Archive for August, 2007

Google’s a complete pain to work with…

Friday, August 31st, 2007

I have delt with more companies that I can even remember and have negotiated some VERY big deals in my day, but never have I felt like I was talking to a brick wall more than when I talk with Google. They are the worst company that I have had to do a deal with in recent memory. As you start out with any of their services you are immediately bound by all of their controls and subject to exactly what they want. It is 100% their way or the highway.

As someone who owns and runs a web hosting company, I am charged with growing our business, and grow it I do! I do what is necessary to get a deal done and grow. Google on the other hand stares blankly at me wondering why I don’t want to eat it’s dog food. Its so frustrating because Google has good products technically, they just don’t have the people and policies in place to put those products into deal makers hands to establish REAL relationships with partners. By REAL, I mean a partnership where there is some give and take and not all take and no give.

We are the fastest growing shared hosting company in the world, growing at a rate of almost 20,000 new paying customers every month. If Google wants to do business they better start treating us like we are more than the guy in his basement with one server. Unfortunately, I know exactly what will happen. They will get their same dog food, put it in a different bowl and offer it again. The answer was NO, before they even started…

Some companies just don’t get it and probably never will…

Matt Heaton / President Bluehost.com

Hosted apps… The future of web hosting!

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Web hosting has evolved a great deal from when I first got started in the industry about 10 years ago (I can’t believe its been that long). When I started with web hosting I was involved in free hosting and all the ads that went along with it. We embedded banner and text ads on every users page and most of our clients used simple HTML pages to host all of their “content”.

Times have changed. Now hosting is all about the applications that you can host on your site and software as a service. I want to write a little about hosted applications and the challenges that hosting companies face when dealing with hosted applications. For those new the subject, I define a hosted application as some type of script that is more than HTML, that accomplishes something that is beyond the scope and ability of standard HTML. Examples of applications that we host might include WordPress (Blogging software), OScommerce (A popular ecommerce package), phpBB (Forum software), and so on.

Bluehost offers around 50 different hosted applications that are easy to install via a one click install software package that we have available in our backend. That product is called Fantastico. It is a wonderful product that enables many users that normally wouldn’t have the technical where with all to install these software applications on their own.

However, Fantastico and products like it have a fatal flaw in my opinion. The Fantastico installer itself is a program that must be installed on each and every one of our servers. We have over 500 servers for our shared hosting platform which means we have 500 installs of Fantastico. Of course we have Fantastico completely automated and updated on all our servers, but the mere fact that we have to keep it updated is a problem in my eyes. Also, Fantastico itself it often slow to update software that it installs. That is a huge problem when security issues are found in a particular application and no easy upgrade is possible until Fantastico provides an update. These are all big problems, but the #1 problem with Fantastico is that it is platform specific. It ONLY works on Cpanel, and that is its achilles heel.

I have thought for some time that a better option is possible. What if there was a product that ran remotely on a single cluster of servers that had more choices than Fantastico that worked with multiple Control panels like Plesk, Cpanel, Helm, Ensim, and even installed all the popular open source software that wasn’t previously available on Windows hosts. What if you could easily take your WordPress installation and move it from one host to another if your previous host didn’t perform well. What if it was easy to use, completely automated, and integrated with many large hosting companies. What if I told you that even if your web host didn’t support the product that it would still work on their hosting platform even if they didn’t know the software existed. How nice would it be for a web host to use this product knowing they didn’t have to install a single piece of code on any of their servers or update their system on their end EVER.

Of course, I have been told many times how this would be impossible to implement and all the reasons why it wouldn’t work. I remember a few years ago when I was told how ridiculous it would be to start Bluehost because the competition was so fierce. I don’t take well to people telling me something can’t be done.

Of course this is only a rumor, but a little bird has shown me just such a website that currently works with about 10 applications and the list is growing everyday. It sure would be nice if something like this popped up on Bluehost before the end of the year. It would make a great Christmas present for Bluehost customers as well as all those users stuck with a crappy host that doesn’t offer an easy way to install and update software with the click of a button. Maybe, just maybe, something like this might make it out by the end of the year. Keep your fingers crossed :)

Thanks,
Matt Heaton / President Bluehost.com

Solid state devices and the hosting industry…

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

Shared web hosting and virtual hosting are 100% about resource management. From our perspective we want to maximize our hardware resources so that our customers have the cpu/memory and IO that they need while still having enough customers on a cluster of servers to make it cost effective to sell hosting at a reasonable price.

In my opinion CPU and memory constraints have mostly been solved in the hosting industry. Many hosting companies would disagree with me on that statement, but those that REALLY understand what the bottlenecks are that are hampering the hosting industry know that it is all about Disk IO and poor seek times.

Seek times on hard drives are BY FAR the #1 issue that Bluehost faces in terms of hardware/server performance. It astounds me that so many “techies” don’t get this when I talk to them about servers where hundreds of people shared the same storage either locally or through a NAS/SAN/SAS or other storage device. 90% of the high “CPU Loads” we see have nothing to do with CPU and everything to do with Disk IO blocking, and specifically the inability to seek fast enough to service all IO requests by the kernel. So what can you do?

The answer, in my opinion, is solid state drives. Hard drive technology has stagnated over the past 15 years as little has been done to increase actual disk speed. Sure, capacities have increased tremendously over that same period, but 3.7 ms seek time is still the fastest I have seen. I could buy drives with a 3.7ms seek time 10 years ago. Soild state drives – drives based on flash memory solve this problem. Most of these drives have a seek time of <1 ms, and many offer drives with seek time in the nano second range. These drives offer a tremendous speed improvement when the disk is under heavy IO load. We have implemented some of these devices in scenarios where MySQL databases were migrated to soild state devices, or where the “/” partition was completely overwhelmed by IO. The speed improvements were immediate and dramatic. MySQL was up to 50x faster in some cases and 5-10x speed improvement in database performance was common across the board. This is especially true in a shared hosting environment where many customers simply can’t optimize their databases for lack of time or knowledge.

Solid state drives are expensive and small. They only make sense when you are storing data that is accessed constantly, and that is reasonably small. 4 Gig to 64 Gig drives are common, but expensive. However, in the ultra competitive market of shared hosting every bit counts. You can count on Bluehost to start implementing these very soon as standard fare on all our servers. We have several in production now, but soon all our new servers will have these type of devices to yet again force the performance marker to go up one more notch.

Thanks,
Matt Heaton / President Bluehost.com

I’m not like other people…

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

As I was driving home today I noticed that I was driving extra fast (Which is bad because I normally speed anyway). I felt irritated. My music volume was turned up to the max. I was weaving in between cars and generally was in a bad mood. What was the reason? I was angry because other hosting companies were getting signups in areas where we haven’t taken over the market yet. Seriously…

Thats when it hit me. I really am not like other people. I am competitive in business like most business owners, but it goes a step further. I CAN’T STAND to lose. We have increased our growth 25% in the last 60 days and I am just as unhappy about it as when we were getting 10 signups a day. Please don’t take what I am saying to mean that I am not grateful for what we have and what Bluehost and Hostmonster have become. I am simply saying that no matter what, I want to and WILL win in the contest to get the most hosting customers and to grow our business as fast as possible.

I am not sure what it is inside me that makes me want to win so badly, but its there and I can’t get rid of it. When I am at work with the rest of the Bluehost gang I don’t think I seem all that motivated. I feel like I am just one of the gang at work, but at 10:30 pm I sit down at my computer after I have put the kids to bed and tricked the wife into “thinking” I went to sleep. That is the only time I feel like I can get any “real” work done. This is the time when I evaluate competitors, look into tech support concerns on our end, work on tech and linux kernel fixes to improve our services from the backside, and fret over why we aren’t getting 100% of the shared hosting signups worldwide. Its drives me crazy when I look on the web and see one of my competitors that I know are taking a certain percentage of the shared hosting market. I want to completely destroy that avenue of business for them and take it all for our company. I know how horrible that sounds when I write it, but its true. I am doing this business to win. If it was all about money I wouldn’t even be here anymore. I don’t need more money, I NEED to beat out the next competitor. I NEED to have the best anitspam solution, I NEED to able to sell Exchange hosting for 50% less than everyone else, I NEED to be able to handle more shared customers on the same type of hardware because of our superior backend software and linux modifications, in short I MUST win in these areas.

Sometimes we can’t achieve our goals, but if we can’t its our own fault. The blame falls with me! At one point I said 500 signups a day would be great – That would be the “Holy Grail” for us and how could we really do better than that anyway? Afterall, 500 is a lot of signups in a day. We are now at about 650 signups a day, and I guarantee you in 6-9 months from now we will be well into the 1,000 new customers signing up everyday. I know the day I reach our goal that 1,000 signups won’t look so good anymore. That’s when 1,500 becomes the new goal!!!

Keep working on whatever you are doing, and we will do the same. I will write again when we hit the 1,000 paid signups a day goal. Its coming, and its coming fast. I believe we are now the 1st or 2nd fastest growing shared hosting provider in the world. Most of the growth simply comes from my disdain for other companies that want to compete in our space. We WILL beat them out and offer a better product and we will do it sooner than later.

To win you HAVE to believe you are the best, and if you don’t then get out of the way because there are ten people to take your place!!! This industry is too competitive to see how #2 and #3 did? Who cares? Who is #1 and how did they get there? That is what matters!

Well enough… I think its quite clear that I am more than a little arrogant about our future prospects for our business, but its only because I believe in it so much. Please take what I said in that manner and not that I am a loud mouth arrogant jerk. Either way, those 1,000 signups a day are coming our way :)

Thanks,
Matt Heaton / Bluehost.com