The Fanatical Faces Of Rackspace Private Cloud: Joe Burke

As one of the pillars of hybrid cloud, Rackspace Private Cloud started with a mission to build and operate private clouds powered by OpenStack in our data center, in a colocation facility or in a customer’s data center. In this weekly blog series, we’ll profile some of the key members of the Rackspace Private Cloud team to give you a glimpse into the inner workings of a team that’s helping to define and deliver the future of private and hybrid clouds.

Meet Joe Burke, Director of Enterprise Architecture for Rackspace Private Cloud. Joe and his family made the move from the northeast to Texas earlier this year. Here, he talks about his journey to the cloud, what drew him to Rackspace (and Texas) and what he looks for in team members.

Tell me about your journey to cloud computing.
I’m attracted to significantly disruptive technology trends. These provide a type of creativity that is really unmatched as it forces technologists to not just think about how to solve a problem but how a new technology can be exploited to solve problems not previously foreseen and to do so in a more elegant way.

Early in my career as a developer, I was involved with a very stable technology that was not innovating: COBOL on the mainframe. (Ok I¹ll pause for comments about my age.) At that same time, moving workloads to a client/server architecture was the rage. That directional push was exceedingly difficult as it had too many moving parts undergoing significant changes and there was a better emerging technology, the web.

Java was in its infancy, began to show lots of potential and began to mature very quickly. In the industry, J2EE server companies were popping up everywhere. They were expensive and each had its own benefits, challenges and limitations. Soon thereafter, the Apache Foundation had started its web server and Tomcat projects, and the rest is a well-known history of how an open source project can mature into a widely used software in production environments.

For me, the cloud computing industry is at that same inflection point. Significant business challenges exist that do not have an eloquent solution like auto-scaling to meet demand spikes or quickly creating high availability across a region or the globe. Cloud computing will be the new foundation that creates an ability to eloquently solve these challenges and OpenStack continues to push towards a mature open source solution. I firmly believe OpenStack’s story will repeat Tomcat’s.

What ultimately led you to decide to leave the northeast to work for Rackspace in Texas?
My family (wife and three children: ages 8, 7 and 3) had many long discussions about the pros and cons about moving from the northeast (Boston and New York) to Texas. Rackspace’s forward thinking and thought leadership within the OpenStack community were compelling reasons behind our decision. Since starting, the Rackspace family has been extremely helpful and supportive of our move and has really welcomed us.

What do you love most about Rackspace?
There are many great things about this company. In my short time so far, I would say the ability that every Racker has to contribute to a discussion.

What are the most important traits or skills you look for when bringing on new team members?
Intellectual curiosity. Yes, most people can think of a way to solve a problem. I look for those who can solve the problem while anticipating future challenges and seeing where else the solution can be useful. True technologists have the foresight beyond the finished solution at earliest stages in developing a design. This curiosity can be seen throughout all levels of the organization from the most junior developer and analysts or in very senior leaders.

What makes private cloud and OpenStack so exciting to you?
Having worked in companies with significant IT spend, I’ve had first-hand experience with management pressure to maximize cost effectiveness while being pressured by an increase in business demand as well as regulatory/control-based demand. Cloud is the eloquent solution that simultaneously addresses both of these needs. Traditionally, infrastructure was an area where resources were not always maximized. Clouds enable companies to optimize resources and private clouds specifically allow companies maintain their high control standards.

Although Joe works of out the Austin office, he is often spotted in the San Antonio office placing candy on the desks of weight loss challenge participants. Have a burning question? Email joe.burke at rackspace dot com.


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