Rackspace expands hybrid strategy to AWS and OpenStack

Rackspace is extending its “fanatical support” to users of Amazon Web Services. Rackspace President and CEO Taylor Rhodes wrote that customers have told him “they love Rackspace expertise and Fanatical Support, and would like to get it for the workloads that they prefer to run on AWS.”

A post from Rackspace’s Robert Scoble explained that the move wasn’t so much away from OpenStack but towards a flat cloud environment where customers could use any cloud they wanted—and Rackspace would be there to support them.  The service is aimed at companies that don’t have the skill or desire to manage their cloud presence on their own.

“AWS support will come in two flavours – Navigator, for those who want to retain control over AWS, and Aviator for those willing to let Rackspace take charge,” The Register reported.

As an earlier version of this story reported, The Wall Street Journal last week said that Rackspace was about to announce a partnership with Amazon to help enterprises move their clouds to Amazon Web Services (AWS). “The deal would have been unthinkable just two years ago, when Rackspace and AWS were fierce rivals,” wrote Robert Macmillian in The Wall Street Journal. “But in early 2014, Rackspace, facing ever slimmer margins amid a cloud-computing price war, withdrew from head-to-head competition with Amazon. Since then, it has focused on offering higher-margin services.”

CRN actually broke the story in July, when Rackspace announced a similar head-turning  partnership with Microsoft, in that case, to offer its “fanatical support” to customers adopting Microsoft’s cloud, Azure. “Rackspace also is preparing an Amazon Web Services alliance as well, CRN has learned, bringing its trademark “Fanatical Support” offering to the world’s two biggest clouds, both competitors of its own Infrastructure-as-a-Service offering,” Joseph Tsidulko wrote in CRN.

After the Journal’s story published on September 29, The Register, Business Insider, Barrons, and others followed on, mainly focusing on the idea that “this new deal with Rackspace is a direct blow to Microsoft,” as Julie Bort wrote in Business Insider.  

Is this really different from the hybrid cloud strategy the company has already embraced? Just ten days after the Rackspace unveiled its Microsoft Azure support in July, the company announced its collaboration with Intel to form the OpenStack Innovation Center at Rackspace’s San Antonio headquarters. “The pair plans to recruit and train “hundreds” of open source developers to work on strengthening OpenStack,” Nick Chase wrote in OpenStack:Now. “The plan is to build out an OpenStack developer cloud that consists of two 1,000 node clusters available for use by anyone in the OpenStack community for scaling, performance, and code testing. Rackspace plans to have the cloud available within the next six months.”

As Chase wrote in OpenStack:Now when the Rackspace/Microsoft partnership was announced, “The company says it is not abandoning its OpenStack roots, however, and instead is merely both building on its existing Microsoft expertise and offering clients an easier road to hybrid computing.”

Update:  This article was updated 10/6/15 to reflect the official announcement from Rackspace.

What’s your take on Rackspace’s support for Amazon and Microsoft clouds?

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