SOBE by David Sobeski

CEO of Rackspace

February 12, 2014

A Little Overview

Lanham Napier sat at the helm of Rackspace for fourteen years. Rackspace lead the hosting rage with a tag line of fanatical support and was a true pioneer in the dedicated hosted space. Eventually, with pressure from Amazon, Rackspace needed a cloud solution that would give them a toe in the water of cloud computing. The solution to this is OpenStack.

The best way to think about Rackspace is that it simply provides three core solutions:

  1. Public Cloud
  2. Managed Hosting
  3. Private Cloud

With these core offerings, of course you can select storage, compute, database, etc. What Rackspace does well is give you a choice between the various types of hosting and makes it simple to adjust (and mix-and-match) your type of cloud to your needs.

Rackspace starts a process Microsoft just finished by James Staten


The first job of the new CEO at Rackspace is to continue doing what it is doing. It needs to ensure that its enterprise salesforce is working on the right deals to continue to grow the company.

Second, don’t be pressured by Amazon. Rackspace needs to be the best Rackspace and not worry about the competition in order to build its great products. I am not saying it should not understand its competition and the products and services they provide deeply, but, they need to focus on what they do best.

With that out of the way, I would go find Blake Irving and create a Rackspace and GoDaddy deal that allows for Rackspace to be the leading provider for small businesses. I would also work with Microsoft and provide Office 365 as a core service on top of the Rackspace platform.

You can probably see that I would begin to move up the stack. Not simply provide a queueing service, but providing real value on top of the service that we have already built. I would deliver it on hybrid clouds (private and public).

Next, I would ensure that Rackspace is the best in Hadoop. Besides the products they already have, I would make a deal with Cloudera and be able to have a proven enterprise hub for big data.

As mobile devices become key in this new world, mobile devices should be able to do the computing and simply synchronizing and storing data in the Rackspace cloud (think Parse, but deeper). I would make it super simple for every application to automatically connect to the Rackspace cloud and automatically push data to the cloud that can be shared across applications and across devices.

We are seeing services like Box and Dropbox. This is troubling. Rackspace needs to get into this space to be a core hosting provide of automatic storage. Systems like Box/Dropbox/Google Drive/One Drive will all abstract the cloud away from provider like Amazon and Rackspace. It is imperative that Rackspace owns a big slice of this market. You need to strategically add more services to this layer, above and beyond what Box and Dropbox offer.

I think the core to being the next CEO of Rackspace is to begin to build the services on top of the cloud. In 5 years, customers should be consuming more of the “meta-services” and less of hosting. A developer shouldn’t think of hosting. I think about Nest. Nest should not have needed a cloud team. The Nest Thermostat should simply be able to communicate to a cloud. The Nest Development team would use a web-based tool, define the schema, some rules, have automatic device login and whola, you are connected to the cloud. You have automatic analytics and tracking and you never need to think about storage, databases, cloud scaling - the meta-services does it automatically for you.

Short-term versus Long-term

Short term, continue building the best cloud and focusing on small businesses by building new relationships. Continue to focus on start-ups and enterprises to get them to move to the cloud and providing a great Private-Public strategy that Amazon does not have.

Long-term, layout a vision for the future of the cloud. It isn’t about DynamoDB or RDS or complicated things like that. It is about simply connecting to a cloud and going, no more wording about PaaS or SaaS. It is simply building your application.

©2014 by David Sobeski