Rackspace Soups Up Servers And Cuts Prices

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe’s Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

Rackspace goes on the offensive with super-powered servers with a load of flash to boot

OpenStack cloud vendor Rackspace has re-architected its compute cloud, announcing Performance Servers and dropping prices.

Rolling out this month in the UK, the Performance Servers come with up to 120GB of RAM, Intel Xeon chips and Intel solid-state disks (SSDs) with up to 1.2TB of flash storage. The old Rackspace Standard Cloud Server could only go up to 30GB.

The top-end Performance Server will cost £2 per hour in the UK, whilst a 4GB version will cost 25 percent less than the Standard equivalent at 12p per hour.

There are bonded Intel 10Gb Ethernet connections on offer too, providing up to 40Gbps of networking bandwidth.

Cloud computing © alexmillos Shutterstock 2012Given the new servers are faster and cheaper, Rackspace is expecting most customers to migrate, although they will not be forced to do so.

Rackspace fighting Amazon

Rackspace has been massively keen to show it can beat Amazon Web Services, still believed to be far and away the Infrastructure-as-a-Service market leader, in the pricing and power games. The Performance push marks an uptick in market aggression from the Rackers.

“It’s a dirty little secret that Amazon is actually one of the worst performing clouds. If you look at third-party benchmarks they are generally near the bottom or at the bottom of performance,” Erik Carlin, director of product strategy at Rackspace, told TechWeekEurope, referring in particular to a Cloud Spectator analysis.

Rackspace now believes it is offering two times better raw performance and twice the value of its closest competitor. “Both on the performance benchmark and the price performance we think we’re really, really competitive and significantly ahead of Amazon on that front.”

With its top-end servers, Rackspace is convinced it can offer top-of-the-line infrastructure to support NoSQL workloads, such as those running on MongoDB and Cassandra. Yet there was no mention of Hadoop.

“A Hadoop optimised instance would have lots and lots of local spinning disks, because Hadoop is very sequential,” Carlin added. “SSD isn’t necessarily a great fit because you can get great sequential performance out of spinning disks. It’s not worth the cost of SSD.

“SSD is great for random, which is really what databases deal with.

“Right now, we would still tell customers that a dedicated offer would be the best place to run Hadoop in Rackspace. Although, expect additional offers to come from us on these additional workloads.” Rackspace just launched a managed Hadoop offering with Hortonworks.

There was no mention of ARM either, as Rackspace hasn’t been wooed by the super-efficient British designs. Intel is still the power king, Carlin said.

“ARM would appeal to a customer who was very green and wanted to lower their power costs. But if you really want to optimise your overall performance and your price performance, x86 is still the sweet spot for that,” Carlin added.

Rackspace continues to look into ARM designs, however, possibly as part of custom offerings.

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