SAN FRANCISCO — For interactive agency Canvas, switching to a single cloud hosting provider has made the company nimbler, faster, and able to take on projects it couldn’t easily tackle before.
The company’s experience shows some of the power and flexibility that come with the cloud.
Canvas is an interactive agency with numerous clients, ranging from small Facebook app makers to giant media networks (such as NBC) to Fortune 500 financial giants. It builds interactive websites for clients, often working with large amounts of data to provide interactive experiences for consumers.
About a year ago, the company investigated its hosting options: It was using seven different hosting providers, and wanted to simplify and concentrate on one. It chose Engine Yard.
“It made it really easy for us to focus our engineering teams on building rich experiences and rich, immersive applications … and let Engine Yard back us up. When the stuff hits the proverbial fan, we have a team to back us up,” said Michael Smith, the chief technical officer of Canvas, speaking onstage at VentureBeat’s CloudBeat 2013 conference today.
Canvas’s current team includes full-stack engineers, coding mostly in Rails, but the arrangement makes it so they don’t have to, say, spin up a new SQL database server — and that lets all the engineers focus on coding instead of provisioning servers.
“The cloud’s created a lot of opportunity to do things that we couldn’t before,” said Engine Yard chief executive John Dillon. “We’re beginning to see the economic benefits of the cloud become much more obvious to business sponsors, as opposed to just the time savings and IT infrastructure savings.”
One example of how the cloud benefits Canvas is in hosting websites for NBC’s football coverage. “It turns out there isn’t very much football from February to September,” Smith quipped. Using Engine Yard, the company was able to scale up quickly to meet high levels of demand during the football season and on game days, but not pay for that capacity when it goes unused.
Additionally, none of the other hosting providers Canvas looked at made it easy to provision 20 additional servers at a moment’s notice, Smith said, which Engine Yard’s control panel does.
“We have a whole different clientele that we weren’t able to go after before,” said Smith.
Looking toward the future, Engine Yard’s Dillon envisioned a future where hosting providers enable companies to build applications without regard to the underlying infrastructure — and even switch from one provider to another without impacting the performance or features of the applications running on that stack.
“We believe that a number of cloud operating systems will emerge. There will be something like Amazon, and something like OpenStack, and customers won’t want lock-in. What we expect to do is sit as an open technology on top of any of those platforms,” said Dillon.
“We’re going to abstract away all of the infrastructure, all of the buildings, and even the operating system itself,” Dillon said.
Additionally, Dillon suggested that “database as a service” (DBaaS, to coin an abbreviation) would be coming soon.
“The amount of data is just skyrocketing,” Dillon said. That’s going to drive a need for more flexible database services built into cloud providers’ offerings. “I think database as a service is something you’re going to see a lot more of.”