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Cloud providers leave Damon frowning over mirrors

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

Webvisions

I already host in a couple of locations in AsiaPac with Webvisions, but have in the past had to abandon hosting in Singapore and Beijing with them because the traffic was too small to justify the costs. Maybe, with some more cost-effective "cloudy" solution I can spend less money and target more locations, or better justify my current locations ...

Webvisions provides a simple monitoring service which in the first instance sends an email when a server stops responding, but Webvisions follows up with a phone call if need be; I've been impressed by their general level of service.

Webvision's calculator indicates that I'd probably need to spend something like £50/m for a small 1GB/1GHz Linux mirror (their prices are in Singapore dollars):

Virtual Machine 1: $50 Setup

  • Base VM with Processor(s) (1 Ghz, 1 VCPU) – $70.00 Monthly
  • VM Memory (1 GB RAM) – $25.00 Monthly
  • SAN Storage (RAID Protected SAS - 10 GB) – $12.50 Monthly
  • IP Addresses (0 Additional) – $0.00 Monthly

  • _________________________________
    Total Setup Fee: $50.00
    Total Monthly Price: $107.50

Note that the set-up charge effectively requires a longer-term commitment than the pay-as-you-go AWS and Rackspace models, where if you're not actually using resources you needn't pay anything. You can provision a new server at any time without delay once the account is open.

The demo/trial system set up for me was the next notch up in most dimensions (faster CPU, more RAM, more disc, more bandwidth) and was definitely nippy.

  • VM Resource Reservation: 1 vCPU, 2 GHz CPU, 2 GB RAM, 50 GB SAN Storage
  • VM Operating System: CentOS 5 64bit
  • VM Bandwidth: 10 Mbps (Shared/unmetered)
  • VM Applications: Tomcat 6, JDK 1.6

As the Webvisions configuration already includes a Tomcat and JDK, I did not install my own as I usually would, but in any case the setup was quick and essentially the same as usual.

I directly logged in via SSH to do everything I needed, no web console required.

The Webvisions install pulled in the least traffic (10GB/m), as expected, though not bad compared to the AWS instance, and at maybe one-third the cost of a dedicated Webvisions Linux host. The shared bandwidth isn't burstable, but for its low fixed cost I can live with that. This is definitely the most enticing from a business point of view.

Management wishlist

What I'd really like is for one simple operation to update/upgrade several mirrors as opposed to me manually working through error-prone steps manually as root for each location. With four or five servers, my current mechanisms are OK, and I don't always update all mirrors with every new micro-version (indeed I effectively beta-test some stuff on quieter mirrors before rolling out elsewhere), but if I was to continue running the eight servers during this test, or even more, I'd really benefit from a semi-automated approach.

Conclusions

I really could cut costs (and possibly energy/carbon footprint) by two times or more if I switched my mirrors to the services investigated above.

Webvisions is the best so far from a business perspective, and Rackspace (UK) did better than expected, though the Webvisions model is slightly less nimble than the pay-as-you-go and online provisioning of AWS and Rackspace.

In any case I'd expect to keep my mirrors spread across several providers ("cloud-of-cloud" style) as Tim Worstall suggests: to be largely immune to events like the recent AWS downtime at the cost of a little more management complexity for me.

What's next

Offloading to cloud storage, when in environments that support it, should (for example) make my systems more robust across restarts and give better performance to end users.

It may also be worth tweaking my code, especially for AWS, to work well with multiple instances behind a load balancer on a single URL. That might at least mask some of the instability issues I was seeing with AWS. ®

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

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