IT Innovators: Scaling Efficiently in the Cloud with Software Innovation

One company used software to scale efficiently. Can this approach work for you?

Christy Peters

February 1, 2016

3 Min Read
(Photo by Michael Bocchieri/Getty Images)

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By WindowsITPro

With more than 600,000 direct customers and 2 million customers indirectly through resale partnerships, Hostway Services, Inc., a provider of cloud, managed, Web and hybrid hosting, has emerged as one of the largest cloud hosting and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) providers in the world. Software played a big part in helping the company to scale efficiently, especially when meeting fast-growing demand for private and hybrid cloud services.

“Software is at the core of pretty much everything we do from a cloud perspective,” said Tony Savoy, senior vice president and general manager of managed hosting and cloud services at Hostway.

In the past, Hostway had to turn down some very big opportunities because it couldn’t offer robust network isolation. With a virtual machine operating system upgrade in late 2014, then additional enhancements in June 2015, Hostway was exposed to new capabilities that allowed for deeper network isolation.

Read more: Forget Hardware, Forget Software, Forget the Infrastructure

“A software-defined data center has made it easier for us to segment customers from a network perspective,” said Savoy, adding that one important advancement in network virtualization is NVGRE technology – Network Virtualization using Generic Routing Encapsulation as the mechanism to virtualize IP addresses for load-balanced, multi-tenant networks that can be shared across cloud and on-premises environments.

In addition to deploying NVGRE technology, Hostway partnered with a virtualization management and security provider to add even more granular control over network virtualization and isolation for customers. These capabilities allowed Hostway to, “Engage different types of customers; customers that are more security conscious,” said Savoy. “And customers whose applications require them to segment and isolate one workload from another.”

“Now we can do some layers of multitenancy to reduce cost for customers, for economies of scale,” he said, adding that more economic solutions are of particular benefit to service providers. “Economies of scale benefits service providers because they can do more things in a tighter, more encapsulated series of technologies and then they can extend those economies of scale down to customers in terms of more economical price points.”

“The second key element that the software does for us is provide consistency and quality to the services that we offer customers because it can be done in a repeatable process,” said Savoy, adding that any time you introduce humans you have the tendency to introduce risk.

“This starts to go to the concept of self-healing, machine learning—there are tools and instrumentation out there that when certain triggers are met, the software can automatically repair, resolve or restart a particular scenario,” said Savoy. “That’s something that we look to do from our software, so that we don’t have to have humans going in and returning to service the most common things that fail.”

Sometimes, for example, the best way to troubleshoot is to restart the web server. Through monitoring tools, when certain thresholds are met, Hostway can automatically trigger this restart. In the past, a staff member had to log into the machine, find the problem and resolve the issue manually. This was time consuming and injected cost.

“Companies are shifting more to this DevOps kind of work scenario where developers are more of the operators and the way that they operate is through automation,” said Savoy, advising that IT organizations look to automation to increase efficiency and provide a higher level of service.

“Definitely invest in the automation,” recommended Savoy. “If automation is an afterthought, you’ll be sitting here a year from now and wondering why the wheels are starting to fall off on the business, so invest in the very beginning in automation and streamline the flow of service transition, implementation and support for clients.”

Christy Peters is a writer and communications consultant based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She holds a BS in journalism and her work covers a variety of technologies including semiconductors, search engines, consumer electronics, test and measurement, and IT software and services. If you have a story you would like profiled, please contact her at [email protected].

The IT Innovators series of articles is underwritten by Microsoft, and is editorially independent.

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