Case Study

Cloudnet Sweden partners with Linode for "most reliable hosting service possible."

Based in Stockholm, Cloudnet Sweden AB is a hosting service that provides a managed, Linux-built platform for running applications and web sites. It focuses on providing platform-as-a-service (PaaS), so its customers can run/develop their own apps in an environment conducive to creativity.

Cloudnet has been deploying Linode virtual machines since 2011. It's co-founder, Anders Brundin, was interviewed for this case study.

Challenge

Cloudnet needed a cloud-host that could maintain impeccable system reliability; provide responsive and readily available customer support; and foster predictable and accurate cost so that it could guarantee its performance to its customers.

Solution

Linode fit Cloudnet's business model, operated with more than 99.99 percent uptime, offered independent, local servers without firewalls and with direct storage, and an API.

Results

Linode's customer support has provided "really good and quick" responses, its London datacenter has minimized latency, hourly billing simplified and predicted costs accurately, and its productivity tools (e.g., API) have fostered customized node builds.

"Linode significantly contributes to Cloudnet's ability to offer its customers unparalleled hosting services." - Anders Brundin

Situation:

Back in 2007 - '08, Brundin and Magnus Appelquist initiated a part-time business out of Stockholm, Sweden, that provided PaaS to a handful of developer and web-design friends and acquaintances.

Demand for their service grew. In 2010, the two men incorporated as Cloudnet Sweden, AB Since that inception, Cloudnet's main objective has been to "provide our customers with the most reliable hosting service possible," Brundin asserts.

Web designers stand as Cloudnet's typical user. In fact, Brundin and Appelquist collaborate with Swedish web-design agencies, which subsequently recommend Cloudnet to their customers. This vertical integration of app development services makes it easy for developers and web designers to confidently create - with little concern about system integrity or resource depletion. With agency backing and Cloudnet servers, a Swedish web designer need only focus on creating a functional and fashionable webpage.

Cloudnet's managed product off-loads sysAdmin duties, including backups, system monitor support, OS upgrades and package updates. This comes in handy for developers who are not especially steeped in Linux. Cloudnet's product is supported by a qualified team, about which Brundin takes pride in its responsiveness. These two complements permit end users to develop their apps in what Brundin describes as a "happy" environment.

The inaugural Cloudnet service marshaled the power of physical servers and gave rise to the biggest hurdle Brundin and Appelquist would ever have to leap: server interconnectivity. While Brundin enjoyed working with physical servers and racked data centers, he and his staff found it difficult to address mounting issues within Cloudnet's own data center. Moreover, physical servers constrained the breadth of its managed service and didn't allow for the most efficient use of capital.

Shortly after Cloudnet's incorporation, Brundin surveyed the hosting market and noticed a move to the cloud. Nevertheless, he remained a proponent of physical servers. He questioned whether the purported advantages of being in the cloud - such as resource elasticity and pay-as-you-go pricing - would continue to outweigh those of physical servers and data centers. In short, he was not certain that the cloud would prevail.

Consequently, Cloudnet bootstrapped a parallel hybrid environment, relying on both physical servers in Stockholm as well as virtual servers in the cloud, many of which were, and still are, Linodes. While the hybrid environment sufficed for Cloudnet's needs and its customers' demands, eventually, Cloudnet moved fully to the cloud, averting many interconnectivity and performance headaches while enjoying just-in-time access to services and instant server provisioning.

Challenge:

However, challenges always remain; none bigger than maintaining system reliability.

Service disruptions happen, but Cloudnet chose to insulate itself against major outages by spreading its virtual servers across global data centers and diverse cloud hosts, including Linode. Brundin lamented that disruptions amplify stress among Cloudnet's staff. Short service disruptions are tolerated; but extended disruptions could assail Cloudnet's reputation as a quality host.

Consequently, Cloudnet's hosting vendors must supply impeccable and responsive customer support. "We see interactions with our vendors' customer support teams as indicative of the quality of that vendor," said Brundin.

The readiness and efficiency with which a vendor's support team responds to a Cloudnet ticket is critical to system reliability. "We look at the speed at which tickets are addressed," explains Brundin. "We like to assess if the vendors' support techs actually understand what we are talking about in our tickets."

Customer support coverage and availability are two more essentials to Cloudnet's system reliability. "We need to know that support is available 24/7," Brundin explains. "Because we are located in northern Europe, if there is an issue we can't solve ourselves, we need to know the vendor's support can help us at any time - and swiftly."

A second challenge Cloudnet faced was trying to decipher the billing packages of cloud hosts such as Amazon Web Services (AWS). "For a small company like us, predictable costs were critical to our success," said Brundin, who found AWS' price plans rigid, unable to accommodate a tailored plan for Cloudnet's small, medium, large and extra large products.

"We couldn't figure out a precise way to calculate AWS charges," admitted Brundin. "We couldn't find a plan that worked for us," said Brundin. "There was always something that didn't match our needs."

But the most critical challenge Cloudnet faced was how best to provide the greatest service for its customers.

Solution:

Linode's "significant contributions" result from its meeting and exceeding Cloudnet's four criteria for selecting its infrastructure providers:

  • The vendor must fit the Cloudnet business model.
  • The vendor's resources in the cloud must be reliable.
  • The vendor must offer independent, local servers without firewalls, and with direct storage.
  • The vendor must offer an API and other productivity tools.

Results:

Cloudnet has sought to reduce the threat of extended outages, decrease staff stress, and deliver more satisfied customers. Linode has helped Cloudnet achieve these goals.

In terms of customer support, Linode gives Cloudnet "really good and quick responses," says Brundin.

In terms of billing confusion, Linode's hourly billing satisfies Cloudnet's criteria for simplicity and predictability. In addition, Linode's price-plan flexibility matches Cloudnet's tailored sizing, without charging for more resources than are needed. That's efficiency and economy.

In terms of providing the greatest service to its customers, Brundin declares, "Linode significantly contributes to Cloudnet's ability to offer its customers unparalleled hosting services."

Brundin appreciates Linode, but he gives no free passes. "We continually evaluate our providers," he says. "Simply, we choose to work with services we are confident won't have outages." Linode has earned Cloudnet's confidence.

Linode remains one of Cloudnet's blue-chip providers because it uses the Xen virtualization platform, which enables Linode to build a reliable and flexible infrastructure for its customers.

Because of latency issues that accompany remote hardware, Cloudnet sought servers in Europe, if not Sweden. Linode's London data center meets this criteria. "We'd love to have servers in Stockholm," Brundin confides, "but London will do."

By using Linode's servers as part of its virtual battalion, Cloudnet can insulate them by configuring its own firewall(s), which Linode support encourages. Firewall installation can minimize system threats and disruptions. Moreover, Linode offers direct storage only - meeting Cloudnet's criterium - a distinct advantage over networked storage. (Direct storage can be accessed more quickly, secures data more soundly, and is less susceptible to network disruptions.)

Linode also helps maximize Cloudnet's up-time by allowing it to be accessed from multiple locations. Because Brundin and Appelquist frequently travel throughout Europe and need access to their data on a moment's notice, it was imperative that a cloud-host service not be bound to a singular location. Linode isn't.

Cloudnet also prefers that its vendors offer productivity tools, like an API, control panel and IPv6 compatibility. Linode offers all three, complementing Cloudnet's ability to create and install servers quickly ("We do lots of automation for our clients, to save them time," says Brundin.), to delight their staff with a provider's product that is "nice" to work with, and to be forward thinking and highly technical (IPv4 addresses are exhausted). Linode's API helps Cloudnet more quickly provision servers for its clients by specifying a set of task-specific routines and by facilitating software interaction.

"For us at Cloudnet, satisfaction is all about up-time and minimal outages," Brundin declares. "Our service already works pretty good - especially since Linode's last core allocation" (part of a $45 MM upgrade in April 2014).

Linode's upgrade to SSD servers "made a big difference" even though Linode "always kept the system in good shape." According to Brundin, the upgrade "helped immeasurably. It increased bandwidth, speed, processing power and storage. Our customers noticed the change. Challenges disappeared. Our customers being happy with our service is the most valuable asset we have."

Cloudnet continues to grow. It continues to keep its customers happy. It continues to create an environment that its employees enjoy. It's a company that, despite its presence in the cloud, appreciates holding friends and vendors, as well as clients, close.

Consequently, Cloudnet Sweden delivers cloud-hosting services as much as it fosters partnerships with its customers and vendors, and that, declares Brundin, "makes starting a company fun."