Rackspace Tuesday announced a Managed Cloud offering, which combines the benefits of a managed service with the elastic scalability of a cloud.
The company's move represents an attempt to differentiate itself within an increasingly competitive public cloud computing market that has evolved from services such as co-location and managed services.
The idea behind this new Rackspace offering is pretty simple: Engineers at the company will help customers design, manage, launch and scale their applications in the cloud. This is different from traditional self-service public cloud usage that not all organizations might be comfortable with.
While Rackspace is one of the first to codify an offering as Managed Cloud, many customers have been taking this approach, says Gartner Research Vice President and IaaS analyst Lydia Leong. "When you use cloud services someone still needs to manage that infrastructure," she says. "Going to the cloud doesn't eliminate management concerns." Many customers manage their own public clouds in Amazon Web Services, for example.
A growing number of customers, however, are relying on third-party providers such as Accenture, Capgemini, Cognizant, and BMC to help manage their clouds. Rackspace has decided to offer this service directly, emphasizing its "fanatical support." Amazon has a Trusted Adviser program to provide some base-level consulting and monitoring services, but it's not nearly as robust as the services offered by an independent third party or from Rackspace's Managed Cloud offering.
Logistically, Rackspace's offering comes in two flavors - one infrastructure focused and and another operations focused. The former provides architectural advisers, security reviews and code development assistance. It runs for $0.005/GB of RAM being used, with a monthly minimum of $50. The Managed Operations offering includes a dedicated account manager, which includes a monitoring and response feature. That runs for $0.02/GB of RAM with a $500 minimum monthly order. Volume discounts apply to both services.
Rackspace isn't alone in branding its offering as managed cloud - IaaS provider GoGrid recently launched Managed Services across multiple clouds. The idea here is that customers can provision and manage resources across multiple public clouds, including those from Amazon, Microsoft and Google, as well as in GoGrid's cloud, all from a single portal. Many third-party tools, like those from RightScale and Egenera, offer gateways to multiple clouds, too.
"'Managed' and 'cloud' might be two of the most liberally used terms in the IT infrastructure space, so as a marketing term, I suspect 'managed cloud' will be a doubly grey area that refers to a large variety of services from different providers," says 451 Research Group's Liam Eagle. "Mid-tier IaaS providers offering managed cloud are moving up the stack as a way of differentiating from the big public clouds, because they don't want to compete on price, features or geographic reach."
This news comes as Rackspace is evaluating options for its future, including a possible acquisition or leveraged buy-out.
Overall though, the move to have more managed aspects of the cloud market is a natural one. The cloud grew out of the managed services industry, which in turn grew out of the collocation market. The differences between these hosted offerings are small but important:
- Collocation vendors provide the data center footprint, power and cooling, but customers supply and manage the infrastructure hardware.
- Managed services involves the vendor providing the entire infrastructure stack dedicated to individual customers, but then customers manage the operating system and above.
- Cloud is an even more automated form of managed services, in which customers access hosted resources on demand through a web portal or API.
- Managed Cloud adds a new tier on top of this with those cloud resources being managed in a more hands-on way by the vendor.
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