Executive Corner

Cloud Hosting Series, Part 3: Making Hosting Better…Not Just Bigger

In part 2 of our Cloud Hosting Series, ServInt CTO Matt Loschert made some interesting comparisons between VPS and Cloud Hosting.  One of the things Matt said was “Cloud Hosting creates a world in which server instances are transient and disposable. The instance is no longer important — the communication and cooperation between instances is.” Pretty dense. Still, it got me thinking because this notion is at the heart of the promise of Cloud Hosting.

I was still thinking about it when I showed up to the local deli for a sandwich yesterday. I usually go around 2pm. Yesterday I went at 12:30. The place is tiny and normally sleepy-quiet. It’s just the owner at the counter and her son working the register. Frankly, I’ve sometimes wondered how they stay in business. But yesterday, an hour and a half earlier than I usually go to lunch, the joint was packed – and three times while I was there I saw groups of people come to the door, look at the line and walk out. Most of the time the owner’s just sitting on her hands when I come in. I realized that at 12:30, her business is made – but it’s not maximized.

So what does this have to do with Cloud Hosting? Well, the number one goal of Cloud Hosting seems to be the ability to achieve new levels of scalability. My deli experience serves to remind that the challenge of scalability to a business is not new.

ServInt has been a pioneer in finding solutions to the needs of customers who need to scale, sometimes quickly. Our entire VPS and Dedicated lines have been built to allow customers to expand and contract their single server at will. With the tech we employ today you can do things you can’t do in the real world. In an enterprise-class VPS world my little corner deli could simply grow in size to meet demand by calling the landlord—in this case a hosting company like ServInt—and ordering up a bigger space. One simple move later and the deli could handle the increased number of customers.

This has been a revolutionary and tremendously successful model, but it’s not without its problems and inefficiencies. The VPS model relies on manual configuring by the hosting company and time to complete any necessary migrations. The promise of a well-designed Cloud Hosting platform offers a tempting improvement on this.

To be fair to VPS, new improvements are continually being developed that bring these basic Cloud benefits into the VPS realm. In fact, there is a lot of pressure in the industry for companies like ServInt to call what we do with our VPS products “Cloud Hosting”. After all, when well-designed and backed up by high-end hardware, VPS has high-redundancy and incredible on-demand scalability at the core level AND the individual resource level. It doesn’t fit every technologist’s dream list of what a Cloud Hosting offering should be, but what does? It’s Cloudy and that’s good enough for some people.

Imagine what it would mean to my deli owner’s business if she could rely upon scaling technologies like the ones that I’m describing here. When the deli is packed, the owner hits a button and the deli magically gets bigger. When the rush ends, the owner hits another button and the new store shrinks back down. The landlord simply bills the deli owner rent and utilities based on the size of his restaurant at any given time. It would truly allow her to maximize her business. This kind of scaling may be fiction in the real-world, but in the Internet it’s very real – and available today. You can achieve that kind of rapid scalability right now, by either purchasing a scalable platform such as a VPS, or a Cloud instance configured to be used like a VPS.

But as Matt pointed out in his post, this benefit—while enticing to many—does not realize the true potential of Cloud technology. What VPS—and Cloud utilized like VPS—provides is the ability to take a single store, and either during a special promotion or just during the peak time of the day, turn it into a much, much larger single store. What Cloud Hosting promises you’ll be able to do is to take that single store and, instead, turn it into five, ten or one hundred identical stores working both independently and interdependently, increasing both redundancy and scalability in the process. At some point, no matter how big a single deli you build, if that deli becomes infinitely popular that one deli will eventually be too crowded to handle its business effectively. But if you turn that one deli into a whole chain on the fly… that’s another matter.

But here’s the thing – right now that kind of scaling doesn’t work right out of the box. Right now it takes coding. And so, frankly, a whole lot of people are getting Cloud instances and using single-instance scalability – basically using a Cloud instance like a VPS. And that’s fine for many.  This industry’s next steps will be in taking the true scalability promise of Cloud and making it attainable to a general business consumer. Once we do, we’ll truly achieve what Matt Loschert was talking about when he described a world in which individual server instances are transient and disposable. Once that is achieved, so will incredible levels of scalability, to greater degrees than we have imagined — and incredible levels of redundancy as well.

So just how does a hosting company build out a Cloud solution? Coming soon in part two of this post, I’ll talk about what providing businesses with the ability to scale like this looks like behind the curtain from a nuts-and-bolts perspective.

Photo by wwarby

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