Maturation of the hosting provider market

I’ve been considering switching hosting providers for a little while, as my current provider, while cheap, has been slower and slower, making me think that they’re not managing their hosts super well.  And I figured it’d be good to get a feel for how that part of the market has evolved.

A tweet and some link-following later, I’ve come to a few tentative conclusions:

First, like everything else in the computer world, the capacities have gone up, but the price points haven’t changed drastically in the years since I setup  The dirt-cheap providers are a few dollars cheaper than before (e.g. Laughing Squid), but most low-end VPS offerings are $15-20/month — they’re just bigger defaults than before.

Second, there’s clearly interesting competition to reach out to l33t developers.  Dreamhost, Media Temple (aka (mt)), Slicehost, etc. have been around for a while, and they seem to be doing fine, with many positive reviews to be found. All of these providers claim to be developers building a company for other developers, and their success clearly depends on that being a believable story.

Third, running your own VM is still a complicated business, requiring knowledge of Linux (absolutely no mention of any other OS, btw), configuration, system administration, security, etc.  That’s been true forever, and I’m seeing some interesting attempts by some to differentiate in what must be a horrible race-to-the-bottom margin-cutting segment.  In particular, I noticed:

  • Linode highlights their community, their library of useful docs, and their StackScripts, which could help automate setting up services on stock OSes (although I’d really want to see some security reviews on those scripts, which could easily p0wn the gullible).
  • (from our friends at Joyent) isn’t a general purpose VPS, but has evolved the Smart platform into a node-led system which also includes various databases. I’ve played with a bit, and automated deployment via-git-push could get really addictive.
  • Webbynode has a command-line rapid application deployment tool, which clearly has a Rails history, but is branching out into Django and Node.  They also have an interesting github integration model where you point it to a github repo for both source and configuration of a package.

Overall, it’s good to see some innovation higher up in the stack.  I haven’t decided who’ll get my account yet, but I’m likely to spend a few more dollars and subsidize someone who’s focusing on making my life easier, not just racing to the bottom.

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