Rackspace aims to shake up the cloud market with the launch of its new OnMetal OpenStack cloud service that enables users to directly provision physical hardware.
The promise of the cloud is highly available, elastic computing power that is available on-demand. For the most part, that promise has been enabled through the use of virtualization and multi-tenancy, where many different users share the same physical hardware.
The key cloud challenge and security risk that has concerned some people is the fact that the physical infrastructure is shared. The shared physical infrastructure also does not provide power users with the control they might want over the hardware.
With OnMetal, Rackspace aims to solve that challenge by providing users with the option and ability to directly deploy an OpenStack cloud onto physical hardware.
"The un-provisioned servers are idle, already racked and cabled when not being used by a customer," Paul Querna, director of corporate strategy at Rackspace, told eWEEK.
Rackspace OnMetal will have three types of server configurations for users to deploy. A compute-optimized configuration provides 32GB of RAM and a 10-core Intel Xeon E5-2680 v2 2.8GHz CPU. A memory-optimized version provides 512GB of RAM with a pair of six-core Intel Xeon E5-2630 v2 2.6GHz CPUs. An I/O optimized configuration provides 128GB of RAM with a pair of Xeon E5-2680 v2 2.8 GHz CPUs.
In addition to the fact that the OnMetal servers are single-tenant devices, they also offer a potential performance boost to users. In November 2013, Rackspace announced its Performance Cloud Servers offerings for the public cloud, providing users with high-performance options. There can be a performance difference between the Performance Cloud Servers offering and the physical OnMetal platform, Querna said. "With databases, for example, we have seen improvements on some databases like Postgres on OnMetal," he said.
The technology that Rackspace is using to deploy OnMetal servers is from an OpenStack project called Ironic. It plugs into OpenStack's Nova Compute component, which manages the virtual compute infrastructure.
"Ironic provides the low-level control of the hardware; it is then integrated into OpenStack Nova to provide the public API for OnMetal servers," Querna said. "To a customer, OnMetal instances are just another flavor type in their Nova API."
As part of the OnMetal effort, Rackspace is also supporting the deployment of the open-source CoreOS Linux distribution. CoreOS is a purpose-built operating system for the deployment of Docker container-based virtualization. Docker, an increasingly popular approach for deploying virtualization, offers users the benefit of employing a single host operating system, instead of a separate operating system for each virtual machine.
CoreOS, the company with the same name as its OS, has the backing of venture capitalists Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia Capital.
"CoreOS uses Linux containers for deploying applications," Alex Polvi, CEO of CoreOS, told eWEEK. "This means that a sysadmin has the exact same experience deploying an application, whether it is on physical servers or on cloud servers."
As part of the OnMetal experience, Polvi sees particular benefits for users. With the OnMetal approach, Polvi noted that users can now get the advantages of physical servers, which include speed and consistency, as well as the benefits of deploying to a cloud API for fast provisioning and on-demand pricing.
"You now have the best of both worlds, with zero compromises," Polvi said.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.