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May 2, 2011 No Comments

Rackspace is the second largest provider of IaaS (infrastructure as a service) after Amazon Web Services. On track to make $100 million in revenue this fiscal year, Rackspace’s IaaS business is roughly one tenth that of Amazon’s, a number that does not count the revenue Rackspace accrues from its more traditional hosting business — where the company began and from which it derives its differentiation in the cloud space.

Last week, InfoWorld Executive Editor Doug Dineley and I interviewed Lew Moorman, the chief strategy officer of Rackspace and the president of its cloud division.

Moorman was in the San Francisco area for a conference on OpenStack, a new open standard for cloud computing that Rackspace developed with NASA that has generated considerable industry excitement. We began by talking about how Rackspace’s array of services differs from that offered by the No. 1 IaaS provider.

InfoWorld: What it’s like to be No. 2? How would you differentiate the services that you offer from Amazon’s?

Lew Moorman: I think Amazon has been a catalyst to this industry and has been a great pioneer in this space. But I think that we have a very different approach than Amazon has.

First of all, we are a hosting company, and we think our hosting roots are actually very powerful. It’s going to be very difficult to tell the difference between hosting and cloud because I think every big customer is going to have some of each over time. So that portfolio [of hosting services] really matters.

Also, we are very committed to open standards. I’m actually here this week for the OpenStack Design Conference down in Santa Clara, Calif. There are 500 folks down there working on OpenStack, and we just couldn’t be more pleased with how that’s going. The idea is that you can run a Rackspace cloud through our public cloud. You can run it privately in our hosting environment, or you can run it on premise. And in the future you’re going to be able to run it with our competitors.

And the last part, of course, is service. I think that when most people hear the name Rackspace, they think “service” and “customer support,” and I think that the cloud needs support as much as the physical world did. In some cases, more so, because there’s this explosion of applications that IT departments can’t keep up with. They need some help keeping these applications up and running, responding to monitoring alerts, doing those kinds of things. So the idea that we log in to boxes and help you fix things is just a whole different kind of approach than Amazon has.

InfoWorld: You wouldn’t say there is any significant difference in technology support?

Moorman: I think there is. We really want to build our cloud products to look and feel and act like traditional infrastructure. So we have persistent storage, we have static IPs, we are going to use VHDs, not a proprietary standard of disk format. So we are committed to having things look and feel and run very much like traditional infrastructure, which makes it very easy for people to use our cloud products. I think that Amazon has had just a different approach. It’s not better or worse, it’s just different.

InfoWorld: So in a nutshell, high availability and disaster recovery is cheaper under your model?

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