Business Cloud News
Nigel Beighton, vice president of technology, international at Rackspace

Nigel Beighton, vice president of technology, international at Rackspace

Rackspace announced the launch of OnMetal Thursday, a single-tenant infrastructure as a service that can tap into the full range of APIs available in the OpenStack ecosystem. The company’s vice president of technology and product, international Nigel Beighton told Business Cloud News that the service represents a “step change” for the cloud industry because it breaks dependence on virtualisation and alters how the industry thinks of “the cloud.”

OnMetal is effectively a commercial implementation of an OpenStack subproject, Project Ironic, which looks to give all of the benefits of using OpenStack as an orchestration, scaling and metering platform without requiring a hypervisor layer to run applications and workloads on top.

Rackspace built the platform using Open Compute Project-spec’d hardware, and plans to offer the service in three configurations: compute-optimised, memory-optimised, and I/O-optimised.

“The rising complexity of the multi-tenant cloud affects applications in a variety of ways,” said Taylor Rhodes, president of Rackspace.

“Virtualisation and sharing a physical machine are fantastic tools for specific workloads at certain scale; however, we’ve learned that the one-size-fits-all approach to multi-tenancy just doesn’t work once you become successful, so we created OnMetal to simplify scaling for customers to stay lean and fast with a laser-sharp focus on building out their product,” Rhodes said.

The result for the end user, the company said, is the elimination of the noisy neighbour issue that often occurs when many tenants are crammed onto one machine, and the unpredictability of application performance that would traditionally be the case when that application or workload was deployed within a virtualised environmental.

In addition to applications and operating systems users will also be able to load up application containers and micro-VMs directly onto bare metal (with all the security and governance that brings with it), and if they must, a hypervisor, but the platform is hypervisor agnostic. Nigel Beighton told Business Cloud News that the service is a sign of what’s to come in terms of the next generation of cloud services – not just from Rackspace, as the industry looks beyond virtualisation towards more efficient methods of deploying workloads and offering applications via the cloud.

“When all of us originally came up with cloud we used virtualisation to get economies of scale and eventually, to be able to get these economies of scale and effectively deliver and provision this quickly,” Beighton said. “We took virtualisation technology that matured over ten years and that was fairly well understood, but to date there’s always been a dependency there in that if you wanted to do IaaS, on demand, with APIs, you had to have virtualisation underneath. That was a limitation because certain applications and workloads simply don’t work well in those environments.”

“You no longer have to make all of these legacy applications fit the cloud model – which was the original challenge with cloud and to some extent still is. You have the ability to spin up bare metal in a matter of seconds and deploy any application in that environment, whether it requires a virtualisation environment or whether it’s architected for bare metal.”

Beighton said providers have always had fast provisioning capability but it’s not the same as having full API control, and that’s where the step change occurs. And he explained that emerging app containerisation and micro virtualisation technologies like Docker and ZeroVM (it acquired LiteStack last year, one of its main contributors) in combination with platforms that give users and providers API control will help free them not only from virtualisation, but from thinking of the server and racks as the essential building block of cloud platforms.

“With containers, with micro-VMs I think we’re at a point where we need to start looking beyond the server as the lowest common denominator, the smallest building block, of an infrastructure as a service. It’s inefficient in terms of metal, power and workload.”

“The way we have to scale these huge workloads – the Googles, the Amazons, all of us – is not to look at the cloud as a formation of four meter high racks, but about thinking about it as a single piece of fabric that’s four meters high by 400 meters long and running billions of different kinds of jobs on there, whether they be in containers, or executing single pieces of code, or replicating entire machines.”

The OnMetal service is available for testing under limited availability and expected to enter general availability in the Rackspace Northern Virginia data centre this July, and the company said it will be available internationally sometime in 2015.