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Posts Tagged ‘hosting

I’ve been recently involved helping a new European start-up just launched a new Platform-as-a-Service capable of running and automatically scaling any Java application. Here’s a quick write-up on why I think Jelastic is really onto something, a service to try and a company to watch.

Say, you’ve got a great Java application which you want to put on the internet and make it available to the world. Believe it or not, up until today, what sounds like a trivial task simply could not be done. You effectively had to choose between lack of scalability, necessity to manually set up and maintain the whole software stack, requirement to re-write your code to conform to a particular framework (and get locked into it thereafter), or a combination of the above.

Traditional hosting simply leased you a server and had you set it up including the web server and Java stack – effectively making you spend hours and hours doing pure operational work instead of producing next biggest and coolest services. And obviously getting you confined to whatever servers you rented – so when you need to scale up due to being mentioned on Slashdot you were out of luck.

First generation Infrastructure-as-a-Service clouds (IaaS) like Amazon or Rackspace made server provisioning a simple programmatic call. This made scalability a little easier (at least you did not have to wait days or weeks to get more or less servers). However, all they did was effectively give you a bunch of (often overpriced) virtual machines leaving it to you to set them up, configure them, patch them. To make things worse, scalability was not free either. For these providers, more resources meant more virtual machines. Which in turn meant, that your application had to be designed to be able to run on multiple machines in parallel, and most likely using storage and instance coordination mechanisms specific to this platform. Thus, you were almost getting the worst of both worlds: limited scalability, extra operations tasks, high fees, and vendor lock-in.

Early Platforms-as-a-Service (PaaS) solutions like Google App Engine, Force.com, Windows Azure, and VMware CloudFoundry offered a trade-off of taking away the operational tasks of setting up and managing the virtual machines by requiring you to write your applications specifically for the platform – thus putting you at the maximum lock-in ever.

Jelastic – a new start-up which just launched its beta at Jelastic.com is aiming to learn from predecessors and give you the best of all worlds:

  • Easy to deploy and manage – like earlier PaaS systems, Jelastic automatically sets up, configures and maintains the software stack that you need (such as Tomcat server, MySQL database, load balancer, static content cache, and so on) – all you need is add your application on top.
  • Runs any Java application – with Jelastic there are no requirements to specifically adapt your code, simply upload the package and if it runs, for example, on standard Tomcat server (or for that matter JBoss, GlassFish, or Jetty) with MySQL (MariaDB, PostgreSQL, MongoDB, CouchDB) – it will run in Jelastic as is. This means painless deployments, zero learning curve, and most importantly zero platform lock in.
  • Automated scaling – most amazingly, Jelastic manages to scale your application up and down depending on the load it gets. As your application becomes popular and its use intensifies, Jelastic transparently gives it more memory and processing power.

See this quick video with Jelastic overview:

And a set of videos demonstrating the actual Java application deployment, autoscaling, and URL mapping.

Or even better, take your application and give it a try at Jelastic.com.

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Is there hard ROI to use a cloud IaaS instead of a server in your garage/basement/on-premise datacenter? I think there increasingly is and justifying self-hosting is getting increasingly tough.

I would actually go as far as posit that you can now get a server in a public datacenter at price comparable to your electricity bill alone!

If you don’t believe me – let’s do a quick math.

Mark Kolich noticed in his blog that the server he had running at his home was consuming 220 W, which at the consumer electricity costs of 12-cents per kWh means:

0.220 kWh * 12 cents = 2.64 cents per hour

Almost 3 cents/hour for electricity alone not taking into account: labor, server hardware amortization, data-storage costs (replacing a failed disk), cooling costs, ISP costs, security costs (routers, firewalls, etc.), power backup costs (a UPS) and so on. Mark notes that he could have probably bought a newer more energy efficient server – but the required investment would not justify the savings.

The shocking part is that the recent price competition of cloud infrastructure (IaaS) and platform (PaaS) vendors took the current cloud servers costs to roughly the same order of costs. Here’s a quick survey of a few major cloud players:

  • Microsoft is rolling out their 5 cent/hour option (with additional further discounts if you pre-pay for reserved use – e.g. say you have a bunch of instances which you have running all the time and you are willing to pre-pay for the next few months).
  • Same thing with Amazon: minimal price (although for a slightly more limited version) is already in 2 cent for Linux / 3 cent for Windows instance area, with reserved/pre-paid option getting as low as 0.7 cents/Linux & 1.3 cents/Windows.
  • Rackspace pricing starts at 1.5 cents/hour for Linux, and 8 cents/hour for Windows.

My take on these numbers is that you need to have a really good reason to go into hosting when there is so much price competition in that space and the margins are going down so fast.

The only good reason I can think of is hosting being your competitive advantage in some way. For example, being a local hosting company in a country which legislation is making it hard to use foreign datacenters. Or offering some level of compliance which public hosters cannot provide. And as a matter of fact both of these differentiators are gradually going away with the vendors quickly getting all the possible certifications and compliance stamps you can think of, as well as opening datacenters around the globe.

Cloud is cheaper than your own hosting regardless on how you calculate the costs. Get used to it.

Dmitry


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The posts on this blog are provided “as is” with no warranties and confer no rights. The opinions expressed on this site are mine and mine alone, and do not necessarily represent those of my employer Jelastic or anyone else for that matter. All trademarks acknowledged.

© 2008-2012 Dmitry Sotnikov

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