Alan Perkins recently joined Rackspace as Director of Product and Technology, Asia Pacific. In this two-part series, he discusses why he joined Rackspace. In Part I, he highlighted the company and its values.
As someone who has taken an enterprise to the cloud globally, I understand just how much of an impact the cloud can have on a business. I have been a vocal supporter in the belief that the cloud can open all sorts of possibilities. It’s not just about cost mitigation and scalability.
Businesses looking to learn more about what cloud computing can offer are faced with a plethora of suppliers purporting to have cloud services. Many of the potentially transformational benefits can be lost in the confusion of conflicting ideas, and these businesses sometimes gain a false sense that the cloud sounds like stuff they have heard before.
The truth is that real cloud is a service that’s hard to fake. The key is that the products, services and technologies offered by a vendor enable an enterprise to focus on its business imperatives without having to worry about the infrastructure. It is always a tough question: does a company invest in expensive infrastructure just in case it becomes successful beyond expectations? Does it allow a huge opportunity to slip through its fingers simply because of a conservative approach to investing in infrastructure? Both are risks that all businesses have to traditionally face.
These risks become real concerns when businesses do not use the cloud. Cloud approaches mean that businesses can effectively forge ahead knowing that the infrastructure will cater to their usage needs. Imagine starting a fishing business and not having to worry about how big a boat and net you should buy. Instead, you can rely on being able to start with modest equipment and elastically expand the ship and net at sea if you happen to come across a huge school of fish.
The freedom from encumbrance that results from this elasticity has the potential to change the way businesses approach their strategic planning, innovation and related areas of risk management and process streamlining. More agile methodologies ensue that facilitate experimentation and allow changes to happen organically, leading inevitably to a focus on the business goals rather than the potential impediments such as not having enough infrastructure.
Cloud facilitates this change in thinking, but it has failed to overcome the concerns around privacy, security and data sovereignty. Despite all the advocates who have effectively said that the benefits outweigh the risks, the fact remains that some businesses stand to lose more than they can gain if their data is exposed. In some cases there are legislative impediments, PCI compliance, health records, national sovereignty rules to name a few, that render the potential gains seemingly academic. Further concerns around the high dependency on single cloud providers have further limited the uptake.
But Rackspace has largely addressed these concerns by open-sourcing the cloud. By working with NASA, Rackspace has given birth to what is now among the fastest growing open source projects in history – OpenStack. The OpenStack Foundation now has more than 8,600 contributing developers and has been adopted by more than 100 companies, including IBM, Dell, HP, NTT, Red Hat and Canonical. Rackspace has very publicly gone “all-in” on OpenStack and is one of the largest contributors to the code base. Rackspace’s approach is that Fanatical Support will be the key differentiator that enables the company to excel.
As a result of OpenStack, businesses have the freedom to build on the hybrid cloud, an infrastructure platform that uses a combination of public multi-tenanted cloud infrastructure, dedicated servers and private cloud facilities that are on their own premises if necessary. The technical barriers between each of these topologies are being eliminated, making for one platform that truly allows businesses to have freedom from worrying about their infrastructure as they focus on driving their business forward.
The freedom to choose a mixture of topologies, suppliers and service levels really allows businesses to focus on what they do, not how they do it. Adding Fanatical Support to that freedom allows cloud computing to fully realize its potential. And that excites me.
Oh, and for those who want to understand more about my role at Rackspace, I have come on board as the Director of Technology and Product – Asia Pacific. My functions include promoting how cloud computing concepts can help businesses achieve their goals, expounding on the concepts of the open cloud, as well as helping ensure new Rackspace products and services are ready for the market in the Asia Pacific region.
I welcome the opportunity to talk about my journey to the cloud and how thinking cloud and related topics such as Big Data, the Internet of Things and social media can change our approach to business.