On 8 August 2011, the then $2.7 billion valued CDN market changed irreversibly. OnApp, a one year London based cloud platform at that time, grabbed the CDN market out of the hands of the big players and opened it up at prices so nominal that no one could’ve imagined. Using spare cloud capacity of hosts around the globe to provide CDN PoPs, OnApp got rid of the mammoth investment that was earlier needed to build new infrastructure. Starting with 40, OnApp now has over 150 PoPs across 40 countries in a short span of 18 months.
With the recently rolled out OnApp Cloud v3.0, the latest version of its cloud platform for service providers, OnApp has established itself as a software builder which develops new features at an aggressive pace and whose progress is to be watched out for. DHN got an opportunity for a Q&A session with Mr. Kosten Metreweli, CCO, OnApp. Read away as he shares interesting bits about the products OnApp has to offer, their USPs, OnApp’s robust growth and threatens us with homicide. (Yes!)
Q : What is your name and role with OnApp? How long have you been in this role?
A : Kosten Metreweli – I’m Chief Commercial Officer at OnApp, responsible for marketing and sales. I’ve been with OnApp for about 18 months now.
Q : For those who don’t know what OnApp is, can you please brief it a bit?
A: OnApp software powers cloud services (IaaS) at over 500 hosting companies, MSPs and telcos across over 40 countries. Our products allow them to deliver fully-featured cloud services profitably and with minimum CapEx spend. We have three key products:
–OnApp Cloud – this provides the orchestration, user management, metering, and user interfaces that are fundamental components of any cloud, as well as value-added features such as load balancing, autoscaling and Managed DNS.
–OnApp CDN – this is a great additional revenue stream for service providers – it accelerates customer applications such as ecommerce, media and gaming by caching content close to end-users. We give service providers two bites at the cherry here – first of all they generate revenue by selling the CDN service itself, but they can also contribute their spare infrastructure to the OnApp Marketplace to become part of the CDN itself – generating a second revenue stream.
–OnApp Storage – this is our newest product, and we’re extremely excited about it. This is a replacement for a traditional SAN, built to support cloud workloads, and requiring minimal upfront capex.
Q: The recently launched OnApp V3.0 is unique as it comes with an integrated SAN which scales naturally as the cloud grows. Can you elaborate a bit more on it? What additional features does OnApp V3.0 have when compared to OnApp V 2.3.3?
A: OnApp v3 comes with an integrated SAN called OnApp Storage. We found the biggest obstacle for service providers deploying cloud services was the SAN. Traditional SANs are big and expensive, and frankly don’t support cloud workloads that well. OnApp Storage is a totally new approach. It basically allows you to put commodity hard disks and SSDs into the empty drive bays on your existing hypervisor servers, and it turns those into one big pool of storage that can then be cut up into virtual disks, each with it’s own unique ‘enterprise’ properties. OnApp Storage is what we call ‘VM-aware’ – it tries to make sure that a copy of a virtual disk always sits on the same hypervisor server as the compute that is consuming it – that basically takes most of the ‘read’ load off the network, reducing network bottlenecks while at the same delivering near-local-disk performance. It really allows storage to grow as the service provider’s cloud grows.
We’ve added a couple of other headline features in OnApp v3.0. First in OnApp CDN, we’ve added live streaming of video – this not only makes the service more attractive to end-users, but also generates more revenue for service providers that contribute POPs. Secondly, we’ve added VMware support to OnApp Cloud – meaning you can now manage Xen, KVM and VMware hypervisors, all from within one pane of glass. Lastly – we’ve done a complete revamp of the user interface – it is not only a great looking UI, but we’ve also focused on usability by adding several wizards for non-trivial tasks.
Q: How does the new Cloud Control Panel of OnApp V3.0 enhance customer and administrator experience?
A: The Control Panel has had a complete makeover – so it looks extremely slick, and at the same time is easy for a service provider to rebrand – allowing them to get-to-market extremely fast. But the changes are not just skin-deep. We’ve included several wizards that guide the user step-by-step through various activities – such as creating a virtual machine, and we’ve put the most common activities for an object within instant reach. This not only enhances the end-user experience, but also reduces support calls for the service provider.
Q: Can you please throw some light on OnApp Storage’s ‘smart disk’ technology? What value does it add to SAN?
A: There are two really important technologies in OnApp Storage. The first is ‘SmartDisk’. Unlike other distributed SAN technologies out there, this removes the need for a metadata server, instead each disk understands it’s own content, and relationship to the rest of the array. This not only removes a single point of failure – the metadata server, but also allows very fast recovery in the event of a hypervisor failure – disks can simply be swapped over to another hypervisor, and they will resync and pick up where they left off, without the need to completely rebuild. The second important technology is what we call ‘VM-aware’ – this tries to ensure that one copy of a virtual disk always sits on the same hypervisor as the workload that is using it. What that means is that any reads from the SAN are effectively a local read – meaning they are fast, and add no load to the network. Writes are obviously distributed across all the copies of a virtual disk, but for most workloads, reads are the bulk of the IO. The combination of these technologies makes the SAN fast, reliable and allows it scale as the cloud service grows.
Q : What would you say makes OnApp Storage more suitable for Cloud than the traditional SANs out there?
A: There are a few problems with traditional hardware SANs. They require a large up-front investment, and when you need to grow the SAN, you have to grow in large chunks – with OnApp Storage, you add commodity hard disks and/or SSDs as you need them. They take up valuable rack space and power – with OnApp Storage, you’re using the spare drive bays in your existing Hypervisor servers. With cloud workloads, things tend to get bottle-necked at the SAN controller – with OnApp Storage, and it’s VM-aware technology, a lot of that network traffic is removed. You don’t have much flexibility in what you offer your end-customers because you have to define properties like redundancy, striping etc.. up-front for the whole SAN – with OnApp Storage, you define those properties on a virtual disk level, giving as much granularity as you need. In short – we’ve designed this from the ground up to be suitable for Cloud.
Q: OnApp CDN was revolutionary in a way that it took the CDN market out of the hands of the big players (who charged grotesquely high prices for it) and enabled it for hosting providers. How has the response been so far? What would you like to say to hosting providers who don’t sell CDN as of now?
A: The response has been amazing. We’ve gone from a standing start to 150 points of presence across over 40 countries within the space of 12 months – that makes us one of the top 3 global CDNs by number of points of presence. Each one of those points of presence is an additional revenue stream for our service providers. The CDN service itself has been growing strongly, with thousands of new websites being accelerated every month. For service providers not yet selling CDN – I’d urge them to get started – you don’t even have to be using OnApp Cloud. End customers are increasingly realizing the value of accelerating their websites, especially in ecommerce, media and gaming, so offering the service not only increases ARPU, but also stickiness.
Q : To wrap up, what is in the box for 2013?
A: I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you. Seriously, though – we’ve got big plans for our federation – both in terms of adding more capabilities beyond CDN, but also driving more revenue across it for our service providers. We’re adding new capabilities to OnApp Cloud, OnApp CDN and OnApp Storage that will continue to make our service provider customers the fastest growing in the industry while driving down their costs.