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Summary:

Amazon (AMZN), I have often pointed out, is a harbinger of technology trends that eventually gain mainstream acceptance. Contextual matching of information and community-powered feedback and ratings systems are two such examples. Their recent foray into infraweb-services such as EC2 (processing on demand) and S3 (storage […]

Amazon (AMZN), I have often pointed out, is a harbinger of technology trends that eventually gain mainstream acceptance. Contextual matching of information and community-powered feedback and ratings systems are two such examples.

Their recent foray into infraweb-services such as EC2 (processing on demand) and S3 (storage on demand) is helping to kick-start interest in “utility computing.” Entrepreneurs, in particular, are finding inspiration in the early success of Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Over the past month we saw the emergence of Nirvanix, a San Diego-based on-demand storage service provider that recently raised $12 million from Mission Ventures and Valhalla Partners, along with previous investors Windward Ventures. Rackspace is pushing its own version of a computing utility, Mosso.

Today, I got a chance to meet with executives from XCalibre Communications, a 10-year-old hosting provider based in Scotland that is going to launch its utility computing service at the Future of Web Apps conference in London.

I spoke with Philipp Huber, chief operating officer of the company, at length today, and he explained that XCalibre is going to focus on European web startups that are looking for affordable utility computing-type solutions. The company has built a management console on top of an infrastructure that is a blend of F5 load balancers, Dell servers, Virtual Iron from Xensource (now a Citrix subsidiary) and NetApp storage. (A Virtual Iron spokesperson points out that Xcalibre is using Virtual Iron’s server virtualization and management platform. While this includes the Xen open source hypervisor, there is no connection between Virtual Iron and XenSource or Citrix.)

The company counts Huddle and Bamboo as its early clients, and the utility computing foray has been funded entirely by its hosting business. XCalibre claims that it can support many more clients per server than Amazon, and that gives them a significant advantage. My big concern for startups buying into services from other startups is the issue of longevity and reliability of the service.

Amazon, on the other hand, is likely to stick around and is going to keep investing resources in their web services efforts. Their recent marketing push, as reported by Liz earlier this summer, indicates that they are pretty serious about the web services business. Huber is not worried — he thinks that there’s room for a European-focused utility computing provider that can offers web startups affordable infrastructure that scales with their aspirations.

What do you think?

  1. [...] the risk of beating on a dead horse; the utility computing space gets more crowded. Of course, still no sign of biotech jumping onto the [...]

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  2. I want clarify one point in your story. XCalibre is using Virtual Iron’s server virtualization and management platform. While this includes the Xen open source hypervisor, there is no connection between Virtual Iron and XenSource or Citrix.

    XCalibre selected Virtual Iron’s solution over XenSource’s and we’re very pleased to be working with them. Thanks for the opportunity to clarify.

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  3. Because Amazon is now “capacity constrained,” they made changes to the S3 pricing plan:

    Requests
    $0.01 per 1,000 PUT or LIST requests
    $0.01 per 10,000 GET and all other requests*
    * No charge for delete requests.

    So now uploading 1GB of 4K files will cost $2.72 instead of $0.20. Time-out often occur on downloads but you’ll get charge for requests anyway…

    Amazon is “adding new data center capacity and disk space as fast as we can,” Bezos said.

    http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,130832-c,webservices/article.html

    Technology Review (September 28, 2006): In your keynote talk you spoke about the benefits of S3, EC2, and other Amazon Web services for small businesses that don’t want to invest in building data centers. But isn’t there a benefit in it for Amazon as well? You get to put the vast computing and storage capacity you’ve built around the world, which would otherwise go unused, to gainful employment. I imagine there are times when you’re using less than half of your capacity.

    Jeff Bezos: There are times when we’re using less than 10 percent of capacity. And that is one of the advantages of doing things this way–it promises higher rates of hardware utilization. That’s a system-wide efficiency that should make everybody happy.

    http://www.technologyreview.com/Biztech/17554/?a=f

    “My big concern for startups buying into services from other startups is the issue of longevity and reliability of the service.”

    Looks to me… AWS is on the same boat. With the price increase to buy more servers, latency issues, and now capacity problems… so much for the $2 billion system.

    Can Xcalibre handle a smugmug.com on their grid?

    Flexiscale in my opinion has better pricing than Amazon.
    http://www.flexiscale.com/pricing.html

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  4. I have had sites hosted with xcalibre for almost 5 years now and they are excellent people. Great support and service. If they are ‘going for it’ with this product you can bet it will be good. They will stick around too I’m sure.

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  5. What makes Amazon EC2 great is their API. Flexiscale appears to make no mention of one or even having one.

    Also interesting, their cost per hour for 2.GB is £0.20, which is almost twice as much as EC2. But to be fair their lowest offering is about the same.

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  6. [...] XCalibre To Bring Utility Computing To Euro Web Startups « GigaOM [...]

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  7. [...] sponsor package allowed us to meet top technical bloggers like Michael Arrington of Techcrunch and Om Malik of GigaOM at a private drinks party before the event. We also got an invite to Sam Sethi’s [...]

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  8. [...] FOWA, I met with some really cool companies, including XCalibre. (Read my post about them.) And of course there are updates on some of the more well known companies, like Jaiku. This is [...]

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  9. Competition is always good and there are plenty of customers out there who like the comfort factor of know their data is hosted within the EU jurisdiction. As a service provider to end-users we will certainly look with interest on the better SLAs, static IP addresses and management capabilities as significant differentiators from Amazon (which we use currently).

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  10. Reuven,

    We have a full API, (excuse the old branding, the new branding only got finished just in time for the launch):

    https://api.flexiscale.com/doc/

    Not all of the functionality is enabled yet, but it gives a good idea of what you will be able to achieve.

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