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Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Simon Anderson, CEO of DreamHost (Part 2)

Posted on Tuesday, Sep 15th 2015

Sramana Mitra: Let’s actually double-click a little bit into the core use cases that your company enables. Pick whatever client that you want to double-click down into. Walk us through the value proposition and the problem you are solving.

Simon Anderson: Our core platform product is our website hosting platform where a customer can sign up for a very low monthly fee. They basically get a work bench that they can program. They can set up a personal blog. Typically, we’re a very big WordPress host. We’re one of the biggest in the world in terms of the number of installs. We also do other platforms like Joomla. Our core use case is we have a very large user base who use us for blogging and developing their own small business website or their own hobby website. Examples of customers are long tail bloggers. They choose to use a platform like DreamHost as distinct from the free platform because they just get a lot of ability to customize. They can run any plug-in they want, provided it doesn’t present a security issue. They get Shell access to our shared hosting environment so that they can work at the command line if they wish. There’s a great amount of flexibility, which is appealing to that type of customer who is very aspirational to learn more. It spans all the way through to customers like Pink Floyd.

More recently in the last four to five years, particularly when I came into the company, the founders and the team were very keen to lean in heavily to this next wave of cloud computing. They were already seeing the potential emergence of some open source platforms that could be very viable for operating cloud services as an operator. About four years ago when I joined the company, we immediately deep dived and selected OpenStack, which at that time was a fledgling platform that had been spun out of Rackspace and NASA. Six months after that spin-out had happened, we jumped in and decided it was the right platform for us to put a lot of energy behind. If you fast forward to today, we now have two major core foundational cloud services for web professionals and developers. We have DreamCompute, which is our cloud computing offering based on OpenStack. Then we have DreamObjects, which is our object storage offering for storing terabytes of data based on Ceph. Ceph is an open source software technology that we also incubated and developed.

There’s a material overlap between the users of our cloud services and our hosting services for websites and applications. As you’d expect, the customers of cloud are very much developers and programmers. You need a certain amount of technical expertise in order to leap in and use the core cloud infrastructure. We have Kenyan farm that uses DreamCompute to process a whole range of data and also to communicate between the different farms. We’ve got mobile applications that are running on DreamCompute. It really is a true utility cloud platform very much in the same vein as Amazon or Google’s cloud platform.

Interestingly, the reason that we believe we have a role to play and a place in the cloud computing world as a service provider is, we have a very long-term view that, ultimately, programmers and developers would want an open platform where they really understand what’s underneath the hood in terms of the software that’s running on the platform. Ultimately, it will become a lot more extensible and configurable if they can have access to that open source. In many ways, we see it akin to the growth of Linux as distinct from other operating system platform for IT workloads. Linux is open. It’s extensible. If there’s a security issue, there are a lot of eyes on it. It’s not a black box.

We think the same sort of thing is happening in cloud computing. Even though at that time when we chose OpenStack as the platform and the community that we wanted to get involved with, there were other open source platforms that actually had a lot more adoption than OpenStack at that time. Ultimately, OpenStack has prevailed. The community has really coalesced around OpenStack. We’re in a very interesting time where we’re seeing quite a lot of adoption of OpenStack-based cloud due to the fact that it’s open source, extensible, and there are a lot of developers working on it now.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Simon Anderson, CEO of DreamHost
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