Rackspace to wind down Slicehost

It is encouraging customers to migrate to the Rackspace cloud and off the virtual private hosting service

Some Slicehost users were dismayed to hear that Rackspace, which acquired the company in 2008, plans to wind down the service.

In an email to customers on Tuesday, Mark Interrante, a Rackspace vice president, said the company will phase out the Slicehost virtual private hosting service and encourage customers to migrate to Rackspace. He did not say exactly when Slicehost would become unavailable, saying only that he wanted to start a dialog with customers about the transition over the next year.

In an interview, Interrante said that the company is investing more in the Rackspace cloud than in Slicehost. "There's more development on the Rackspace cloud from a feature perspective and growing the product. We want to get the best experience for our customers and the best experience is going to be on Rackspace," he said. For instance, he pointed to the new load balancer feature recently added to the Rackspace cloud.

In his email to customers, Interrante said maintaining the two services is inefficient. "With two brands, two control panels and two sets of Support, Engineering and Operations teams it has been a challenge to keep development parity between the products," he wrote.

In online forums, users complained that Rackspace would likely cost more, that customers would have to shoulder the burden of migrating to Rackspace, and that there are too many unanswered questions.

"They told us we might be hosed so come to the forums and discuss it. On the forums, they keep telling us they don't have answers," a user going by the name "jkoenin" wrote in the forum. He expects most of the 22 "slices," or virtual servers, he uses on Slicehost will likely be easy to migrate to Rackspace. But he has never used Rackspace or evaluated the offering and is worried that he won't have the time necessary to investigate it.

Several customers seemed inclined to move to Linode, another virtual private hosting service. One customer, going by "glibdud," said he compared prices and found that Linode is typically less expensive than Slicehost and Rackspace. "That said, I wouldn't switch if Slicehost was sticking around. I like the general no-nonsense feel of their operation, and that's worth a few potential extra dollars for me. In the circumstances, though, I don't feel any better about [Rackspace] than I do about Linode, so price might win that war," he wrote.

Interrante said the "vast majority" of Slicehost customers should not have a price increase in moving to Rackspace. The services are priced on a different model. Rackspace users pay by the hour and Slicehost customers pay by the month. Only the heaviest-bandwidth users should expect to pay more on the Rackspace cloud, he said.

The company is still working out the migration process. "My team's trying to make it as easy as possible," Interrante said. "We expect that for many people it's going to be a click or two and give us some more account information and you're good."

He could not share any additional information about the timing of the changes.

Customers should watch the Slicehost forum for the latest updates on the transition, he said. He expects more details to emerge there over the next few days.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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