Q&A with Rackspace Cloud’s Emil Sayegh

The Rackspace Cloud

San Antonio based Rackspace is a global web host and cloud provider known for their high end managed hosting and dedicated services. The company delivers managed services to over 16,000 customers from eight data centers worldwide.

Rackspace has recently made quite a splash within the Cloud Industry with the launch of a number of Cloud Services under its Rackspace Cloud division (formerly Mosso)

I recently had the opportunity to interview General Manager Emil Sayegh about the Rackspace Cloud.

OnDemand Beat – “Emil, What is your role as General Manager of the Rackspace Cloud?”

Emil Sayegh – “The Rackspace Cloud is a self contained Entrepreneurial Business Unit within Rackspace, with a great startup culture. My day to day role is to run all the facets of the Cloud business. I spend my days both strategizing, and continuously working with my team to evolve and improve our offerings to our customers. I ensure that our customers are getting the best value for our services, that our shareholders are getting the best return on their investment, and that our employees (we call them Rackers), have a great professional environment to work, and grow.”

OnDemand Beat – “What areas of the Rackspace Cloud are growing the fastest?”

Emil Sayegh“Cloud Servers have taken off tremendously; the momentum we are seeing to date is amazing. As Guy Rosen said “The big surprise here is Rackspace, which seems to be just a stepbehind Amazon”.

Cloud Sites also is Number 1 in terms of market share and has a 60% larger market share than Google App Engine per the Wall Street Journal.

Cloud Servers has certainly grown the fastest, since we opened up the Cloud Server API allowing partners to create applications that interface with Cloud Servers. Now our growth is compounded not only by the appetite of our customers, but also by the appetite of our partners’ customers. We are lucky to have such great customers and partners that do not hesitate to recommend us. That is what powers and energizes me, and all other Rackers every day.”

OnDemand Beat – What type of customer has Rackspace noticed to date as being the most enthusiastic adopter of the Rackspace Suite?

Emil Sayegh“The early adopters of the Rackspace Suite have been startups, SaaS companies, designers and developers. But we have recently seen a steady shift of the Rackspace Cloud customer base to Fortune 1000. These large enterprises are creating many new projects in the cloud.

Essentially the Cloud has become applicable for everyone in IT, but not for every IT workload. As an example, 4 major TV networks moved their online election coverage sites to the Rackspace Cloud on Election night 2008. They found that it was very economical not to scale up their own in house DC infrastructure for just one night of heavy traffic. Instead, their web pages applicable for the election coverage moved to the Cloud. They sustained extremely heavy traffic the night of the election. The TV networks of course only paid for their usage for one night of peak load. Otherwise, they would have to incur the high cost of buying and maintaining 100s of extra servers in their DC just to be used once every 4 years.

Many Fortune 1000 company CIOs are finding exactly what designers, developers, and SMBs had discovered – that the Cloud is great for starting and scaling new projects. Projects where predictability of success is variable are ideal for the cloud. The risk is very low due to the pay for use nature of cloud. Projects that have legacy or custom code, on the other hand, may not be suited for the Cloud.”

OnDemand Beat – “Cloud Servers support a number of popular operating systems – What operating systems and or Linux Distributions have turned out to be the most popular so far among Rackspace customers?”

Emil Sayegh“Cloud Servers currently supports a variety of popular Linux Distributions: Ubuntu, Debian, Gentoo, Centos, Fedora, Arch and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Ubuntu has been in the lead. But as you may know, we also are working on a Windows offering on Cloud Servers, that is coming up very soon. We get a lot of demand for that as well.

Also, keep in mind our Cloud Sites platform is the only Platform Cloud in the market that supports both Windows (.Net), and Linux (LAMP) technologies. Demand Linux is still dominant on Cloud Sites, but Windows is not too far behind.”

OnDemand Beat – “A key differentiator I have noticed with Rackspace vs. other cloud service providers is the Rackspace SLA. Has the Rackspace SLA helped in convincing larger enterprises and government agencies to try the Rackspace Cloud Suite?”

Emil Sayegh“Rackspace has always stood for our top quality of service. Our Fanatical Support® is a key differentiator that customers have gotten used to with Rackspace and do notice when compared to the other Cloud Service providers.”

OnDemand Beat – “Rackspace just recently launched its Cloud Tools Site. Can you give an overview of what the Cloud Tools Site is and the benefits of the site for Rackspace customers?”

Emil Sayegh “Cloud Tools is a destination for Rackspace customers that are looking to expand the functionality and the power of the Cloud by leveraging third-party tools and applications. These tools are built by our partners using the open source API, launched in July 2009, to create custom, value-add applications for the Rackspace Cloud.

To date Rackspace partners have created over 40 applications that are available on the Cloud Tools Site with many more coming online soon.”

OnDemand Beat – “To date, Rackspace Cloud Tools are available for Monitoring & Reporting, Development, System Management and Client Software. What are some of the additional Cloud Tools you see forthcoming in the near future?”

Emil Sayegh“Honestly, it is hard to predict all the different categories that will emerge. Harnessing the power of the cloud will be up to the imagination, and innovation of our partners. Just to give you a taste (no pun intended), we have a new partner named Vanilla that is using our API to power their forum hosting service. Also, we are seeing partners like Sonian using us for email Archiving, or like SOASTA for load testing. So there is a myriad of use cases that are emerging, and we encourage our partners to submit their applications.”

OnDemand Beat – “Emil; you have mentioned in the past that Rackspace has a startup culture with all the benefits of an established company—how does Rackspace maintain that balance?”

Emil SayeghLew Moorman (Rackspace Cloud President) and I have worked hard at maintaining an environment where employees always have the ability to impact change. We accomplish this by keeping the number of management levels low. We also hire people who we fully trust to make important decisions.

The Rackspace Cloud, through recent acquisitions and growth, is composed of a number of groups; however, the principal is always the same…treat the customer like a king and wow them with our service, and with our technology. Give them the best user experience from end to end, better than anywhere else they go.”

OnDemand Beat – “What upcoming conferences and events can OnDemand Beat readers meet the Rackspace Cloud team?”

Emil Sayegh “Here is the list of events we will be at. I really hope to meet some your readers there. Please look me up, I love to talk to folks about the Cloud. My email is emil.sayegh@rackspace.com, and my twitter account is @esayegh.

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