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  •  Friday, October 12, 2012   
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In the last month we’ve really been trying to push our coverage of benchmarks for cloud hosting, since Atlantic.Net offers a free trial it was easy for us to get good benchmark coverage across all of their plans. They currently outperform the majority of other providers in our Cloud IO Benchmarks so we were intrigued to learn more.

Marty Puranik, the CEO & Founder of Atlantic.Net took some time out of his busy schedule to ask a few questions & get into a bit of detail about their cloud offering.

Atlantic.Net has been around for a long time in Internet terms (since 1994). Tell us a little bit about the company.

Atlantic.Net was founded in 1994 and started off providing Internet access. We’ve obviously changed and re-invented our business model several times, morphing into a high-speed DSL provider, Colocation provider, and now a Cloud hosting provider. We’re passionate about technology and trying to do big things.

What’s the culture like at Atlantic.Net?

Atlantic.Net is a company focused on trying to do the best we can. Our hope is that even if it’s for a split second, we’ve pushed humanity forward in some way or done something no one has done before. Every day we try to improve what we do, even if it’s an incremental change. We also try to use reason and logic to make our decisions, and in that sense we are pragmatic. Overall, I would say we’re reaching for stars, trying to pioneer new ideas. We’re basically looking for the romance and fairy-tale of building an amazing business.

What do you think are your main differentiators from competitors?

We’ve been in business since 1994. Therefore, we have deep institutional knowledge that comes with doing routing/switching/hosting for so long. Our cloud platform has an API that offers both JSON/XML (which we wrote from scratch), so we can talk about that, or we can discuss BGP and MPLS. I’d say the biggest edge we have over our competitors is that we have a better product that is competitively priced.

We even offer a free trial to prove it. Plus, we’re iterating it very fast. Since we wrote it from scratch, it’s tightly integrated with the hardware to give a really great experience.

Cloud hosting is going through a bit of a boom at the moment. What are your thoughts on this particular sector of the industry?

There is obviously a lot of hype and many promises that seem to get ahead of the technology sometimes, but overall it’s definitely the way things are going to go. The really exciting aspect of the cloud is the ability to do things you couldn’t do before, which ultimately grows the market and creates new opportunities for everyone.

What do you think are the main advantages of moving a business into the cloud, in comparison to running their own hardware?

Flexibility – by moving a business into the cloud, you don’t have any upfront costs or any commitments. This allows your business to scale with demand. It’s easier, simpler, and requires less people overall to be involved in the process. When you show people the cloud, they either get it right away or not at all, and those who do understand the cloud, learn to truly appreciate it. That’s really cool.

Are there any technologies or innovations that you are excited about?

Well, we are using Infiniband (so we’re running @ 40Gb/s), which is funny because most of the discussion is whether to go from 1Gb/s to 10Gb/s Ethernet. This is a big deal not only for speed, but also for complexity because we need less to carry the same amount of traffic (routing/switching/etc).

We also build our servers in real-time in less than 30 seconds. We’ve got some predictive code to start pre-builds, in which case the build times are cut into milliseconds.

This industry is in its infancy, which means there are so many new and efficient ways to do things that haven’t been done or explored yet. That’s what makes it so exciting; especially when you can bring things to market that weren’t available before.

We find that everyone has a different opinion on what cloud hosting actually is. What are the key differences between your Cloud VPS compared to a traditional OpenVZ or Xen VPS?

The biggest advantages of Cloud VPS are Infiniband for faster I/O speeds, shared storage so you can migrate servers between nodes, resizing capabilities, scalability, and increased flexibility. Many of the other cloud features can also be emulated with a VPS, so these are the most notable ones. The cloud also lends itself to be more easily integrated with the future of computing like APIs, real-time scaling, etc. So, the cloud gives you a better vanilla platform to build from today and it makes it easier to implement/get involved in the new technologies of tomorrow.

The cloud makes scaling easier and less complicated as well. Hopefully, as new technologies get added to the cloud, it will continue to reduce complexity.

In the early days of Ethernet, you didn’t need a switch. However, as people added PCs to the network and traffic went up, collisions made the network unusable and accelerated the need for a switch. It’s kind of the same thing – you could start with VPS today, but why not just start with the cloud-based VPS and then build from there?

What are the typical types of customers or applications that you attract?

We attract a very diverse set of customers and applications including Web Application Development/Deployment, Mobile App Development/Deployment, Virtual Desktop/Desktop Replacement, Stock Trading, Hosting, and SEO Companies.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a provider?

We developed our software from scratch. There is a lot of sweat and tears that goes into something like that, especially when you are doing new stuff or stuff that no one has done before. It is really challenging, not just from a technology standpoint, but also in trying to get it right and make it simple, despite the fact that you’re moving mountains on the backend. More importantly, it’s trying to get the user experience right and ultimately trying to create a product our customers fall in love with.

We’ve seen some good I/O performance from our benchmarks – tell us a little bit more about your storage setup. Are you using SSDs?

We call our drive architecture “Spindlerella”. We’ve spent quite a bit of time improving it and we have a new version that we’re excited about because it will improve on the work we’ve already done. It’s not available to the public yet, but once we roll it out, I think you’ll be surprised at the improvements we’ve made — without increasing the price. Our scores are only going to get better from here.

You have a 100% up-time guarantee, which is something we rarely see. How achievable is that figure when there are so many factors at play?

We are so confident in our fast cloud servers that we are giving away a 100% uptime SLA and free trial of our cloud servers. No one can guarantee that nothing will ever go wrong, but with a 100% uptime SLA, we set the expectation to do the very best possible. Other companies base their SLAs on giving themselves a margin of error, which means that by default, they do not expect the best of themselves.

You offer per second billing plus an API. Are you seeing more businesses use servers “on demand” rather than having a persistent instance?

Yes. For example, Map Reducers/Hadoop users really like this because when they run a job, they only pay for what they use. If they run on a competitor that rounds to the nearest hour, and they spin up 100 servers to run a Map Reduce but only run 40 minutes per server, they are paying A LOT more per job than with us. Businesses are mixing persistence with on-demand to scale based on their needs. For instance, one call center type app has people logging in 9-5pm using the cloud as a desktop replacement. They turn on the servers at 9am and cancel them at 5pm each day. This is huge because every day they have a clean server to login to (not having to worry about viruses, etc.) and they only are paying for 1/3 of the cost of a persistent server [actually less if they don’t need them on weekends or holidays]. This is what the cloud is about – doing new stuff you couldn’t do before.

We’re seeing a lot of cloud providers expand to Europe lately. Any plans to expand outside the USA?

Yes, we’ve even got plans for a drag and drop server migration tool that has a backdrop of a world map. We definitely have plans to expand and offer multi-country/multi-region support. We want to do it right, and make sure we can offer a great customer experience. We expect that this will happen sooner than later, but our priority is keeping our customers happy and doing it right.

View Atlantic.Net’s Plans & Benchmarks