Building a competitive VPS hosting service using open source oVirt virtualization
In 2008, when VPS hosting made its debut, a low end VPS was priced anywhere between $30/month – $50/month. At that time, the cheapest shared hosting plan cost $5/mo. Fast forward to 2015.
Now the cheapest VPS is priced at $7/mo, while the cheapest shared hosting plan costs $4/mo. So, for just an additional $3/mo, website owners today get a service that has better performance, full autonomy, and better security.
How to deliver the best VPS hosting services
In many ways, VPS is becoming the new shared hosting, and cloud hosting, the new VPS hosting. This is prompting many traditional shared hosts to offer VPS services.
However, many hosting providers find it difficult to compete with low cost VPS plans provided by industry big shots. The reason for this situation is the high cost incurred in using proprietary virtualization systems.
To make a proprietary virtualization solution profitable, either the number of VPS users should be very large, or the host should be willing to wait for a very long break-even period. Small and mid-size (SMB) hosting companies often find this proposition too expensive to pursue.
For mid-size hosting companies, the best point of entry to high performance VPS hosting is open source virtualization technologies. Open source technologies such as OpenVZ, KVM, OpenStack, oVirt, etc., are used extensively in production environments, and are proven to be as stable, or better than competing commercial solutions.
Most mid-size hosting companies do not choose open source technologies because of the lack of product support. That is where Bobcares makes a difference.
As part of our VPS support services, Bobcares helps web hosting companies setup, configure and maintain VPS hosting infrastructure. We recently assisted a shared hosting provider launch VPS hosting services using open source technology.
The shared hosting provider specialized in delivering reliable shared hosting to small businesses. But of late, there has been many instances of website owners migrating to VPS services of large providers, and the shared host wanted to offer a VPS service that could compete with the industry leaders.
We recommended using an open source virtualization solution called oVirt for the VPS service. It would help the customer keep the costs down, while allowing the customer to offer high quality service that could compete with industry leaders.
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This is the story of how we designed and implemented the system.
oVirt VPS hosting – Design considerations
As the first step of building the solution, we listed the core features the new VPS system should have. First and foremost, it should have the level of security and speed that large service providers are often known for.
That is, VPS instances should be lightning fast at all times, and should be secure from abuses like spamming, hacks, malware etc. One VPS owner shouldn’t face the brunt of an abusive user in the system.
The second important feature was high uptime. Website owners often associated high uptime with premium service. So, it was critical that our new VPS service should be able to offer 99.9% uptime which would put it in the same league as large service providers.
The third feature was support for all popular operating systems, that included several Linux distros and various versions of Windows servers.
The hosting provider didn’t want to invest in a separate server for Windows customers, as their numbers were too small to achieve break-even. This was a crucial point, as it negated container virtualization solutions such as OpenVZ or LXD.
To be able to host multiple operating systems in the same host, true virtualization such as Xen or KVM was needed. Considering all these factors, we designed a VPS hosting solution based on oVirt (aka Open Virtualization).
oVirt is an open source virtualization system which was used as a foundation for Red Hat’s Enterprise Virtualization solution (RHEV). oVirt has been in active development since 2008, and was now mature enough to support production environments.