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Rackspace Cloud Guru Says Service Trumps Technology

Jonathan Bryce opens up about the Amazon outage, OpenStack, and how he's come to be a cloud veteran at age 29.
InformationWeek: So you think there'll be little slowing of the momentum toward cloud?

Bryce: We're very early in the evolution of the cloud. Over the decades, these first couple of years of churn and arms race will mean very little. In the cloud, you need a trusted partner. That's why we have customers who have been with us over a decade. It's all about people.

We're very focused on making IT departments more effective. Our brand is about support and service. When their technology fails, one of us picks up the phone after two rings.

Amazon has taken a more technology-centric approach to it. You piece together highly reliable, scalable cloud. They see it as a technology problem solved through software and systems. The big difference between us is people and service versus technology. At the end of the day, the customer wants to know he has direct access to someone.

InformationWeek: What's your commitment to OpenStack?

Bryce: OpenStack is an open source project launched last June with NASA. We took NASA Nebula and Rackspace software and kicked off this initiative. Companies have signed on like gangbusters--Citrix, Cisco have full-time developers working on OpenStack, paid for by companies with skin in the game. Five hundred people attended the design summit [in April]. We had 24 contributors originally from NASA and Rackspace. Now there's a couple hundred developers. That's translating into real software development. We get thousands of code submissions, 1,200 features added since we launched. It's taken off more than we thought or dreamed it could.

InformationWeek: How does that help Rackspace? What's in it for you?

Bryce: It helps Rackspace get better software for the cloud. Canonical, by widely distributing OpenStack (as an Ubuntu foundation technology), gets others to hammer on it early and make the software better. It makes the software better in our Rackspace proprietary world. We've put together a community of collaborators.

InformationWeek: Any other involvement with OpenStack?

Bryce: We launched a Rackspace Cloud Builders department in February. We can help people deploy OpenStack. That can be in your data center or ours. We've been to Edmonton, Alberta, to implement OpenStack.

InformationWeek: Rackspace does OpenStack consulting?

Bryce: Businesses like to have someone they can rely on. The way OpenStack comes to be a force to be reckoned with is to be like the Microsoft desktop--used everywhere. That would be great. That would give it a large footprint and drive the ecosystem. Government has hundreds and thousands of OpenStack users. The ecosystem will provide OpenStack monitoring and management tools to add value. It makes sense for OpenStack too. Already several companies--startups--are getting going, focused completely on OpenStack. We're starting to see the vision ... (build your company in the cloud based on a widely used API set and software).

Two to three years ago, we hadn't thought of open sourcing the Rackspace cloud software. The technology will continue to advance. Core features that everybody needs will get base-lined. We'll have new products, new technology. It's hard to predict what it will look like.

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Jessica Davis, Senior Editor