The serverless Internet company

I’m sure this isn’t the only one, after all, SmugMug‘s CEO told me that they had moved pretty much everything over to Amazon’s S3 a while back.

But I always assumed that companies would have at least one server keeping things up, just in case Amazon went down. Or just because.

I was wrong.

Last night Mogulus’s CEO, Max Haot, was here at my house to film something fun for my show. Mogulus is the company that, yesterday, provided the live video for Om Malik’s NewTeeVee conference. It was so good I stayed home and watched almost the whole day on the NewTeeVee channel. But more on that when we get the video up.

At one point Max seemed like he was joking around with me when he told me “we don’t own a single server.”

I asked him FOUR more times to make sure I heard him right. I even got incredulous with him at one point saying something like “what the f*** do you mean you don’t own a server?” and “you mean not a single bit of your Web site comes from servers that aren’t owned by Amazon?”

He nicely and calmly explained that, yes, every server the company owns is actually running on Amazon’s S3 and EC2 services.

The world has changed. Now ANYONE can build an Internet company and get it up to scale. No more spending nights inside data centers trying to keep servers running.

Let’s go over to Mike Arrington’s CrunchBase and do some research. They pulled in $1.2 million in funding. Yet they don’t own a SINGLE server!

They have about 15,000 people already creating live video channels. They have one of the most innovative Web sites I’ve ever seen.

But they don’t own a server.

How else has the world changed? Where the hell is Microsoft in this whole business? How did Microsoft screw this up so badly? Let’s get this straight. Amazon used to be a book store. Now they are hosting virualized servers for Internet companies. So much for having billions of dollars in the bank like Microsoft does, some of the smartest people in the world working in your research arms and having “monopoly” market share in operating systems.

Heheh, maybe now Amazon can use some of the new money that they’ll be earning from these startups to buy some decent PR. According to Read/Write Web Amazon needs the help in that department.

Oh, back to Max. One tip he gave us is that when using Amazon’s services you have to design your systems with the assumption that they will never be up and running. What he means by that is services are “volatile” and can go up and down without notice. So, he’s designed his systems to survive that. He told me that it meant his engineering teams had to be quite disciplined in designing their architecture.

How many other Internet companies are out there that are “serverless?”

107 thoughts on “The serverless Internet company

  1. Don’t see why all the hubba about Amazon. I have a website that generates around 5000G traffic each month, and I’m paying $150 for the server. I did the amazon math on the site, and it would cost at least double what I’m paying now.
    And the traffic is way more expensive.

  2. Don’t see why all the hubba about Amazon. I have a website that generates around 5000G traffic each month, and I’m paying $150 for the server. I did the amazon math on the site, and it would cost at least double what I’m paying now.
    And the traffic is way more expensive.

  3. Atishae QAArtist is an Automated Testing Framework to provide functional, regression and load testing for web applications that uses AWS EC2 to scale up.

    We would be soon provisioning via DevPay for customers to launch their test suites directly off Amazon.

    (Testing Windows Apps still work off the desktop — no EC2 there, yet!)

    Visit us @ http://www.atishae.net or write to us @ qaartist@atishae.net

  4. Atishae QAArtist is an Automated Testing Framework to provide functional, regression and load testing for web applications that uses AWS EC2 to scale up.

    We would be soon provisioning via DevPay for customers to launch their test suites directly off Amazon.

    (Testing Windows Apps still work off the desktop — no EC2 there, yet!)

    Visit us @ http://www.atishae.net or write to us @ qaartist@atishae.net

  5. Serverlessness: a cool concept. How precisely do they do DNS though? Amazon servers and ip addresses are volatile… what if one goes down and they lose the ip address?

  6. Serverlessness: a cool concept. How precisely do they do DNS though? Amazon servers and ip addresses are volatile… what if one goes down and they lose the ip address?

  7. Interesting comments – for those making use of Amazons service any complaints on reliability/stability? Any downtime?

  8. Interesting comments – for those making use of Amazons service any complaints on reliability/stability? Any downtime?

  9. In response to Bill Seitz:

    You should come check out blogTV.com. There is plenty of archivesto watch plus the added benefit of constant live streaming shows in which you can interact with the hosts and other users.

    Its a unique community and a hell of a lot of fun!

    Check it out!

  10. In response to Bill Seitz:

    You should come check out blogTV.com. There is plenty of archivesto watch plus the added benefit of constant live streaming shows in which you can interact with the hosts and other users.

    Its a unique community and a hell of a lot of fun!

    Check it out!

  11. Comment re: data persistence on EC2/S3…

    We (www.elastra.com) are providing a database offering (MySQL, EnterpriseDB & PostgreSQL) and file system to now allow persistent data and clustering on EC2.

    Please check us out and provide feedback! From the problems I am reading about in earlier posts we are solving the database issues many folks are referencing. We are in beta testing right now.

  12. Comment re: data persistence on EC2/S3…

    We (www.elastra.com) are providing a database offering (MySQL, EnterpriseDB & PostgreSQL) and file system to now allow persistent data and clustering on EC2.

    Please check us out and provide feedback! From the problems I am reading about in earlier posts we are solving the database issues many folks are referencing. We are in beta testing right now.

  13. Maybe because Mogulus is focused on live/streaming video, they have less in the way of archives to generate views/lists on.

    (For a long time the Yahoo directory was driven by static files rather than a db. On the other hand, to *search* that directory, rather than browse its hierarchy, would still require a persistent engine. On the other-other hand, maybe you could generate your index, store it on S3, etc….)

    Some actual details (I googled but didn’t find anything) on Mogulus’ infrastructure would take this beyond smoke.

  14. Maybe because Mogulus is focused on live/streaming video, they have less in the way of archives to generate views/lists on.

    (For a long time the Yahoo directory was driven by static files rather than a db. On the other hand, to *search* that directory, rather than browse its hierarchy, would still require a persistent engine. On the other-other hand, maybe you could generate your index, store it on S3, etc….)

    Some actual details (I googled but didn’t find anything) on Mogulus’ infrastructure would take this beyond smoke.

  15. @Dean, I think one thing that raises Amazon above the level of the typical VPS provider is that many of their services have an API, and can be hit programatically. S3 can eliminate not just the db box, but the db itself: no MySQL, no Oracle. Just pipe your data to S3.

    On http://wordie.org I’m using slicehost.com, fwiw. They don’t offer an API, so I had to install and manage MySQL. But I don’t have to deal with server maintenance, and I can add capacity easily and quickly.

    I think Amazon has it right, though: eliminate the overhead not just of the hardware, but also the lower levels of the software stack.

  16. @Dean, I think one thing that raises Amazon above the level of the typical VPS provider is that many of their services have an API, and can be hit programatically. S3 can eliminate not just the db box, but the db itself: no MySQL, no Oracle. Just pipe your data to S3.

    On http://wordie.org I’m using slicehost.com, fwiw. They don’t offer an API, so I had to install and manage MySQL. But I don’t have to deal with server maintenance, and I can add capacity easily and quickly.

    I think Amazon has it right, though: eliminate the overhead not just of the hardware, but also the lower levels of the software stack.

  17. The question you don’t ask however is “Why Amazon”?

    There are a ton of other colo, server rental, virtual computing….etc etc providers out there – what is the magic sauce that Amazon EC2 and S3 hit on that is drawing all the flies to the honey?

    Any thoughts?

    Cheers,
    Dean Collins
    http://www.Cognation.net

  18. The question you don’t ask however is “Why Amazon”?

    There are a ton of other colo, server rental, virtual computing….etc etc providers out there – what is the magic sauce that Amazon EC2 and S3 hit on that is drawing all the flies to the honey?

    Any thoughts?

    Cheers,
    Dean Collins
    http://www.Cognation.net

  19. Bioscreencast is also moving to EC2/S3. We have a hosted server that we use for development/staging, but all screencasts will be served up from S3 and we have other plans as well, especially for EC2.

    As people above have noted, not having inhouse servers is nothing new. It’s the flexible capacity and utility aspects of Amazon, 3Tera, etc that are so cool and novel, at least for running businesses.

  20. Bioscreencast is also moving to EC2/S3. We have a hosted server that we use for development/staging, but all screencasts will be served up from S3 and we have other plans as well, especially for EC2.

    As people above have noted, not having inhouse servers is nothing new. It’s the flexible capacity and utility aspects of Amazon, 3Tera, etc that are so cool and novel, at least for running businesses.

  21. I just launched Tripntale and we’re entirely using Amazon’s EC2 and S3 for our backend. So yes, we don’t have to manage any server and yet we have about 10000 pictures uploaded in the first month.

  22. I just launched Tripntale and we’re entirely using Amazon’s EC2 and S3 for our backend. So yes, we don’t have to manage any server and yet we have about 10000 pictures uploaded in the first month.

  23. >>> “I always assumed that companies would have at least one server keeping things up, just in case Amazon went down”

    IMHO if folks felt they had to keep extra hardware around this would be a showstopper to adoption of utility computing systems. At 3tera, we do have some users that keep back end systems off the grid, but it’s most often because these systems run on an OS that isn’t yet supported on the grid, like Windows. In those cases, though, the servers running those back end processes are also hosted in the same data center.

  24. >>> “I always assumed that companies would have at least one server keeping things up, just in case Amazon went down”

    IMHO if folks felt they had to keep extra hardware around this would be a showstopper to adoption of utility computing systems. At 3tera, we do have some users that keep back end systems off the grid, but it’s most often because these systems run on an OS that isn’t yet supported on the grid, like Windows. In those cases, though, the servers running those back end processes are also hosted in the same data center.

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