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HubSpot latest to leave Amazon Web Services -- mostly. Should Amazon worry?

Nancy Gohring | April 18, 2013
HubSpot is the latest to announce it’s shifting workloads off AWS

A week ago I quoted Piston's CTO saying that there was a "giant explosion" of companies moving off of Amazon Web Services. At the time, I noted that he had good reason to say that, since he started a company that builds software used by companies to build private clouds.

This week at the OpenStack Summit, I'm hearing more murmurings about companies moving away from AWS, including one example of a large company doing so, but the moves feel measured. Rather than a dramatic abandonment of AWS, it's more like a byproduct of companies gaining experience in the cloud and learning which applications make sense in public and private deployments.

Take HubSpot. It started out on in a managed environment. Then "along came the public cloud," said Jim O'Neill, CIO for HubSpot, a company that provides inbound marketing services. "She was fast, beautiful, unbridled and let us do things we could never do." HubSpot started using AWS.

But eventually HubSpot struggled with the number of "zombie servers," or unused servers that the company was paying for. At scale, that became a significant problem, O'Neill said.

Those zombies also had a negative impact on service quality. To get to the level of reliability it wanted, HubSpot needed more control than it could get from public cloud.

It went to an OpenStack summit in 2011 and within a month had built nine nodes, doubling that to 16 nodes in nine months, for a total of 224 cores. Six months later, taking us to earlier this year, it had 166 nodes and 2,000 cores. Its private cloud is managed by Rackspace and is actually a hybrid environment, also using Rackspace's public cloud. HubSpot also still uses AWS, although O'Neill didn't specify how.

Rackspace said it's seeing some companies transitioning off public clouds, but for natural reasons that don't indicate doom for any public providers. Later stage startups of the kind that are very sophisticated and are really pushing boundaries and "doing things no one has done" are sometimes going in house, said John Engates, CTO of Rackspace.

With a private cloud, businesses can control more variables to boost efficiency and especially to try to achieve more consistent performance, he said.

Enterprises that are moving to private clouds tend to be those that had developers start using the cloud without permission. In that case, IT might decide to pull the cloud in house and transition those applications to the private cloud, he said. "Those aren't technical reasons, they're business reasons," Engates noted.

Cost is a business reason that some businesses are leaving public clouds and going private, executives from both Cisco and Redapt told me.


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