Rackspace is getting in on the managed Kubernetes space, launching its own “as-a-service” option that will eventually serve a multi-cloud environment. The company is claiming differentiation by hitting the sweet spot between size and agility.
The basics of the Kubernetes-as-a-service model is to make it easier for organizations to deploy the container orchestrator. This addresses the current concern about Kubernetes being too difficult to move from development to deployment.
Scott Crenshaw, executive vice president and general manager for Rackspace’s Private Cloud business, said the platform hits an important space target in the market: it’s more agile than similar offers from established cloud providers, but it has the scale and support that smaller players can’t match.
“This is really based on the belief that there is a lot of technology available, but the hard part is in operationalizing that technology,” Crenshaw said. “CIOs are telling me that they are standardizing on Kubernetes for DevOps, their digital transformation, the cloud portability advantages, and to avoid vendor lock. But they are having a ton of operational challenges. They are finding it’s easy in the test and development environment but hard in operations.”
Specifically, Crenshaw said that Rackspace sees itself as bringing more operational experience to the market than smaller, technology-focused players like Docker Inc., but providing deeper support than managed services from public cloud providers.
“We have extremely skilled people that are focused on not just ensuring that an organization has access and availability to its cloud services, but that those services are working optimally,” Crenshaw said. “We are almost like an operating arm for our customers.”
A more direct rival comes in the form of long-time adversary IBM, which Crenshaw said approaches the space as a systems integrator. He noted that the biggest differentiator with a vendor like IBM was in its operating philosophy.
“We are not bound by old economic models that need to tax customers to infinium,” Crenshaw declared. “We really believe that how we keep our customers is to provide them with a superior service and better economics. We are not trying to be the cheapest offering, but we are focused on helping them remove costs because we can operate more efficiently.”
That new model also embraces open source, which allows customers to migrate to a new vendor should they need to. This forces a vendor to focus efforts on making sure its customers are happy with the bill they are paying.
“I would take our Kubernetes services head-to-head with anyone,” Crenshaw said. “Customers love our environment and experience. And that’s not something many customers say they look forward to when dealing with a vendor.”
The Rackspace platform uses Kubernetes as the basis for management of containers and cluster application services like monitoring, logging, and analytics. Crenshaw also touted the platform’s “day two” support, which is the ongoing management once the Kubernetes system is deployed.
It’s targeted at the “upper mid-market enterprise space,” which Crenshaw explained was typically companies with “some scale.” But, these are also companies that want to glean the benefits of using Kubernetes as part of their broader cloud ecosystem without needing to bring in specialized employees.
“We are really there to make it easier for these companies to use Kubernetes without any of the potential challenges,” Crenshaw said.
Rackspace’s initial efforts began with its Carina container service offering that it launched nearly three years ago. Crenshaw said that the initial work was offered for free to customers and did not have any service level agreements (SLAs). However, the company “gained an advantage by learning all of the operating challenges across thousands of customers.”
“We distilled that into a set of processes that has set us apart,” Crenshaw said.
He added that the initial work with customers has resulted in an up to 50 percent cost savings as opposed to those customers handling Kubernetes management on their own.
The managed service is launching with initial support limited to its OpenStack-based cloud platform. Crenshaw said the company would be adding support in the coming months for all of the major public cloud providers, on-premises locations, virtual machines (VMs), and private cloud.