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Rackspace cosies up to mobile developers

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Texan cloud prospector Rackspace hopes to strike gold by partnering up with mobile-focused companies to mine a rich vein of developer services.

The company announced on Tuesday a scheme that sees it offer free "mobile cloud stacks" service to developers, while partnering with mobile-specialist companies for additional services.

This sees Rackspace package up a set of open source technologies commonly used in mobile applications to be run on top of the company's OpenStack-backed range of cloud servers.

When deployed, this technology forms the underlay for a mobile application, the company's CTO John Engates said. He described the free mobile development recipe as "a timesaver... a frustration saver."

The stack is a package of open source software that sits on top of Rackspace's OpenStack-based cloud servers. It consists of a standard LAMP stack – Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP – along with a PHP accelerator named Varnish, MemcacheD, and some additional undisclosed tools designed to aid mobile applications.

"Rackspace knows these tools – it's already stitched these together," Engates said. "You don't have to reinvent the wheel."

It is deployed via an unnamed piece of deployment software developed internally at Rackspace.

The software package pairs up with an expanded partnership scheme to see Rackspace make overtures to developers – a decision that means that company is going a different route to its cloud contemporaries, which have either created mobile-specific layers on top of their platform-as-a-service technologies (Google, Microsoft), or who have made available more low-level IaaS services from which to create a mobile-specific stack (Amazon Web Services.)

Instead, the company has developed its stack package technology so it can stick to its professed goals of being an open cloud company – all the technologies within the cloud stack are open source and can be swapped in and out.

"We've seen this same pattern over and over again with lots of customers," Engates says.

The company has also partnered with FeedHenry, New Relic, Sencha, SOASTA, StackMob, and Trigger.io to make sure the companies' various technologies – mobile SDKs, push services, testing and monitoring capabilities and mobile backend platforms – all play nicely with Rackspace's cloud.

With the twin pressures of an increasingly mobile workforce and a dramatic increase in the capability and battery life of phones and tablets, many companies are betting big on mobile features as a way of growing share. For cloud computing, where companies hunt developers first and profits second, the mobile stacks are Rackspace's way of enticing people to locate their applications on its cloud, rather than others.

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