Flexiscale, a new hosting on-demand computing service aimed at Web 2.0 startups, launched in the UK today. It will compete with Amazon’s EC2/S3 service. The move is significant because there is currently only one other on-demand, ‘pay as you go’ hosting solution in Europe aimed at startups, which typically offer free services to begin with and thus need hosting which is not financially punitive at the outset.
Flexiscale – launched today at the Future of Web Apps event – is in fact a new product from XCalibre Communications, a Scotland-based hosting company which has been around for 10 years. The move shows that there is demand for this kind of service from new UK and European startups, desperate for a solution closer to home than typically US-based firms, which can suffer from latency issues and legal constraints over the protection of data (the US does not have a data “safe harbour” agreement with all European countries).
So is Flexiscale really going to be another Amazon EC2/S3?
Speaking to a few people about this, I hear that architecturally they could well have a better product than Amazon. That’s a big claim. But perhaps one of the key feathers in Flexiscale’s service – described as ‘utility computing on demand – is that it supports Windows while Amazon only does Linux.
Other key differences include the offer if a static IP addresses. Amazon EC2/S3 doesn’t do this, so when you bring up an Amazon EC2 server you don’t know what IP address you’ll have.
Plus, if an Amazon EC2 server dies it doesn’t come back automatically. Flexiscale automatically brings back the server with a different machine. It also switches your site to another box if one box is getting too hammered by traffic. Amazon typically does not do this.
In fact there’s a lot Amazon doesnt do, which is perhaps why they won’t offer a Service Level Agreement. Flexiscale will, and currently offers 99.95% uptime.
Flexiscale has been in a two-month Beta testing period, and had paying customers for the past 6 weeks, among whom is UK-based enterprise startup Huddle.
Amazon EC2/S3, as mentioned, has safe harbour and SLA issues. Gogrid is also US-based and offers a subscription-based model (so it’s not really pay-as-you-go) and MediaTemple has had quite a lot of negative press recently.
Astoundingly, the only truly ‘on-demand’ hosting firm in Europe is Q-Layer, which although offers pretty good technology, is currently targeting a much more corporate market and so is therefore much less suited to smaller startups who need to scale from a smaller base.