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Rackspace lends fanatical support for AWS managed services

Rackspace's Fanatical Support for Amazon's cloud gives customers AWS managed services for less than the cost of AWS Enterprise Support.

LAS VEGAS – Rackspace now officially supports Amazon's cloud, giving IT pros access to AWS managed services that...

could cost far less than what they pay for AWS Enterprise Support.

The San Antonio-based vendor's managed service for Amazon Web Services (AWS), called Fanatical Support for AWS, is now available in the U.S. with varying degrees of support and control of the environment. The partnership had been rumored for months and follows a pattern for Rackspace, which previously introduced a managed version of Microsoft Azure and manages software as a service offerings from Google and Microsoft.

While Rackspace is now offering support for the two biggest public cloud platforms, the services have their differences, the company said. The AWS version is more prescriptive and focused on applications built for scale-out, dynamic cloud infrastructure and services, while the Azure edition is targeted at support for custom applications and utilization of cloud for existing enterprise applications.

Rackspace  also put three additional AWS services in beta -- Rackspace Managed Security, which provides threat detection and centralized security logging and analysis; Rackspace Compliance Assistance for PCI and security compliance; and Rackspace Managed Cloud for Adobe Experience Manager, a managed automation platform for digital marketing.

Fanatical Support for AWS is available in two versions. Navigator allows customers to maintain operational control of their AWS environments but use Rackspace tools and support. Aviator is a fully managed version of AWS. In addition to being fully available in the U.S., both offerings are in beta for non-U.S. customers in all AWS regions except GovCloud and China.

In addition to its existing support for other cloud platforms, Rackspace's support of Amazon's cloud is a move that could help the company attract new customers and keep the ones it has.

"We already have Rackspace, but we don't use their support very much," said Mitchell Malpartida, director of technology for Dailey, an advertising firm based in West Hollywood, Calif. "If I can get everything in one place, maybe we'll stick with Rackspace. If I could have my cake and eat it too, that would be great."

However, Malpartida said the overall cost will be an important factor.

For Navigator, pricing starts at $350 a month for those spending up to $4,000 a month on AWS and goes up to $5,250 for $80,000 to $100,000 in AWS spending. For the same AWS usage range with Aviator, customers can expect to spend $2,250 and $30,000 per month, respectively. Prices for companies that spend over $100,000 per month for AWS are not listed.

Rackspace can't compete directly with AWS, but for customers that want a hybrid cloud that includes physical hardware, a combination of Rackspace's bare metal servers and AWS may make sense, said one Amazon re:Invent conference attendee who works as a cloud architect for an East Coast-based service provider.

It also might make sense for some smaller companies that can't afford the price of AWS Enterprise support, the cloud architect said, as the Rackspace Navigator program starts at $300 per month, as opposed to AWS Enterprise support, which costs at least $15,000 per month.

"Calling someone at Amazon can cost a lot of money," he said.

A change in the cloud market

The deal represents a key step in Rackspace's pivot back to managed services. The company was once seen as an early competitor to AWS when it launched OpenStack along with NASA, but those comparisons have long-since subsided and last year the company opted to stay independent after flirting with a potential buy out.

This partnership is a win-win, as it provides yet another vendor for AWS to add to its partner program and it continues Rackspace's strategy of being the managed cloud provider for a variety of platforms, said Jillian Freeman, senior analyst for Technology Business Research, Inc., in Hampton, N.H.

Still, it's a much bigger deal for Rackspace, as Amazon barely mentioned it this week at re:Invent. And while Rackspace still has a sizable customer base and offers quality support services, there isn't much buzz around the company; the partnership is already being overshadowed by the new Accenture AWS Business Group for helping enterprises move to the cloud.

"There's totally opportunity for the managed cloud, I just feel like people's perception of Rackspace isn't that good right now," Freeman said.

One AWS user, a lead developer for a software company based in the Pacific Northwest who requested anonymity, sees the partnership as a loss of much needed competition in the cloud market. Her company had considered Rackspace and Azure as well as AWS because Linux workloads seemed better supported than Windows on Amazon's cloud. However, now that the decision to go with AWS has been made, she said it is hard to imagine bringing in a third party to manage the AWS deployment.

"We have enough people on our enterprise operations team to support our environment," she said. "It's easier to coordinate with developers that way."

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