IronScale Servers in the Cloud

We all know that the nebulous term “the cloud” floats on real, physical hardware. If you use shared hosting (as I do) you share a server with dozens of other Web sites. If you need more performance or more control, you move to a dedicated server owned and supported by the hosting company, or you host your own server in house. You can also put your own physical server in a hosted site called co-location. You provide the server and software, and they provide the location, power, physical security, and Internet access. Now let's talk about a new wrinkle in the cloud called IronScale, a company trying to create a new niche they call “automated managed hosting.”

This ambitious product offering, just available, attempts to leverage the best benefits of offsite hosting with absolute control of dedicated server hardware, with a side dish of leading edge storage support. They offer better servers than you probably would put in a co-location site, more storage flexibility through their Storage Area Network than most companies build for themselves, and other expensive but necessary features including snap-shot backups and fail-over. IronScale appears to have found a nice balance between dedicated hosting outsourcing and sharing the costs of advanced storage, backup, and management facilities.

They're a little name-happy, with IronScale being the first product from StrataScale, which is a subsidiary of RagingWire, an eight year old traditional hosting company. They're brand new, with a few beta clients and some early adopters signing up with their release earlier this week. They're making their pitch based not on lower price like many new companies, but on getting advanced features for standard pricing. You pay per server per month, rather than paying up front for your own server and storage system hardware, then paying per month for your hosting and bandwidth.

IronScale seems to be recreating many of the advantages of virtual servers with real servers. You can add and configure new servers in minutes. You can use Windows or Red Hat Linux for your server operating system. You can set up a physical fail-over server for price of a virtual fail-over server. And you can see everything through the Web portal, including boot up sequences before the operating system loads.

They have an interesting story to tell, and those of you with co-location agreements should take a look. Those of you ready to move up from shared hosting to buying your own server and hosting it yourself should also give them a call, because the price of hosting a quality server environment is far higher than you think once you add in storage, backup, bandwidth, security, management, and technical expertise. With IronScale, they handle Storage Area Network configuration, and you don't have to hire someone who knows whether to use iSCSI of Fibre Channel to link your LUNs.

IronScale is aiming at companies with 50 to 500 users following the standard definition. But they're really aiming at small to medium companies with serious Web server needs, such as heavy e-copmmerce traffic. And if you're thinking about rolling out a new Software As A Service offering, IronScale would be a great provider option.

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