Vendor offerings & suitability for Private Cloud solutions

This overview of cloud platforms reviewed is an evolving post, so make sure to check back for updates. To test each platform, we created a few windows servers, set up a domain, VPN access, terminal servers, virtual desktops, ERP accounting system, email solution and also sampled their MS SBS. Here are our comments on the experience we had with each.
I have had an interesting few weeks working with various cloud-based infrastructure providers. Everyone seems to do things slightly differently, unless you are going to go outright with a private cloud where the hardware has been set up to your specification. There are nuances of technology, setup, automation and levels of service and support that vary.

The vendors I have tried out, by asking them to establish a small datacenter for us in the cloud, are:

  • Go Daddy
  • Amazon
  • Apps4Rent
  • Hosting24
  • Cloud Central
  • Go Grid

Vendors I had discussions with but did not get that much support are:

  • Rack Space
  • Bit cloud
  • Nine Fold
  • Cloud SBS / ThinkGrid

Summary of my experiences can be reviewed further down this post.

It has been fun and I have had a number very late night sessions with these setups. I must admit, though, that my focus has been to run with Windows-based devices and not all the other versions and images. I just find Windows familiar and easier to work on.
Some more I am looked at but did not proceed with a deeper analysis for various reasons:

  •  ZettaGrid
  •  DigitalPacific
  •  ElasticHosts
  • ServerIntellect

Amazon
Very comprehensive offering and with great prices, although latency is a bit on the high side.
The set up is in Singapore but for some odd reason the traffic gets routed through the US, so no value to us down under. The round trip is almost 350ms, compared with about 180ms for their US west coast data centres. It’s a very comprehensive form of Virtual Private Cloud, but may be challenging for the SME market. Amazon have very recently announced capability in the local arena. Certainly it is something worth considering – but you do have to consider the limitations of working within their offering and aligning with their development roadmap.

NineFold
Aaaah… our local version of Amazon. Not a day passes without seeing their banner ads at least 10 times. (Lots of SEO, Google words, Google Ads and Google Clicks spending going on here). They are backed by Macquarie Telecom, giving the size and strength to offer good infrastructure. This also makes their pricing seem complicated, but on the bright side, you can shut a server down and you are not paying for compute. Keep in mind you’re also paying for all the other stuff – storage, IP address, templates and more. Check back to this post later for updates. NineFold’s platform is Xen hypervisors. I understand there was a Vmware Beta being run but has since been pulled. Probably good if you have a lot of workload variability and want to optimise your expense by shutting down resources. They have added a lot more features and functionality since we initially reviewed them.

Hosting 24
These guys have been fantastic in helping me set up my four virtual servers in a Hyper-V environment. Bit rough around the edges. Great prices if you want a regular load. I haven’t had a chance to see their user management tools. Their provisioning still involves a lot of manual work.

Hosting 24 is very competitively priced. They have among the biggest internet pipes of Australia-based providers, up to 75Gbps inter-capital along the east coast. The Datacenter is located in Melbourne. They offer Xen, Vmware and HYPER-V platforms as well as dedicated servers from around $200 per month. They are flexible in offering multiple NICs and so on.

Cloud Central
Good prices. Not very clear on the variable workload. If you shut down an instance, it is unclear whether you have to pay. Some automation. We tried their solution based in Canberra. They claim to have something in Sydney but no automation there. Have not had a chance to test it out.

Cloud SBS
Their virtual desktop offering, appears promising. Not sure about costs yet, will update this post when we have more information.

Go Daddy
Great automation. Fantastic pricing. But don’t try to get anything more than what is stated on their website. They cannot even tell you where their data center is. Just check out their IP address location by going to http://ip-adress.com/ip_tracer/
Go Daddy also offers some good promotions. Once you sign up, you will get a 15% to 30% discount every few days – register on their site and just wait for the discount email to come through !
They provisioned a dedicated server for me in three hours, faster than any provider I tried – and without charging a fee. The 165ms of round trip delay was not bad at all. They could not offer flexibility on the server configuration, such as a higher speed disc, dual nics or other features. So, what you see is what you get – and it’s cheap!
Great prices if you want to register a domain.

Go Grid
Highly recognised firm, positioned in the Leaders quadrant of the Gartner Magic Quadrant for technology. We had an inconsistent experience with their sales team. Round trip form Sydney is 160ms. The standard remote desktop protocol works quite well.
We are still testing the service, but not that users don’t have console access to the servers. This can be an issue if something goes awry. You have to call the support guys to get them to login.
The shared infrastructure seems to get contention very occasionally. Connecting to their cloud storage proved a bit painful. When started the image I was using supposed a gold image had issue. Console access not available so you have to chat with their support guys every time.

Bit Cloud
Business in the Cloud also deserves an honourable mention. We have had a lot of conversations with their sales team but cannot see a compelling differentiation or an easy entry. Offers lots of nice sliders to configure the servers, but they do appear to be more expensive that most. They claim that the capacity is dedicated, which all providers say. Will get around to testing them out soon.
Looks like these guys like to do solution architecture with the client, which also appears promising.

Elastic Hosts
Not really started. Initial RTT test were reasonable and they provisioned a server fairly easily

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