No. 2 cloud provider Rackspace tries harder

The chief strategy officer of Rackspace talks to InfoWorld about the vital importance of open cloud standards -- and the services his company offers that Amazon doesn't

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InfoWorld: So maybe you could offer Microsoft's 1,000-server, private cloud Azure offering as a public cloud?

Moorman: Possibly. We'll see. Azure has been an interesting development. But it seems to me that it has not captured the imagination in terms of the market. And I think part of that is just the platform as a service is a hard concept for folks to sort of get their heads around. People are used to thinking in terms of servers and sort of traditional concepts.

InfoWorld: Well, you're not going to consider Azure unless you're a .Net shop.

Moorman: To me, that's the interesting part. I actually think Microsoft has a platform problem, not a cloud problem. They've invested heavily in the cloud side of it, but what they really need to do is make .Net more relevant to everyone building startups around here. The startup community is not using .Net, and that is the problem they've got to solve -- and I think by just having a cloud they're not going to solve that problem. They need to make it a platform that people are gravitating towards.

And I think that their bigger issue is .Net and the toolsets that they have. And actually, in some ways, Azure is complicated because they now have introduced SQL Azure, which is a whole new platform you have to get your arms around. Why is the world building on Rails and Python? That is, I think, the problem that Microsoft has to solve.

InfoWorld: Well said. So talk to me a little about compliance issues as they relate to the public cloud. There's a sense that some of some compliance regulations are a barrier and need to be revisited, It's even inhibiting [federal CIO] Vivek Kundra's cloud initiative for the federal government.

Moorman: Well, I am on the Cloud Commission Vivek has started, and I have to say the government has done a great job -- Vivek in particular -- leading on this with its Cloud-First policy for the government. I think they are moving faster than corporate America today in many cases. And they have a strong interest in making America the leader in cloud computing and advancing very, very quickly.

But absolutely there are issues. The ones that I am most interested in are data flows and natural sovereignty issues around data. There is a lot of fear around the Patriot Act and the ability of the government to get data if it's hosted in America. These are things that I think do slow down cloud computing in America. And I think the government is very open to listening to it and understanding it.

But for me, that is one of the bigger issues, making it very clear that if you put your data in the cloud, what control are you losing? Or if you put the data in America, what control are you losing over the access of that data by governmental authorities? I think there's probably more FUD than there is reality, but there are issues, and we've got to get clarity on it. And the way we interact with government agencies has got to become very standardized and clear.

InfoWorld: So there's no real pending legislation yet?

Moorman: There's not. The commission is really charged with coming up with three or four very concrete recomendations to then go advocate legislatively.

InfoWorld: One last question. In the old days, ASPs [application service providers], which were the first wave of cloud computing, had a problem -- they tried to do too much for too many different customers and couldn't scale. With all the different services you offer -- particularly managed services -- isn't there a danger that may happen to you?

Moorman: In terms of scale, I think we're at scale. Amazon is a much bigger company than we are, but in terms of running infrastructure, we're a pretty big company. I think if you're a $50 million hosting company, you've got scale issues.

InfoWorld: I'm not talking about infrastructure. I'm talking about your really broad range of services.

Moorman: To me cloud computing is hosting version 2. And it is very much within our wheelhouse. I actually think that you will see a lot of these offers get standardized. I don't think there's an infinite number of solutions. I mean, if you look at our managed hosting offering, it's been pretty stable for the last five years as it has matured. I think cloud computing will hit a maturity curve -- and it doesn't mean there won't be innovations on the margins -- there absolutely will be. But there will be a set of standard types of offerings. Once you have computing and storage and networking, the rest of it is important, but that core is really at the heart of what we do, and our services on top of it are pretty productized and consistent.

I also think that our commitment to open source is going to allow us to have a velocity that does not depend on us doing everything alone. And the amount of code [being] contributed from the rest of the world, and the standards that are going to exist because of that, is something that gives us an advantage that no one else will have -- unless they decide to get on board with OpenStack -- then everyone will have it. What we want to do is get to a world where these things are standardized and the experience is what the difference is. And we think that we're the best in delivering a great experience and a great support model. That's what we're trying to accelerate and I think that's actually happening.

This article, "No. 2 cloud provider Rackspace tries harder," originally appeared at Read more of Eric Knorr's Modernizing IT blog, and for the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld on Twitter.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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