The Companies That Support Linux: Rackspace

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Paul Voccio RackspaceRackspace has lately been in the news for its stock market gains and a potential acquisition. But over the past 16 years the company has become well known, first as a web hosting provider built on Linux and open source, and later as a pioneer of the open source cloud and founder of the OpenStack cloud platform.

In May, Rackspace became a Xen Project member and was one of three companies to join the Linux Foundation as a corporate member, along with CoreOS and Cumulus Networks.

“Many of the applications and infrastructure that we need to run for internal use or for customers run best on Linux,” said Paul Voccio, Senior Director of Software Development at Rackspace, via email. “This includes all the popular language frameworks and open virtualization platforms such as Xen, LXC, KVM, Docker, etc.”

In this Q&A, Voccio discusses the role of Rackspace in the cloud, how the company uses Linux, why they joined the Linux Foundation, as well as current trends and future technologies in the data center.

Linux.com: What is Rackspace?

Paul Voccio: Rackspace is the managed cloud specialist and founder of OpenStack, the open-source operating system for the cloud. Hundreds of thousands of customers look to Rackspace to deliver the best-fit hybrid cloud solutions for their IT needs, leveraging a product and services portfolio that allows workloads to run where they perform best – whether on the public cloud, private cloud, dedicated servers, or a combination of platforms.

As a managed cloud pioneer, we give our customers 24x7 access to cloud engineers for everything from planning and architecting to building and operating clouds through our award-winning Fanatical Support®. We help customers successfully architect, deploy and run their most critical applications. Or, more plainly put, we’re cloud specialists so you don’t have to be. We are headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, and operate a global support and engineering organization with data centers on four continents.

How and why do you use Linux?

Rackspace uses Linux because it provides a stable and flexible platform for our customers' workloads. Our customers trust us to support their mission-critical applications and we need reliable infrastructure – including software and hardware – to meet their expectations. If you look under the hood in our dedicated environments or in our expansive cloud infrastructure, you'll find Linux running there.

Many of the applications and infrastructure that we need to run for internal use or for customers run best on Linux. This includes all the popular language frameworks and open virtualization platforms such as Xen, LXC, KVM, Docker, etc. Running combinations of these platforms give us the stability and performance we demand for the Rackspace Cloud. Our Cloud Servers product runs OpenStack services that manage tens of thousands of hypervisors – all running Linux.

Using Linux also allows us to tap into a community of experts to solve problems. When we have an issue, we're comfortable asking questions. When we have a solution, we enjoy sharing it with the community. At Rackspace, we understand how to work and contribute in an open community and Linux has many opportunities to build relationships with other groups that have similar goals.

Why did you join the Linux Foundation?

Joining the Linux Foundation allows us to show our support and engage the Linux community in new ways. We've learned plenty from running Linux in highly demanding environments at a large scale and we're eager to share those experiences. Other members of the community have probably run into different challenges than we have and this gives us a greater opportunity to learn from them as well.

What interesting or innovative trends are you witnessing in the data center and what role does Linux play in them?

Virtualization and automation have changed how companies deploy hardware and software. Linux gives us several virtualization options and these allow us to automate more of our infrastructure deployments and maintenance tasks. Automation and configuration management frameworks allow us to reduce our costs, improve our testing capabilities, and bring products to market faster. The majority of these open source automation frameworks run best on Linux servers.

How is Rackspace participating in that innovation?

We leverage several open-source Linux-based tools and projects to deliver great customer outcomes. One of our largest efforts in this area is with OpenStack. It's the software that runs our public and private clouds and we're actively engaged with the community to improve it. We're using Linux to find new ways to scale our large virtualization platform and deliver infrastructure to customers quickly.

The open-source nature of Linux inspires us to share the majority of these discoveries with the community. Our customers can improve OpenStack and those improvements will eventually make it into our product offering. We make contributions to a countless number of open source projects either as a company or as individual Rackers (our employees are called "Rackers") and many of these projects are designed to run on Linux.

What other future technologies or industries do you think Linux and open source will increasingly become important in and why?

The move to software-defined infrastructure is a big shift. Customers already have access to virtualization platforms like Xen that allow them to define their infrastructure with software. Software-defined networking is quickly becoming more mature and scalable. However, customers want the ability to have a software defined datacenter at their fingertips. This may involve physical servers, virtual servers, and virtual networks that need high performance with flexible configurations. Many of the current technologies are designed to run on Linux due to technology already available in the kernel or userland frameworks provided by the community.

Are you hiring?

From hacking on kernels to supporting thousands of virtual machines – we are always looking for talented admins, developers and engineers. You can find more information at Rackertalent.com.

Read more about becoming a corporate member of the Linux Foundation

Read more about new Linux Foundation Corporate members in this series:

The Companies That Support Linux: Cumulus Networks

The Companies That Support Linux: CoreOS