Rackspace joins OpenPOWER

What's one of the parent companies of OpenStack and a top private-cloud hosting companies doing in OpenPOWER? Helping to push open-source from software into hardware.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

When you think of Rackspace. What do you think of?

Rackspace sees open-source advantages all the way down the hardware stack with OpenPOWER.
Well, Rackspace's been known as one of the top Web hosting companies, although these days they prefer to be thought of as the leading managed private cloud firm and, of course, they're one of the two companies that helped found OpenStack, arguably the most popular open-source cloud program. So, what's a nice San Antonio-based company like this doing joining OpenPOWER Foundation, the POWER CPU architecture group? Well, here's what the company has to say.
In the world of servers, it's getting harder and more costly to deliver the generational performance and efficiency gains that we used to take for granted. There are increasing limitations in both the basic materials we use, and the way we design and integrate our systems. In hindsight, one could say that Rackspace started to address these issues by starting at the top of the stack, and moving down; first with OpenStack, then with Open Compute. As we were building OnMetal, our single-tenant, bare-metal Cloud Servers, we began to delve into firmware for Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) and systems management, a still-closed frontier. Moving forward, as we consider the performance levels we want to provide customers with future cloud offerings, we'll need to start moving into chips, memory, and storage.

And that's what OpenPOWER offers. To quote Rackspace again, "OpenPOWER brings an increasingly open firmware stack, and deeper access to chips, memory, and storage than anywhere else. This is unprecedented, and it invites the open-source community to participate at all layers."

So, what Rackspace plans to do is to enable:

OpenStack and Open Compute developers to work all the way down the stack. Where Open Compute opened and revolutionized data center hardware and OpenStack opened up cloud software and infrastructure-as-a-service, OpenPOWER is doing the same for the last black boxes in our servers: chips, buses, and firmware.

It's an interesting and brave idea. Rackspace has been facing business troubles. Shifting to the cloud from simple Website hosting is doubtlessly a forward-looking move, but it also puts Rackspace in direct competition with public cloud giants such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Compute.

Still, Rackspace hasn't been afraid to make big promises -- its 99.99 percent OpenStack uptime, for example -- and it's beaten its most recent quarter's estimate. Still, one analyst thinks Rackspace has shot its wad.

But Rackspace continues to tell its customers that it's focusing on delivering great services at blazing speeds over a worldwide content delivery network (CDN). At the same time, Jeff Cotten, Rackspace international managing director, recently told Computer Business Review, "As we become a services company, which is what we are at heart - it is about widening our portfolio to include other types of workloads, types of cloud infrastructure as well as going much deeper into areas like e-commerce."

In other words, Rackspace is trying to make both major business and technical changes at the same time. That's a tall order for any company. Still, you have to give them points for reaching for the stars. And who would have thought when it started OpenStack with NASA a few years back that OpenStack would become as popular as it has?

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