Rackspace Adds SSDs To Cloud Servers

Rackspace adds solid state disks, more RAM and faster processors to boost performance of its standard cloud server offering.

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

November 7, 2013

4 Min Read

Rackspace is raising the ante on what constitutes a standard cloud server by boosting the capabilities of what will soon become its standard, enterprise server offering.

All new customers initiating accounts at its Herndon, Va., data center will be assigned a new Performance server, and Rackspace expects established customers will eventually transfer to the new type due to their higher cost/benefit ratio.

It's equipping its "Performance" servers with solid state disks, a component that heretofore has been considered too pricey an option by most cloud suppliers. The SSD has a big impact on one of the perpetual drags on cloud server performance, I/O speeds. Multiple tenants communicating frequently with storage or outside networks can choke I/O points. A Performance server can improve total disk I/O throughput by a factor of 132X, said Rick Jackson, chief marketing officer, in one of the boldest claims for the new type.

A cloud service newcomer, Digital Ocean in N.J., and Colt in Europe have lead the major U.S. cloud service providers, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Compute Engine in initiating SSDs as a standard component.

[ Want to learn more about the virtual CPUs of different providers? See Why Cloud Pricing Comparisons Are So Hard.]

SSDs are known to fail long before highly reliable spinning disks, but the arrangement of SSDs on a Performance server can be considered to have a RAID 10 level of reliability, Jackson said in an interview.

In addition to SSDs, the virtual servers will come with up 120 GB of random access memory, and one of the latest Intel E5 Xeon generation CPUs, Jackson said. The Performance server hosts for Rackspace's OpenStack public cloud were designed with the help of Intel to take advantage of Intel SSDs, 10 Gbps switches and E5 CPUs.

"The Intel and Rackspace combination makes for a compelling cloud solution," Jason Waxman, VP and general manager of the Cloud Platforms Group at Intel, said in a statement. Rackspace runs one of the largest existing implementation of OpenStack open source cloud software. It announced the new servers at the OpenStack Summit this week in Hong Kong.

It's tying each virtual machine to its multi-tenant host with 40 Gbps of "highly available throughput to the host," the announcement said. The 40 Gbps measure appears to stem from multiple 10-Gbps Ethernet ports being available to each Performance server, with a total throughput amounting to 40 Gbps. Most cloud virtual servers today are communicating with the host over either a 10-Gbps Ethernet link or a 1-Gbps link.

Performance servers come in nine different sizes. While initially available only in Herndon, Va., they will become available this month in Rackspace's Chicago, Dallas and London data centers as well. They will also be available in Rackspace facilities in Sydney and Hong Kong in 2014.

Jackson said Rackspace was phasing out the micro and small server types that it has used to try to attract new users to the cloud in favor of the better equipped new server instance. The low priced and modestly equipped virtual servers were good for attracting independent developers and first time cloud users at one time, with an entry level price of 1 cent an hour. But they appear to have outlived their usefulness. Rackspace is now bent on serving enterprises that want a hybrid cloud operation, with some workloads that formerly ran in the data center moved out to the public cloud.

The low end of the Performance server line up is now 4 cents an hour for a 1 virtual CPU, 1 GB of RAM, a 20 GB SSD and 200 GB of storage.

The high end is the 32 virtual CPU, 120 GB of RAM, a 40 GB SSD system disk attached to another 1,200 GB data SSD. It's available for $5.44 an hour or $3,971 a month.

A virtual CPU in both cases amounts to a single thread on an Intel E5 Xeon core. Each core runs two threads simultaneously, so a full core equals two virtual CPUs. Owning a thread isn't exactly equivalent to owning a single threaded core of earlier vintage because CPU cycles are needed to swap data into and out of caches to let each thread to process instructions in its turn.

In addition to multi-tenant virtual servers, Rackspace customers may also get dedicated bare metal servers by asking for service from the other side of Rackspace's business, the dedicated hosting side. That same high end Performance server, with Rackspace taking responsibility for it continuous operation, costs $6.80 an hour or just under $5,000 a month.

About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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