Rackspace ends cloud lock-in

I hate lock in. It’s one reason why I have used WordPress for so many years. With it I can move my blog between hosts and, even, can export my blog to a database and import it into another tool. Dave Winer (the developer behind many of the technologies that run underneath blogs) and Matt Mullenweg (the guy who brought us WordPress) have written about, and spoken about, how lock-in is anti customer and anti innovation quite a bit over the last 10 years.

Over the years I’ve asked developers, CEOs, and CTOs why they went with open source solutions rather than buying something from Microsoft or Oracle and they invariably answer something about how they don’t want to be locked in. WIth open source, they tell me, they can see the code, poke around in it, and, even, take it and build their own systems with that code.

That’s exactly what Rackspace is doing today in announcing OpenStack. But that’s not the only big announcement we’re making. Already 25 companies, including NASA, have already started using the OpenStack code to build some impressive things, but more on that later.

This is the biggest strategic announcement we’ve made since going public.


1. It means the end of lock-in for cloud customers. Don’t like Rackspace for some reason? Take your cloud-based apps somewhere else. We already have competitors who are using OpenStack to run their own cloud infrastructure. Compare this ability to ANY other cloud infrastructure available on the market today and you’ll see we’re the only one who has absolutely no lock-in. How will Rackspace compete? Plain old customer service and fanatical support.

2. It means that new capabilities are coming your way, including those developed at NASA, who have also open sourced cloud infrastructure as part of OpenStack developed to run NASA’s Nebula Cloud Platform.

3. This is a true open source announcement, not one of those “we’re open” announcements where you find out by looking at licenses that something key has been kept proprietary. Compare our licenses to ANYONE and you’ll see we’re the ones who went fully open source.

4. OpenStack will include several cloud infrastructure components, the first being OpenStack Object Storage, a fully distributed object store based on Rackspace Cloud Files, available today at OpenStack.org. The second component, OpenStack Compute, will be a massively scalable compute-provisioning engine based on the NASA Nebula compute project and Rackspace Cloud Servers technology, available later in 2010. Any organization will be able to turn physical hardware into massively scalable and extensible cloud environments using the same code currently in production serving tens of thousands of customers and large government projects.

5. An OpenStack Design Summit hosted by Rackspace was held in Austin, Texas on July 13-16, where more than 100 technical advisors, developers and founding partners had the opportunity to validate the code and ratify the project roadmap.

So, what does this mean? Why would Rackspace turn over code it spent 10s of millions of dollars acquiring and developing?

1. It puts the focus on Rackspace’s famous “fanatic” customer service like never before. Because we have no lock-in anymore there is only one way we’ll keep customers: provide the best support.

2. It extends Rackspace’s development efforts far beyond what we could achieve otherwise. And we have been building some awesome software development teams. You might have missed but we hired most of the MySQL Drizzle development team, among many other great developers. But this wasn’t enough when faced with new cloud competition from Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. One company headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, just was never going to be able to take on companies with market capitalization in the 10s of billions of dollars. But as you’ve already seen from the new capabilities that NASA has brought to OpenStack this brings a massive new group of developers into this and the entire world will benefit from that.

3. It has already helped hiring and employee morale. I didn’t grok just what it would do here. I guess that’s part of my Microsoft background. You know, the one that says “why would a company give away its crown jewels?” But it has turned working at Rackspace for many of my coworkers from just a job to one that’s a mission. After all, our code now is going to be used by NASA. Think about what that does. Also, it’s a lot easier to recruit great developers when they get to work on an open source initiative. I almost didn’t talk about this on the blog because this effect has been so pronounced. I believe it’ll force other cloud companies to go open source as well because they’ll lose key hires to Rackspace and they already have.

4. It further aligns Rackspace with the industry it serves. Go around the industry as I have with my video camera and you keep hearing “we’re betting on open source and companies that don’t lock us in.” Every startup, nearly, uses the LAMP stack and those who don’t go that way tell each other at private industry events like the one I’m at right now in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, that jumping off the open source stack brings negative results for companies. I’ve been talking with CTOs, VCs, and CEOs and they are excited to have more choice in cloud-hosting. More on that later as this announcement rolls out.

Here is the official press release. You can learn more at OpenStack.org and also on the official Twitter account for OpenStack.

Rackspace Open Sources Cloud Platform; Announces Plans to Collaborate with NASA and Other Industry Leaders on OpenStack Project

More than 25 companies, including Citrix and Dell, support open source cloud platform to accelerate industry standards

San Antonio, TX – July 19, 2010 – HYPERLINK “http://www.rackspace.com” Rackspace® Hosting (NYSE:RAX) today announced the launch of OpenStack™, an open-source cloud platform designed to foster the emergence of technology standards and cloud interoperability. Rackspace, the leading specialist in the hosting and cloud computing industry, is donating the code that powers its Cloud Files and Cloud Servers public-cloud offerings to the OpenStack project. The project will also incorporate technology that powers the HYPERLINK “http://nebula.nasa.gov/” NASA Nebula Cloud Platform. Rackspace and NASA plan to actively collaborate on joint technology development and leverage the efforts of open-source software developers worldwide.

“Modern scientific computation requires ever increasing storage and processing power delivered on-demand,” said Chris Kemp, NASA’s Chief Technology Officer for IT. “To serve this demand, we built Nebula, an infrastructure cloud platform designed to meet the needs of our scientific and engineering community. NASA and Rackspace are uniquely positioned to drive this initiative based on our experience in building large scale cloud platforms and our desire to embrace open source.”

OpenStack will feature several cloud infrastructure components including a fully distributed object store based on HYPERLINK “http://www.rackspacecloud.com/cloud_hosting_products/files” Rackspace Cloud Files, available today at OpenStack.org. The next component planned for release is a scalable compute-provisioning engine based on the NASA Nebula cloud technology and HYPERLINK “http://www.rackspacecloud.com/cloud_hosting_products/servers” Rackspace Cloud Servers technology. It is expected to be available later this year. Using these components, organizations would be able to turn physical hardware into scalable and extensible cloud environments using the same code currently in production serving tens of thousands of customers and large government projects.

“We are founding the OpenStack initiative to help drive industry standards, prevent vendor lock-in and generally increase the velocity of innovation in cloud technologies,” said Lew Moorman, President, Cloud and CSO at Rackspace. “We are proud to have NASA’s support in this effort. Its Nebula Cloud Platform is a tremendous boost to the OpenStack community. We expect ongoing collaboration with NASA and the rest of the community to drive more-rapid cloud adoption and innovation, in the private and public spheres.”

Rackspace and NASA have committed to use OpenStack to power their cloud platforms, and Rackspace will dedicate open-source developers and resources to support adoption of OpenStack among enterprises and service providers. An OpenStack Design Summit hosted by Rackspace was held July 13-16 in Austin, where more than 100 technical advisors, developers and founding members joined to validate the code and ratify the project roadmap. More than 25 companies were represented at the Design Summit including AMD, Autonomic Resources, Citrix, Cloud.com, Cloudkick, Cloudscaling, CloudSwitch, Dell, enStratus, FathomDB, Intel, iomart Group, Limelight, Nicira, NTT DATA, Opscode, PEER 1, Puppet Labs, RightScale, Riptano, Scalr, SoftLayer, Sonian, Spiceworks, Zenoss and Zuora.

“OpenStack provides a solid foundation for promoting the emergence of cloud standards and interoperability,” said Peter Levine, SVP and GM, Datacenter and Cloud Division, HYPERLINK “http://www.citrix.com” Citrix Systems.  “As a longtime technology partner with Rackspace, Citrix will collaborate closely with the community to provide full support for the XenServer platform and our other cloud-enabling products.”

“We believe in offering customers choice in cloud computing that helps them improve efficiency,” says Forrest Norrod, Vice President and General Manager of Server Platforms, HYPERLINK “http://www.dell.com/” Dell. “OpenStack on Dell is a great option to create open source enterprise cloud solutions.”

To download or contribute code and get involved, visit OpenStack.org. Follow OpenStack on Twitter @OpenStack.

About Rackspace Hosting
Rackspace Hosting is the world’s leading specialist in the hosting and cloud computing industry. The San Antonio-based company provides Fanatical Support® to its customers, across a portfolio of IT services, including Managed Hosting and Cloud Computing. For more information, visit “http://www.rackspace.com/” http://www.rackspace.com.

About the NASA Nebula Cloud Program
NASA Nebula is a Cloud Computing service based at NASA Ames Research Center that provides high performance compute, network, and data storage services to NASA scientists and researchers. Nebula allows NASA to share and process large scientific data sets and was one of three flagship projects highlighted in NASA’s Open Government Plan. For more information, visit http://nebula.nasa.gov.

Forward Looking Statements
This press release contains forward-looking statements that involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions. If such risks or uncertainties materialize or such assumptions prove incorrect, the results of Rackspace Hosting could differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements and assumptions. All statements other than statements of historical fact are statements that could be deemed forward-looking statements, including any statements concerning expected development of the OpenStack project; the acceptance of OpenStack technology as an industry standard; anticipated operational and financial benefits from any development of the OpenStack project; the participation of other companies or individuals in the OpenStack project; any statements of expectation or belief; and any statements of assumptions underlying any of the foregoing. Risks, uncertainties and assumptions include the possibility that expected benefits from the OpenStack project may not materialize because the underlying technology is not reliable or generally compatible with industry standards; there are changes in technology that adversely affect the adoption of the standards, and other risks that are described in Rackspace Hosting’s Form 10-Q for the quarter ended March 31, 2010, filed with the SEC on May 6, 2010. Except as required by law, Rackspace Hosting assumes no obligation to update these forward-looking statements publicly, or to update the reasons actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements, even if new information becomes available in the future.


UPDATE: Here’s some blog posts about this:

Techcrunch. “OpenStack.org: Rackspace Open Sources Their Cloud Services Platform, and Gets NASA On Board.”
The Next Web. “Rackspace issues a challenge to the cloud industry; goes open-source with OpenStack.”
RWW: “OpenStack: Rackspace and NASA Nebula Join Forces for Open Cloud Ecosystem.”
GigaOm: “OpenStack: An Open Source Cloud Project Emerges.”


18 thoughts on “Rackspace ends cloud lock-in

  1. “Compare this ability to ANY other cloud infrastructure available on the market today and you’ll see we’re the only one who has absolutely no lock-in.” <- One of the most puffed up statements I've read in a long time! Come on… absolutely no lock-in. So you deploy your apps on an OpenStack platform and they are suddenly deployable on any other cloud platform? NOT!!


  2. This is good news on a number of fronts. I looked at doing a project in the cloud last year, but decided to once again go LAMP (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP) based on experience AND the fact that LAMP is Open Source. Most likely my next project will be cloud based written in Ruby. As a former NeXTstep Objective-C programmer, I have been (not so) patiently awaiting a suitable Object-Oriented replacement. Most everyone is telling me that Ruby is it. I know that PHP v5.x ain't it. Now, with the horsepower available in clouds, this may be the final tipping point (at least for me).


  3. Nice write up. A couple of months ago, when I decided to return to NASA after 2.5 years away, one of the big reasons was people like Chris Kemp telling me that NASA has really changed for the better. This announcement is the most public evidence of how things have truly progressed. There's no way NASA would have participated in something like this a few years ago. Very happy to be back. And even happier that working at NASA feels like working at growing company.


  4. There are several other competitors who are now deploying our code, so yes, you'll be able to do just that on those competitors of Rackspace who use OpenStack code.


  5. All I needed to read was number 1. Rackspace is a company I can be a fan of simply for that. I don't need anywhere near there level of power yet thanks for the education Scoble.3.0 can be a scary upgrade I've done it for several people…mine went without hitch. As usual, watch out for spry plugin breaking. I had to tweak code for Headspace if you use it.


  6. As a Slicehost user, its nice to see that I can take my infrastructure if I ever want to leave the service. I'm heavily invested in the platform, and setting it all up else where is no easy task. Being able to move between providers, or to self-hosted machines makes me very happy. I can't wait to see how this evolves.P.S. – Its WordPress not WordPress.


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