Rackspace to help customers debug their programs

The assistance will be incorporated into the standard support package for the company's OpenStack-based Rackspace Cloud service

Facing fierce competition in the market for cloud services, hosting provider Rackspace has pledged to help its users debug the programs they'll run on Rackspace's OpenStack platform.

"Traditionally, Rackspace has been in the infrastructure support business, and now customers are [interacting] at the application level," said Scott Sanchez, director of strategy at Rackspace. "We wanted to make sure when customers called, we weren't telling them the basics, but supporting them as developers."

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The additional expertise will be incorporated into the standard support package for the company's OpenStack-based Rackspace Cloud service.

Specifically, Rackspace wants to make it easier for developers to understand how their applications can interact, in their native languages, with OpenStack and the Rackspace Cloud service, through the use of Rackspace's APIs (application programming interface) and SDKs (software development kits).

In the past few months, the company has released SDKs for running PHP, Java, Python, Ruby, and .Net-based programs in a Rackspace OpenStack environment. It is also working on a SDK to aid in node.js development as well.

"The OpenStack API has a ton of capabilities and some things are very simple -- such as [provisioning] a storage volume. But there are other things that are more complicated, such as resizing a volume, replicating a volume, or providing stats on usage," Sanchez said. "More customers are automating and using devops tools and other programmatic tools to manage their environment. We wanted to elevate our support capabilities there."

Rackspace engineers can analyze how effective the developer's code interacts with the Rackspace APIs and SDKs. They can help identify and resolve any issues, as well as offer advice on the best way to use these resources.

"When you or your developer are writing code against our APIs or SDKs and you have a question, let us know. We'll give you answers and even take a look at the code you've written around the use of the APIs or SDKs," wrote Rackspace President Lew Moorman in a blog post announcing the support enhancement. "If the problem is in your application code, we'll even help you fix it." Such help could come in handy in developing applications that interact directly with cloud resources. Support engineers could help developers design their applications so they automatically replicate across the cloud when traffic surpasses a pre-determined threshold. Or they could assist in having the applications automatically provision, or detach, storage volumes. Rackspace has been under immense pressure from investors to better compete with rival cloud provider Amazon Web Services, whose business has been growing faster than Rackspace's, according to the financial press. Rackspace currently operates approximately 94,000 servers and has a customer base of about 200,000.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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