Hostingcon brought out many vendors talking about the virtues of hosting and for many in particular the benefits of dedicated hosting. It really got me thinking about what Bluehost might offer in the future. A higher end offering is definately in our future, but do we choose dedicated servers (A single physical server dedicated to a specific client), or VPS (Virtual private server)?
In our case dedicated servers will NEVER happen. I think their time has come and is quickly going into the sunset. Let me tell you why. Virtual private servers are great, but the marketing behind them has given them a bad name as well. VPS can be lumped into two different categories as far as hosting and bluehost is concerned.
1) Shared kernel, shared memory, but seperate environment VPS implementations – This is the first category of VPS that many hosts offer. It has many advantages to it, but in my opinion is geared toward a lower end client in the VPS market. There is nothing wrong with this type of VPS, but it simply doesn’t have the control of the other type that I will talk about in a moment. VPS that fit into this category are usually using Virtuozzo (A VPS Product sold to web hosting companies). The big advantage of this type of VPS is that you can fit between 50-100 VPS clients on a single highend server. All customers have their own “virtual instance” of linux running, their own dedicated CPU resources, and minimum levels of memory that can come and go to other customers as the need arises. You still use a single kernel to run all these VPS customers, but it is ideal for a certain segment of the VPS market. Customers that would be interested in a VPS in the $15-$39 price range usually fall into the Virtuozzo VPS category. For those looking to avoid CPU quotas with your shared host, and want an environment to run your own servers (require open ports) and have dedicated IP(s) for your system this is what you are looking for.
2) The second type of VPS does full OS Virtualization – These type of products include VMWare, Xen, and others. Using Intels Vanderpool (VT) technology, or AMD’s Pacifica technology these type of VPS products can run at 90-95% of the speed of the physical machine. This type of VPS product allows each client to run whatever operating system they want. One customer can have a windows install, while another has Redhat Linux, while a different customer has Novell Entrerprise Linux. To go above and beyond what is offered by Virtuozzo’s product I would suggest putting on 5-15 the these types of VPS on a physical high end machine. In the case of Bluehost we would use 4-8 core multi-processors with a minimum of 16 gig of memory, and in many cases 32 gigs of memory, and would choose the Xen virtualization product. These type of VPS products have every benefit of a full dedicated server without the drawbacks that make dedicated servers undesireable for most web hosting companies. These benefits include a GREATLY reduced power draw by your clients (15 users on a single highend server), far smaller data center, and many less rack cabinets. A typcial 2U (About 4″) server can hold 15 clients easily, whereas 15 dedicated clients would require at least 15U of rack space. The primary advantage of highend VPS comes in the form of on demand increases in resources that simply can’t be done in an effective manner on traditional dedicated servers. I can increase disk space, and memory for a client with the click of a button. I can also migrate a VPS customer from a server that is having problems to another server in a matter of seconds. High resource customers that need complete control of a system down to the kernel and want complete separation from other users on the server should consider this type of VPS.
Dedicated servers aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but I think you will see that for 90% of the market out there VPS solutions exist that are less expensive and in every way better than dedicated servers. Whether or not VPS wins out in the end will be determined more by marketing than by the technology. Bluehost is going to do its best to promote both types of VPS environments. We are considering doing both types now and will probably start with the basic version first and then move on to the Xen version next. We have no plans to do dedicated servers in the future, and for those that are doing dedicated servers I wish you luck
Matt Heaton / Bluehost.com