DigitalOcean – Cloud service for the Developer Community [Review]

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There was an era of MS-DOS [Microsoft Disk Operating System] in the 80’s & 90’s when our computer systems used to have around 512 MB of RAM. In fact, this was considered as a very high end configuration during those times! However, with the advent of time the OS was replaced with operating systems that offered rich GUI’s with support of CLI [Command Line Interface]. Fast forward now, we have so many operating systems for PC’s i.e. Windows, Linux [with various distributions], MAC, etc. Not only has the demand of an average user changed but there has been a gradual shift in the expectations of the developers.

Important applications like Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc. that are used by millions of users are now accessible without local installation of those softwares. This is all possible due to the advent of Cloud Computing that has been a buzzword for quite a few years! Thanks to cloud computing, companies can now focus on core business instead of spending time & effort on costly server infrastructure.

In a nutshell, there has been a gradual shift to ‘Pay Per Use‘ or ‘What You Use Is What You Pay‘ economy. Cloud computing eliminates the expense required for buying quality hardware, reduces overall cost, guarantees better reliability and performance [depending on the maximum up-time mentioned by the cloud service provider].

According to the latest data by Synergy Research Group, Amazon Web Services [AWS] continues to remain the market leader followed by the likes of Microsoft, IBM, Google, etc. [Source]. Though AWS from Amazon is considered the ‘Big Daddy’ of the game, smaller [and rising] players like DigitalOcean are upping their game by following a very different strategy [that does not directly confront with Amazon].

DigitalOcean : Overview

DigitalOcean is a cloud infrastructure provider founded in 2011 and headquartered in New York with data centers worldwide. The company is founded by Ben and Moisey Uretsky who earlier founded ServerStack, a managed hosting business and while surveying the cloud hosting market, they realized that most of the hosting companies were serving the enterprise market leaving a void that needed to be filled!

Unlike AWS that targets variety of customers, products from DigitalOcean cater to solving developer needs. DigitalOcean became one of the fastest growing cloud-hosting companies offering SSD virtual machines [Source]

They have data centers located in 12 countries around the world with one server located in Bangalore which is a huge boon to the growing startup [and developer] community in the city!

DigitalOcean – Data Center locations

DigitalOcean : Droplets, Pricing and more

The Virtual Private Servers [VPS] are termed as Droplets and each droplet that you create is considered as a new VPS. For the review, we created a VPS/droplet with 20 GB space, 512 MB RAM and running Ubuntu 16.04. The installation process was very simple and it took us couple of minutes to setup the droplet.

Droplet Installation – To create a droplet, you need to login to the Digital Control Panel. On successful login you need to click on the ‘Create Droplet’ button. You would be prompted with the available linux distros that you can use to create your first droplet.

Once you have zeroed in on the distro, you need to select the right storage option that suits your requirements. There are variety of options available as shown below:

The plans are very flexible and you can change the Droplet’s plan based on your future requirements. If you are a newbie who is testing the waters of cloud computing, then you can opt for the least expensive plan that offers 512MB of RAM with single core & 20GB of SSD storage. As seen above DigitalOcean offers a very different pricing model, something that even looks very lucrative to developers!

The next step in setting up the droplet is very crucial as it can have a major impact on the performance (and reduce latency). In this step, you select your nearest data-center region. For our test, we selected Bangalore as the preferred location 🙂 Amazon that offers AWS has a server in Mumbai that offers Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), and Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) [Source] but they do not have a server in Bangalore!

Once the Droplet region is selected, you would be prompted with additional options like setting up backups, IPV6 enabling, etc. You can name your droplet for easy identification purpose and also set up an SSH key. You can now breath a sigh of relief for completing the ‘simple’ task of setting up your droplet.

We could setup the droplet in a couple of minutes, thanks to the awesome UX of DigitalOcean that made the task look very simple.

Pricing – As stated earlier, pricing offered by DigitalOcean caters to a range of customers (particularly developers). Pricing starts at USD 5 per month and goes all the way upto USD 640 per month where you get 640 GB SSD storage! On Amazon’s EC2 platform, the closest equivalent [of the most popular droplet that offers 30GB SSD disk, 2TB transfer] is a t2.small instance which starts at USD 0.026 per hour, almost double the cost of a DigitalOcean droplet [Source].

Effective Pricing, high performance machines, simplicity and developer focused approach are the pillars of strength for DigitalOcean.

DigitalOcean – Vibrant Community

DigitalOcean has a very vibrant Community where you can find a host of tutorials that cater to a range of topics centered around DigitalOcean. They also have an active YouTube channel and a very active topic on Quora (Moisey Uretsky, Cofounder at DigitalOcean being one of the active contributors of that topic! You can follow their official blog here

DigitalOcean – Backups, Performance and more

Backups can be enabled for the droplets with just 1 USD per month. As per this particular thread on Quora

Backups on DigitalOcean are strangely infrequent-which could worry you depending on how your backup plan is. Right now they do it once every 3 days, which is fine for my personal blog, but not for any applications I work on. Amazon requires a laborious setup to do backups that isn’t as straight forward as “click here to buy backups”.

In this case I have been using both. A DigitalOcean Droplet with daily backups to S3 and Glacier. This in my circumstances has been offering the best combination of offerings for small-midscale projects.

From a performance/value perspective, DigitalOcean follows a bulk pricing model. For customers who need higher RAM, they don’t necessarily have to upgrade to a larger sized Droplet. They could merely choose from DigitalOcean’s High memory plans which provide larger amounts of RAM and which would be relevant for use cases such as running databases, in-memory caches, etc. For more information on the plans, please visit  High memory Droplet pricing.  For customers who need more storage than what is available by default in a Droplet, they could use DigitalOcean’s Block Storage offering which provides highly available SSD based storage without having to scale the number of cores. The block storage volumes can be attached to their existing Droplets, and the pricing starts at just $0.10/GB per month. For more information on the plans, please visit  SSD Block Storage pricing.

From a developer’s point of view, debugging [apart from development] is a very crucial phase in the life cycle of a product 🙂 DigitalOcean has an exhaustive Developers Section where you can find the API documentation and insights into how to use those Tools. A sample snapshot of the CPU load on the droplet that we installed is below:

DigitalOcean – Offerings for Indian Startups

In India, DigitalOcean has partnered with several top-tier accelerators, incubators and VCs based in India to support the startups from their portfolio with infrastructure credit.

DigitalOcean – Conclusion

DigitalOcean is not a direct competitor to the behemoths e.g. Amazon, Azure, Salesforce, etc. of the Cloud Computing since it addresses the needs of a very specific market – The Developer Community. With One click app support, developer can even skip the installation as well as configuration and get started with the deployment of code using any one of the pre-built images supporting various languages. A snapshot of their 2016 achievements below

Image Source : DigitalOcean Blog – What’s Shipping next

If you are a developer looking for affordable linux servers that support only a few well-known tools, than DigitalOcean could be an ideal match. Unlike AWS, Azure, etc. that provide Infrastructure-as-a-service [IaaS], Platform as a service [PaaS] & Software as a service [SaaS]; DigitalOcean provides reliable as well as affordable IaaS platform for developers!

If you are an existing customer of DigitalOcean, please leave your feedback in the comments section…