Linode Is Awesome
Up until August of 2003 I had my vanity server - hosting my own mail domain, own web server, and a few other useful services for myself - at a friend's house. By late summer of 2003, after several years of periodic outages due to the inherent problems of using a private residence as a data center, I decided to do both my friend and myself a favor and replace my physical server with a virtual host.
After some careful research and one bad experience with another virtual hoster (which was not using UML but instead another Linux virtualization technology which severely limited my control over the operating system), I found Linode.com.
I signed up for a monthy account so that I could try it out. Within a few days I was already impressed by the control I had over my Linode - it was virtually indistinguishable from a dedicated host - and its performance, as well as the quick and friendly support from Linode.com.
After a one month trial I was convinced that Linode was the way to go. I bought a yearly subscription and it's now over a year later. I just renewed for another year and am still very happy with the service.
The most important part to keep in mind when considering Linode.com is to remember that your Linode will appear virtually indistinguishable from a dedicated host. This has both good and bad points, depending upon your perspective. If you are an experienced administrator looking for a host over which you have complete control, then nothing short of a dedicated host could compare to Linode.com. If you are an inexperienced user looking for a headache-free way to have a Linux server, you may find the level of control that Linode provides daunting. Just remember that having complete control over your Linode means that you have all the power necessary to screw it up beyond useability. You are responsible for maintaining all aspects of the software which means that you will have to stay on top of security issues, software upgrade issues, compatibility, and bugs in your installed services. If you are looking for an "easy" way to host a web site or mail domain, this isn't it. But for someone with experience as a Linux administrator, for whom these tasks are second nature, Linode.com provides the perfect service.
A Linode is also an excellent way to "try out" Linux with no hardware investment. The Linode control panel makes it easy to load a variety of basic Linux installations onto your Linode, and to wipe everything clean if you'd like to start over again.
The three biggest Linode factors for an experienced Linux administrator are performance, reliability, and support, and I'll address these issues in detail in the following paragraphs.
First, support: customer support on Linode is generally very good. Linode.com is, at this point, a "one man show", and that man is known as "caker". When caker is available he is very responsive and cooperative in helping to address issues. And he seems to be around most of the time. But being the only support person for Linode.com means that there are times when support is simply not available for a period of hours, to as long as a day. The lack of redundancy in Linode.com's administration and support is something which has worried me from day one, but luckily thus far has never been a real issue. It is still a concern though and will be until there is some human backup in the Linode.com support and technical staff. But if you only have one person to support your host, you'll be very happy that that one person is caker. He almost always goes above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that the service provided is as good as he can make it.
And now, a few works about reliability. Reliability is very good. On average the hosts themselves seem to require a reboot 2 or 3 times per year. Typically these reboots are planned - for kernel upgrades on the host system, or to move a system within the data center. In those cases, the reboot is announced days or weeks ahead of time and from an end-user perspective are quite painless. Very occasionally, a bug in the host system or in UML, or a human error in the data center, will produce an unplanned reboot, either of the entire host (and thus all Linodes on the host), or of just your Linode. Thus far this has occurred maybe twice on the host on which my Linode resides. Network reliability is excellent, at least at The Planet datacenter (hosts 1 - 8 and 27 and up). It seems that Hurricane Electrice, the datacenter for hosts 9 - 26, has had many more networking issues, although it looks like this has settled down quite a bit in the past few months. In general, and especially at The Planet, networking has been very, very reliable. My particular host has never experienced a significant network outage in the year plus that I have been using it.
And finally - performance. Performance with Linode can be summarized by: excellent most of the time, but subject to occasional periods of major performance problems, depending upon the host and the Linode plan. From asking around I have learned that for Linode plans above Linode 64, performance issues are very rare. But Linode 64 hosts share so many Linodes that it is not uncommon for more than one Linode to hammer the disk so hard that all of the other Linodes suffer greatly. Typically this is caused by poorly configured Linodes swapping out of control, and caker usually quickly swoops in and takes care of the offender(s), but this can sometimes take half an hour to several hours, and sometimes it occurs at times when caker is not around, like in the middle of the night, and at those times it simply has to play itself out. At these times, my Linode will itself show loads of anywhere from 5 to 20+, a reflection of the fact that processes on my Linode are mostly starved for disk I/O and any process that tries to read or write from the filesystem, or swap memory in or out, will be put into a sleep state by the operating system while waiting for the disk I/O to complete. And since disk I/O is virtually unavailable to my Linode at these times, processes one by one go to sleep as they perform disk I/O and get added to the load count. The user experience at these times is of a very, very unresponsive Linode - it could take minutes just for a SSH login to complete, if it completes at all, and pretty much all activity on the Linode comes to a complete halt. There have been periods of time when these problems would occur once per day or more, for a week or more at a time, and also times when performance problems like this were very rare for weeks at a time. Luckily, I have not seen a single such performance issue on my host (host31) for nearly two weeks. Caker is continually load balancing hosts and trying to minimize the chances of this occuring so as time goes on, this problem becomes less and less of an issue.
Typically, days or weeks will go by without any problems whatsoever. But then a couple of "bad days" will happen in which once or twice per day my Linode becomes virtually inaccessible due to those performance issue. Overall, I'm happy with performance despite these issues because the majority of the time performance is great - much better than I had with my own dedicated host. But it's easier to remember the hour or two that I was frustrated by an inaccessible Linode than it is to remember the days or weeks of trouble-free operation, and my comments probably reflect that …
I'd like to summarize my review of Linode.com by saying that it is, overall, an excellent service. Obviously I am happy with it because I have renewed my yearly contract and can easily see myself sticking with Linode for years down the road. There are a few rough spots - mostly related to occasional performance issues on Linode 64 hosts and to a continual worry about the lack of personnel redundancy at Linode.com - but these are far overshadowed by the incredible bang-for-the-buck that a Linode provides. No where else can you find the same level of accessibility, performance, reliability, and features for the low price of a virtual host at Linode.com. I would recommend Linode.com to anyone who is capable of being their own system administrator, and who wants full control over an inexpensive, very well connected Linux server.
I am founder of ScaleChamp DBaaS and I am happy with linode service as well, pretty fast boot process and ability to create custome VM images, one word - awesome.
It'll be nice to have official GitHub awesome list for Linode!