What is an "ideal" cloud storage or managed hosting server setup?
August 1, 2013 12:50 PM   Subscribe

My company is looking to get in on the managed services/cloud server hosting side of the business. Think of what Amazon Cloud Services does with their pay as you go servers. I don't have much experience at all with this but have been asked to put some input. What is a standard, reliable, scalable configuration I could suggest?

I'm no IT Architect, just an IT manager but I'd like to be able to contribute something here. The requirements:

1. a reliable rack mounted system
2. 4-8 amps power consumption
3. quad or octo-core CPU server capable of handling about 125 servers from the rack
4. rack should include router/switch, RAID storage, server hardware and a UPS backup.
posted by PetiePal to Technology (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
So if I'm understanding you, you want to be a cloud provider?

I've been in a few server farms, or co-location centers and there's a BUNCH to it.

Redundancy is important, can you mirror data in two separate places? What about fire suppression? Can you put out a fire on server A without involving server B?

Also, you're going to want at least two different racks. Should one go down, the other will stay up, can't have all your eggs in one basket.

How much of a bunker is your building? If you're on the 15th floor of a glass building, facing the ocean in Ft. Lauderdale....yeah, I saw that once. Laughed my ass off.

How about capacity for data access? Are you wired up for Metro-Ethernet? How many folks are you going to host simultaneously? How many of them are going to want access to the servers at the same time?

What's your profit margin going to be on this? How would you market it against Internap, Level 3, or any other provider in the same market.

You can be a secondary, off-site storage facility I suppose, but it's a significant investment in space, electric and internet access just to start up something like this.

Have you ever toured a server farm like this? You might want to check it out.

I'm not trying to be an asshole, I'm suggesting that someone needs to be asking the right questions. Yeah, technically the equipment you've mentioned will work, but that's not really what's at the heart of cloud storage and computing.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:18 PM on August 1, 2013 [6 favorites]

I've said before that people shouldn't confuse "cloud" with "magic", because really "cloud" is "computers rented from someone else". This is kinda of a fun question because now someone wants to build the magic/computers-to-rent-out.

Here's the thing. Ruthless Bunny alludes to this, but there isn't any magic, and this is really more of an engineering problem. The fact that you're doing cloud stuff doesn't matter so much as the fact that you'll have X number of customers taking up Y amount of storage with Z amount of network traffic.

Some companies use whatever off the shelf hardware they can find for this, and make it all incredibly fault tolerant (Google). Other companies build their own stuff, and still make it fault tolerant, even though this stuff at least shouldn't be blowing up if you look at it wrong (Backblaze). There's a wide range of stuff in between those two options.

The other thing to think about is software. Again, there's no magic. What VM software will be running on the bare metal? Does your Ops team have a preference on what they run? Do you care if it has licensing fees or not?

It sounds like an interesting project. Best of luck with it!
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 2:59 PM on August 1, 2013

Are you trying to become a hosting provider or are you looking to migrate your company's current on-premise infrastructure to a hosted solution?

As others have said: this is an engineering issue more than anything. Key is having a highly redundant, secure hardware infrastructure in place. If I were looking to place my data in your hands I would want some significant security and availability guarantees.

Anyone can toss together a few servers, run Hyper-V or any other hypervisor and run virtual machines. That's easy.

Doing it to best practices is an entirely different story. You're talking several hundred thousand dollars in infrastructure to do this *right* - and by *right* I mean clusters and/or redundant SANs, multiple disparate internet connections, etc. Again, if we're only talking about hosting your own stuff, or a couple of small clients that would be overkill, but if you're looking to start hosting dozens and hundreds of clients you need to start thinking about scalability from the start.

Keep in mind that the hosted market is very quickly becoming a race to the bottom where profit margins are becoming very thin. There is a major price war between Microsoft and Amazon that is tricking down to the next tier players like Rackspace.

We host about a dozen of our smaller clients in our own hosted infrastructure running a Microsoft Hyper-V cluster for redundancy on a group of Dell R510/R710 servers. For our target market it works great and is cost effective for us.
posted by tgrundke at 7:38 AM on August 2, 2013

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