For Rackspace, it’s not all about fanatical support anymore

Rackspace CEO Lanham Napier.

Rackspace built its managed hosting and cloud businesses on its promise of “fanatical support” above and beyond what people could expect from, say, Amazon Web Services. But it’s pulled back on that messaging and is now pushing performance, performance, performance. One indication of that is its recent announcement of new high-performance cloud servers.

But there’s more:  In a letter sent to customers on November 4,  Rackspace CEO Lanham Napier  drove the message hard. He wrote:

 Our goal is more than just providing you with the fastest architecture — it’s to help you perform at the level that your users and your business demand. Architect faster, build faster, deploy faster, test faster, and of course run your applications faster.

He pointed readers to this Rackspace page for more information. The letter came out a few days after Napier published a blog post hinting at the shift to come.

It’s important to point out here that many third parties — including customers — said Rackspace’s devotion to customer support was no joke.  Dan Belcher, co-founder of Stackdriver said he witnessed one Rackspace marketer out-and-out refuse to promote a new service until its support metrics improved

David Mytton, CEO of Server Density, agreed that this change sounds like a big deal: “Fanatical support has been Rackspace’s entire value proposition from the beginning.” His take is that Rackspace is trying to position itself against AWS, which doesn’t have a great reputation for high performance, particularly disk I/O.  And, he noted, upstarts like Digital Ocean are gaining traction by offering SSDs and very quick instance launch times by default.

Rackspace didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Update: In a statement emailed Thursday night, Rackspace CMO Rick Jackson said:

“Fanatical Support is built into the DNA of Rackers and always will be. The ingredients of our Fanatical Support continuously evolves and expands to meet our customer needs. With the launch of Performance Cloud Servers, we now provide customers with even greater performance through hybrid computing, optimized for open technologies that preserves our customers’ freedom of choice, all backed by our award winning Fanatical Support.”

Other providers like Verizon are also positioning their  clouds for performance too, to eliminate the noisy neighbor problem that plagues shared environments.

Clearly, AWS heard those concerns around performance. On Thursday,  it announced several new bigger, faster SSD-backed instance types to address performance issues.

At any rate,  we’re early in the cloud computing era, but it looks like the battle ground is shifting from basic blocking-and-tackling to power and finesse.  Or maybe it’s just that AWS has built up such a tremendous lead in the market that everyone else is just fighting to stay relevant.

Note: this story was updated at 10:26 p.m. PST November 14, with Rackspace comment.

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