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March 13, 2009

Rackspace readies cloud services portfolio

Servers, storage and content delivery on-demand from the cloud

By CBR Staff Writer

Hosting supplier Rackspace Inc is readying a series of cloud services that will range from pay-as-you go server instance provisioning to online backup, on-demand storage and content serving, pitching the new lines as higher-performing alternatives to existing cloud services from Google or Amazon.

The company said it wants to combine cloud service offerings with more traditional hosting, email and managed services into hybrid services that have an extremely low cost of entry and which can be shaped to match specific business requirements.

“This hybrid approach is one of the differentiators, another is that we are the only provider with a complete portfolio” Emil Sayegh, General Manager for Rackspace Cloud told us. “We have a comprehensive offering combining a server and storage on-demand service as well as a .NET and LAMP platform-as-a-service offer.”

The cloud services market may be nascent but it is already becoming increasingly competitive. Amazon has this week unwrapped some new pricing options for its Elastic Compute Cloud hosted cloud service that offers discounts to customers signing up for annual contracts as an alternative to its existing On-Demand Instances. 

The new Amazon Web Services Reserved Instances scheme, which lets customers pay an up-front fee and reserve server capacity for later use, will start at $325 a year for a standard Linux server.

With the Rackspace Cloud Servers service due to be turned on this coming Monday, IT shops will be able to choose to instantly deploy custom Linux servers on demand. The new service starts at $0.015 per hour and is tested to be three times faster than Amazon’s S3 and comparable services from others in the market, Sayegh said.

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The on-demand server offering builds on Xen virtualization software and technology developed by Slicehost, a rival Rackspace acquired last year that sold virtual machine server slices. 

Rackspace has lined up what it says will be a complete cloud suite, with its Cloud Sites, Cloud Files and Cloud Servers offerings all backed by a robust 99.9% availability service level agreement. “We want to bring the same level of availability and fanatical support to the cloud, as we deliver with our more traditional hosting services” said Sayegh. 

“This is the latest in a series of moves we have made since October, when we first explained out strategy for cloud and made the acquisitions of Slicehost and Jungle Disk” Sayegh noted, saying that the Jungle Disk sister company will also underpin some of the new services. One development allows customers the option to store data on Cloud Files as well as to Amazon S3 and also paves the way for a unified pricing model.

The company claims is Cloud Sites platform-as-a-service system is also developing well and currently hosts over 100,000 applications and web sites. A latest development there is PCI compliance enablement. 

Future intentions include plans to build Cloud Server APIs, the promise of Windows support on Cloud Servers, the availability of cloud services globally, and the creation of a service dashboard that feeds status checks on all aspects of a hosted site.

Sayegh also confirmed that the Rackspace Cloud Files service for content delivery network and online storage is officially out of the beta.

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