The Recession Won’t Hold Back The Cloud

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The time is right for cloud computing – and prices are holding up despite the recession, according to Rackspace’s chief strategy officer Lew Moorman

Rackspace is an enterprise-level hosting provider with 31,000 customers in eight data centres worldwide. Lew Moorman, chief strategy officer for Rackspace, spoke to eWEEK Europe about the company’s plans for cloud computing, and commented on the effects of the recession.

How long do you think will it take until cloud computing will succeed in the market?
The time is now. It is happening. Cloud technologies have matured to the point where the costs and risks of moving to them are overpowered by the gains in cost savings and flexibility. Every company should be thinking about how they can insert cloud usage into their IT strategy today. Moving 100 percent of your business to the cloud is years away, but cloud as a piece of your strategy is a must to keep an agile and cost-competitive IT department.

What position does Rackspace inherit in the cloud hosting-market after the acquisition of Slicehost and Jungle Disk?
We think we have the most complete offer in the hosting and cloud computing space. We are the leader in traditional hosting for those that need physical hardware, networking and storage. In addition we have a series of cloud hosting offers from raw infrastructure in loud Servers and Cloud Files to a fully managed platform for .net and LAMP applications called Cloud Sites. Finally, we have a series of Cloud Applications including Rackspace email and Exchange as well as backup powered by Jungle Disk. This suite of services has solutions to help solve any IT issue.

How does Rackspace set itself apart from other very big providers like Google, IBM, Microsoft or Amazon?
Two basic differences. One, fanatical support. We are a maniacally customer-focused organisation and when you offload your core business computing, having anything less will be a huge disadvantage. Two, hybrid hosting. This refers to the ability to run traditional server infrastructure alongside cloud computing. Certain workloads run much better in traditional environments, others in the cloud. Often these workloads are in the same application (databases vs. web heads for example). Running these seamlessly together is what businesses want and we are uniquely positioned to deliver.

Which target group or which sort of business do you address?
Computing is a product that every company needs. We firmly believe most companies in the future will consume all their computing from hosting and cloud providers. The biggest of the big will build their own clouds, but this will be a very small set of companies.

Your survey revealed that for customers the service is more important than the price. In terms of a complex technique like Cloud Computing that is pretty obvious. But how long will this last?
Some day the competitors will be so strong that prices will shrink again or the companies will realise that Cloud Computing is too expensive in the long run.

There are absolutely commodity elements to this business. We have always faced that. And those that simply want the commodity pieces will be better served by our competitors. But, anyone who thinks things will run smoothly forever with no hiccups, that complexity will disappear, well, we think they are being a bit optimistic. And, any company’s ability to assemble the talent to deal with ever increasing technologies is diminishing over time. We want to be there for customers to help eliminate issues and respond should they happen.

How would you explain to an executive in a few words why he or she should use Cloud Computing?
Computing is a critical but non core capability for 99 percent of companies. If you can purchase it from a centralised provider and get more for less, you not only should, you cannot afford not to. Cloud technologies are taking outsourced computing to this level of value proposition.

Are your customers more cautious in the current crisis? Is it harder to attract new business?
Customers certainly are being more cautious about taking on new projects. However, they are more open to using new techniques to gain cost savings and more capabilities from the same budget. We see the interest in cloud soaring for just this reason.

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