: @scottsanchez


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