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Comparison: Amazon Cloud vs. RackSpace Cloud

Posted by QuoteColo on August 27, 2014 - Updated on February 20, 2023

When it comes to picking a Cloud provider, there are many choices. You could decide to go with the upstart playing with container technology or you could choose to go with a reputable IT company offering everything from dedicated servers, to Linux Cloud servers and everything between.

Whatever your choice, no one is going to fault you if you end up selecting either the Amazon Cloud EC2 Platform or the RackSpace Cloud. Both are big boys in the space. Both are highly evolved, both offer a wide variety of products, both are constantly setting the bench mark for the industry and both have excellent pricing models to meet all demand.

In this post, we are going to compare both providers in terms of:

  •  Instances
  •  Prices
  •  Additional Product Offerings

The Wide Variety of Amazon Cloud Instances

With size comes the ability to offer clients a wide variety of products. In terms of Amazon EC2 instances, Amazon does exactly that. Taken directly from the Amazon EC2 instances page:

“Amazon EC2 provides a wide selection of instance types optimized to fit different use cases. Instance types comprise varying combinations of CPU, memory, storage, and networking capacity and give you the flexibility to choose the appropriate mix of resources for your applications. Each instance type includes one or more instance sizes, allowing you to scale your resources to the requirements of your target workload.”

A quick look at the Amazon EC2 Cloud instance page reveals instances for:

General Purpose

  • T2 (micro, small, medium)
  • M3 (medium, large, xlarge, 2xlarge)

 Compute Optimized

  • C3 (large, xlarge, 2xlarge, 4xlarge, 8xlarge) 

Memory Optimized

  • R3 (large, xlarge, 2xlarge, 4xlarge, 8xlarge)


  • G2 (large)

 Storage Optimized

  • I2 (xlarge, 2xlarge, 4xlarge, 8xlarge)
  • HS1 (8xlarge)


In total, Amazon EC2 provides a total of 23 instance types that can be custom configured to meet user demand all of which are backed by:

–         Burstable performance

–         Multiple storage options

–         Enhanced networking for higher packet transmission per second

–         Clustered networking

–         Industry leading Intel processors featuring:

  • Intel AES-NI encryption instruction set,
  • Intel AVX to improve performance for applications like image and audio/video processing, scientific simulations, financial analytics, and 3D modeling and analysis
  • Intel Turbo Boost Technology designed to automatically run cores faster than the base operating frequency

As you can tell, Amazon EC2 provides a wide variety of instances to meet all demands. With size comes product-offering scope.

The Wide Variety of RackSpace Cloud Instances

As already seen, Amazon EC2 deploys a large variety of cloud instances. Likewise, RackSpace provides a large variety of Cloud instances for consumer use. The major difference between both being whereas the Amazon product set aims a truly wide net, the RackSpace Cloud offers infrastructure with service.

As taken from the RackSpace Cloud Servers webpage:

“We don’t offer raw infrastructure without service—because your application needs more than just a high-performance, reliable cloud infrastructure. Achieving great business outcomes requires knowing how to run the most demanding workloads in a cost-effective way. That’s why every account includes services and expertise, along with a high-performance, reliable, and secure cloud infrastructure.”

To this end, RackSpace differs from Amazon by providing more than simple raw compute infrastructure. RackSpace Cloud instances are broken into three categories:

–         General Purpose, a.k.a. Performance Level 1, best used for “test and development, web servers, batch processing, network appliances, small databases, and most general-purpose computing workloads.”

–         I/O Optimized, a.k.a. Performance Level 2, best used for “medium to large relational databases and NoSQL data stores.”

–         OnMetal I/O Optimized, a.k.a. OnMetal, best used for “Large scale online transaction processing (OLTP), relational databases, and NoSQL data stores.”

Slated under General Purpose RackSpace Cloud servers are 51 different instances. Consumers can choose from one of six operating systems – Linux, Windows, Windows + SQL Web, Windows + SQL Standard, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Vyatta vRouter – which can then be further broken down into three service levels – Managed Infrastructure, Managed Operations: SysOps and Managed Operations: DevOps Automation.

Slated under I/O Optimized RackSpace Cloud severs, there are 63 different instances of performance level two. As with performance level one, consumers can choose from one of six operating systems – Linux, Windows, Windows + SQL Web, Windows + SQL Standard, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Vyatta vRouter – which can then be further broken down into three service levels – Managed Infrastructure, Managed Operations: SysOps and Managed Operations: DevOps Automation.

Slated under OnMetal, all RackSpace OnMetal Instances come in three flavors: OnMetal Compute, OnMetal I/O and OnMetal Memory. Of the three categories, consumers can choose from nine versions all under Managed Infrastructure, Managed Operations: SysOps and Managed Operations: DevOps Automation. Unlike performance level one and performance level two, OnMetal instances are only available with a Linux operating system.

As you can tell, just like Amazon, RackSpace offers it’s consumers a wide variety of instances at varying performance levels and prices.

Cloud Instance Conclusion:

Both Amazon EC2 and RackSpace offer a wide variety of instances to meet every consumers needs.

Amazon and RackSpace Cloud Prices

For the vast majority of web hosting and Cloud hosting consumers, price is often the deciding factor. While the majority of Cloud Computing solutions sell consumers on a single per month cost, other providers like Amazon and RackSpace sell consumers on a more granular price breakdown including per month and per hour billing.

The idea behind the breakdown in billing types is simple: if you know you are only going to use your Cloud server for a small amount of time per day, the more granular pricing – per hour – makes more sense to follow. However, if you know you’re going to use your Cloud server over the course of the month, per month billing makes sense to follow.

While we won’t partake in direct price comparison between likewise services, we will go ahead and say a fair apples-to-apples comparison of Amazon EC2 vs. RackSpace Cloud in terms of pricing isn’t possible. Amazon is the larger of the two companies and thus, almost across the board, costs less for similar RackSpace Cloud solutions.

As noted by RackSpace CTO John Engates,

“We’re not the only ones discussing the importance of dedicated computing. Amazon Web Services recently chopped the price of a product it calls “EC2 dedicated instances.” As part of that move, AWS cut its “dedicated per region fee” — the extra fee charged to a customer for each region in which it runs a dedicated cloud instance — by 80 percent, from $10 an hour to $2. AWS also reduced by lesser amounts the cost of the dedicated instances themselves. But a lower unit price doesn’t always mean lower costs overall. Nor does it always deliver value when one considers an apples-to-apples comparison of performance and support.

We at Rackspace don’t aspire to offer the lowest unit prices. We strive instead to offer the best value, which includes the value of our award-winning Fanatical Support.” – July 16th, 2013

Outwardly, RackSpace knows they can’t compete with the pricing of Amazon due to the sheer size of the provider. Remember, Amazon makes the majority of their money selling physical goods, not Cloud products. RackSpace, on the other hand, is a true web hosting provider selling nothing but infrastructure, servers, applications and support.

For this reason, an apples-to-apples price comparison simply isn’t valid. Many web hosting articles comparing Amazon EC2 vs. RackSpace will ebb on the side of Amazon winning out the price battle yet all said, the comparison used is never level.

Cloud Pricing Conclusion:

Across the board, Amazon is cheaper. Due to their sheer size and backing, the Amazon EC2 Cloud is a cheaper and more affordable Cloud hosting option than the RackSpace Cloud. This said, the comparison isn’t straight across and can’t, in jest, be held in the same vein.

Amazon EC2 Cloud is cheaper yet cheaper doesn’t mean better or the more affordable in the long run.

Additional Cloud Services: Amazon vs. RackSpace

With some providers, when you purchase Cloud hosting, you get that and only that. With Amazon and RackSpace, you get much more.

Both providers supply consumers with the option to expand to dedicated hosting, email hosting, website hosting, custom app hosting and comprehensive disaster recovery plans. While both offer a wide variety of options, Amazon wins the race in the sheer number of additional services consumers can access while utilizing Amazon as their provider. Some of those products are:

–         Databases

–         Analytics

–         App Services

–         Mobile Services

–         Applications

–         AWS Marketplace

–         Big Data Resources

–         Web Development Resources

–         Gaming Development Resources

–         Digital Media Server Resources

Due to the size of Amazon, they offer a lot.

And yet, the issue which truly sets RackSpace apart from Amazon isn’t the RackSpace Application Market or the DevOps Advisory Services. No. The major consumer buy in for RackSpace over Amazon is RackSpace “fanatical support”.

Above all competitors in the industry, RackSpace has made their name by sticking to their creed of providing “fanatical support”. With avenues of communication ranging from phone support, to online ticket support, to email support, live chat support, community bases support and knowledgebase support, RackSpace holds true to being their for their consumers 24x7x365.

Amazon does provide support yet at the price they charge and for the level of support their supply, just like price, it isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison to RackSpace.

Additional Cloud Services Conclusion:

Amazon offers more additional Cloud services, more add-ons, than RackSpace. RackSpace, on the other hand, is ways ahead of Amazon in terms of consumer support.

When choosing between the two solutions, if you consider yourself a web hosting junkie who extracts joy out of fixing Apache and MySQL, go with Amazon. If, on the other hand, you are a business or someone without technical knowledge, RackSpace is your play.

Final Verdict: Amazon Cloud EC2 vs. RackSpace Cloud

The truth of the matter is while Amazon might out perform the RackSpace Cloud in certain places and while RackSpace might out perform the Amazon EC2 Cloud platform in other places, no one will fault you for choosing either one of these providers as your Cloud hosting company of choice.

Both Amazon and RackSpace are well-tested companies who understand the market, understand market demand, understand what price the market will pay for services and most importantly, understand performance and price mean nothing without reliability.

RackSpace and Amazon are similar in many circumstances yet both strive to outperform the market when it comes to service reliability.

The Bottom Line: Choosing the Amazon EC2 Cloud or the RackSpace Cloud is a smart choice when compared to the rest of the market.


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