Rackspace unveils new OnMetal cloud servers based on OpenStack

FANATIGUY GOOGLE AVATARRackspace has gotten a bit creative in its battle to stay relevant in the fight against AWS, Google and co., by making its Open Compute hardware available with the launch of its OnMetal Cloud servers running OpenStack.

The announcement was made at the Structure event in San Francisco, where Rackspace said customers will now be able to rent dedicated hardware based on designs similar to the custom-built servers used by Amazon and Google.

The servers are essentially tweaked versions of Open Compute Project gear, and come with support for modern software built for distributed apps. Open Compute is a Facebook-led initiative that helps enterprises buy and build servers in the same way as they do – that is, by stripping the components down to the bare minimum, then working with a low-cost Asian white-box maker to build them. As a result, it’s likely Rackspace’s servers will share much in common with those built by AWS and Google, as most companies follow a similar format when placing an emphasis on low running costs and low capital outlay – something that became apparent when Microsoft lent its own designs to Open Compute earlier this year.

The servers are dedicated rather than virtualized, which means performance isn’t held back like when running software atop a hypervisor. This means customers can enjoy extremely powerful hardware using a reasonably broad API, while letting Rackspace take care of the management side. It also eliminates the ‘noisy neighbor’ problem that occurs when a virtualized machine steals too many resources from others.

Rackspace says its servers run on CoreOS, the new distributed operating system that makes use of Docker containerization rather than VMs. CoreOS is said to be similar to the internal operating systems used by Amazon, Facebook and Google, except for the fact it’s open-source.

“The rising complexity of the multi-tenant cloud affects applications in a variety of ways,” said Taylor Rhodes, president of Rackspace. “However, we’ve learned that the one-size-fits-all approach to multi-tenancy just doesn’t work once you become successful, so we created OnMetal to simplify scaling for customers to stay lean and fast with a laser-sharp focus on building out their product.”

Open Compute came about because Facebook decided the one-size-fits all servers offered by the likes of HP and Dell were unsuitable for their needs. Instead, the social media giant built its servers according to its own design specs, doing away with excess features it didn’t want. Rackspace took this Open Compute model as a template, and built its OnMetal servers with a view to providing cost-effective machines to customers who’re in a similar boat to what Facebook was.

Rackspace’s OnMetal Cloud servers will be available from its Northern Virginia data center next month.