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Cloud draws crowds as Interop winds down

It’s great fun watching a big trade show wind down. Day one is all vigor and pizazz and manic tweets. By the third day, attendees are sprawled in the halls, their listless fingers struggling to update mere blogs. At any rate, Wednesday (day three) brought a telling scene. An event photographer crept out of a room and said, “Finally! A full room.”

What topic, after three days of talks and speeches by the brightest stars in the IT firmament, drew the masses? Cloud computing, naturally.

Anyway, Lew Moorman recently gave me an excellent interview, which made it into a story about Rackspace’s position in the infrastructure cloud market.

But Moorman might have had more ready numbers on hand. Rackspace is spending “millions” of new dollars of data center investment, he told me, and is positioning his $500 million company as a scrappy, little-guy going up against the $20 billion dollar behemoth Amazon.

Looking at Amazon’s and Rackspace’s latest quarterly reports gives the real numbers. From 2008 to Q1 2009, Rackspace spent $11 million out of $37 million in total capital expenditure investments on “data center build outs.” Amazon, which only lists “Purchases of fixed assets, including internal-use software and website development,” spent $55 million total capex for IT in Q109. Assuming similar ratios, Amazon might have only spent $16 million on new data center development.

Rackspace. What an underdog, hunh?

The long and short of it is that Rackspace is a hosting company, and Amazon is an e-commerce company. Both are, in terms of capacity and potential compute power, massive. Rackspace does lack the “perfect cloud” offerings of Amazon, but it is no mean competitor, and the money and the market is there. Before cloud, Rackspace wasn’t hurting for customers; they probably still aren’t.

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