Rackspace offering lets users build customized virtual networks

Rackspace leverages OpenStack's Quantum project to offer virtual networking capabilities to its cloud; partners with Hortonworks on Hadoop

Rackspace says it is now offering customers the ability to create customized virtual networks in a public cloud, using software defined networking-like capabilities.

Rackspace today announced Cloud Networks, which will let customers create multiple networks, or tiers of networks when spinning up cloud-based virtual machines. CTO John Engates says customers can now set up individual networks to support Web servers, application servers and databases through a virtualized layer 2 network, for example.

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Traditionally Rackspace has offered either a public or private network for customers, using vLANS (virtual Local Area Networks) separating customers using firewalls. In a blog post on the company's website, Rackspace announced what Engates calls a "true layer 2 isolation in the cloud."

John Engates

Cloud Networks incorporates IP from the OpenStack Quantum project, which is focused on virtual networking. Rackspace is running Open vSwitches inside its hypervisors to support the capability. The feature is only available in new OpenStack-powered clouds within Rackspace's offering, but Engates says the company hopes to roll out the service for customers to use Cloud Networks on their own premises. Doing so, he says, would create a common Layer 2 between the customer site and Rackspace's cloud, which Engates says would be a big step toward being able to move workloads between the two in a hybrid cloud.

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Engates says the advantage of Cloud Networks is seen most around giving customers the ability to customize their network configurations in their cloud environments. Customers can segment their workloads as they wish to create isolated networks from other customers within Rackspace's cloud or within their own cloud environment. In the example of having separate networks for Web, application and database servers, Engates says the advantage there is that if one of those networks were to be compromised in an attack, it would not necessarily jeopardize the other ones, for example.

Rackspace previously let customers segment systems using vLANS, but Engates says vLANs have limitations on the number of networks that can be created. With the new SDN architecture within Rackspace's data centers, there's no limit to the number of networks that can be created, allowing Rackspace to offer the ability for customers to create as many of their own networks as they want.

In addition to the SDN capabilities announced today, Rackspace has rolled out various other new features in the past few weeks. Last week, for example, it announced a partnership with Hortonworks, which specializes in and deploying and supporting Hadoop clusters. The service is initially available to spin up Hadoop clusters in Rackspace's hosting division, but the plan is to create a cloud-based Hadoop service, Engates says, by early next year.

Rackspace also introduced a block storage service based off code from the OpenStack community and a project named Cinder. The service is similar to the Elastic Block Storage (EBS) offered by Amazon and can be used by customers as an auxiliary storage service for virtual machines to support databases or other large-volume applications.

Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

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