Partner Q & A: In the Cloud with Rackspace

| By: Sasha Butkovich

For ecommerce retailers focusing on running their business, hosting and technology solutions can be overwhelming. But in those critical moments when traffic overwhelms your site, or speed and performance suffer, those hosting and managed services can be the real difference makers. But what makes a hosting provider stand out?

At Rackspace, it’s a focus on best-in-class technology and exceptional, “fanatical” customer support. Justin McSheehy, Magento Practice Lead, shares his insights on what sets Rackspace apart, what his fellow Rackers bring to the ecommerce landscape, and why getting a straitjacket can actually be a good thing.

Let’s start with the quick pitch: What is Rackspace and what do you provide?

Rackspace is a customer-focused, application hosting and support (managed services) company. Retailers have more options than ever before in the technology space and it can be almost impossible to sift through all of the options out there and make the right decisions for their business. At Rackspace, we help our customers run their applications in the Cloud and utilize the best technology available to achieve their business goals. We call this results-obsessed approach Fanatical Support.

Rackspace Digital takes that culture a step further with a unique approach to optimizing technology infrastructure and application support for specific digital platforms. To date, we have named specialized support teams around Magento, hybris, Oracle Commerce (ATG), Adobe Experience Manager, and Sitecore.

Why are these managed cloud offerings so important for online retailers?

We understand that retailers are focused on running their business, and rightly so.  The last thing they want to deal with is trying to figure out how to scale Magento or MySQL across multiple servers to keep up with traffic as it surges. We look after their technology stack, so they can focus on their business and capturing revenue. Our Managed Cloud products are aimed to do just that: remove the complexity of running these applications in the Cloud.

Recently we have launched our Managed Cloud for Adobe Experience Manager product and next up is Magento. The objectives are simple: reduce time to deployment, maintain performance and scale through all types of traffic, and enable security. On top of that we provide best-in-class monitoring solutions and most importantly, Fanatical Support. By automating what were once manual processes and providing all of our customers with the ideal architecture for their application, we reduce errors and take buzzwords like “auto-scale” from a wish to a reality.

Roughly how many Rackspace clients are ecommerce brands?

Currently we have over 300,000 customers at Rackspace to date, a large number of which fall into the retail sector. With such a large customer base, we saw a tremendous opportunity to serve those companies running commerce and content applications. It made a world of sense to invest in specialized support teams and partner relationships that are complementary to our services.  This allows us to provide the best end-to-end support model possible.

For the Magento platform specifically, we are their only Platinum Hosting partner and we were awarded the Spirit of Excellence Award for Hosting Partners in 2015.  Ecommerce is a major focus area within Rackspace, and with this commitment and focus we are able to achieve a high degree of quality of service.

“We look after their technology stack, so they can focus on their business and capturing revenue.”


When ecommerce businesses come to Rackspace, what problems are they typically looking to solve?

We see ecommerce businesses of all shapes and sizes coming to Rackspace, and whether they are B2B, B2C, start-ups, or enterprise companies, we have solutions to meet their individual needs. These are customers who are looking for a hosting company to act like an extension of their IT department, and that is where Fanatical Support excels.

Our retailers expect us to be experts in hosting ecommerce applications and to help them develop a plan to grow their business by scaling their infrastructure. Rackspace guides customers through the Cloud and helps them navigate different technologies to find a solution that is best suited to their needs.

Can you tell us a little more about the new AWS product? What does this mean for businesses using Magento?

I would love to. To start, I cannot stress enough that this is an industry-changing partnership, but still fundamental to what Rackspace does – provide support on leading technology platforms. Rackspace now supports Amazon’s Cloud (AWS) and can manage AWS accounts and products for our customers. We have also taken the same initiative with the Microsoft Azure Cloud and thus added two stellar 3rd party Cloud providers into our portfolio of technologies we support.

The experience of using Fanatical Support for AWS feels just like that of any other Rackspace customer using one of our dedicated or Openstack products. This means that you interface over Rackspace ticketing systems, interact with your Rackspace account team, billing is through Rackspace, etc. it just so happens that the underlying server technology your application is running on is AWS.

For retailers that are using Magento this is great news. It is well known that AWS has some of the most advanced Cloud features and we are now blending that technology with the industry-leading human expertise at Rackspace. We can take all the award-winning knowledge we have learned in supporting Magento and apply it to the AWS Cloud and build highly scalable, fault-tolerant environments that are second to none.

Rackspace's Fanatical Jacket award.

Rackspace’s Fanatical Jacket award.

Rackspace strives for “fanatical” support. What does that mean to you, and have you ever won the straitjacket?

Fanatical to me is the real difference maker in our industry. When everyone can purchase the same server, or utilize the same Cloud technology, it is the quality and dedication of our support teams that differentiates us from everyone else in the market. In a world of increasing automation through API’s, it is the human element that will continue to set us apart.

The Fanatical Jacket is our company’s highest award and is only presented to Rackers that truly go above and beyond to demonstrate an outstanding level of customer service. To answer your question though, I have not won the award.  I have seen quite a few Rackers win it in my 3+ years with the company and what I have learned is this: the award cannot be won by a single act that is deemed Fanatical. You must truly embrace a Fanatical approach to every day of work, so much so, that you will never actually expect to win it and getting the award will always be a surprise.

What’s on the horizon for Rackspace this year, particularly relating to ecommerce?

Managed Cloud for Magento will be completed in 2016 and that will be a new hosting experience for customers using Magento. We have hosted Magento for many years and have applied that experience to design the optimal infrastructure and support our customers. Managed Cloud for Magento is a unique blend of DevOps automation, optimized infrastructure, and a highly knowledgeable support team, all of which make it a real game changer in the marketplace.

Magento is the model platform for customizable applications in the ecommerce sector and retailers have the ability to shape it any which way they want. However, there are certain aspects of an ecommerce site that all customers ask for: same day deployments, high performance, auto-scaling, auto-healing, always available, all backed by a knowledgeable support staff. We feel like Managed Cloud for Magento gives our retailers just that and still allows for the flexibility they need to make Magento work for them.  We are excited about our Managed Cloud products and when Managed Cloud for Magento is complete, we feel the market will share in our excitement.

Ready to learn more about managed services? Email hello@corra.com or visit Rackspace.com.

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Sasha Butkovich is Marketing Copywriter at Corra, a New York, Los Angeles and London based digital commerce agency creating unified commerce experiences for fashion, lifestyle and beauty. Corra’s ecommerce strategy, design and technology professionals deliver rich shopping and buying experiences across all channels and devices. Our team is trusted by retailers of all sizes to implement and support the Magento Enterprise, Demandware and hybris platforms.