In the latest stage of its transformation into a managed services provider that just happens to own some cloud infrastructure, Rackspace announced today that it has been certified by Red Hat to manage Red Hat OpenStack deployments in data centers.

The move means that organizations can now deploy OpenStack cloud platforms on-premises around Red Hat’s brand of Enterprise Linux, and hire Rackspace to manage them.

“You now have a choice,” explained Darrin Hanson, Rackspace’s general manager for OpenStack Private Cloud, in an interview with CMSWire, “between a shared, multi-tenant, massive scale, not-in-your-data-center, public cloud using those OpenStack APIs and a private cloud that gives a customer more control.”

Certifiable

There are some very subtle distinctions that need to be drawn out here: Rackspace has already been managing OpenStack private cloud deployments, using Ubuntu 14.04 as the operating system. This move makes Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform (RHEL OSP) a certified option.

And that’s extremely important for customers that want to automate the testing and deployment of in-house applications using a variety of languages, and that are looking at Red Hat’s OpenShift PaaS platform as a means to that end.

It’s also important to organizations that need to implement continuous integration between their applications, especially the kind that expects to communicate with the world using Red Hat’s venerable JBoss middleware.

OpenStack makes its services available to software developers through APIs, which communicate with programs via so-called “RESTful” web services. Because OpenStack is standardized, Red Hat’s implementation of these APIs will also be standard — meaning, there’s nothing about their syntax that is specific to Red Hat.

It’s the services that Red Hat provides on top of this standard layer which make RHEL OSP distinct. The operating system maker has recently re-architected its entire software deployment platform around Docker containers and Google’s Kubernetes orchestration system.

Personalized Attention

Even the most recent surveys of enterprise IT professionals, however, clearly indicate that not everyone knows what these things are quite yet. Rackspace is well aware of this, and is offering customers full, personal Rackspace management of their deployments, remotely from their data centers.

Rackspace’s senior director of product management, Bryan Thompson, Sr., tells us this service will help facilitate what he described as “the move towards leveraging (Platform-as-a-Service) PaaS application stacks and frameworks, the move to containers, and to thinking about composite applications that deploy apps as microservices.”

Thompson said Rackspace’s existing private OpenStack customers are coming forth with urgent needs to “re-platform” their legacy applications — to deploy the software they use today, even if temporarily, on systems whose capacity is scalable and more adaptable.

Enablement Services

In addition, said Thompson, Rackspace will be offering what it calls enablement services, to assist customers with specific objectives: for example, moving to continuous integration/continuous deployment; moving to containerization; and redesigning legacy applications for new architectures.

“We have an entire team that provides this as enablement services,” he said, “to leverage these technologies and help [customers] adopt and consume these cloud services.”

Thompson told us that, when Rackspace customers get to this stage in their evolution, they’re typically undergoing a business transformation that will involve, at some point, discarding “legacy infrastructure” (i.e., old servers). They’re seeing benefits not only of adopting the “as-a-Service” delivery model for customers, but also for their own departments — making IT solve real problems on an as-needed basis.

For organizations of any size that lack the skill set necessary to facilitate this, Rackspace is looking to fill the gaps.

This way, said Thompson, organizations avoid situations where employees bypass their own IT departments, and implement ad hoc solutions to their information needs on their own dimes.

Five years ago, Rackspace was considered the performance leader in providing public cloud infrastructure for corporations, alongside its promise of “four-nines” (99.99%) uptime. But Amazon, Microsoft, and Google all had pockets deep enough to expand their public cloud capacity worldwide, narrowing Rackspace’s value proposition to providing “radical service.”

Last year, the company found itself marketing radical service for managing customer assets on the public cloud infrastructure of its one-time archrival, Microsoft Azure.

Red Hat is not a public cloud service provider, but it does offer a competitive version of OpenStack. Rackspace is not an operating systems producer, but in perhaps the ultimate historical irony, it has more to do with the creation of OpenStack itself than any other institution besides NASA.

It was in 2010 (not all that long ago, cosmologically speaking) that Rackspace sought to accelerate the development of its server storage format by open-sourcing its code. That effort combined with a compute-sharing project begun at NASA, originally called Nebula, to form OpenStack.

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Title image OpenStack T-shirt logo 2014 contest winner from OpenStack.org