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Rackspace Flips, Won't Support Third-Party OpenStack Distros

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the too-much-effort dept.

Cloud 12

itwbennett writes "Last year, Rackspace planned to support third-party OpenStack distributions as part of its private cloud offering. That was then. 'Things have evolved quickly as enterprises start evaluating their options in the cloud generally and the OpenStack market specifically,' said Jim Curry, general manager of Rackspace Private Cloud. Customers, it seems, want to run a cloud model internally that 'looks and feels like what Rackspace delivers in the public cloud. To deliver that experience, we needed to develop software that deploys an OpenStack cloud that Rackspace can operate and support.'"

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Hey you (1)

ozduo (2043408) | about a year and a half ago | (#42765711)

get off of my cloud! Mick said it all.

Surprise! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42765781)

I also hear that Red Hat doesn't support Ubuntu! The evil!

So what? (4, Informative)

SomePgmr (2021234) | about a year and a half ago | (#42765851)

So... they won't be selling support services for your privately hosted and operated, DIY OpenStack "cloud" implementations?

If I'm understanding that right I'm not sure that's news, even if it does say OpenStack in the title.

Re:So what? (-1, Offtopic)

vyrtguya (2830805) | about a year and a half ago | (#42766599)

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So why support OpenStack then? (3, Interesting)

Virtucon (127420) | about a year and a half ago | (#42765853)

This more sounds like "We tried to play in the Open space where our cloud services could be more easily integrated with third party tools. We then discovered that we could just be forced into becoming a commodity player and we don't want that." What this means for customers is that Rackspace Cloud Services will become a closed framework that will purport to be "very easy to manage" but you won't be able to use any third party management solution tools to deploy more efficiently and to manage availability without going through our stack.

Next I expect to hear that they'll drop support for OVF because they "won't be able to deliver a robust experience for imported virtualized environments."

Re:So why support OpenStack then? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42766061)

No, this isn't related to The Rackspace Cloud -- the public cloud services Rackspace offers. It's specifically relating to Private Cloud offerings at Rackspace. Two totally different things and different divisions of the company, in fact. What this means is that Rackspace will support Open Stack running on other's equipment -- but the flavor of Open Stack is limited. Just like Red Hat won't support Suse or Debian.

Re:So why support OpenStack then? (1)

Junta (36770) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768129)

Even if distinct divisions, it's going to be related. If you take it at face value, they are claiming the common brand of "Rackspace" is expected to mean something and this change is specifically to make their offering more what one would intuitively expect. I suspect that this is probably more about avoiding a scenario where Rackspace advances the state of Openstack too fast. The faster Openstack matures, the less value their proprietary add ons provide. I've seen this repeatedly in the corporate open source world, some amount of fear, desperation, or genuine enthusiasm has them make big waves around open source. Then one or more of several scenarios play out. It could be the company doesn't get as much out of the community as they thought they would (e.g a relatively niche area or one generally devoid of development skill). It could be the company realizes they don't have any advantage without a unique software offering. It could be that they experience enough success they feel they don't 'need' the community anymore and divest from the project to try to keep others from reproducing their success. In this case, perhaps they aren't seeing the industry-wider openstack effort not changing EC2's dominance in any significant way. Perhaps they think they are carrying the important part of the project and if they aren't getting quality stuff in exchange, they are better off going it alone. From a technical perspective, Openstack base distribution really isn't all that much as yet. It's more about having a critical mass of people having some significant consensus. Thus far it is more a political phenomenon than a technical achievement as of yet . In fact, even in their aspirations the project isn't really too large a technical endeavor. When companies realize that, they are actually very tempted to skip the chatter to reach consensus and write something on their own in less time than it would take to debate all the details in the open. We are talking about a relatively small potential market compared to most proven open source projects (the natural consequence of a project explicitly tasked with enabling consolidation into fewer systems and people). Openstack stands a very real risk of fading back into obscurity with the bulk of the leadership moving back behind closed, proprietary doors.

Re:So why support OpenStack then? (3, Interesting)

postbigbang (761081) | about a year and a half ago | (#42766201)

Your subject line question is best answered by others that have jumped into the OpenStack framework with products and support whose name isn't Rackspace.

Although Rackspace is seemingly closing their turf to competition, any reasonable customer outcry will have them doing a 180, and with good reason. They want to flip the bird at Citrix, fine-- Citrix can make a fine target. But it's not a closed framework, only the realization that overly broad support could distract them by costing them lots of $$ to reasonably support difficult stuff. I think it's a reasonable stop on RackSpace's part, although they could have been wiser about how they went about it.

Re:So why support OpenStack then? (1)

dave562 (969951) | about a year and a half ago | (#42767625)

I agree. While I fully believe that there are many at RackSpace who fully embrace the idea of OpenStack and the philosophy behind it, this situation seems like the classic case of idealism meeting business realities. Like any company, RackSpace wants to deliver a good product and a good user experience. It is much easier to do that when a company can focus support staff on a fixed offering. The reality is that resources are limited, and a company that tries to be everything for everybody is going to quickly spread itself too thin and in the end, not do anything very well.

If the market can really support a large number of cloud providers running a variety of management tools, then the market will support it and additional providers will appear to fill in the gaps that RackSpace is leaving behind by dropping unconditional support of everything OpenStack.

The key take away from the summary is that RackSpace's customers want a management experience similar to what RackSpace offers. If that is true, and I do not have any reason to believe that it is not, then RackSpace is being smart by focusing on that market. As a service provider, the people who want to do everything themselves are usually the biggest pains in the ass. They are constantly complaining and take up measurably more support time than the rest of the customer base.

I do not blame RackSpace for taking a critical look at their business and the market and deciding, "We do not want to support HomeBrew OpenStack v0.023 beta" Would you? Do you want to waste your time in meetings with client developers who swear that they are following the published APIs, or using OpenStack best practices, but in reality they cannot code their way out of a wet paper bag? Do you want to be the director whose support department has to support Random Third-Party Addon v2.5 that 25% of your user base is dependent upon, but the developer gave up on and hasn't been updated in three years?

I will bet dollars to donuts that the internal discussion on this came down to support. At the end of the day, RackSpace decided that they did not want to be on the hook to support every random add-on that some college kid comes up with, the blogsphere declares the best thing since sliced bread, and then twelve months later no longer works with the latest version of OpenStack and the "developer" has moved onto other projects.

Re:So why support OpenStack then? (1)

postbigbang (761081) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768433)

I can see a "skunksworks" division, the prototype-farm, or something similar. Either no support, or heavy premium. It could be easily isolated and even VLAN partitioned off their main grid.

The skunkswork potential of AWS has made Amazon a small fortune, and I have no idea whether it's caused plausible destabilization of the AWS services offering. But it has a very nice "cool" factor. Rackspace, while "cool" in some ways, is a more hardened model. I can see why it would be reasonable to keep science projects off their grid.... with a small investment.

Re:So why support OpenStack then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42769003)

It'd take some kind of idiot to support an open-source project for something like this and not expect it to become a commodity. That's *exactly why they did it in the first place*. Companies that supported Linux wanted operating systems to be a commodity. Rackspace absolutely *plans* to commoditize the technology end of cloud computing and differentiate itself based on support. Rackspace isn't leading in cloud computing. Amazon is. They want you to be able to migrate between different providers running OpenStack. Solid engineering isn't in the corporate DNA, but they're great at support.

It's absolutely in Rackspace's best interest to commoditize technology and APIs while Amazon leads. They want to sell the world on openness and make money on support. They don't even want the people who don't need support. They charge a premium for being really good at support. If you're not looking to pay their kind of money, which has a bit of sticker shock compared to getting the same amount of computing power from other providers, they don't really care that much to have you as a customer.

What I'm guessing is that companies that set up their own OpenStack environments stopped looking like a market where they can sell support. But that's fine. Rackspace would still love everybody to use OpenStack, because you can migrate to their cloud when you get tired of running your own. They'd love for Terremark, Savvis, and Amazon to all start playing on OpenStack. Then, everyone is on even footing on technology. Rackspace sucks at engineering. They want the tech to be a commodity, period. That's their entire strategy.

And yet the commits keep coming in... (1)

troyer (8249) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768549)

This is an internal support decision. As a customer of RCB, do you care if your private cloud is built on the Fedora packages or the Ubuntu packages? You don't manage it at that level, nor at the OS level, so what does it matter? As long as it meets the branding and operational requirements (ie, supports the proper APIs, etc) you have an OpenStack cloud and they don't have an exponentially growing support matrix.

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