DigitalOcean Rolling In with New Features, Big Plans for Asia
Cloud hosting startup's CEO checks in with Enterprise Networking Planet to talk expansion plans and new features like load balancing and IPv6.
Several months after its latest investment round pulled in $3.2M, DigitalOcean, the upstart cloud hosting provider with the "message of love," is demonstrating significant growth and rolling out the first in a series of new features aimed at better positioning it in global markets. The company has expanded its engineering team and launched over 500,000 cloud servers—"droplets"—to date. DigitalOcean aims to double that by early 2014 and has big plans for the future. Ben Uretsky, DigitalOcean's cofounder and CEO, spoke with Enterprise Networking Planet about some of those plans.
"The speed of light is not fast enough": Expanding to Asia
DigitalOcean currently has data centers in San Francisco, New York City, and Amsterdam. About 20 percent of DigitalOcean's customer base is in Asia, however, and for that 20 percent, "the speed of light is not fast enough," Uretsky said. He cited a noticeable delay as data travels from Asia to Europe or North America and a need to place resources closer to the end users.
"We're looking at Singapore as a most likely location for our next data center," Uretsky said.
The company's current customer base in Asia isn't the only reason for its plans, of course. To Uretsky, Asia represents a significant opportunity for the company. The same undeniable benefits that have propelled cloud's growth in North American and European markets—lower cost of entry, quick and relatively easy provisioning of and access to resources—hold true in Asia as well.
Uretsky believes that the transition of some regions from rural, agricultural economies to urban, technological economies will play a large role in cloud's growth there. "As more and more people gain access to the Internet and ultimately go on to work in IT, there will be a greater need for computing resources, and cloud provides that extremely well," he said. DigitalOcean intends to position itself to take advantage of that shift.
New features: Private networking, load balancing, IPv6
In the meantime, DigitalOcean is working on new features that the company tentatively plans to roll out quarterly, one new feature per quarter.
When it comes to deciding what features to develop next, "we actually engage with our users in a public forum," said Uretsky. The company interacts with customers using the UserVoice customer feedback site to determine "what's top of mind for our customers" and uses that feedback to make its decisions.
Based on that feedback, DigitalOcean has already rolled out private networking to its New York data center. Customers can now create a droplet with a public and a private address; any communication that happens over the private address space happens over the private network, a "point to point private network with aggressive filtering to protect customer data," Uretsky said.
Among the other features DigitalOcean plans to provide are load balancing, IPv6, object storage, and a content distribution network (CDN) to layer on top of the object storage. Once the private networking rollout is complete, the next item on the agenda will most likely be load balancing, according to Uretsky. "IPv6 is heavily requested, but the use cases for it are a little bit limited compared to load balancing," he said.
Uretsky is aware that other providers already offer the features DigitalOcean is planning. That isn't the point, he explained.
"We're not actually creating something new," Uretsky said. "Providers out there have load balancing, IPv6, object storage, and so on, but the difference is, it's extremely difficult to use that technology and have it available for your organization. And how much does it cost, and what performance can you achieve?"
Ease of provisioning and use—that "message of love"—is one of DigitalOcean's core values, he explained, as well as what differentiates DigitalOcean from its competition. Private networking, for example, is a single-click option for DigitalOcean customers, and "it's a feature that we've gotten very few support requests around" despite what he terms a surprising rate of adoption: 5,000 private networking-enabled droplets spun up in about a three-week period.
"Our vision is to simplify cloud infrastructure and make high-grade enterprise environments available to developers, small businesses, and startups of all shapes and sizes in an intuitive, easy to use, high performing environment," Uretsky said. That remains top of mind for the company.
Compliance certifications: On the roadmap, but not a priority
So what isn't top of mind for DigitalOcean?
Regulatory compliance and data residency issues are a concern for several major industries, and many cloud providers claim to address some of those concerns. DigitalOcean is also "beginning to tackle" PCI and SOX compliance and the surrounding certification processes, but not as a top priority, Uretsky said.
"That's not what customers are requesting from us today," he explained. "I feel confident that we can achieve it in the near future, but we have not addressed that as one of our immediate goals just yet." The company prefers to stick to its message of simplicity, intuitiveness, and attractive price points.
"Today we're focusing on delivering high-tech features to our customer base. We're much more interested in the high-tech feature set than the low-level compliance," he said.
Jude Chao is executive editor of Enterprise Networking Planet. Follow her on Twitter @judechao.