Good Supportive Hosting Solutions?

I’m looking for a hosting solution to deploy some demo applications as
well as a beta version of our new product.

I’m currently using Textdrive Accelerator and it’s really slowing us
down (first, our developers aren’t familiar with Solaris, and second,
they just seem too busy with other clients to service new clients).

We basically need a host that can provide the knowledge and resources to
set up our environment so that we can do things like deploy changes to
apps using svn update or capistrano, install gems, run migrations and
have Rails/Ruby/MySQL pre installed for us. We also need a host that
can provide quick response (within an hour) to support tickets.

I can get all this with a host like say Dreamhost, but what we need that
Dreamhost cannot provide is scale . . .

Which is why we tried Textdrive. But they lack the support that
Dreamhost does. So we’re looking for the best of both worlds.

And we need to find this host yesterday :wink:

Hi Will,

I hate to chime about our service, but I also hate to read these posts
and keep silence :slight_smile:

I would be glad to invite you to try our service, SpeedyRails.com, we
offer a turn-key fully managed hosting solution focused 100% on Ruby
on Rails. We don’t have a powerful control panel (yet!) but you will
be able to deploy your sites with just one click!, you will receive
answer to your support requests 24/7 within 2 hours (most of the time
within minutes) and you will enjoy a fast (really!) and reliable
service. Our shared hosting service is really fast and we guarantee
some dedicated resources for every Rails application, like 60 MB of
RAM for every mongrel instance.

Maykel Rodriguez
www.speedyrails.com

On Sep 1, 11:54 pm, Will M. [email protected]

I’ve been a customer with Slicehost for several months now and my
experience has not only been positive, but pleasant. I started as a
Windows user with a tiny bit of Ubuntu experience, but the wiki,
forums, and especially the chat room has made the transition very
smooth. They have been extremely patient when answering my questions
in the chat and I can normally find someone there even at 10PM PDT.
For $20 / month I get 256MB / 10GB / 100GB VPS on Ubuntu.

  • Ryan

On Sep 2, 9:52 am, “[email protected][email protected]

Hi Will,

I hate to chime about our service, but I also hate to read these posts
and keep silence :slight_smile:

I would be glad to invite you to try our service, SpeedyRails.com, we
offer a turn-key fully managed hosting solution focused 100% on Ruby
on Rails. We don’t have a powerful control panel (yet!) but you will
be able to deploy your sites with just one click!, you will receive
answer to your support requests 24/7 within 2 hours (most of the time
within minutes) and you will enjoy a fast (really!) and reliable
service. Our shared hosting service is really fast and we guarantee
some dedicated resources for every Rails application, like 60 MB of
RAM for every mongrel instance.

Maykel Rodriguez
www.speedyrails.com

On Sep 1, 11:54 pm, Will M. [email protected]

One of the things I find interesting in some of these hosting
solutions, such as Ben’s, Engine Y., Rails Machine, and so on, is
what appears to be how niche and/or limiting they could be. I have
nothing against these solutions, and I know personally that the Engine
Yard guys are doing great stuff (I’ve been watching their
contributions, talked to them for quite a while at RailsConf this
year, and so on). However, what happens when your application doesn’t
fit the mold or grows out of it?

Personally I wouldn’t want someone else writing my deployment recipe,
and me not knowing precisely how my app is deployed. I also find that
all too often you really don’t just have a simple Rails app that
doesn’t use anything outside the Rails space, or for that matter,
outside the Rails space provided by the host (e.g. native gems that
you likely can’t or don’t want to freeze into your codebase, and that
you would at minimum have to request be installed by the hosting
provider, or dynamically set attributes as part of your deployment).
I’ve written pretty involved Capistrano deployment setups (e.g.
deploying multiple applications that make up a single overall web
app/service, to multiple clusters of machines, with production systems
as well as multiple staging systems, different hardware levels and
services, yada yada.), and it’s really just not that hard (praise goes
to the Capistrano folks). Further, many of these solutions would make
it more work to do your own staging systems, where you can’t use
essentially the same deployment recipe just to different set of
hosts/IP’s, thus almost requiring you to buy multiple slices/systems
from a vendor in order to have a staging system that was essentially a
mirror of production.

One could argue that for a real small simple app, why bother with some
of the work, and just leverage these, but real small single machine
deployment type stuff is likely not wanting to spend hundreds of
dollars a month on hosting either (in the case of say an Engine Y.
or similar).

Now, some of the other services some of the folks provide are great.
Engine Y. (I don’t mean to focus on them, they’re just one of the
more well known ones (IMHO), and one I’ve looked at fairly closely),
has some quite excellent infrastructure, and that kind of stuff is
costly to do until you get to a certain scale. So, if you are after
good redundancy, yet a smaller setup, that kind of facility can be
very worthwhile.

Thus, my point of contention is really more about the deployment
aspect, and relinquishing one’s deployment to the hosting provider. I
understand that in some cases obviously you need your recipe to match
up with the providers infrastructure. But it seems to be a major
advertising point from many such companies, how they have automatic
deployment, or do the recipes for you, etc. I’d just be cautious.

And, as a counter-point to some of my comments, I just finished up
work on a project of quite large scale (by Rails app standards at
least), where I was not happy with some of the choices forced on us,
and ours was a completely home grown solution. We had 60+ production
servers, our own home-grown storage system, hardware firewalls and
load balancers, multiple Rails apps working together to create a
single web app/service, and we did essentially everything ourselves
(we used some contractor help to setup some of the hardware and get
some of the initial networking configuration done). I personally did
all the deployment/Capistrano stuff, the bulk of the configuration on
the F5 load balancers, wrote the app level of the storage system (the
Rails part), and so on, covering a pretty wide range of work. And
while our scale demanded some of this, we spent a ton of time to do
it, and much of it was not our core competency, so it cost us a lot of
time. I had recommended against this, and wanted to contract out or
use other solutions for much of the data center portion, but
management wanted us to learn it. Learning it was great, and quite an
opportunity, but it didn’t work with our schedule, so I think was not
the right way to go.

Anyway, consider this a big rambling stream of conciousness comment to
say, think about all the aspects when choosing your solution. There
are SO many facets involved, but think about the tradeoffs, where
you’ll really save time or money, and how to best leverage any
services you are buying. I know lots of folks happy on a slew of
different solutions spanning the entire spectrum from home grown to
complete hand-holding solutions. Oh, and make sure you can have fun
with it!

On 9/2/07, Ben M. [email protected] wrote:

are isolated in their own Xen slice. And, when you’re ready to scale

well as a beta version of our new product.


Chris B.
[email protected]

I think you make some great points Chris.

It’s important to understand how your application is being deployed,
and have an understanding of the environment in which it runs.

I see our service as more of a partnership. Sure, we can do everything
for you so that you don’t have to worry about it all, but more often
than not we’ll end up working closely with the client to properly
configure the environment, develop deployment strategies, push out
updates and keep things running. This doesn’t mean the client is “out
of the loop”. They’re very much involved, but they have specialist
assistance available all the way.

I’d also submit that services like Integral and Engine Y. are ideal
for applications that don’t fit the mold, or are likely to grow out of
it. The point is that you have a partner with experience that helps
your application grow and adapt. It’s as much about consulting, advice
and support as it is about the actual hosting.

Sure, nothing about any of this is that hard once you’ve learnt how to
do it. But, it can be time consuming. And when things go wrong, I
think it’s nice to know you’re not on your own.

On 9/3/07, Chris B. [email protected] wrote:

One of the things I find interesting in some of these hosting
solutions, such as Ben’s, Engine Y., Rails Machine, and so on, is
what appears to be how niche and/or limiting they could be. I have
nothing against these solutions, and I know personally that the Engine
Yard guys are doing great stuff (I’ve been watching their
contributions, talked to them for quite a while at RailsConf this
year, and so on). However, what happens when your application doesn’t
fit the mold or grows out of it?

On Sep 2, 10:43 pm, “Chris B.” [email protected] wrote:

However, what happens when your application doesn’t fit the mold or grows out of it?

Speaking only for Engine Y., I can say that we’ll break the mold and
make a new one for you. :slight_smile:

You mention building a 60 machine cluster yourself. If you can do that
in a way that is more efficient than paying us, then by all means do
so. Your solution may:

  1. Take longer
  2. Take less time
  3. Cost more
  4. Cost less
  5. Work less well
  6. Work better

In the end, perhaps the most likely situation is that you get a mix of
the above. In my experience there are many companies out there not
willing to roll the dice and see how it comes out. In todays fast
moving environment, the risks of “doing it yourself” outweigh the
potential benefits.

Hi,

I’ll keep it short since I’m plugging my employer’s service, but take a
look at:

http://integralimpressions.com/services/managed-rails-hosting

We take a hands-on approach: we’ll get everything up and running for
you, as well as build you a capistrano recipe so that you can deploy
your own updates (or we can handle that for you too). All applications
are isolated in their own Xen slice. And, when you’re ready to scale
we’ll work with you, load balancing your application over numerous
slices.

Feel free to contact me for more information.

On 9/2/07, Will M. [email protected] wrote:

I’m looking for a hosting solution to deploy some demo applications as
well as a beta version of our new product.

Tom, I totally agree - I did not want to do the hardware and “data
center” part ourself, especially given our experience (or rather, lack
there of). And, I wound up having to make this very clear to
management, as well as them getting to directly see the result of
their choices (and what happens as a result). We had various other
issues (bandwidth and storage space (PB’s)) that made our needs pretty
unique, and for which the costs of outsourcing got too expensive, but
I’d have liked to at minimum see us partner or have someone help us
set it up to save a lot of time. It’s great fun to do this stuff, and
I learned a ton, but the time it took was too long.

My take, and it was only reinforced after going through this, is that
you shouldn’t be doing it yourself unless the scale of your situation
demands it. Otherwise, unless you just so happen to employ a bunch of
experienced data center folks, combined with a kick ass app team, and
can take the initial cost hit, it’s not going to be an effective
solution, time, money, or performance wise.

Backing that up, in one of my new projects, I specifically refused to
pursue a build-it-yourself setup that was being done, and said I would
only use a hosting provider (in fact, Engine Y. is one of our top
choices so far). Once I explained why, it was readily endorsed, and I
think they are currently questioning their continued use of the small
system they’re using for other projects.

On 9/2/07, [email protected] [email protected] wrote:

so. Your solution may:
willing to roll the dice and see how it comes out. In todays fast
moving environment, the risks of “doing it yourself” outweigh the
potential benefits.


Chris B.
[email protected]

On Sep 3, 12:08 am, “Chris B.” [email protected] wrote:

Tom, I totally agree - I did not want to do the hardware and “data
center” part ourself, especially given our experience (or rather, lack
there of). And, I wound up having to make this very clear to
management, as well as them getting to directly see the result of
their choices (and what happens as a result). We had various other
issues (bandwidth and storage space (PB’s)) that made our needs pretty
unique, and for which the costs of outsourcing got too expensive, but
I’d have liked to at minimum see us partner or have someone help us
set it up to save a lot of time.

Hey Chris. Sounds like a fun project and we would have loved to help
out.

For the record, our cluster technology can deliver tremendous
bandwidth and delivery very high performance and low cost disk storage
in petabyte quantities as well. :slight_smile:

Question: What sort of storage solution did you end up with for
petabytes of storage?

I can’t talk about it in too much detail, but a few tidbits… The
storage solution, software or API/interface wise was pure HTTP and
fairly similar to something like S3 - where basically we just had GET,
PUT, POST, and DELETE as actions, and then there was support for
metadata in a similar way too (via headers, etc.). The low-level
storage system was actually implemented in C++, and had insanely high
performance. It was also triple redundant, as well as being able to
mirror to different geographical locations. I believe the current
storage cost for us was about 4 cents/GB.

When we evaluated a bunch of vendor and hosting provider solutions for
storage, nobody could even compete with Amazon’s S3 on storage prices,
so then for us to be able to do it at 1/3rd of the price of Amazon,
made it pretty clear where we needed to go. We were projecting about
7-9PB of use by the end of the first year (so that’s 14-18PB in two
data centers, since we had west and east coast facilities).

Note that the guys who did the low level storage had spent nearly a
year putting it together, refining it, and looking at every detail in
the hardware, OS, etc. as well. The hardware was spec’ed down to a
very low detail (think Google style), the OS was a stripped down
distro of Linux, and so on.

I wish I could talk about the specific companies we had bids from and
all that, as it was quite an interesting thing, but those were all
under NDA.

As for bandwidth, well, you can sort of figure that out based on the
amount of data we were storing - where nearly all of that was uploaded
(as opposed to generated by the service). Not YouTube or anything,
but large enough that bandwidth cost was a direct factor in overall
costs.

Essentially, it was at a scale level, where I suspect the vast
majority of hosting providers, at least ones of interest, couldn’t
beat the prices of us doing ourselves (none of the ones we checked
with came even close) - after all, the hosting provider needs to make
money as well! We just got to that crossover point where it wasn’t
economical for us to partner/contract it out. Where I differed on the
decision was more about having it get configured and set up for us. I
loved learning about things like F5’s, and various networking
configuration and so on, but that wasn’t the optimal use of my time
for the project. Of course, now that today is my last day with the
company, it’s quite nice to have on my resume :wink:

On 9/4/07, [email protected] [email protected] wrote:

I’d have liked to at minimum see us partner or have someone help us
petabytes of storage?


Chris B.
[email protected]

Thanks for all the comments.

I went with Engine Y… They are pricey, but what sold me was:

  1. They want to handle all the nuts and bolts of deploying your app.
    They want to be more than a host. So essentially I’m hiring an IT team
  • which I want.
  1. They were the only ones to respond on a holiday weekend. Good sign.

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