What’s the Deal with Cloudstack?

In an attempt to capitalize on the success of Amazon cloud hosting services, several new contenders have sprung up.  Most notably are Openstack and its spin off Cloudstack. Openstack has created a lot of buzz in recent months.  Companies supporting this new cloud resource hosting service include HP, Rackspace, and NASA.  Openstack is an open source code for companies to build their own internal cloud.

According to an interview of Sameer Dholakia, Cloudstack may achieve success because of how similar it is to the already established Amazon cloud services.  Cloudstack is now a ward of the Apache Software Foundation.  This is important because although Openstack has some big names behind it, Apache is a well-respected open source name.

The main difference between the two is how they are constructed.  Cloudstack has a major weakness of being just one massive .jar file, while Openstack has a modular approach.  This means that Cloudstack is harder to modify.  If you’re a small business looking to create their own cloud you’ll want your IT department working with sets of small files.  It’s easier to troubleshoot.  If one thing goes wrong in a giant file, they’ll have to go hunting amongst all the code.  As always, consult with an IT expert before implementing a cloud.

Rackspace and the open cloud

OpenStack t-shirt

If Amazon Web Services represents the cloud computing establishment, Rackspace Hosting wants to be the cool alternative. A comparison based on data from 2010 shows AWS with by far the largest chunk of the infrastructure-as-a-service space, at $500 to $700 million. Rackspace came in a distant second with $100 million.

But Rackspace argues there’s good reason to choose it over its larger rival. The company’s CEO, Lew Moorman is fighting AWS by warning businesspeople of the dangers of being locked in to that company’s cloud. Once a company’s operations are tied up with a particular cloud infrastructure, he argues, it’s hard to disentangle them if you want to choose a different vendor.

Rackspace’s proposed solution lies in the world of open-source. The company joined with NASA two years ago to launch OpenStack, and Moorman says more than 180 companies are now participating in the development of the new structure. Rackspace plans to shift its public cloud to the OpenStack codebase this summer, and other companies can use the same code as they please, creating what many hope could be a more competitive cloud landscape.

Aside from the guts of its systems, Rackspace promotes its customer service as a major selling point. Its trademarked “Fanatical Support” includes a promise that you can speak to a live person round the clock and that staff actually know what they’re talking about instead of just reading from a script.

So far, Rackspace has done quite well for itself. Its net revenues rose from $781 million in 2010 to just over $1 billion in 2011, and its stock price skyrocketed from $10 a share at its 2008 IPO to nearly $60 this spring. (It’s since fallen but remains above $40.)

Photo credit: H. Michael Karshis/Flickr