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Summary:

Scrappy London startup Server Density is adding AWS and Rackspace provisioning capabilities to its existing monitoring service, says co-founder and CEO David Mytton.

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Cloud monitoring startup Server Density has big plans to take on RightScale in the multi-cloud management space.

The London-based company made its bones by offering customers — which include Electronic Arts, Intel and The New York Times — an easy way to monitor their Amazon Web Services and Rackspace workloads. In that arena it competed with open-source tools like Nagios, Cacti and commercial offerings like Scoutapp and Cloudkick, which Rackspace purchased in 2009.

Now, it’s moving into the more rarefied air of multi-cloud monitoring services where RightScale, Santa Barbara, Calif. reigns as a big, entrenched competitor.

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Server Density, which now has 13 employees, put Server Density v2 in private beta a few weeks back and will start rolling it our more broadly in coming weeks, co-founder and CEO David Mytton said.

RightScale has its vulnerabilities, in Mytton’s view, chief among them what he terms its “awful UI” and pricing that he says is more enterprise-y than you might expect for a cloud focused company. (For the record, RightScale offers a 60-day free trial and then pricing starts at $500 per month for one account with 5 users.)

Server Density monitors an unlimited number of servers for $10 per month and then will charge per server when the user enables additional capabilities.  Its route to market is bottoms-up — sysadmins sick of dealing with multiple cloud dashboards — from AWS and Rackspace —  typically use their credit cards to check out Server Density and its use often spreads to whole departments, Mytton said.

“We’ve spent the past year taking feedback from our existing monitoring customers and are adding cloud provisioning which is our first step into infrastructure management — we provide an abstraction layer for web and mobile that lets you control your Rackspace and Amazon instances without having to use those APIs,” he said.

Of course, RightScale isn’t standing still. The company builds and buys additional capabilities as needed.  And it works with lots of clouds including Google Compute Engine in addition to AWS and Rackspace.

Server Density will also evaluate adding more clouds as it grows, but for now AWS and Rackspace are the two huge opportunities, Mytton said.

In some ways, this upstart and the company it seeks to unseat, also have to face the fact that the cloud providers themselves are adding more monitoring and management tools themselves. AWS Opsworks is an example.  Then the argument is that most  companies don’t want to lock into one cloud and will need a tool set to monitor and manage multiple cloud infrastructure providers.

  1. Hello Barb,
    Interesting article. A small startup dissing an established player with inaccurate information. I am a RightScale user for the past few years. They have a “free plus” tier that allows management of a few small VMs per month for free. You just have to provide a credit card to keep on file in case you exceed the free quota each month.
    As for User experience, its always subjective. RightScale has a new snappy UI that they have shown to some of us as early access.

    If I may, I would go out on a limb and say, comparing Server Density and RightScale is like comparing apples and tennis balls. RightScale does WAY more than monitoring ;-)

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    1. YOu are right, of course. Rightscale is the incumbent and has lots of services/capabilities. This story was about one David starting to take on that Goliath. If it made it seem that Server Density offers all that Rightscale has, i will address.

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  2. Do tech journalists do fact checking any more or do any independent research? The article is full of inaccuracies. It sounds like the author just got direct information from Mr. Mytton and re-posted it without bothering to double check what’s what.

    “Server Density monitors an unlimited number of servers for $10 per month and then will charge per server when the user enables additional capabilities. ”

    If you go to http://www.serverdensity.com/prices/, you will see that this is not true.

    “RightScale has its vulnerabilities, in Mytton’s view, chief among them what he terms its ‘awful UI’…”

    As the previous commented mentioned, RightScale is in the process of rolling out a new sleek dashboard (http://blog.rightscale.com/2013/04/04/a-faster-more-powerful-rightscale-dashboard/ )

    Dev

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    1. The article is accurate. The pricing mentioned is what we intend to charge once we launch out of beta.

      Also, new dashboard != new UI; it’s still based around a fairly horrible design. My comments are based on their current UI and if they’re working on something better, that’s all good.

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  3. the quote about Server Density pricing is about the upcoming services, not the services listed on its site now.

    As for the “awful UI” comment, that is a direct quote from Mr. Mytton so take that for what it’s worth. As you say, Rightscale is “in the process of rolling out” a new dashboard which to me says that even they agree that the current dashboard has problems.

    thanks for your comment.

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  4. I haven’t tried Server Density but I can say that RightScale’s UI is abysmal. Designing an intuitive interface is not in their DNA as a company.

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    1. thanks @alan d. i’ve heard the same and not just from Server Density.

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  5. Wow. Is it just me or does this article (and also the author’s comments) seem far from objective? That last comment strikes me as riddled with personal agenda… Could be wrong but heresy doesn’t make for good journalism. I personally favor APIs over UIs anyways…

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    1. Server Density v2 exposes all the web UI actions through programmatic APIs as well. The advantage is you can use a single API across providers (if you are deployed across multiple cloud vendors).

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  6. marykaichini Monday, June 17, 2013

    What I like is the price as it is practically nothing. It is the same like the tool I am using Anturis (http://www.anturis.com), but at the time there is a chance to get additonal fees which is not so attractive at the same time. How can it be?

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  7. Rightscale’s UI is pretty abysmal – was using it last night and their site was clearly having issues with segments of their launch server interface. I was a bit disappointed.

    Server Density is a small company right now – but I’ve been following David’s work for some time – mainly because of his MongoDB thoughts and expertise which I have been able to use for my own MongoDB work. I’ve come to expect quality from the guys at SD and am excited to see what else they can bring to market. Any set of tools that make our admin jobs less disparate is highly welcomed and if able to be done w/ a decent UI and API then great!

    Cheers,

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