Rackspace Cloud

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The Rackspace Cloud' is a web application hosting/cloud platform provider ("Cloud Sites") that bills on a utility computing basis. It has since branched out into cloud storage ("Cloud Files") and cloud infrastructure ("Cloud Servers") and is "already a real leader in the cloud" according to analyst Signal Hill.

It is notable because it has won awards, including Performancing's editors choice for Best Blog WebHost of 2007 and garnered special attention for the unprecedented appointment of a Chief Uptime Officer. It was also one of the first commercial cloud computing services.

On August 25, 2009 Rackspace Cloud rolled out Cloud Tools, "a repository of partner tools, applications and services for cloud computing".

Contents

[edit] History

Image:MossoLogo.png
The original Mosso logo

The Rackspace Cloud was originally launched as Mosso LLC on March 4, 2006, a wholly owned subsidiary startup billed as a utility computing offering. As it pre-dated mainstream adoption of cloud computing it was "retooled" and relaunched on February 19, 2008, adopting the tagline "Mosso: The Hosting Cloud". The "Mosso" branding (including the mosso.com domain) was then dropped on June 17, 2009 in favour of "The Rackspace Cloud" branding (including the rackspacecloud.com domain). Since then, customer contracts have been executed with Rackspace US, Inc. d/b/a The Rackspace Cloud rather than with the Mosso LLC subsidiary.

Other companies (such as EMC with its "Decho" subsidiary) also use alternative branding for their cloud computing offerings.

[edit] Services

[edit] Cloud Files

Cloud files is a cloud storage service that provides "unlimited online storage and CDN" for media (examples given include backups, video files, user content) on a utility computing basis (at USD 0.15/GB/month). It was originally launched as Mosso CloudFS on May 5, 2008 and is similar to Amazon Simple Storage Service. Unlimited files of up to 5 GB can be uploaded, managed via the online control panel or RESTful API and optionally served out via Akamai Technologies' Content Delivery Network.

API

In addition to the online control panel the service can be accessed over a RESTful API with open source client code available in C#/.NET, Python, PHP, Java and Ruby. Rackspace-owned Jungle Disk allows Cloud Files to be mounted as a local drive within supported operating systems (Linux, Mac OS X and Windows).

Security

Redundancy is provided by replication three full copies of data across multiple computers in multiple "zones" within the same data center, where "zones" are physically (though not geographically) separate and supplied separate power and Internet services. Uploaded files can be distributed via Akamai Technologies to "hundreds of endpoints across the world" which provides an additional layer of data redundancy.

The control panel and API are protected by SSL and the requests themselves are signed and can be safely delivered to untrusted clients. Deleted data is zeroed out immediately.

Use cases

Use cases considered as "well suited" include backing up or archiving data, serving images and videos (which are streamed directly to the users' browsers), serving content over content delivery networks, storing secondary static web-accessible data, developing data storage applications, storing fluctuating and/or unpredictable amounts of data and reducing costs.

Caveats

There is no native operating system support for the Cloud Files API so it is not yet possible to "map" or "mount" it as a virtual drive without third-party software like JungleDisk that translates to a supported standard such as WebDAV. There are no concepts of "appending" or "locking" data within Cloud Files (which may affect some disk mirroring or backup solutions), nor support for permissions or transcoding. Data is organised into "containers" but it is not possible to create nested folders without a translation layer.

[edit] Cloud Servers

Cloud Servers is a cloud infrastructure service that allows users to deploy "one to hundreds of cloud servers instantly" and create of "advanced, high availability architectures", similar to the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud. The "cloud servers" are actually virtual machines running on the Xen hypervisor for Linux-based instances, and Citrix XenServer for Windows instances. Each quad core hardware node has between 16 and 32 GB of RAM, allowing for allocations between 256 MB and 15.5 GB. Disk and CPU allocations scale up with memory, with disk sizes ranging from 10 GB to 620 GB. Various distributions of Linux are supported, including Arch, CentOS, Debian, Fedora, Gentoo, Red Hat and Ubuntu.

The technology behind the service was purchased in Rackspace's October 22, 2008 acquisition of Slicehost and the servers were formerly known as "slices". These are "much cheaper and generally easier to use than a traditional dedicated server", though it is still necessary to maintain the operating system and solution stack which is not required for the Cloud Sites product.This is one of the main differentiators between the two services; where Cloud Servers includes full root access and thus allows for more customisation, the Cloud Sites product is less flexible but requires less maintenance.

On December 14, 2010, The Rackspace Cloud began offering a managed service level on the Cloud Servers product, which adds additional support for the operating system and common applications as well as patching and other routine services. This additional support level does come at an increased cost, however.

API

The Cloud Servers API launched on July 14, 2009 under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license allows clients to create, configure and control virtual servers. In addition to issuing basic management commands this "enables elastic scenarios" whereby servers are instantiated and destroyed in response to fluctuating load (one of the key characteristics of cloud computing). RightScale is among third-party providers to have announced support for this API.

[edit] Cloud Sites

Cloud Sites is a cloud platform offering, similar to traditional web hosting only built on horizontally scalable hardware infrastructure. A fixed monthly credit card payment gives users access to the service with an allocation of compute, storage and bandwidth resources. Should this allocation be exhausted then subsequent usage is billed on a utility computing basis. It allows an "unlimited" number of sites, databases and email accounts and includes reseller options such as client billing and support. Touted as "the fastest way to put sites on the cloud", it runs Windows or Linux applications across "hundreds of servers".

Cloud Sites supports the PHP 5, Perl, Python, MySQL, .NET 2.0+, ASP and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 application frameworks.

Compute cycles

The service includes up to 10,000 "compute cycles" per month which "is roughly equivalent to running a server with a 2.8 GHz modern processor for the same period of time" (with additional cycles priced at USD 0.01). This non-standard unit of measurement primarily reflects CPU processing time but also includes I/O operations so pages with many database queries will consume more "compute cycles". It can however be difficult to compare services between providers without standard units of measurement.

Caveats

Cloud Sites does not support Java, Tomcat, ColdFusion, SSH, RDP, API access, Microsoft Exchange or custom server-side components at this time. It is also not possible to set up multiple top level domains to point to the same web root directory. The .NET environment dropped support for "full trust" in favour of "modified medium trust" despite having previously announced on their blog that they had been able to work directly with Microsoft to engineer a system that could accommodate Full Trust without compromising the security, scalability, and performance of other users.

[edit] Server Locations

According to Chris A., a Rackspace Sales Representative, servers are physically located in any of three datacenters: Chicago, IL, Dallas, TX, or London, UK. Separate accounts are required to utilize servers on separate continents. Cloud Sites are not currently available from the London datacenter.

[edit] Control Panel

Image:Rackspace Cloud control panel screenshot.png
Rackspace Cloud online control panel

The online control panel was custom built by and for the Rackspace Cloud service (as opposed to using control panel software like cPanel as is often the case with traditional web hosting providers).

The control panel includes management interfaces for the Cloud Sites, Cloud Servers and Cloud Files services. There was once a web based file manager, but this was removed for undisclosed reasons. It also allows users to manage multiple clients and the plans and products (e.g. databases, 24x7 support) that apply to them, with white label branding options for messaging. The clients themselves have access to a restricted version of the control panel that allows them to conduct administrative tasks such as managing mail accounts.

The control panel is also home to the billing and reporting functions and provides access to support materials including developer resources, a knowledge base, forums and live chat.

[edit] OpenStack

In 2010, RackSpace contributed the source code of its Cloud Files product to the OpenStack project under the Apache License to become the OpenStack Object Storage component.

[edit] See also


[edit] External links

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