Rackspace Cloud Servers vs VPS Platforms

Lately I’ve found myself in the middle of several discussions about how Rackspace Cloud Servers and other platforms like it (Amazon EC2, Linode, GoGrid, etc) differ from traditional VPS environments. While there are similarities, they are by no means the same thing. Let’s take a quick look at some of the key differentiators and advantages.

A Cloud Server is a virtual dedicated server instance based on our custom implementation the Xen Hypervisor that run on very robust hardware. These server instances offer truly dedicated and protected resources which isn’t the case with a VPS (virtual private server). While you may get a small portion of dedicated memory, there is generally no dedicated CPU allocation, disk i/o, network i/o, etc. In addition, most VPS providers only offer smaller amounts of resources, 256MB-1GB of memory and no options above this. And the largest problem by far is VPS platforms are typically oversold, so one physical host machine is running far too many customers and this turns into a resource allocation nightmare causing server crashes or poor performance (or both). There is no isolation from other customers.

With a Cloud Server you always get the full amount of allocated memory, CPU, network i/o, etc that you are paying for and there are some great perks as well, such as the ability for your CPU allocation to burst when there are free CPU cycles on the host machine or when it is heavily underutilized. So often you end up with far more CPU allocation than what you are paying for as the host servers powering Cloud Servers are never oversold.

Now, that being said, lets talk about some of the real “cloud” features…

Instant Provisioning
Spin up one, ten or 100 Cloud Servers in real-time via our control panel or programmatically via our robust API.

Resource Granularity
No need to worry about finding the best fit between 2 or 3 options. The Rackspace Cloud offers a wide range of instance sizes so you can ensure you are paying only for the resources you need at that time.

Near Instant Scaling
One of the best features of the entire platform is the ability to instantly resize (in near real-time) your Cloud Server instance with a few clicks in the control panel or an API call. Once this event is triggered everything else is automated and takes only a few minutes (depends on how much data is on the instance). Your new instance either larger or smaller will be created and a snapshot of your current Cloud Server is taken and restored to the new instance moving over all your data and configurations (no data migration or reconfiguration necessary). Once you confirm that everything is working with the new Cloud Server instance you can finalize the resize which moves your IP address(es) to the new server instance.

Hourly Billing & Utility Bandwidth
Utility billing is essential for any Cloud platform and something else you will not find from a VPS provider. You pay for your server instances on a per hour basis, so if you only need an instance for a certain amount of days/weeks that is all you pay for. Or if you need to move up and down on your resources you continue to pay only for what you are using. Bundled bandwidth is also something the VAST majority of users don’t exceed. We have broken this out to save you even more money instead of bundling it into the cost which always carries a dollar amount to it.

No Bloatware Installed
No control panels or other software installed by default, Cloud Servers give you straight SSH/command line access to your Linux server environment just like you would have with your own dedicated server. If you choose to install a control panel, you certainly can, but we do not make this decision for you.

Cloning
Server cloning allows you to provision a brand new Cloud Server instance on the spot from any of your current Cloud Servers which will contain all that servers data and configurations. You can also launch a new Cloud Server anytime from a backup image from any other server on your account.

Persistent Storage
This isn’t necessarily a difference between Cloud Servers and VPS platforms, but data persistence is a huge feature of the Cloud Servers platform when comparing to other Cloud infrastructure platforms such as Amazon EC2. Your data on Cloud Servers is stored on a local high-performance RAID10 array on the host server, so even in the event of a hardware failure your data is safe and will be there when the server is brought back online, unlike Amazon EC2 where all that data in memory simply disappears unless you have another storage solution implemented.

These are just a few of the big differences between a true Cloud hosting platform and a VPS environment. If you have any questions or feedback leave a comment below.

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  • http://www.m80im.com JasonM80

    Nice writeup! Cloud computing offers many advantages, which I believe will only grow as the technology matures. Your point about near instant scaling is a good one. I would add that cloud computing also offers almost unlimited system resources.

    You suggest that “… VPS platforms are typically oversold, so one physical host machine is running far too many customers and this turns into a resource allocation nightmare causing server crashes or poor performance (or both).”
    This can happen with cloud computing as well. Potential users should always make sure to read their SLA (service licensing agreement) to find out what uptime and performance metrics are guaranteed.

    Also, I don’t agree with your point around data storage persistence in Rackspace Cloud Servers compared to other cloud service prividers. Amazon.’s EC2, the Google App Engine and Microsoft’s Windows Azure Platform all provide persistent data storage. Windows Azure (my primary interest), for instance, offers storage in the form of “BLOBs,” tables and relational databases.

    (I am contracted by M80, working with Microsoft to promote Windows Azure)

    • http://www.chadkeck.com Chad

      Jason,

      Thank you for your thoughts and I’m glad you liked the article. In regards to my comment on persistent storage, let me clarify that there are options such as EBS with Amazon Web Services, but this is a separate service that has to be implemented and paid for. It is not inherent to the EC2 platform by default.

      Can you shed any more light on the “BLOBs” you mentioned in regards to Azure? Will this work similar to EBS in the form of an additional service required to achieve data persistence? Just curious to understand it a bit more, thanks!

      -Chad

  • http://www.m80im.com JasonM80

    Sure. BLOBs (binary large objects) is a general way to store large amounts of unstructured data in Windows Azure. BLOBs can hold up to 50 GB of data and can be accessed via HTTP/REST in blocks.

    A Windows Azure subscription includes three forms of storage: BLOBs, tables and queues. (Note that tables are simple and not relational. For relational DB tables, SQL Azure, is offered as a separate service.) As with most cloud services, you pay for the resources you use, including GB of storage and number of storage transactions, but it is not considered a separate service.

    Hopefully this answers your questions. If not, the whitepaper at http://bit.ly/1ulrV8 (see page 12) gives more detail about Windows Azure storage.

    (I am contracted by M80, working with Microsoft to promote Windows Azure)

  • http://vpsnoc.com VPS servers

    Each platform of servers have their own advantages and disadvantages so you would have to choose the right server understanding the needs and the service that you are looking. As there are many offers and discounts given in the market you would have to just do a little research before signing up with any server.

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