Rackspace: OpenStack Bet Is Paying Off

VIDEO: Rackspace GM for Private Cloud Jim Curry and CTO John Engates discuss the origins of the open-source OpenStack platform and why they're still gunning for Amazon.

In July 2010, Rackspace's Jim Curry helped to found the open-source OpenStack platform. It's an effort that now has the support of many of the world's leading IT vendors and is a key technology option for deployment of public and private clouds around the world.

In a video interview with eWEEK, Curry, senior vice president and general manager for Private Cloud and OpenStack Community at Rackspace, along with CTO John Engates detail the early days of OpenStack and why it's an investment that is paying off.

Curry explained that back in 2010, there weren't other open-source cloud platform options that fit the bill for Rackspace's cloud needs. He noted that Rackspace evaluated other open-source technologies in 2010 including Eucalyptus, CloudStack and Open Nebula, and none of those were the right fit. OpenStack, which Curry helped to start, is the answer for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the incredible pace of innovation.

"The crazyness of OpenStack is amazing," Curry said. "It has led to a huge amount of innovation."

The innovation has not come without cost to Rackspace, especially in the early days of the effort. He added that explaining to the Rackspace board of directors that he wanted to take technology that the company had spent millions of dollars developing and then give it away for free did take some time. That said, the Rackspace board was supportive as the company has strong open-source roots, contributing to a large number of different projects.

For the first two years of OpenStack's existence, Rackspace funded the effort largely on its own, and Curry said that those costs have not entirely been recovered yet.

"We put a lot of money into this and continue to do so," Curry said.

The OpenStack Foundation was officially formed as an independent entity away from Rackspace in 2012. The OpenStack Foundation has an operating budget of between $5 million and $10 million a year. Curry said that Rackspace was spending more than that to get OpenStack up and running in the first two years.

Engates said that the fact that Rackspace puts money and resources into OpenStack, comes back in the form of great code that powers the Rackspace cloud.

Rackspace remains a top contributor to OpenStack, and according to Curry, the company now benefits greatly even from parts of the project where it doesn't participate heavily. The fact that OpenStack is open-source also gives Rackspace what Curry considers a competitive edge over public cloud giant Amazon.

"Amazon is a very well-known technology, but it's still their technology; it's a black box," Curry said. "OpenStack is a known standard; anyone that wants to use OpenStack has free access to it and they can see the code."

Watch the full video interview with Rackspace's Jim Curry, senior vice president and general manager for Private Cloud and OpenStack Community, and CTO John Engates below:

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.