Today, Rackspace announced the release of Windows based Cloud Servers to compete with Amazon EC2 Windows instances and Windows Azure. According to Rackspace, the new service delivers a highly scalable environment ideal for Windows-based hosting, testing and developing applications and supporting the high levels of traffic required for launching online gaming platforms or the next social networking phenomenon. This was expected for a long time because they needed to have Windows based offerings in order to effectively compete with Amazon.
Their Cloud servers comes in varying sizes from 1 GB to 16 GB with hourly charge ranging from 8 cents to $1.08. They offer images with Windows Server 2003 Enterprise and Windows Server 2008 Enterprise (both 32 bit and 64 bit). Unlike their Linux based offerings which can be scaled up and down instantaneously, their Windows offering can only be scaled up and there is no way to scale down like their Linux counterparts and other cloud based offerings. However, Rackspace has announced that they will have it available soon. Another missing feature compared to their Linux based cloud offerings is the SLA. It appears they will soon come up with SLA for Windows cloud servers (Note: Even though their Press Release talks about the availability of SLAs, their website doesn’t mention SLAs). Update: Rackspace has since corrected the error on their site. The SLA is available at this link. Another interesting observation about their cloud server size is the network throughput which varies with the size of the server. It is important to take this into account while planning your move to Cloud Servers. If you are planning to stream HD video, you may want a higher throughput than what someone will need for a static website.
In my opinion, their Windows based offerings may fill the gap in catering to their existing customers. Increasingly, we are seeing many SMBs taking a hybrid approach to their infrastructure needs and Windows Cloud Servers fills in to meet the needs of such customers. Since their pricing is not competitive compared to Amazon EC2 Windows Instances, I don’t foresee any large scale migrations from Amazon. Moreover, any serious Windows shop will use Azure from Microsoft than Rackspace. The only way Rackspace can gain marketshare is through their agressive and reliable support. Sooner than later the users of Cloud infrastructure services will go beyond the economics and demand better performance and support. Rackspace will be able to make their case on this front and chip away marketshare from Amazon. We will also have to wait and see if Rackspace gains more traction in the future with their Openstack.org initiative.
Disclaimer: Rackspace’s Email Division is a client of Diversity Analysis but this post is about their Cloud Division.