Toby Owen, Senior Manager for Hybrid Cloud Solutions at Rackspace Hosting, spent some time with me explaining the need for RackSpace RackConnect. It appears that connecting a company's private computing resources that are executing in a dedicated hosting environment in one of RackSpace's data centers was a bit more complex that one might think.
RackSpace's managed hosting customers were telling the company that they wanted the ability to occasionally use RackSpace's public cloud offerings to temporarily scale out their computing solutions. The problem RackSpace faced was making it possible for private computing resources to connect directly with public cloud resources. The company faced coming up with a way to security connect what's in front of the corporate firewall with resources behind the firewall without totally blowing up security.
How does RackSpace describe RackConnect?
RackSpace offers a rather vague description of this capability when the company talks about it publicly. Here's an example:
RackConnectis designedfor customerswho require the flexibility and quick scalability of the cloud, as well as the security and performance of dedicated hardware – the best of both worlds. Customers who have had to settle for one form of technology or the other can now take advantage of an integrated solution to unlock the power of Hybrid Hosting. With hybrid, customers can integrate Rackspace Cloud and Dedicated Hosting in one solution, as well as burst workloads from their own data center into Rackspace. Hybrid strikes the elusive balance of performance, cost and security, eliminating or reducing trade-offs that a single platform would require.
RackConnect, which first launched in November 2010, allows customers to mix and match their computing platforms in a configuration that best meets their specific needs by providing a customized combination of public cloud, private cloud, virtualized and dedicated servers, as well as networking and security products. RackConnect allows customers to span their configuration across a multitude of enterprise grade technologies such as Storage Area Network (SAN), highly available database clusters, high performance dedicated firewalls and load balancers, and flexible cloud instances. RackConnect provides an enhanced infrastructure, allowing customers to rapidly flex compute and storage capacity quickly in order to react to unexpected spikes in demand or seasonal business trends.
In addition, the enhanced version of RackConnect gives customers more flexibility and a lower barrier to entry through an increased choice of available “RackConnect-ready” networking platforms. The enhanced features for RackConnect were developed after months of feedback from Rackspace customers and incorporate enhancements in three key areas:
- More automation – servers provisioned in the cloud will be automatically configured to connect to the dedicated environment and can also be added to load balancers instantly. Network security policies, cloud and dedicated configuration details are all accessible on the Rackspace customer portal, allowing instant access to information and self-service capabilities for customers.
- More security features – adds the ability for a customer to configure network security policies, including physical firewall and cloud server-based software firewalls, without having to wait for managed server technicians to apply the changes. Instead, security choices can be automatically applied across the environment, even as servers are removed or added in the cloud.
- More options – including cost effective hybrid, enterprise hybrid, load balancing, and VPN cloud bursting services. When paired with private leased lines, RackConnect can also support high quality private connectivity between customer datacenters and the Rackspace Hybrid Hosting environment. In addition, RackConnect now supports a single dedicated firewall for Cloud Servers, which can provide the peace-of-mind of a dedicated firewall along with a managed security perimeter.
What's really happening?
RackSpace reworked their firewall and load balancing software to create a secure connection between dedicated hosting resources and public cloud resources. The company also added some sophisticated management tools allowing that secure connection to be easily (and automatically) be configured and put to use.
If we put aside RackSpace's flowery rhetoric, the concept is pretty simple. Making it work, however, was very challenging I'm sure. It appears that the company's technology is already helping customers.
RackSpace is ready to trot out many customer profiles showing how RackConnect made it possible for them to use the "on demand" public cloud to enhance or extend their dedicated computing resources without creating a security nightmare.
Thanks for the update Toby.