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ElasticHosts makes cloudy servers newbie friendly

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ElasticHosts, the British hosting and cloudy infrastructure provider that is pitting its homegrown ElasticStack cloud fabric against the likes of VMware and the OpenStack and CloudStack projects, has tweaked its cloud offerings to make them suitable to relatively unsophisticated users.

Founders Richard Davies, the company's CEO, and Chris Webb, the CTO, have been running hosting companies since 1998, and ElasticHosts and the ElasticStack platform that they have built is the latest instantiation of their work.

The ElasticStack cloud fabric runs on Linux and uses the KVM hypervisor as its server abstraction and slicing tool. The first release of ElasticStack went live in 2008 internally at ElasticHosts, and in November 2010 the company rolled up its tools into a 1.0 distribution and allowed other service providers and those building internal clouds to buy software and support from ElasticHosts.

The 2.0 release, announced last July, merged the Sheepdog distributed block-level storage system, which is an open source project created by NTT Labs in Japan, with the ElasticStack fabric. This allows its end user customers to run compute and storage functions on the same server nodes rather than having to install a SAN or external clustered disk array to serve up storage for the VMs running on the fabric.

The ElasticHosts cloudy infrastructure is available through a self-service portal and capacity is acquired on an hourly basis, just like other clouds out there. But not everyone who needs to run a virtual server has the chops to do it properly, just as is the case with physical servers that get tucked under desks and stuffed in closets.

Therefore ElasticHosts is rolling out a managed service add-on to its cloudy slices. ElasticHosts wants to create code and run its six data centers – two outside of London, plus one in Toronto, Ontario; one in San Antonio, Texas, and the last in Los Angeles, California, all liked by Peer 1's 10Gbit backbone – not babysit end users.

But it also wants to offer better customer service than rival Amazon with its AWS cloud. And for this, Davies tells El Reg, ElasticHosts has subcontracted the handholding out to Cloudways, a cloud management tool and service provider based in Malta.

Pricing for the Managed Cloud Server service from ElasticHosts varies by the configuration and service level, says Davies, but generally speaking the uplift on the price compared to self-managed slices is about 30 per cent. The more services you add, the higher the price.

Unlike Amazon, which gives you fixed server images, ElasticHosts true to its name, allows you to pick the data center you throw your apps in and dial up and down the speed of the processor and the number of cores as expressed in aggregate megahertz across the cores, memory, disk, and data transfer out of the slice independently of each other.

You can monkey around with the pricing here, but the base slice with one 2GHz core, 1GB of main memory, and 1GB of disk is 12 cents an hour in the United States or eight pence an hour in the United Kingdom. Loading up a slice with all the CPU capacity (20GHz aggregate) and memory capacity (16GB) that ElasticHosts offers drives the price up to $1.40 per hour in the US and 99 pence per hour in the UK.

Add around 30 per cent to that to get management of the entire software stack on the image, including monitoring, patching, and backups. Cloudways will also do migrations from other clouds and clustering for high availability if you want, too.

For companies that want to set up simple HTML or PHP web sites, ElasticHosts is partnering with Hybrid Sites, which has created a distributed web application environment called Hybrid Cluster, to do automagic scaling and load balancing of virtual servers on the ElasticHosts cloud. The software also can be deployed on your own bare-metal servers and cloudy slices from CloudSigma, another hoster, if you want triple redundancy and load balancing. ®

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