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Rackspace: Fanatical about the cloud

Rackspace: Fanatical about the cloud

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Rackspace is a leading managed cloud company that helps businesses tap the power of hosting and cloud computing without the pain, complexity and cost of doing it themselves. The company provides results-obsessed customer services, known as “Fanatical Support” to customers of all sizes in over 150 countries, from city guide websites to large finance and healthcare companies, including more than half of the world's Fortune 100 companies.

Across all these locations and sectors, Rackspace's work is standardized to very fine detail thanks to the company's extensive bench of technology experts. Each team meets every two weeks to review processes and policies, taking into account feedback from impacted customers, stakeholders and fellow Rackers.

This feedback could be a request for a RAM upgrade, or replacing a top of rack (ToR) switch. The details of these tasks are then worked through and the technical experts determine the most effective method to solve the problem. This method is then rolled out across the entire company so that, regardless of the location, customers will receive the same experience and level of service. 

LONDON CRAWLEY DATA CENTER (LON 5)

Since it was founded in Texas in 1998, Rackspace has established itself as a global leader in the data center industry. It has over 5,500 employees in 16 offices globally and operates 11 data centers serving regions across the globe including Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago, Northern Virginia, London, Sydney and Hong Kong. Rackspace’s 12th data center is set to open in Frankfurt in July.

In mid 2015, Rackspace opened a new, purpose-built data center facility in London, called LON 5.   

LON 5 was built from scratch, giving Rackspace the opportunity to shape it from start to finish. Located in Crawley, West Sussex, an area of west London within handy reach of Heathrow airport that's long been a hub for engineering and industry, the impressive 130,000 square foot data center dominates the surrounding landscape.

The Rackspace Crawley data center was designed to be benchmark-setting in terms of energy efficiency. During the design process it was ensured the building would meet the highest standards in the industry - its Power Usage Efficiency (PUE) is designed to be 1.15 leveraging indirect air cooling to take advantage of the cool British climate and hot aisle containment. The cement floors were smoothed to tight tolerances to eliminate the use of raised floor tiles. The plan was to apply this design model to further expansions.

The visual appeal of the data center is intended to convey visually the world-class nature of our operations. The common areas and meeting rooms are impressive, with viewing galleries that have floor-to-ceiling glass walls throughout allowing plenty of natural light in.

Jim Hawkins, Vice President, Global Data Center Operations & Engineering at the company, explains why this aesthetic is essential: “Due to the high security of our data centers and the sensitive nature of customer data, our customers aren’t able to see many of the details that make the data center great so the visual design helps to convey that same World-Class approach throughout the data center.” 

The Magic Quadrant

This year the company was positioned in the “Leaders” quadrant of the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Public Cloud Infrastructure Managed Service Providers, Worldwide. This assessment evaluates providers based on the completeness of their vision and their ability to execute.

This recognition is hugely important for the industry as it provides an unbiased view of managed service providers in the space, outlining their strengths and weaknesses.  

"Our customers are giving us the crown jewels of their companies," Hawkins says. "They're saying here's my IT stuff, this is my business as it runs, I need to do what I do and I need you, Rackspace, to make sure that my data is always available so that my company and my employees can continue to drive our business success."

Clients and partners

In order to deliver end-to-end Fanatical Support on the technologies and services that it supports, Rackspace has strategic partnerships with organizations across the globe – from hardware providers, to connectivity providers, to other cloud providers to solution providers.

In late 2016 Rackspace partnered with United States company Megaport to establish the dedicated RackConnect Global circuits to data centers throughout the US, vastly expanding its capacity.

With the rise in enterprises’ “multi-cloud” strategies in recent years, Rackspace has taken the approach of partnering with the big public and private cloud providers to manage their platforms for customers who want to add support rather than compete with them. "Customers can deploy workloads on Amazon Web Services (AWS) or on Microsoft and soon on Google's cloud,” Hawkins adds, “and Rackspace will support them on the technical capabilities that many companies are really lacking. As fast as these technologies are changing, companies need experts and Rackspace is filled with those experts."

Within the industry

More and more companies that previously had their own data centers are finding that they're too expensive or difficult to run. As Hawkins explains, this can happen to a company regardless of its size, as it's down to the proliferation of software as a service. "When this happens the data center footprint from an IT perspective begins to shrink," he says, "aided by technology changes like the virtualization of servers, which allows them to compress their IT hardware even further. Pretty soon they have a data center that's only 20 percent utilized. It becomes a big financial and technical burden."

This takes away the reason to have their own data centers so they seek partners they can trust to put their business into. This is where Rackspace steps in.

"There are a number of operating mechanisms that Rackspace has implemented to provide a reliable service for our customers. These operating mechanisms include global standardization programs, the rigor of our change management, the meticulous way we deploy and interact with our infrastructure and our response to issues.” 

Hawkins continues: “There will always be things that go wrong in a data center hosting environment.  What makes Rackspace unique is how we respond to those issues. The combination of Fanatical Support and a very mature Root Cause Analysis (RCA) methodology certainly sets us apart from others and eliminates the recurrence of issues.”

Fanatical about service

The customer service team members are called "Rackers". Hawkins explains that this culture is one of the elements that sets Rackspace apart from other data center providers. "Our vision as a company is to be recognized as one of the world's greatest service companies regardless of the industry. We certainly saw early in our history how terrible support generally is in the IT industry. We saw an opportunity to not just provide better support, but to provide Fanatical Support that's far and beyond what anybody else provides. That's really been the catalyst for our growth over the years since 1999, and we've expanded that support to be on top of not only our infrastructure, but also on top of other leading cloud providers."

Rackspace experts are available 24-7, every day of the year, and the company prides itself on the fact that customers will never hear a recorded message. "It's about the level of ownership that we take when customers have issues," he says. "Our Rackers are there to solve their problems. They can chat with us any time of day, we're always available."

The cloud industry is growing extremely quickly, but Rackspace is tackling all the challenges this may present. One of those is the consolidation of clouds that are available. "There were once public and private clouds all over the place and that's beginning to really consolidate down to companies like AWS, Microsoft and Google being the leading clouds in the space," Hawkins concludes. Whatever the challenge, Rackspace will be there to provide the answer.  

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