On last Tuesday, Firehost launched the first of its kind ‘secure public cloud’. According to Firehost’s CEO Chris Drake, Firehost’s public cloud solution is the lone PCI certified invention and is among the limited certified hosting offer.
“A lot of hosting companies are PCI 1.0 compliant,” commented Drake, in a discussion with the WHIR. “Some have done 1.2, which came out a year and a half ago. 2.0 came out at the end of last year, and we quickly adopted the updated framework and applied it to our environment. I don’t know another hosting provider that is PCI 2.0, or a cloud provider that is even secure, let alone 2.0. So we really think we’re a first mover here.”
The principal concern and also the major hindrance in the purchase of cloud hosting services for enterprise customers is security. By developing a public cloud which is PCI compliant, Drakes believes Firehost has addressed the troubles of most enterprise customers.
Hosting services like Rackspace or Terremark try to solve the PCI compliance by trusting the hybrid hosting model and therefore, put non sensitive workloads into the cloud. They then add sensitive information like databases into dedicated server environments to create a separation.
“What that has done is made PCI hosting or even HIPAA hosting kind of cost prohibitive for a lot of organizations,” says Drake. “We’re able to offer a secure cloud environment that is PCI 2.0 compliant for less than $1,000 per month, which is generally around 20 or 25 percent of the industry price. And that cost savings is typical of going dedicated to cloud.”
The newly developed secure cloud is not a new idea. It has the same VMware-based hosting environment already provided to the customers. The launch made this week is an improvement to the customer portal which would allow clients to add and delete memory as well as processing through the use of state of the art technology for changing the set up for thresholds around auto-scaling of resources.
“We’ve been doing cloud, from an infrastructure perspective, on the back end of our business, since launch,” says Drake. “But until we were able to provide our customers the ability to scale and control their environments through our portal, we’ve been purists in the respect that we haven’t called it cloud, where a lot of other companies would have called it cloud.”
With this auto scaling feature customers can set thresholds on memory and processing so that if VM exceeds the limit of usage for a period of time, automatically the system will increase the specs along with scale increments.
“We’ve not seen that at all in the industry,” says Drake. “All scaling has been via an API, where you’re developing more instances. We’ve never seen a cloud hosting provider actually offer auto-scale features to scale up. We’ve only seen scaling out, but not actually scaling up on a particular virtual server.”
Since security is the main focus of Firehost, it is able to cover a cloud hosting business model over such an intricate architecture that not every hosting operation will be able to work on.
Typical features for Firehost customers include cloud hosting, hardware firewall, web application security, denial-of-service mitigation, managed backups and 24-hour checks and response.
Via an affiliation with Dell, VMware and Juniper, Firehost has created an environment of best bred business tools – a system which is considered as a ‘Cadillac’ solution by the partners. Such a solution is only workable if Cadillac prices are accepted by customers.
“If you take a virtual machine in the cloud,” says Drake, “and you price it, one processor and one gig of memory, that machine on the market is going to be about $30 per month. At Firehost, it’s $200 per month. Our security drives that amount of value to our product, which allows us to make sound decisions and buy best of breed stuff.”
Drake believes that since the “secure public cloud” point has been crossed the company can really take off. Firehost has been doing exceptionally well since its launch in 2009, but this is the point the company was willing to attain from the beginning.
“Our initial seed money that we received in March of 2010 was to facilitate this investment, to build this environment, and to get ready for what’s coming this year,” he says. “You’ve seen Firehost’s growth, and how we’re grabbing market share. Our growth has been fantastic. But trust me when I say, we hadn’t launched yet. Now Firehost is really launching. This was our vision from day one.”