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Rackspace Isn't A Cloud Vendor, It's A Tech Vendor

Hosting and cloud computing vendor Rackspace suffered an hour-long shortage yesterday, as my colleague Erik Sherman discussed.

Erik quite correctly notes that cloud vendors have to overcome fears about cloud security and availability that are exacerbated by exactly this kind of incident. The sad thing is that most IT people agree that internal systems go down more frequently than cloud-based systems -- you just don't hear about it.

The real issue isn't that Rackspace is offering a cloud service, but that Rackspace is behaving like so many IT vendors in general. Look at this exchange between Rackspace customer service and one of its customers regarding the outage, and you can substitute just about any vendor, whether on premise or in the cloud:

    Tom - June 30th, 2009 at 1:54 pm PDT

    We will likely be dropping rackspace after this (we use them for hosted Exchange and this is actually our 4th outage in the last couple of weeks).

    What bothers me about their "incident reports" is they never say "we've done this so it will never happen again". Read through that report and you'll see they try to convince you it's a random occurrence that's unlikely to repeat but they mention nothing about adding further protection so it can't happen again.

    That, to me, equals fail.

    ----

    Rob La Gesse (@rackspace) - June 30th, 2009 at 2:02 pm PDT

    Tom - the blog will be updated shortly with a message from the CEO that addresses your concerns. Appreciate you as a customer, and would hate to lose you. Know these issues are painful though.

    Rob La Gesse
    Director of Customer Development
    Rackspace
    210-845-4440
    ----
    Tom - June 30th, 2009 at 2:50 pm PDT

    I'll keep watching for a solution and it will go a long way if you actually put out a press release that outlines actual steps you'll take to make sure this never happens again.

    Right now it just looks like the same talk that everyone puts out there (e.g. placate people with the release and then they'll forget it and you never have to do anything)

    ----

    Tom, if you're out there, based on my first-, second- and third-hand experiences with IT vendors of all stripes, you'll just have to keep their feet to the fire with a credible alternative, or they'll walk all over you.

    Cloud-based computing is a productivity-enhancer for established companies by allowing IT to develop better tools rather than maintaining systems that work 99.999 percent of the time, and levels the playing field by allowing entrepreneurs to get started without huge capital expenditures. But this will all be moot if customers stop trusting cloud computing vendors. Ironically, Marc Benioff, CEO of cloud software standard-bearer Salesforce.com put the trust issue most succinctly:

    "I don't think customers listen to vendors anymore. I think they listen to each other," [said Benioff]... "If you get the customer references, and you can get that gravitas around customers talking about you and recommending you and referring you, you're in good shape," he added. "If you can't get that going, you're in trouble."
    Benioff thinks he was talking about traditional on-premise vendors but the same holds true for cloud vendors.
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