Rackspace delivers OpenStack for private clouds

Rackspace (s RAX) has productized the OpenStack cloud computing software to run in customer data centers. This is an interesting move for Rackspace, a big cloud provider/managed services provider that until now has run customers’ compute loads in its own data centers and hasn’t provided software.

OpenStack is an open-source cloud computing platform and project founded by Rackspace and NASA, but which has picked up other big-name support from Dell (s DELL), Hewlett-Packard (s HPQ) , Cisco (s CSCO ) Citrix (s CTXS) and others in its one-and-a-half-year existence. Last spring, Rackspace launched its Cloud Builders program to bring OpenStack into the private cloud realm by helping customers deploy OpenStack-based clouds, and Monday’s announcement is the fruit of that program.

That customers can now run Rackspace-blessed OpenStack cloud technology in their own data centers as a private-cloud option is a big deal for those business customers — and there are many  – who want choice in where they deploy their clouds. This productized version of OpenStack is tested, certified and supported by Rackspace but runs outside Rackspace data centers — and that is a big change, said Rackspace Cloud Builders General Manager Jim Curry.

The initial reference architecture, published Monday, lays out details of just what hardware, software and networking gear will run these first private clouds. The hardware and networking sections are pretty much Dell- and Cisco-heavy for now, but other supported technologies will come. This fairly strict standardization is necessary to let Rackspace support these implementations efficiently. For example, the first Rackspace OpenStack private clouds will support just the KVM hypervisor initially but will ramp up support for eight hypervisors in new releases,  Curry said.

“The consistent feedback is that developers and customers want to use Amazon (s AMZN) or Rackspace public clouds but, for a number of reasons, their IT department is not in love with that option,” said Mark Collier, Rackspace VP of business development and marketing. “The driving force was they wanted something similar to the public cloud — even before OpenStack, people said, ‘I just want my own Rackspace cloud, the instant provisioning, the self service.’ The things we take for granted in cloud computing are still revolutionary to people in IT who are used to taking weeks and months to set something up.”

Senior analyst Jay Lyman with The 451 Group concurred. “A lot of companies have early experience with the Amazon public cloud and they want to emulate what they get there in-house. They want to have those capabilities but in an environment they can control,” he said.

And, many want some sort of multi-vendor redundancy so they’re not too dependent on any one provider whether it’s Amazon, Rackspace, or another provider. These OpenStack implementations can really benefit from that, he said.

Rackspace will not charge for the OpenStack software licenses but with this private cloud release will get into the off-site support business for the first time, Collier said. If a customer ends up opting out of Rackspace support, the software remains theirs to use, he said.

OpenStack implementations overall are gaining steam. Last week, Internap opened up the first OpenStack-based public cloud to customers. HP launched its OpenStack-infused cloud in beta form a few weeks ago. This Rackspace-sold and supported cloud will also compete with other OpenStack options from startup Nebula and large software vendor Citrix, among others.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user cdsessums.