RackN, the startup based in Austin, had launched their platform in beta last week. RackN aims to simplify infrastructure provisioning through a layered approach which decouples provision, control, and orchestration, giving users more flexibility without losing simplicity. In this research note, we will analyze their platform.
Data center infrastructure provisioning is an old trade helping enterprises provision data centers to meet their IT needs. However, with the advent of cloud, large enterprises and data center providers want to provision their data centers just like how Amazon and Google are provisioning their own data centers. The flexibility and speed enjoyed by the web-scale cloud providers give them a unique advantage in ROI which traditional data centers cannot match. However, for the past few years, there are tools (some are new, and others are an evolution of the traditional provisioning tools) that are enabling seamless provision of data center infrastructure leading to a new category called Bare Metal as a Service. This is partly due to the evolution of data center priorities to match the web-scale cloud providers and also due to the success of containers in the enterprise. Baremetal is a more natural fit for containers than virtualized environments (which are more of a stop-gap arrangement to fill a gap) and the success of Kubernetes has brought new found interest in Baremetal as a Service.
RackN platform is focussed on infrastructure automation but takes a more layered approach to automation. It decouples provisioning, management, and orchestration into different layers, thereby simplifying the processes while also giving customers flexibility on the orchestration tools they want to use. This composable approach to automation coupled with a powerful workflow feature based on their library, helps anyone get started with provisioning in 5 minutes and realizing tremendous ROI in the process. RackN platform brings a level of automation to underlying infrastructure that makes data center provisioning more competitive in this cloud world.
- RackN team has vast experience in the infrastructure provisioning and they have put their expertise in building this powerful platform.
- Decoupled approach to automation makes the platform lightweight and simple. Keeping orchestration separate helps users use any tool of their choice whether it is Ansible, Terraform, Puppet or Chef
- The success of Kubernetes and the hooks offered in the recent versions helps RackN platform provide the bare metal infrastructure for the containers and Kubernetes clusters can be deployed without the additional overhead of orchestration tools
- They have distinct advantage over the competitors with the powerful workflow automation feature
- They have to overcome the resistance to change. Most data center people are used to tools like cobbler and foreman. They need to convince them of RackN’s value. Essentially, they will be fighting against the human inertia
- In this era of cloud, they need to make a convincing case that Baremetal as a Service offers competitive ROI
- Containers are getting big and their integration with Kubernetes is going to give them an opportunity to emerge as the infrastructure for containers
- We have seen evidence that companies move back to their own data centers from the public cloud when they reach a certain scale (think Dropbox). RackN, with their competitive ROI, can emerge as a strong player in this trend
- Infrastructure companies can easily find a partner (or a potential acquisition target) in RackN
- Companies like Red Hat and Canonical with their server provisioning platforms will compete hard against RackN. But RackN has an advantage in terms of heterogeneity in the operating systems they support
- Public cloud market could grow big putting pressure on companies in the datacenter space
Cobbler, Foreman, Canonical MaaS, Matchbox
RackN is in an interesting situation with tremendous hype in containers and the performance advantage of Baremetal as a Service in the container dominated world. Their advantage with simplicity puts them in an advantageous position compared to all their competitors. But they need to gain mindshare (and eventually market share) to compete effectively
Disclosure: RackN was Rishidot Research client in the past