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Rackspace Heads Into The Cloud And Beyond

For 11 years, Rackspace has built its business in the unglamorous world of data center hosting. The company is now jumping into the cloud computing market with both feet, and it has hired blogger Robert Scoble to raise its profile in the process.
For 11 years, Rackspace has built its business in the unglamorous world of data center hosting. The company is now jumping into the cloud computing market with both feet, and it has hired blogger Robert Scoble to raise its profile in the process.Rackspace's new cloud computing offerings include Cloud Servers, which are on-demand Linux (and eventually Windows) servers, and Cloud Files, an online storage service along the lines of Amazon's Simple Storage Service. The move puts Rackspace into competition with Amazon Web Services and other infrastructure-as-a-service providers. The new services are an obvious fit with Rackspace's managed hosting business, giving customers a broader set of options for running computing workloads on Rackspace's hardware.

The hiring of Scoble, along with his video producer sidekick Rocky Barbanica, has less to do with CPUs and storage than user mindshare. Rackspace plans to launch a social networking community called "Building 43" where Scoble -- known widely for his Scobleizer blog -- will explore and opine on all things related to the Web, including but not limited to cloud computing.

"Building43's mission is to build a place for people fanatical about the Internet," writes Rackspace chief strategy officer Lew Moorman in a blog post. "It will be a place where thought leaders can talk about what is working and what is not, what is next and what is hype. Cloud computing is one of these hot topics. The world needs a place where it can be discussed. Where the concepts can gain clarity. And, its benefits will be on display. Not from our perspective but from Robert's and the community he builds."

What Rackspace is attempting here isn't much different from dozens of tech vendors that are blogging and twittering in an effort to engage customers and lead industry discussion about the next big thing. The question is whether Scoble, under Rackspace's sponsorship, can create a thriving online community that succeeds at meeting the broad, ambitious charter outlined by Moorman. The social networking phenomenon it seeks to unleash is a long way from Rackspace's forte in data center management.

Scoble, in a blog post on his new venture, says that he plans to create videos that show "how" developers and companies created new Web experiences, not just what they did. To the extent that those videos demonstrate how to build and deploy cloud applications, it sounds like a promising undertaking.

Rackspace has been moving into cloud computing gradually, first through its Mosso division, which was founded in 2006, and more recently though the acquisitions of Slice Host and Jungle Disk. With this latest push, Rackspace becomes a full-fledged cloud computing vendor. It's ditching the Mosso logo in favor of the Rackspace brand.

Rackspace still has work to do, but that doesn't really put it behind the competition, as all cloud computing vendors are similarly refining their platforms while offering first-generation services. Rackspace's missing pieces include its Cloud Server APIs, on-demand Windows servers, and a dashboard that shows the status of their cloud services.

Scoble, meanwhile, has his own to-do list. The Building 43 site is in development. And, according to TechCrunch, Scoble plans to move his personal blog from WordPress to -- where else? -- Rackspace's cloud.

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