Rackspace has ventured into the private cloud business Rackspace Cloud: Private Edition, an OpenStack-powered cloud backed by Rackspace managed services and operational support. The offering is aimed at enterprise IT departments that want the benefits of Rackspace Cloud within their own data centers.

The offering is built on Rackspace’s experience operating its own cloud environment, and the goal is to apply that expertise—along with a reference architecture developed from that experience—to help enterprises run private cloud operations in production, the company said. Rackspace also is publishing the reference architecture in what it called “a continued commitment to openness and to help ensure compatibility and interoperability in the industry.” Rackspace Cloud: Private Edition is aimed at enterprise IT departments looking to build production clouds with OpenStack and leverage open source software, published reference architectures, certified deployment partners and ongoing help running the cloud from Rackspace, the company said.

A story on Wired.com compares Rackspace’s efforts to push OpenStack to RedHat’s efforts to distribute Linux as widely as possible:

If OpenStack is jockeying to be the Linux of the cloud, then Rackspace’s newly announced Rackspace Cloud: Private Edition could position the hosting company to be the cloud’s Red Hat. Rackspace Cloud: Private Edition, is essentially a distro of OpenStack that Rackspace will install and manage for you, either on your own datacenter hardware or on hardware that resides in a private corner of one of Rackspace’s own datacenters.

But the Red Hat analogy isn’t perfect, according to Rackspace CTO John Engates.

“I don’t know if we’re exactly like Red Hat,” Engates told Wired.com. “We want to offer services—we don’t want to sell software. Even though Red Hat doesn’t ‘sell’ their software, to get access to all their stuff you still have to pay them a license fee for a lot of the things that they add on top. But they’re not really managing your Linux for you; they’re just selling you a service contract around Linux. We’re actually planning to manage your cloud for you. We’re not putting a price on the software; we’re putting a price on the services that help people manage, patch, monitor, and upgrade.”

Rackspace’s new private cloud offering includes instant provisioning through a self-service portal for employees, API access for developers and admin control panels to set quotas and manage usage—all available in a company’s own datacenter.