Everyone can build a website, but not not everyone can build a good and popular website. If you can pull it off, you can enjoy benefits like building something people are using, recognition and – sometimes – money. It can be a good business, even your full time job. But bad things can happen, and you should be prepared for it. One of those things (well, actually this is not a bad thing!) is to have spikes in traffic… maybe as a result of getting on Digg.com, Reddit.com, Google News, or another major media outlet frontpage… or getting reviewed by Techcrunch or another major technology blog.
You want to be prepared for this, but you don’t want to spend tons of money on it. For example, having your own dedicated server costs more than a shared hosting account and requires you to have knowledge to administer it. Maybe you don’t have the knowledge or you don’t want to become a server administrator…and don’t have money to hire one. Even having your own dedicated server doesn’t guarantee it will survive the hordes of visitors coming from those major media outlets (having more than one dedicated server would help tremendously, but the cost also increases).
Imagine having the power of tens or hundreds of servers for the cost of a several shared hosting accounts. Sounds fantastic, right? Well, now it’s possible.
Welcome to the world of “cloud computing!” (or “grid computing” or “utility computing”, which are terms for the same thing).
What is “cloud computing?”
As Wikipedia describes it in technical terms:
Cloud computing is often confused with grid computing (a form of distributed computing whereby a “super and virtual computer” is composed of a cluster of networked, loosely-coupled computers, acting in concert to perform very large tasks), utility computing (the packaging of computing resources, such as computation and storage, as a metered service similar to a traditional public utility such as electricity) and autonomic computing (computer systems capable of self-management). Indeed many cloud computing deployments are today powered by grids, have autonomic characteristics and are billed like utilities, but cloud computing can be seen as a natural next step from the grid-utility model. Some successful cloud architectures have little or no centralised infrastructure or billing systems whatsoever including Peer to peer networks like BitTorrent and Skype and volunteer computing like SETI@home.
The majority of cloud computing infrastructure currently consists of reliable services delivered through next-generation data centers that are built on compute and storage virtualization technologies. The services are accessible anywhere in the world, with The Cloud appearing as a single point of access for all the computing needs of consumers. Commercial offerings need to meet the quality of service requirements of customers and typically offer service level agreements. Open standards and open source software are also critical to the growth of cloud computing.
As customers generally do not own the infrastructure, they are merely accessing or renting, they can forego capital expenditure and consume resources as a service, paying instead for what they use. Many cloud computing offerings have adopted the utility computing model which is analogous to how traditional utilities like electricity are consumed, while others are billed on a subscription basis. By sharing “perishable and intangible” computing power between multiple tenants, utilization rates can be improved (as servers are not left idle) which can reduce costs significantly while increasing the speed of application development. A side effect of this approach is that “computer capacity rises dramatically” as customers do not have to engineer for peak loads. Adoption has been enabled by “increased high-speed bandwidth” which makes it possible to receive the same response times from centralized infrastructure at other sites.
Or, put more simply, (Om Malik’s way), cloud computing means that the applications are running somewhere in the “cloud” (whether an internal network or the Internet). We, as users, don’t know and don’t care. Done right, cloud computing allows developers to develop, deploy and run applications that can easily grow in capacity (scalability), work rapidly (performance), and never – or at least rarely – fail (reliability), all without any concern as to the nature and location of the underlying infrastructure.
One pioneer who helped tremendously in developing the concept of virtualization/cloud computing was VMWare (now a public company). Others followed soon after (including Microsoft).
In a previous article we have presented a list of content delivery networks from around the world.
Let’s now present a list of companies which offers cloud computing/grid computing/utility computing.
As a side note, I don’t understand why many of these cloud hosting companies don’t list their customers (or some of them). I had to do some research to find out who is hosting who. I think having a list of customers would give them more credibility (or not, depending of how their service performs).
- Amazon Web services
Amazon is the poster child and the pioneer of cloud computing services and has several offerings:
- EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud)
- S3 (Simple Storage Service)
- SimpleDB (database)
- SQS (Simple Queue Service)
Amazon Web Services enables web-scale computing by providing access to an established infrastructure that gives you flexibility to run your business at “web-scale” — uninhibited by growth and demand.
* Scalability and elasticity – scale both up or down
* Fast response time
* 24/7 availability
* Rock solid reliability
With AWS offerings, you only pay for what you use. You can dynamically scale your system up and down depending on immediate requirements, and you only pay for resources as you need them. This means there are no upfront costs, so your developers can get started using web services without a huge investment.Developers don’t need to give up equity or incur huge capital expenses, because costs scale along with usage.
Many start-up companies (but not only) are using Amazon’s infrastructure to deliver their services.
Zoomii, Morph, Indy500, ShareThis, Alexa, Powerset, Washington Post, many Facebook applications, 37signals, YouOS, SmugMug, AdaptiveBlue, GigaVox are some of Amazon’s clients.
Media Temple’s (gs) Grid-Service is a completely new hosting service that replaces yesterday’s obsolete shared server technology (or, at least, that’s what they say – personally, I think shared web hosting will still stick around for a while). They’ve eliminated roadblocks and single points of failure by using hundreds of servers working in tandem for your site, applications, and email.
The (gs) Grid-Service’s on-demand scalability means you’ll always be ready for intense bursts of traffic and the growing audience resulting from your online success.
All of this power, controlled through our brand new AccountCenter, is available today for a price point unmatched by any competing service.The price is $20/month per account (included: 1 TB traffic, 100 GB storage, 100 unique sites, 1000 email accounts, 100 databases, 64 Mb Ruby on Rails grid container). Not bad at all and quite close to some shared hosting providers prices. If you exceed the bandwidth then you’ll be charged $2,56/Gb (which is not that cheap).
Some of most known tech blogs are hosted on Mediatemple: Techcrunch, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, Venturebeat (they often have bursts in traffic as a results of their articles).
- Rackspace Cloud (formerly Mosso)
Rackspace Cloud (formerly Mosso) is a division of Rackspace, one of the most well-known and reliable dedicated web hosting providers around. You can create a new Rackspace Cloud-powered site – and even add some email accounts – in less than five minutes. Load-Balancing, clustering, and redundant storage are all inherited by your application automatically, without any effort.From the first byte served, your site is hosted on advanced clustered technology designed for high-traffic, high-performance websites.
When your site grows bigger than what’s included, you pay inexpensive scale pricing for exactly what you use and nothing more.The price is $100/month (which includes: 500 GB traffic, 50 Gb storage, 10,000 compute cycles/month). Then you pay as you go: 25 cents/GB traffic, 50 cents/GB storage, 1 cent/compute cycle.
GigaOm, Qrimp, CenterNetworks are some of Rackspace Cloud’s customers.
Joyent provides cloud computing infrastructure and services to Web 2.0 developers and Fortune 500 companies. They make it possible for their clients to quickly develop an idea into a web application for millions of users, without the pain of large capital outlays and long-term vendor contracts. Joyent Accelerators are the fundamental building block of their cloud.
Accelerators are virtualized servers deployed within an ecosystem of the highest grade networking and routing fabric available, hardware load balancing, persistent and fast storage, and a top notch systems development and operations team. AcceleratorTM powered compute cloud provides a highly scalable on-demand infrastructure for running web sites, including rich web applications written in Ruby on Rails, PHP, Python and Java. Joyent’s cloud is open, scalable, and fast.Joyent has the largest Open Solaris installation in the world.
They have several Accelerator plans to choose from (at different pricings), and as well as a variety of multi-Accelerator Scale Packs.
hi5, BigFileBox, TheSmarterfish, Kinzin are some of their customers.Joyent also provides free Accelerators for OpenSocial and Facebook developers. From what I’ve heard, Twitter was one of their customers in the past.
This is an UK company with a pure pay-as-you-go pricing model (after leaving a £10 deposit).
Some of their features:
- Self-provisioning of Virtual Dedicated Servers via Control Panel or API
- Virtual Dedicated Servers can be created or re-started in <1 minute via Control Panel or API
- Full self-service: start/stop/delete, change memory/CPU/storage/IPs of Virtual Dedicated Servers
- Allows multi-tier architectures through a high-speed internal GigE network
- Persistent storage based on a fully virtualised high-end SAN/NAS back-end
I couldn’t find customers of Flexiscale as examples; maybe they will update their website with that kind of info.
GoGrid is a ServePath division (another dedicated hosting company) and is the world’s first multi-server control panel that enables you to deploy and manage load-balanced cloud servers in just minutes. It delivers true “Control in the Cloud” by combining many of the familiar features of dedicated server or managed hosting with the flexibility and scalability of cloud server hosting.
The pricing model is a combined one:
- pay-as-you-go (8 servers, free F5 hardware load balancing, $0.19/RAM hour, $0.50/GB, free inbound data transfer)
- pre-paid plans
BYOAudio, ToxicVibes, Motivepath, Jango Studios, Shepard, Chiizu are some of GoGrid’s customers.
AppLogic is the first grid operating system that is designed for web applications and is optimized for transactional and I/O intensive workloads. It uses advanced virtualization technologies to ensure complete compatibility with existing operating systems, middleware and applications. As a result, AppLogic makes it easy to move existing web applications onto a grid without modifications.
Although they have some customers like British Telecom, NeXplore Corp., Contegix, International News Media (INM), Voodoo, EveryTrail, and MySatori, I’m wondering how much these customers are paying.There’s no info about the prices on their website and you have to call or fill a form to get a quote.
Why not just say the price, 3Tera? At least a base price…
AT&T Synaptic Hosting service provides a complete hosting package, including managed servers, LAN, security, and storage, along with designated account support and backed by a holistic Service Level Agreement.
The service is integrated into a virtualized “pay-for-what-you-use” infrastructure that can adapt to changing demands from users or applications.
Of course, there is no price on the AT&T site (you have to call a sales rep) and there is no list of customers, either.
The dynamic CloudNine infrastructure adjusts, responds to and meets your evolving business needs. Their standards-based managed platform leverages world-class technologies to stretch the boundaries of Virtualization.
CloudNine is strategically dispersed in Hosting.com data centers and is backed by an experienced service team 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
They have clients listed on the website, but no specific customer is tied to the cloud computing solution they offer.
Offers a powerful, self-service virtual lab management application to set up, access and manage your virtual environments over the Web. You can develop and run your applications and virtual machines unchanged in the cloud on the industry-leading hypervisors, including VMware and Xen, with planned support for Microsoft Hyper-V.
Skytap supports all operating systems that run on these hypervisors, including Microsoft Windows, Solaris and Linux variants.
Skytap Virtual Lab has a simple, low cost subscription model starting at $500/month. For that amount, they offer a pre-configured setting, and you can add more if you need it (of course, at an additional cost).
Some of their customers are: VDIworks, AdmitOne Security, Kivati, Building i
- Sun Network
Network.com offers flexible access to the pay-per-use computing resources of the Sun Grid Compute Utility and its growing catalog of high-performance computing applications. ISVs and software developers can use the Network.com platform to easily build, test, and deploy their on-demand applications to anyone on the Internet.
They don’t have a catalog of prices, so you have to call them to find out.
AMD, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Infosolve technologies, SimBioSys eHits, CDO2, and Applied Biosystems are some of Sun’s clients.
- Google App Engine
Now you can use the Google infrastructure at an unbeatable price: free!
Google App Engine lets you run your web applications on Google’s infrastructure. App Engine applications are easy to build, easy to maintain, and easy to scale as your traffic and data storage needs grow.
With App Engine, there are no servers to maintain: you just upload your application, and it’s ready to serve your users.App Engine costs nothing to get started. Sign up for a free account, and you can develop and publish your application for the world to see: no charge and no obligation.A free account can provide up to 500MB of persistent storage and has enough CPU and bandwidth for about 5 million page views a month.
Python is currently the only language supported by Google App Engine, but they are planning to support more languages.There are many applications developed to use Google App Engine. You can see a list here.
GridLayer is a division of Layered Technologies, a web hosting company.
Using 3tera’s award-winning AppLogic Grid OS, Layered Technologies is able to provide grid computing solutions by harnessing the power of their data centers and making it available to you on-demand: processing power, bandwidth, and storage capacity.
With their web-based grid solutions, there’s never any hardware to deploy, configure or maintain. The grid assembles all the infrastructure pieces needed on-demand, configures them, and runs your application on top.
They have different packages to choose from:
- Virtual private Server (VPS): $49/month
- Virtual Private Datacenter (VPDC): $349/month
- DynaVol Storage Solution: $15/month
Gridlayer doesn’t list their customers on their website.
With the AppNexus cloud, it takes just 30 minutes to reserve top quality servers for your sole use, launch as many virtual operating systems as you like, run applications, load balance those applications, and store a terabyte of secure data – all while knowing that your infrastructure is permanent and safe until you choose to dismantle it.An enterprise datacenter is at your fingertips.
With PrivateScale there is no need to spend excessive time, headaches, and dollars to build an infrastructure that may not meet your needs six months down the road.To get started with them you need to contact one of their architects and tell him your needs. Then you will get a solution and a price.
No customers are listed on their website.
- Terremark Enterprise Cloud
The Enterprise Cloud is a revolutionary new managed platform that gives you the power to provision computing resources for your mission-critical applications in minutes, not days.Instead of buying costly, cumbersome servers, Enterprise Cloud services lets you control a resource pool of processing, storage and networking and allows you to deploy server capacity on demand.
Terremark Worldwide is a leading global provider of IT infrastructure services delivered on the industry’s most robust and advanced operations platform.
- NewServers is a leading provider of on-demand dedicated utility servers. With datacenter services located at NAP of the Americas in Miami, FL and multi-gigabit networks managed by Internap, NewServers provides the industry’s leading dedicated utility server architecture with hourly billing.The difference with them is that they offer physical Dell Poweredge Blade servers instead of virtual servers (like Xen, VMware and others).You still get all the features of EC2, like snapshots and the ability to scale up and down on demand. That seem to make them unique.
The price is $0.11/hour (yes, they bill hourly – monthly billing is available). Upon your first server activation, you will be charged $20 which will go into your NewServers account. Their automated NOC software allows our clients to provision and cancel servers in real time.
They don’t list any customers on their website.
- EngineYard is a traditional hosting company which also offers cloud computing kinda service called Clusters. Engine Yard is dedicated to furthering innovation in Ruby, Rails and cloud computing (Ruby on Rails being the new kid on the block in the web development area).
They have different ranges of price so you better checkout their offers page.
One of their customers is Rupture (an online destination connecting gamers around the world, allowing them to share gaming experiences, events, challenges and achievements). Rupture is a Shaw Fanning initiative (the same guy who brought you the original Napster).
- Hosting365 is the Ireland leading hosting company which also offers clound computing solution using HP blade servers and VMware virtualization software.
They don’t have a price list but they do have some customers like Tesco Ireland, O2, Daft.
Cloud platforms are not that common today (as regular web hosting is, for example) but in 3-5 years from now that might not be true anymore. Their advantages are clear: scalability and lower cost.
As you see, there are plenty of choices to choose from! We would be glad to hear your experience with any of them.
In a next article we will present what kind of software some of these companies are using to build their cloud computing infrastructure (hint: virtualization is one of them).
Read more about cloud computing here:
- How cloud & utility computing are different (GigaOm blog)
- Cloud computing definition (Wikipedia)
- Cloud computing definition (Wikinvest)
- Cloud computing blogs (Highscalability blog)
- Short introduction to cloud platforms (David Chapelle – PDF download)
- Guide to cloud computing (Information Week)
- What cloud computing really means (Inforworld)
- Cloud versus cloud: A guided tour of Amazon, Google, AppNexus, and GoGrid (Inforworld)
- Is it all clear skies ahead for cloud computing? (Guardian)
- Cloud computing is a trap, warns GNU founder Richard Stallman (Guardian)
If you have suggestions regarding the list above (maybe adding another service provider), feel free to tell us.