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Rackspace opens 'community store' for cloud tools

Rackspace opens a free Web portal for cloud management tools and applications with partners.

Claiming to be motivated by community spirit, Rackspace has announced a storefront for cloud management tools and applications through selected partnerships with cloud management veterans like RightScale and the likes of Zeus Technology's Zeus Extensible Traffic Manager.

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Unlike competitors, Rackspace says that it will provide the Cloud Tools portal for free and not make a profit from services obtained through the site. Amazon Web Services (AWS), for instance, partners with IBM and Oracle to run some of the software giants' enterprise tools on Amazon's cloud and includes various monitoring and management tools for additional fees.

"The portal in and of itself is not intended to be a store," said Jim Curry, the VP of corporate development at Rackspace Hosting. He said that the community side of the website will enable developers to submit projects as well as users to leave feedback, while the partners' side of the site would be limited to a dozen or so companies that would have their software tools vetted and supported by Rackspace. He stressed that the site simply had links to submitter's' websites and didn't include vending facilities. "We're not actually booking any sales from these offerings," he said.

Curry said that Rackspace has taken a different tack from its competitors in part because it is a quick, cheap and easy way to build goodwill and that it doesn't want to move away from its core business of hosting. Rackspace saw benefits from sharing information about how Cloud Tools partners' customers use cloud computing, and that kind of collaboration was more than enough return for the fairly standard community website Rackspace has put together. "The actual cost of the portal: it's nothing" relative to Rackspace's bottom line, he said.

The portal in and of itself is not intended to be a store.
Jim Curry, VP of corporate development, Rackspace Hosting,
Rackspace has repeatedly stated that it wants to model its public cloud on open source lines such as MySQL, which ran a profitable support and development business while making its core software available for free. Rackspace isn't making its hosting free anytime soon, but it has opened its cloud appliation programming interfaces (APIs) to developers. Its nearest rival, Amazon, has not.

"From our point of view, they've done everything right in opening [a cloud computing] ecosystem to partners," said Michael Crandell, CEO of RightScale. He said the effort would encourage experimentation and growth, as well as help clarify the debate around cloud computing. "It's easy to become jaded in this world where everything is 'cloud'," he said.

"I think it's naïve not to engage the community," said Curry. He said the level of interest from developers and startups that want to participate is on a steep curve. He noted that Rackspace's APIs have only been public property for six weeks, but he's seen daily inquiries about getting onto the Cloud Tools site and expects participation to skyrocket after today's launch. He's more than comfortable not making money for the new site. Bottom line for Rackspace, said Curry: "We want to sell more hosting."

Carl Brooks is the Technology Writer for Contact him at and check out our Troposphere blog.

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