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Cloud computing showdown: Amazon vs. Rackspace (OpenStack) vs. Microsoft vs. Google

Brandon Butler | Dec. 4, 2012
It wouldn't be a mischaracterization to equate the cloud computing industry to the wild, wild west.

Amazon is looking to extend its enterprise reach though. In recent months the company has made a series of announcements targeting enterprises and developers. It rolled out Glacier, a long-term storage service, while it's made updates to its Elastic application development platform and its Simple WorkFlow Service, which helps developers automate applications running in Amazon's cloud.

It has expanded partnerships as well, including with private cloud company Eucalyptus, allowing customers to create hybrid clouds that span their own data center and Amazon's cloud. Amazon has also forged new agreements with BMC and F5, which add on top of the robust marketplace of software applications that are already available on Amazon's cloud. More partnerships expected into the future could push Amazon further into the enterprise market.

Rackspace

Behind Amazon, the rest of the market could be described as "everyone else," but there are some leading candidates to take on Amazon in the cloud and one of the strongest is Rackspace. Powered by the OpenStack cloud computing platform, Rackspace is positioning itself as the open source alternative to Amazon, and the company's executives make no shame in aiming critiques directly at its chief competitor.

Bowker, of Enterprise Strategy Group, says Rackspace has a leg up on many of its other competitors because of its history as a managed hosting and collocation provider. It's been in the enterprise business before.

Others believe that Rackspace's OpenStack involvement allows it to compete at the scale and capacity of Amazon. Rackspace is attempting to build a cloud that can scale to just about anyone's needs, says financial analyst Pat Walravens, and he believes with the OpenStack backing the size of deals that Rackspace is able to land will only continue to increase.

"If Amazon is going for scale, cost and breadth of services, Rackspace is going for its services, including what it calls its fanatical support for customers," says Forrester analyst Dave Bartonelli. "They're really trying to make the play that they're the safer enterprise choice and with OpenStack, they want to be known as the non-Amazon."

The open source aspect of Rackspace's cloud appeals to customers concerned about vendor lock-in, Bartonelli says. An open source architecture may give customers additional freedom to move workloads among OpenStack-powered clouds, although Gartner has disputed the significance of that.

One Rackspace strength is its ability to roll out the latest and greatest OpenStack features. The latest OpenStack code, for example, incorporated virtual networking capabilities, which Rackspace has since rolled out, and hopes to advance the functionality of it in the coming months.

There is a view by some though that Rackspace has married itself to OpenStack, perhaps to its own detriment. As the Gartner report on OpenStack states, OpenStack can be successful independently of Rackspace's success now that the company has ceded control of the project to a foundation. Overall, Bartonelli says Rackspace's involvement in OpenStack is positive for the company and will only help to position it as a leading alternative to Amazon.

 

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