Business

Another startup finds the Amazon cloud just doesn’t fit

Above: Another startup has found that a public cloud isn't always best.

Image Credit: dingbat2005/Flickr

There’s more proof out today that the public cloud — and Amazon’s cloud, to be specific — is not always the right cloud, even for startups.

Enterprises have thought hard before jumping onto public clouds in a big way, concerned as they are about governance and other issues. Startups have been more willing to rely heavily on public clouds, particularly Amazon Web Services.

But we’re seeing exceptions to that rule. Uber and MemSQL are among the young companies that have migrated some or all of their computing off of Amazon and onto hosted or managed servers in the past couple of years.

News of another exception to the AWS-by-default rule surfaced today in the form of a blog post from a Belgian startup called TestingBot.

For almost two years, TestingBot, which tests websites in different browsers, paid to use computing and storage services in Amazon’s public cloud. But in recent months the company has switched off those cloud resources and come back down to earth — and brought down its monthly infrastructure costs.

Reasons cited: Computing resources would get interrupted by other applications running on the same servers, and service would get slow. And it just cost too much.

The team considered a VMware private cloud on dedicated servers, but that option was also too expensive. On top of that, TestingBot didn’t really know how everything was working. VMware’s software for making multiple virtual servers on each physical server is proprietary. And that made for a challenge. “Whenever something went wrong, it was hard to troubleshoot since we can’t look at the code,” the blog post states.

Open-source tools prevailed. TestingBot ended up choosing a popular open-source (and free) technology for creating virtual machines called KVM. Service is fast — “as soon as a customer wants to run a test, we spin up a VM in less than 10 seconds,” the blog post notes — and secure, too.

Today, TestingBot is paying a third as much money as it did when everything operated on Amazon’s cloud, and that’s including the cost of on-site support for eight physical servers in a Brussels data center, Testing Bot founder Jochen Delabie wrote in an email to VentureBeat.

And the deal comes with better performance and support, he added.

Some cloud commentators have suggested that if companies pay $50,000 or more per month for Amazon’s cloud services, they might want to look elsewhere. But that’s not what happened to TestingBot.

“We did not hit the $50,000 [a] month, more like $10,000 [a] month,” Delabie wrote. “But since we’re a bootstrapped startup, that meant a lot of money for us.”

So maybe the sweet spot for a deployment on Amazon Web Services is narrower than some people might think it is. This despite all the new and improved features and frequently slashed prices on Amazon’s cloud, on top of the already wide swath of services Amazon has to offer.

It will be interesting to watch which companies end up taking on considerable business from ex-Amazon customers. One beneficiary of the trend could be Nebula, whose “cloud controllers” can result in 90 percent cost savings in comparison with an equivalent Amazon setup, according to executive Chris Kemp’s claim earlier this year. Kemp sounded bold when he talked about startups being customers — startups today would want to buy and run hardware? — but maybe his viewpoint wasn’t so off the wall.


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