ServePath, a six-year-old managed hoster out of San Francisco that Deloitte figures is one of the fastest-growing companies in America, has what it thinks is the very first Windows cloud in creation, and is positioning it as “the first real alternative” to the mighty Amazon’s EC2.
The widgetry, which had been in public beta since late last summer, is called GoGrid and ServePath says it’s been working on it for the last two year.
Based on Xen, GoGrid offers users point-and-click deployment of any of, oh, maybe, 30 different virtual server images from a cute web-based graphical dashboard (that you can see for yourself at http://blog.gogrid.com/wp-content/uploads/GoGrid_Flash/GoGrid_Flash_Demo.htm).
The servers include a collection of CentOS and Red Hat configurations but it’s the Windows 2003 and SQL 2005 servers that ServePath expects to get the most mileage out of. And in any case F5 hardware load balancing is thrown in for free for the sake of scalability and redundancy.
The company figures the way it’s designed makes GoGrid more like the dedicated servers or collocation experience that most IT folk are comfortable with than Amazon with its API-only interface and modified Amazon Machine Images.
GoGrid’s automated AJAX-based multi-server control panel is where the virtual servers are added, managed, destroyed and load balanced, and where both CPUs and RAM are tweaked. Once a server is configured, however, you can’t reconfigure it, suspend it (at least not without paying – at least for now) or back it up and you can’t see which component you connected to which component.
Linux servers and stacks are available pre-configured with MySQL, Apache, PHP, Ruby on Rails, Capistrano, Mongrel and PostgreSQL. And both Linux and Windows can be a QuickStart Facebook Server. Windows can be had with IIS and ASP.NET as well as SQL.
Provisioning a server is supposed to take less than five minutes and the user is supposed to have full administrative control. Provisioning of course is one thing and setting the darn thing up is another. How long setup takes depends on how quickly you’re ready with the answers to the questions.
But there’s free 24x7 technical support and GoGrid’s SLAs promise 100% uptime.
Pricing is based on the amount of RAM and CPUs deployed and the time you use the system. Internet data transfer is packaged separately; outbound data costs 50 cents a gigabyte; inbound is free.
There are no set-up fees or long-term contracts.
GoGrid uses what are called Server RAM-hours to calculate charges, a Server RAM-hour being 1GB of RAM deployed for an hour. There are pay-as-you-go billing plans – you can see the charges in real-time on the dashboard – and pre-paid plans, which start at $99 a month.
A server with 1GB of RAM and 60GB of storage would run 19 cents an hour. One with 512MB RAM and 30GB of storage would cost 9.5 cents an hour and a 2GB one with 120GB of storage would cost 38 cents an hour.
GoGrid is a tiny bit cheaper than Amazon whose small, large and extra large standard instances run 10 cents an hour, 40 cents an hour and 80 cents an hour, respectively.
GoGrid, which plans to add 4GB and 8GB increments, thinks it’s an apples-to-apples comparison. It’s not.
Amazon’s so-called Compute Units are much larger. Its small default instance, for example, specs out at 1.7GB of memory, 1 EC2 Compute Unit (1 virtual core with 1 EC2 Compute Unit), 160GB of instance storage. Above the floor Amazon’s platforms are 64-bit and Intel or AMD. All of GoGrid’s platforms are 32-bit Xeons and you get an eighth of a core.
But Amazon doesn’t do Windows; it doesn’t have a GUI; it charges $72 a month for load balancing, $500 a month for support and 10 cents/GB for inbound data.
GoGrid calculates that – assuming 100GB of outbound data (and in Amazon’s case 10GB on inbound data) – the total cost for 30 days with load balancing and support runs $68 at GoGrid and $662 at Amazon.
GoGrid will start supporting Windows Server 2008 in July or thereabouts. It also expects to let people use their own server images in time. It’s working on snapshot backup and restore, 64-bit support and an API to customize and develop applications on the system.