Working in the Cloud

This photo essay features images of the offices of the cloud-computing company Rackspace in Texas, Virginia, and New York, made by photographer Trenton Moore. In his words, here’s what’s behind the story:

We’d all probably be happy thinking that our data is stored in some magical cloud in the air, but in reality, the Facebook photos of your Aunt Betsy’s 62nd birthday are stored on a hard drive at a data center in a mysterious and likely remote part of the world. But it’s not just information as mundane as Facebook photos, data centers also hold serious things like email, medical records, and tax information. Essentially anything that gets stored on the internet gets stored in a data center. For security purposes, very few people work at data centers and access is impossible, so much so that even the people who work on data centers don’t work at data centers.

This is where Rackspace comes in. It’s one of the leading companies that sells hosting services (space at their data centers), and the support that comes with it, to other companies around the world. Rackspace is headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, but its employees are based all around the world. The company started in a downtown San Antonio high-rise, but quickly outgrew the space. At the time, one of the company’s executives had recently purchased an unsuccessful shopping mall on the outskirts of the city, so Rackspace moved into the old Windsor Park Mall. With departments that used to be department stores, and a slide being the fastest way to get from one floor to the next, the mall has been renovated to become what is maybe one of the most unique office headquarters in America.

Like many other tech companies, Rackspace puts an emphasis on merging the work/home life. Rackspace’s employees, often known as 'rackers' frequently bring their pets, and occasionally their children to work, there’s yoga in the offices, snacks are provided, and each desk is a personal statement. Many rackers work remotely from home and hardly see an office more than once or twice a week. Screens are filled with video conferences as employees consult each other from across the office or across the globe. The company’s hierarchy seems to be rather lateral, as well. The CEO sits in a cube no different than any other racker, and he’s open to chatting with anyone who stops by.

Documenting 'the cloud' has been is an especially challenging endeavor. In many cases the question became: How does one document and explain a technology whose very metaphor implies that it exists semi-intangibly? Ultimately, this shift in the way that Americans work is maybe best illustrated through the workers themselves. In the best possible way, Rackspace comes across as having a cult-like status among its employees. Several are 'boomerang' employees, who’ve accepted offers at other places, but ultimately come back to work at Rackspace a few years later. They're a truly passionate breed of people who are excited at the prospect of making technology go.

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