Jumping Clouds

I have been a Dreamhost customer for a number of years now, but because I’d like a bit more control over the versions of software (PHP, MySQL, memcache etc.) I use I decided to move to a VPS again. There are many good ones out there, but I decided to go with the Rackspace Cloud. Attempting to compete with Amazon AWS, Rackspace is rolling out a competing cloud platform. Currently it consists of Cloud Servers, Cloud Sites and Cloud Files, but given the fact that they hired the developer of Cassandra, a Cloud Database might be forthcoming.

Cloud Servers is what I’m using now, it basically allows you to cheaply spin up servers (virtual private servers, to be precise). You get a choice of a number of Linux distributions that you have to manage yourself. Similar to Amazon, you pay per hour for these servers. One big difference is that the lowest end Amazon EC2 server costs roughly $70/month and includes 1.7 GB of memory and 160 GB of hard drive space. Cloud Server configurations start at 256 MB of RAM (with 10 GB of hard drive space) which cost roughly $10/month, and configurations upwards to 15 GB of RAM (with 620GB of hard drive space) that costs $700/month. The nice thing is that you can easily up and downgrade your servers without the needs to reinstall. You can make back-ups which (soon) will be stored on Cloud Files (see below), when you instantiate a new machine, you can start it up from one of your back-upped images. Of course a $10/month VPS is very competitive with regular hosting, especially considering the fact that you get root access and thus can install whatever you want. And, because you only pay per hour, you can even just try it for a little while to see if you like it.

Cloud Sites is a more managed solution than Cloud Servers which starts at $100/month. It is mainly aimed at high-traffic sites, such as gdgt.com (which is hosted by them). Sites hosted on Cloud Sites are in fact hosted on a large number of machines, a number that is dynamically expanded as traffic increases. The nice thing about this solution is that you don’t have to worry about scaling your website yourself. The disadvantage is that the cost is higher and you do not get root access to the servers.

Cloud Files is a direct competitor of Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service). You upload your files there, store them for $0.15/month and they are distributed over Limelight’s content-delivery network. Outgoing bandwidth through this CDN costs $0.22/GB.