NASA’s chief cloud architect talks OpenStack

July 16, 2010

At the inaugural design summit for OpenStack, an open source set of technologies for building clouds, Nebula’s chief architect Josh McKenty played a prominent role in leading the assembled folks.  I caught Josh during a break and chatted with him about Nebula and NASA’s role in the newly announced OpenStack project.  Here’s what he had to say:

Some of the topics Josh tackles:

  • What is Nebula (hint: NASA’s, primarily IaaS, cloud computing platform)
  • The history of Nebula and how it morphed from
  • Why NASA wants a cloud – and the importance of having an elastic set of resources.
  • NASA and Nebula’s use of open source and how it has evolved (they don’t simply fling tarballs over the wall anymore and they can use licenses other than the “NASA open source agreement”)
  • A match made in heaven:  NASA has put together a strong compute platform and was looking to building a real object store,  Rackspace had a strong object store and work looking for a new compute platform.

Extra-credit reading:

Pau for now…

Talking to the Co-Founder of Rackspace Cloud

August 25, 2009

Earlier this month at Cloud World/Open World I bumped into Jonathan Bryce one of the two founders of the cloud platform formerly known as “Mosso”  (now known as Rackspace Cloud). 

Last year when I interviewed Jonathan, I did an audio podcast.  This time around I was armed with my Flip Mino and caught it all on video for the little(r) screen.

Some of the topics Jonathan addresses:

  • When Rackspace funded employees Jonathan and Todd to go off and start their cloud venture 4 years ago, why didn’t they brand it “Rackspace?”
  • Why did they recently decide to roll Mosso back into the mothership and rebrand it?
  • The progression of in-house -> colocation -> managed hosting -> cloud.
  • The three pieces of Rackspace Cloud: Cloud Servers & Cloud Files (infrastructure as a service) and Cloud Sites (platform as a service with the option of using either the LAMP or .NET stack).
  • Which offering is getting the most traction.
  • Why their customer Fresh Books went with Cloud Files.

Pau for now…

Rackspace goes down (2X), their President steps up

July 13, 2009

If you’ve been following the cloud space at all you’ll know that hosting provider Rackspace recently lost power twice within a span of 10 days.  As NetworkWorld explained:

Power outages on June 29 and July 7 hit Rackspace’s 144,000-square-foot data center in the Dallas suburb of Grapevine. Rackspace operates nine data centers worldwide for about 60,000 customers. Within the Dallas facility, some customers experienced downtime of about 40 minutes on June 29 and on July 7 some customers suffered downtime of 15 to 20 minutes.

During the outages, as information became available Rackspace communicated updates via phone, twitter and their corporate blog.

Last week, two days after the second outage they posted both a blog update as well as this 5 minute video in which their president Lanham Napier explains what happened and what they plan to do about it:

I’m impressed with the way the company has handled these situations and I think its impressive that their president will be working from the Dallas site until the situation is resolved.  As he explains, there is no way that you ever going to completely eliminate unplanned downtime.  The important thing is how you keep this at a minimum and how you handle and correct an outage when it does occur.

And the rest?

Rackspace is doing quite a bit to make sure that their Dallas facility is fixed and fortified.  What I’d also like to hear from them is how they plan to proactively audit their other eight facilities around the world to make sure they are all up to speed.

After the Dallas dust settles maybe its time to make another video?

Extra credit Reading/Listening:

  • An Interview with Lanham Napier from last year about hosting and cloud computing.

Pau for now…

RightScale Part 2: Why the cloud? Apple Fanboys and Server Suffrage

June 18, 2009

Tuesday I listened in on the RighScale webinar: How to Build Scalable Websites in the Cloud.  This is part two of my thoughts and notes from the event.  (Note: it doesn’t look like it’s been posted yet but it should be available here soon).
The clouds providers that Right Scale works with.

The clouds providers that Right Scale works with.

As I discussed last time, RightScale acts as a management platform between cloud providers and Apps.

Which Cloud Providers do they work with?

If you double click on the IAAS bit in the yesterday’s slide you get something like the above.  Right Scale works on top of Amazon, coming soon to Rackspace’s Slicehost, Sun/Oracle’s cloud), Eucalyptus theEC2-compatible open source alternative that allows you to set up “private clouds” (BTW as anyone who attended Austin Cloud camp knows I’m using “private cloud” under duress, Gordon Haff does a good job explaining my heartburn) and VMWare.

Linux more robust than Windows

When asked about OS’s supported the answer was Windows as well as Ubuntu and CentOS.  Their CEO did admit that currently Windows support is not as robust as Linux.  They actually began with CentOS and according to one of their team have recently begun supporting Ubuntu more fully.   When I asked about other Linux flavors, Debian, SuSE etc. they said that there were “licensing issues” standing in the way.  I should have asked about OpenSolaris 🙂

Animoto, the well used example of how server demand can explode.

Animoto, the well used example of how server demand can explode.

Why do you look to the clouds?

During the webinar they polled the 200 odd attendees: “what’s driving you to the cloud?”  The results (as you’ll notice, you were allowed to vote for more than one):

  • 80% Scalability
  • 73% Cost Savings
  • 59% On Demand access
  • 28% Back-up and recovery
  • 06% Other

Not surprisingly Scalability came in number 1.  As if to underscore the point they brought out everbody’s favorite case study of exploding demand, Animoto.  Thankfully they had another example of uneven demand, iFixit (see below).  As an aside, one example I’d like to see charted is the attendee who mentioned that their agency is responsible for posting election results and were “not prepared for the interest worldwide, for Proposition 8.”

It was interesting to see that cost savings came in a close second, its always hard to measure particularly over the long haul but the perceived cost benefit is definitely strong in most folks mind.

iFixit's traffic could be said to be a tad "spikey."

iFixit's traffic could be said to be a tad "spikey."

Right Scale fighting for Server voting rights

And in conclusion…I’m always intrigued with the way English language morphs and evolves so I thought it was really interesting how the word “vote” is being used in the cloud (or at least by RightScale).  Basically they use a “voting process” when scaling.  Here’s how one of their team explained it.

Once a machine hits the scale up threshold  it places a vote to scale up.  When enough machines vote to scale up i.e. 51% if that that is what the decision threshold is set at, then new servers are provisioned and configured.  The same goes for scaling down.

Don’t know if this usage is new or a throw back from mainframes or from some other industry but I like it.

Pau for now…

Talkin’ to Mosso Co-founder, Todd Morey

May 1, 2009

Last year I did a podcast with Mosso (“The Rackspace Cloud”) co-founder Jonathan Bryce.  Last Saturday at  Cloud Camp Austin I caught up with the other co-counder of Mosso, Todd Morey to get his side of the story.

Some of the topics Todd tackles:

  • How Todd and Jonathan formed a good partnership, Todd on UI and design and Jonathan on the development side.
  • Starting Mosso out of a desire to have place where they could run their code without having to worry about the infrastructure.
  • Mosso’s integration back into Rackspace
  • Will Mosso bring some of its hipness to Rackspace? (editorial note: looking at the Rackspace’s site it looks like Mosso has already influenced it for the better)

Pau for now…

Lew Moorman and Robert Scoble of Rackspace

April 6, 2009

Last week Rackspace announced the appointment of Lew Moorman as president of Rackspace’s Cloud Computing Efforts.  As luck would have it, Lew was attending Web 2.0 and I was able to grab a few minutes of his time to shoot a video.  Not only that but as added bonus, recent Rackspace conscript Robert Scoble joined the conversation as well.

To watch in High Quality: after clicking play, click the “HQ” button that will appear on the bottom.

Some of the topics Lew and Robert tackle:

  • What does it mean to be president of Rackspace’s computing efforts?
  • What’s “building 43” about and what is Robert’s mission at Rackspace?
  • How did Rackspace decide on hiring Robert and Rocky?
  • Rackspace added to the NASDAQ index (even though they trade on the NYSE)
  • Robert asks Lew about Slicehost and Rackspace’s plans there.
  • Lew out at Web 2.0 meeting with a lot of developers and looking to help them sell their tools to Rackspace customers.

Pau for now…

The Cloud — Looking back at ’08 and forward to ’09: Taking with Rackspace’s Head of Strategy

January 7, 2009

I first met Lew Moorman, Rackspace’s Chief strategy officer, at Rackspace’s big Cloud Event back in October.  It was at this event that Rackspace, through acquisitions as well their friendly annexation of  Mosso, positioned itself as a major cloud player.

I caught up with Lew during the slow time over the holidays and we chatted about his thoughts and predictions for Cloud Computing.


Lew, a self-portrait (lifted from his twitter page)

Take a listen:

>> My talk with Lew (13:18): Listen (mp3) Listen (ogg)

Some of the Topics we tackle:

  • The reason cloud computing is getting all the attention it is is because it represents the paradigm shift of consuming IT as a service.
  • The cloud is all about consuming your IT over the web, on the WAN as opposed to the LAN, from a centralized provider and you don’t have a concept of the assets that are being used to deliver that IT.
  • How the recessionary environment is helping to speed along the adoption of the cloud.
  • How Rackspace plays in all three areas of cloud computing: Infrastructure as a Service (storage and compute power are the cornerstones), Platform as Service (the ability to deploy code on ready-made platform) and Applications as a Service (aka SAAS).
  • Is “Internal Cloud” an oxymoron?
  • Which type of players are likely to be the winners in this space.

Pau for now…

Talking with the President of Dell Americas about Cloud Computing and the Economy

December 1, 2008

When I attended the RackSpace Customer event back at the end of September I was impressed with the talk that Paul Bell of Dell gave (Paul reports to CEO Michael Dell and is responsible for all business operations for Dell in North and South America).


Dell and the Cloud(s) (sources: my hand + the football Dell gave out at the conference + Friday’s sunset)

In his keynote Paul talked about Cloud Computing and the challenges the economy was presenting Dell and its customers.  I caught Paul after his talk (BTW Lombardi is a Dell customer and Dell is a Lombardi Teamworks customer) and asked if I could tape a podcast with him.  He graciously agreed and here’s the result that I recorded at the beginning of last week.

Take a listen:

>> My talk with Paul (11:59): Listen (mp3) Listen (ogg)

Some of the Topics we tackle:

  • The key Cloud characteristics: Speed to deployment and ease of turning on/off
  • The need to separate the “real” from the fictitious when it comes to the Cloud
  • The interest Paul is seeing in the Cloud from smaller companies
  • Two of the biggest ways Dells plays in the cloud 1) supplier of infrastructure 2) deliverer of IT as a service
  • How on one hand the tough economy is driving interest in utilizing the cloud while at the same time it is causing a slow down in the sales of cloud infrastructure
  • The economy (starts ~7:30): Looking back at what happened in 2001 and trying to gain insight
  • How the economic malaise that hit North America has finally caught up with South America
  • How Dell is planning to help customers during these tough times.

Pau for now…

Rackspace’s CTO John Engates and his “Cloudy” thoughts

November 11, 2008

Last but not least in the three podcasts I taped at the Rackspace Customer Event is my conversation with John Engates, Rackspace CTO.  Like Lanham and Jonathan, John was a very approachable and likable guy.  I checked out John’s presentation earlier in the day and then caught up with him in the afternoon to chat.

Take a listen:

>> My talk with John (20:11): Listen (mp3) Listen (ogg)


The radiant John Engates.

Some of the Topics we tackle:

  • John’s definition or “characteristics” of the cloud
  • The various shades of the cloud and who plays where
  • Why Amazon has gone with such geeky names e.g. EC2, S3, AWS
  • Making the cloud accessible so that you don’t need a comp sci degree to use it
  • The Microsoft announcement and why they’re a natural fit
  • The founding and evolution of Mosso
  • Combining hosting elements and cloud elements (Blueprint leverages both)
  • The pitfalls of the cloud, real and perceived (and what is a “server hugger”)

Pau for now…

Chattin’ with Mosso co-founder, Jonathan Bryce

November 10, 2008

At the Rackspace Customer Event the week before last, I caught up with Mosso co-founder Jonathan Bryce.  Jonathan walked me through how Mosso, now officially a Rackspace division, got started and where he sees it going.

Take a listen:

>> My chat with Jonathan (10:52):  Listen (mp3) Listen (ogg)


Jonathan chillin’ in the Baroque Westin Riverwalk lobby.

Some of the Topics we tackle:

  • How while at Rackspace, Jonathan and a buddy moonlighted as web app developers and when they couldn’t find a place to host the apps and sites they developed, they got funding from Rackspace and created Mosso.
  • How Mosso was being founded as people were getting burned by the undelivered promises of Utility computing.
  • How Jonathan defines cloud computing (hint: it has three layers).
  • The characteristics and examples of IaaA, PaaS, SaaS and where Rackspace/Mosso plays.
  • The joy of 15 cents a GB per month storage that Mosso will be providing and which Blueprint will be leveraging in our next release.
  • The relationship between Rackspace and Mosso and why the Mosso site is so much cooler.
  • What role open source plays in the Cloud and Mosso.


If you want to catch Jonathan live, he will be presenting at the Cloud Computing expo in San Jose November 19 – 21.

Pau for now..

Talkin’ with Rackspace’s CEO Lanham Napier about the Cloud and Hosting

November 6, 2008

Last week I attended the Rackspace customer event down in San Antonio.  On the first day of the event I was able to grab sometime with Rackspace’s CEO, Lanham Napier.  We chatted about going public, the company’s recent acquisitions and its foray into the cloud via Mosso.

Take a listen:

>> My Interview with Lanham (8:11): Listen (mp3) Listen (ogg)


CFO turned CEO, Lanham Napier (who sounds like someone famous)

Some of the Topics we tackle:

  • What does Rackspace do and what’s the company’s ultimate goal.
  • Why Rackspace decided to IPO in the choppy seas of August.
  • How the company decided on SliceHost and JungleDisk as acquisition targets
  • Rackspace’s two service sets, Managed Hosting and Cloud Hosting, and what’s the difference (Blueprint utilizes both)
  • Lanham’s thoughts on Microsoft’s Cloud announcement and the relationship between the two companies.

But wait, there’s more

Stay tuned, in the next few days I will be posting the other two podcasts I did last week, one with  CTO John Engates as well as one with Mosso co-founder Jonathan Bryce.

Pau for now…

Splitting the Cloud in Three

November 4, 2008

Last week I attended the Rackspace Customer Event (Lombardi Blueprint is hosted at Rackspace) down on the Riverwalk in San Antonio.  It was a great event and I sat in on some cool talks as well as grabbed some time with several of the Rackspace execs.

Later this week and/or early next week I will be posting the podcasts I did with CEO Lanham Napier, CTO John Engates as well as Mosso co-founder Jonathan Bryce.


The Riverwalk at dusk.

One of the talks I sat in on was CTO John Engates’ Cloud Computing presentation.  You can check out the whole presentation here, but the section I wanted to call out was the one that dealt with “The Categories of Cloud Computing.” While not an original construct, it helped me to see it laid out like this:

Application Clouds (SaaS)

  • Ease of use: Low complexity
  • Flexibility: Minimal control
  • Typical Consumers: End users
  • Examples: Mail Trust,, Blueprint, TurboTax Online, Microsoft Online Services

Platform Clouds (PaaS*)

  • Ease of use: Medium complexity
  • Flexibility: Medium control
  • Typical Consumers: Developers
  • Examples: Rackspace/Mosso Hosting Cloud, Google AppEngine,, Azure

Infrastructure Clouds (IaaS)

  • Ease of use: High complexity
  • Flexibility: Maximum control
  • Typical Customers: Developers, System Administrators
  • Examples: Rackspace/Mosso Cloud Files, EC2, S3, Microsoft SSDS, FlexiScale, GoGrid

*Not to be confused with PAAS.

While I find these categories helpful now, I’m sure it won’t be long until these divisions go the way of “intranet,” “extranet,” and “internet,” and there’s just one big happy cloud.


Where it all began“The Original Cloud” TM.

Pau for now…

Pics and Notes from Rackspace’s Cloud Event

October 23, 2008

Yesterday a little before noon I jumped in my car and headed to UT to attend the Rackspace Cloud Event.  It was held on campus in the same building that “hosts” (bad pun intended) the local NPR station as well as the studio that Austin City Limits is filmed in.  It was this studio that Rackspace used for their event.

Others who’ve used the studio besides Rackspace, The Buena Vista Social Club and Robert Plant (notice the reflected PBS logo artfully captured in the upper left)

The Big News

The big news of the day were the two acquisitions that the recently IPO’d Rackspace announced, Jungle Disk and Slicehost.  Jungle Disk provides storage back-up for the cloud and until the acquisition, was solely supporting Amazon S3.  Going forward, Jungle disk will support both Rackspace’s cloud offering as well as S3.  The other company, Slicehost is “a leader in Xen-based virtual hosting.”

One of the most tangible benefits these acquisitions give Rackspace right off the bat is a whole bunch more “active, paying customers”:

It would be interesting to see this same chart done by revenue.  I have a sneaking feeling the managed hosting side would go shooting off the chart. Of course once you have new customers you can always look to up-sell them.

Mosso aka Rackspace’s Cloud Hosting Divsion

Mosso is now refered to as “Rackspace’s Cloud Hosting Division, powered by Mosso.”  It will be interesting to see how they handle the branding transition going forward and if they drop the Mosso name completely.  Speaking of Mosso, I didn’t realize it, but in chatting with Emil Sayegh, formerly Rackspace’s VP of product management and Marketing and now the Mosso GM, Mosso was originally an incubator project of Rackspace’s, funded a couple of years ago.

As of yesterday, this division is now organized into three buckets:

  • Cloud Sites (formerly “The Hosting cloud”): “a scalable platform for [web sites] for handling huge traffic spikes and a pay as-you-grow pricing model.”
  • Cloud Files (formerly “CloudFS”):  Rackspace’s cloud-based storage.  This is where Jungle Disk will fit.  Lombardi Blueprint will be making use of this when we add file attachment capability to the product in our December release.
  • Cloud Servers:

Slicehost founders Jason Seats and Matt Tanase.

The Bigger Picture

Zooming out to high-level view of Rackspace’s portfolio, its grouped into three main bubbles:

  • Cloud Hosting: Which yesterday’s event focused on.
  • Cloud Applications: Apps that Rackspace provides like email
  • Managed Hosting: “an advanced type of dedicated hosting… Unlike basic dedicated hosting, managed hosting offers system level administration and support, comprehensive Internet infrastructure and extensive services that relieve IT departments of many critical, but costly responsibilities.”  (We use this service to host Lombardi Blueprint).

Looks like Cloud hosting has bubbled to the top.

Rackspace Customer Event

I’m  psyched for next week’s customer conference down in San Antonio and learning more about what Rackspace is up to.  I met a few of the execs yesterday and warned them that I would come armed with a recorder to do some podcasting.  I will be posting those here on the blog so stay tuned.

Extra-credit reading

I ran into Red Monk Pundit Michael Cote yesterday, sporting a very sharp shirt,  and had a quick chat after the event.  Here’s his take and pics from the event.

Pau for now…

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