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Rackspace vs. Amazon — the Cloud Wars

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  • by jwthompson2 (749521) * <james@plainprog r a m s.com> on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @11:25AM (#34174140) Homepage

    They missed the fact that RackSpace offers hybrid cloud options that Amazon just can't match at this point. Got IO issues? So did GitHub when they were running on Amazon's infrastructure. Know how they solved it? They moved to Rackspace and married the cloud for front-end with physical hardware for their IO intense workloads. It seems to me these guys may just be naive. They've probably only sidestepped their problems for now.

    • by Chrisq (894406) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @11:36AM (#34174304)

      They missed the fact that RackSpace offers hybrid cloud options that Amazon just can't match at this point. Got IO issues? So did GitHub when they were running on Amazon's infrastructure. Know how they solved it? They moved to Rackspace and married the cloud for front-end with physical hardware for their IO intense workloads. It seems to me these guys may just be naive. They've probably only sidestepped their problems for now.

      To be fair if they have probably solved their problems, in that Amazon cloud is extremely horizontally scalable. It is a typical "throw money at it" solution, like someone who has sent a package by motorcycle courtier solving the problem of shifting 10,000 packages between warehouses by hiring 10,000 motorcycle couriers - but it will probably work for them.

      • by hjf (703092)

        Isn't "throw money at the problem" the whole point of "extensible" cloud computing?

        • by dkf (304284)

          Isn't "throw money at the problem" the whole point of "extensible" cloud computing?

          Yes. "Scalable" in cloud computing is usually interpreted to mean "scales linearly with amount of money applied". As long as the amount of benefit you're getting from it is also scaling at least linearly, that's an acceptable trade-off.

      • by MattW (97290) <matt@ender.com> on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @01:32PM (#34175718) Homepage

        You can't just keep scaling horizontally to avoid noisy neighbors. The problem is, unlike with cpu and memory, Amazon doesn't currently have a way to control how many IOPs one tenant has. You might even scale up from 2 "servers" to 4, and end up with the same neighbor because you're on the same underlying hardware. Plus, the issue is: it's not predictable. You might have great IOPs at one point, and then some other tenant starts consuming a bunch of them and there's contention, and your performance degrades.

    • by XorNand (517466)
      I use both Rackspace and EC2 for different applications. One big advantage of Rackspace (Slicehost) for smaller projects is the ability to assign multiple public IPs to a single instance. This comes in handy when running multiple SSL websites without needing to spin up an additional instance.
    • by segedunum (883035)
      You didn't pay attention to the article. This is more than just I/O issues. This is about easily adding new disk space and resources when required.
  • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mark72005 (1233572) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @11:25AM (#34174146)
    Interesting discussion. Perhaps more companies could make business out of their spare resources as Amazon does.

    Also funny, in the comments section with GoGrid.com trolling with a $100 coupon code. Way to sweeten the pot...
    • What we really need is William Shatner pitching "name your own price" for cloud resources. Yes, you CAN get cycles in a four-star data center located near the major metro area you've selected. I like the resources being commodities - more options, cheaper options. Yum!
      • I'll start a competing service where a gnome statue touts rack space where the deer and the antelope play
      • by MattW (97290)

        Like spotcloud [spotcloud.com]?

    • by MattW (97290)

      Amazon is not running a cloud with their spare resources. I believe I heard at one point that someone (Zynga?) was running 10,000 VMs on amazon at once. And that's one customer. Amazon is trying to be THE host of the future. Which is funny, since their other business is retail.

      But make no mistake - 10 years from now, Amazon could easily be known as the Cloud Infrastructure provider, who also happens to do some retail. (Or less than 10.)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What's missing here is mention of Rackspace's recent effort with NASA on OpenStack. In short, Rackspace recently Open Sourced their Cloud Storage infrastructure, called Swift.

  • Colocation? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Oceanplexian (807998) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @11:31AM (#34174236) Homepage
    The problem with these solutions is they sell you services like a prepaid phone company to abstract the real cost.

    My company has done the math and unless you only need the capacity say, 3 hours out of the day, EC2 (and Rackspace) simply can't compete with running your own hardware. We've heard the arguments about hiring engineers, buying servers, and renting space, but even after those expenses you still come out ahead if you have roughly more than 20 machines.

    Also, Rackspace and Amazon sell Xen virtualization hosting. The software is open source and freely available if you want to use it for yourself. I just guess "Cloud Hosting" sounds better but it's not that hard to roll a similar setup if you want the scalability.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by codepunk (167897)

      Or you need to scale from 100 to 100,000 users in two days.

      • Not only is that highly unlikely, but how many boxes is that for your webapp? 20?

        I don't know about you but I could rack and deploy 20 production servers in a day. One phone call to my ISP and we're in business.

        Personally I'm more concerned with building a profitable company than infinite scalability. By rolling our own gear that puts us ahead a little bit more. I think that these cloud providers are neat, but only for a 1-off solution or a distributed computer problem -- not for running your whole business
        • Also, if you consciously try to keep your code as efficient as possible and run it on something that isn't abstracted 10 frameworks deep, scalability suddenly becomes much less of a problem.

          • by Pastis (145655)

            Do you really think you can scale that easily ? Just by keeping the code efficient and avoiding frameworks ? Mmmm

            Scaling is not just about your application. It's about the network, the bandwidth, the infrastructure (hardware and software - load balancing, caching, etc), getting rid of single point of failures, etc. This requires resources and knowldedge to handle. Once you start dealing with all that, the performance of your code is just one of your problems.

    • Re:Colocation? (Score:4, Informative)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @11:51AM (#34174484) Journal
      I don't think that, with the fairly classical "cloud" guys like Amazon, who offer essentially Virtual Private Server products; but with automated provisioning, the argument has ever been about much more than flexibility. The more abstracted "cloud" people(gmail, google docs, etc.) can make the management complexity argument, since they offer highly abstract services with all the gory details hidden; but Amazon basically just tosses you a Linux VM and leaves you to deal with it from there. The only attraction is that, unlike classic VPS, you don't have to talk to a sales rep, just an API.

      Given that with Amazon, all their EC2 stuff is either uber-commodity linux VMs or available for local hosting via the Eucalyptus project(their storage mechanism, etc.) it is possible to adopt a hybrid "base load/burst load" strategy, similar to how the electrical utilities do it. If your operation has a more or less steady base load, you run it on cheap boxes of your own. If you have a load spike, you use the expensive; but quick to spin up, EC2 instances. Since modern virtualization overhead is low, and virtualization is extremely convenient anyway, you don't lose to much, you don't pay Amazon a flexibility fee for things you don't need to be flexible; but you can swiftly pay for additional capacity that works just like your local capacity, and then stop paying when you no longer need it.

      If you need long-term, stable levels of service, you'd be insane to buy it from a burst-service company, just as very heavy cell users would be nuts to buy a contractless per-minute plan. Either do it in house or hire a hosting company to do it for you, on a stable basis.
      • Except, of course, in order to do that you'll need to write your application in a certain way. You'd have to implement all sorts of things (like tunnels into amazon, but that's the very least of your worries). An application basically has to be written for the amazon cloud in order to function on top of it. Very different costs from having

        So there are lots of extremely non-trivial costs associated with doing what you say. Lots of hoops to jump through, all of them cost money (even if your time is free, they

        • by dkf (304284)

          An application basically has to be written for the amazon cloud in order to function on top of it.

          That depends crucially on the details of the application. The main factor usually seems to be what the details of the IO are – you don't want to be shipping large datasets in and out of Amazon frequently if you can help it – together with how much extra stuff you feel like wrapping round the front end and what your method for recovering the costs is.

          So there are lots of extremely non-trivial costs associated with doing what you say.

          Indeed, but a lot of people seem to discount the costs of the alternatives too easily too. It's hard to come in under the price of Amazon for the so

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      We've heard the arguments about hiring engineers, buying servers, and renting space, but even after those expenses you still come out ahead if you have roughly more than 20 machines.

      Except for the fact that hiring those engineers, buying those servers, and renting that space will be met with great resistance in most organizations. HR wont allow the extra headcount, legal is concerned about the safety of the space you're renting or some other BS, etc., etc. It's all a big headache and even if you decide to go through with it, it will take you weeks or even months to get off the ground.

      But paying a monthly bill to Amazon? Nobody cares and you can have a new server running in minutes.

      • The cloud is a revolution in billing. Not only do you sidestep all the HR/legal faff, you can bill the hosting cost to the department that uses the application instead of IT, it's impossible to price match competitors since you don't know how much it's going to cost until after you start the app. If someone writes crap code it auto spins up more instances and the hosting bill goes up, rather than someone having to write a document justifying additional expenditure.

        • by MattW (97290)

          There are a lot of vendors providing appliances now that recognize this, and especially now that VMware has entered the cloud market with their cloud director product, you can expect to see an even bigger proliferation of appliances. Want to run LogLogic? Don't buy a box, push a "deploy appliance" button at your provider. What, your new group needs a sharepoint server? Push buttan.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MattW (97290)

      (1) You just assumed that your use case was all use cases. Here's an example of a company I've done work for that is in the cloud. They have software that maps 2d face photos onto 3d models and then can render video out in flash that is customized for the user. (If you tried Nike's world cup you-in-the-advertisement video ad, that was them.) Can you imagine how variable demand is if your cpu utilization goes up 10,000% when a client pushes an ad to market, versus when you're largely idle and doing demos and

      • by illtud (115152)

        I know of one large bank that got rid of 30,000 desktop machines in favor of 10,000 racked servers and KMS services.

        Please say you meant 1,000 servers. Like check with the bank if you're not 100% sure.

    • by olau (314197)

      Amazon is really expensive. Did you do the math with less expensive services like gandi.net, vps.net, xlshosting.com, jiffybox.de?

  • I locked myself out of a server the other day hosted on rackspace. I was able to console it from the management interface and fix the issue, not sure if I could have recovered that on ec2.

    • by afidel (530433)
      By blowing it away and spinning a new VM, EC2 machines are by their design expendable resources.
    • by Blakey Rat (99501)

      Just spawn a new one, attach your data to it, then kill your old. Sure it takes ~15 minutes, but you act like it's impossible.

  • If you are going to post a "missive to the world" slamming someone's product, you ought to at least proofread it. It's just a bit embarrassing that the very first sentence doesn't make any sense. “...our hardware is” - yes, it's very existential hardware.

    Serving as your local grammar nazi today...

  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @11:49AM (#34174458)
    Seriously, get some good writers BESIDES yourself and get actors who can actually ACT! And while you're at it, less CGI would be good and a couple more space battles....eh...what?
    Oh, 'The Cloud Wars' isn't the title of the next Star Wars movie? Oh, sorry.
  • Cloud Wars (Score:3, Funny)

    by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @11:51AM (#34174478) Homepage

    It is a period of civil war. Rebel Linux admins, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Microsoft Empire. During the battle, GNU spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, ISS, a system that brings any self-respecting admin to tears. Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Tove Torvalds races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the network.

    • by egamma (572162)

      It is a period of civil war. Rebel Linux admins, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Microsoft Empire. During the battle, GNU spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, ISS, a system that brings any self-respecting admin to tears. Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Tove Torvalds races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the network.

      Do you mean IIS? Or are you talking about that moon orbiting overhead?

  • The difference between a great idea and a billion dollars is that last 1% of the implementation - the distance between "cool" and "perfect".

    I think Amazon may have bridged that gap.

    • by MattW (97290)

      Amazon's offering is great, but it has a long way to go to perfect. If you use a VMware cloud director based cloud service, you start to get a feel for how much more can be done. For example, as soon as you can just click on a VM and have a full keyboard-mouse-screen console pop up, you start to wonder why you'd want to live without it.

  • You gotta be kidding me ... this story has been up for over an hour, and nobody has said ... "begun, the cloud war has".

    I assumed that was the whole purpose of the title? :-P Or is everyone else disavowing knowledge of Episodes 2&3. ;-)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dynedain (141758)

      Episodes 2&3 of what?

      And why are you making a Yoda-like quote?

  • Biggest issue is I have with Google cloud is it's not secure using your own domain name. You have to use google's SSL address and that doesn't fly for a lot of people.

    • You know this is another complaint people had with the old mainframe software. All "power" is in the hands of the cloud provider, and you get what they choose to give, and not a bit more. The power of lots of corporations tends to get concentrated into a single huge entity like this. The mainframe "providers" maintained such an extreme lock-in that most banks are still locked in to the system, TODAY.

      Why in the name of all that is good and holy do we want to return to that ? This is why GNU brought us out of

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Rackspace is generally known for great service, so I didn't hesitate to sign up and start using their cloud service for a business idea. Unfortunately, Rackspace Cloud was essentially another company that Rackspace bought and did not fully integrate or bring up to their own standards.

    The several months that I had them before I migrated, I experienced:
    1) Horrible technical support and the inability to get any of the actual administrators on the phone to troubleshoot. Terrible escalation procedures. If my sys

  • I use Rackspace Cloud because it's simple. There's nothing to mount, nor is there a huge learning curve with setting up a VM. It's a great way to experiment with servers on a shoestring budget.

    However, things change when you're moving from a handful of manually-configured VMs to an army designed to handle lots of load. Amazon's learning curve is certainly worth considering once you need to tune towards an app's specific scalability needs.

  • by phpsocialclub (575460) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @03:36PM (#34177686) Homepage

    Rack Space cloud sites is true cloud hosting, You do not add servers, you just pay for CPU usage like you are buying bandwidth. It is expensive and you can not customize it, but it always works and scales to meet demand.

    It is not a VM, where you can install your own OS, Web server, etc. It is a apache server, mysql clustered backend and varnish cache front end.

    Great for Blog hosting, PHP applications, etc. We do about 8-10 million page views on it per month and like it for what it is,

    If I had staff that needed to configure servers all day, it would be different, but for hosting large dynamic LAMP websites, it is great and reliable.

    Andrew

  • I'm a happy Rackspace Cloud customer. I use it for a few small VMs that I treat like normal, uniquely-configured servers, but I don't have to mess with all the details of running a data center, and that makes my life easier. I looked at EC2, and it became very obvious that it was not intended to be used that way. If you want to do the whole dynamic cloud thing where your log scraper uses an API to request more CPU for this VM, more RAM for that VM, and duplicate a few more web front-end hosts, EC2 defini

  • Anyone know what the cons of amazon cloud is at this point???

  • I don't want to step on any toes, but mixpanel does not seem to have the kind of traffic or growth [alexa.com] that would call for dramatic measures (or articles). It looks like their application must be very I/O-intensive and most, if not all commercial clouds would be bad/limiting for them (does any provider give you numbers comparable to your own 10gbe or IB infrastructure without virtualization?). Sure, they can provide some room for growth on demand, but if it doesn't fit your application because you need I/O both

    • Did your cost estimate/comparison include the salaries of all the people that have to maintain and administer the hardware you bought yourself?

  • Cloud remains very expensive for stable user loads, because there remains no means to compare compute capacity between offers. Amazon suffers no price competition. The price of Amazon's original small instance remains unchanged after four years. 30 providers might use 23 different compute metrics. See http://cloudpricecalculator.com/ [cloudpricecalculator.com] as a first pass ranking of providers by mapping all providers to ECU's

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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