Hosting Interview:

My name is Leonid, I am a website developer Search VPS, therefore, by virtue of my activity, I am interested in the history of the formation and development of various companies from the field of hosting services. Today I want to present an interview with Danil and Dmitry – the creators of the hosting… They will talk about the infrastructure design, work organization and their experience in developing a virtual server provider in Russia.

Please tell us a few words about yourself. How did you come to hosting? What did you do before?

Until 2016, both Dmitry and I worked in the Enterprise sector, including in companies such as Dell, HP, EMC. Analyzing the cloud market in Russia, we realized that it is actively growing and decided that we could make an interesting offer to the market. A team of people who had already worked with each other on other projects gathered, and together began to develop their own virtualization platform aimed at large businesses with their specific needs. Since 2018, we have launched cloud hosting “for everyone” in parallel, allocated for the project a team of five.

Storage and preparation counter before the start

Is this project for business already working or is it still in development?

Yes, it works in parallel – there is already a larger team, and it’s more about software and hardware solutions for the IT infrastructure, not about hosting.

You now have quite a few different services. When you started, was the list smaller or the same? Moreover, all these services are actually an ordinary virtual server, but there is some kind of separation.

We started with classic IaaS: we provided “bare” virtual servers with closed ports and virtual networks for them, so that the user could create a full-fledged infrastructure for himself. But after the start, it turned out that most of the users did not understand why they had such opportunities, and we decided to introduce a new product for ourselves – a standard VDS / VPS, with which the market is already familiar. For us, it was, in fact, a stripped-down version of the product, but users immediately understood what it was, and we began to get the first customers. Apparently, our experience with large companies forced us to develop a more complex and customized solution at once, and the mass market wants simplicity. And then, on the basis of VPS, we began to develop new services, based on what customers most often ask. And we are still developing.

Where do you place the equipment? Do you own or rent it? How did you choose a DC for placement? Have there been any cases of moving?

All equipment is ours, we only rent a place in two data centers. We started with three DCs: we wanted to implement three-way fault tolerance, but the demand for it at that moment was too small to invest in it, so the third data center was abandoned. We had one move: we were just moving from the third data center to one of the remaining two. They chose the following principle: DCs must be known in the market, reliable (Tier III), so that both are geographically located in Moscow, in districts remote from each other.

And in which DCs are you currently staying in and which have you refused?

We are currently hosted in DataSpace and 3Data. We abandoned one of the 3Data data centers.

Leaving the third data center

Do you rent or buy IP addresses?

We rent.

And for what reason did you choose this approach and not a purchase?

By and large, to grow quickly. We provide clients with a virtual infrastructure for which you do not need to immediately pay capital investments, and you can break down costs on a monthly basis. We ourselves adhere to the same philosophy as our clients – we strive for expansion and rapid scaling.

What do you think about IPv6?

So far, we haven’t noticed significant demand, so we haven’t added it to ourselves, but the architecture for the conclusion has been worked out, we are ready to “roll out” in a short time, as soon as we understand that there are requests.

You are using KVM virtualization. Why did you choose her? How does she show herself in work?

That’s right, but we are not using “bare” KVM, but a complete, modified KVM-based virtualization system, which was developed by our “big brother”, including storage system (SDS) and software-defined networking (SDN). Chosen on the basis of building the most fault-tolerant product without single points of failure. It shows itself well, while there were no global problems in the production. At the stage of alpha testing on the market, when we provided services to the first customers for bonus points, we tested the technology and caught a number of unpleasant moments, but over the past two years, we managed to understand and solve a lot.

Do you use overselling? How do you control the load on the server?

We use overselling only for processors, and in no case for RAM. Even in the case of physical processors, we do not allow their load to exceed 75%. For disks: we work with “thin” allocation of capacity. We have centralized monitoring of the entire environment, which allows us to control the load. Two engineers are responsible for maintaining the entire infrastructure, so we are trying to automate as much as possible and collect all kinds of information on the system. Any deviations from the normal mode are immediately visible, while we periodically evaluate and rebalance the load within the infrastructure. Rebalancing always happens online, unnoticed by customers.

How many physical servers do you currently have? How often do you add new ones? What servers do you use?

At the moment there are 76 servers, new ones are added approximately every four to five months. We use QCT, Intel, Supermicro.

There were cases when a client came and occupied all the remaining free resources, and you had to urgently add servers?

In terms of resources, this was not the case. While we are growing more or less evenly. But there was a case when a user came and wanted 50 IPs, each in a separate block. Of course, we don’t have anything like this yet 🙂

What are your most popular payment methods? What is the least used?

The most popular are bank cards and QIWI. Least of all – payment by wire transfer under the offer for legal entities, but such transfers are the most voluminous (companies usually pay for solid resources for several months). PayPal also lags behind: at the start we did not count on foreign users, but they began to appear. has self-written billing. Why did you decide to use such a solution? What are the pros and cons? Was it difficult to develop?

In general, our entire system is of our own design. The existing platforms did not seem to us very convenient in terms of UX, so we decided to create and develop our own. Billing is just one of the microservices that are part of the system. Development turned out to be more difficult than they thought at the start. Even at some point, I had to postpone the launch of the project in order to have time to prepare a working product that would not be ashamed of during alpha testing. Subsequently, they were “overgrown” with competencies in long-distance development methodology and product management. It is now easier to add new functionality and new products to the system.

And how many people developed all this? What did you write on?

We have five people for the whole project, two of them are developers (frontend and backend). Back is written in RoR / Python. Front is JS.

How is user support organized? Is it 24/7 or only during business hours? How many support lines are there? What is the most frequently asked question?

We have three points of entry: chat, phone and a system of applications from a personal account. Two lines of support: if the engineer on duty could not solve the problem, the CTO or development team is connected. If the problem is in the main platform, which happens much less often, then the CTO turns to the support of the “big brother”. At night, we only respond to calls from customers who buy separate maintenance, or to platform failures reported through a specially written bot in Telegram.

Most popular questions:

  1. Are our IPs available in Turkmenistan (this is the very first in popularity – apparently, the country has a tough blocking policy).
  2. How to install this or that software.
  3. How to get root access (even a special reminder was made in the interface when creating machines, but it does not always help).

Do you conduct customer verification? Do spammers and other bad people often appear?

Verification by mail and phone (if the user connects 2FA). Spammers and other abusers appear periodically. We are forced to respond by temporarily blocking compromised servers, as we do not want IPs to be blacklisted. But we always write to the user in advance that a complaint has come to him, please contact and discuss the problem. If the user does not respond, or there are repeated complaints, we block the entire account and delete the servers.

How often do DDoS attacks happen to clients? What do you do in such cases? Have there been attacks specifically against you, the site or infrastructure?

Clients are rarely attacked. But we ourselves are often – a website, a personal account. Sometimes the network is hammered at different IP addresses. We do not undertake to judge who it is and why, there may be several options. There are even attempts to attack us from the inside. Previously, when verifying by phone, we gave out a bonus one hundred rubles so that normal users could test any configurations. But one day a user came with a “pack of SIM cards” and from under one IP began to create dozens of accounts, receiving bonuses for them. Therefore, we had to remove the automatic accrual of test points. Now you need to submit a request to technical support for testing, and we consider each case separately.

How is the work organized, is there an office, or does everyone work remotely?

There is an office, but with the onset of restrictions due to the coronavirus, everyone went to work from home / summer residence / hometown.

Our office

What is your current course of development for the company?

We are going to add new services. We have an extensive roadmap, we do not interrupt the development, and every two weeks there is a new release of the personal account. We add functionality and services that are in demand from colleagues, we add what customers ask for.

How do you find clients? Is there a large inflow and outflow of clients per year? What is the average client’s “lifespan”?

Customer acquisition channels in our area are what the whole business is based on if there is a good working product. Therefore, they are not ready to share.

Churn rate, LTV and life cycle are also quite important indicators that we use only for internal analytics, but not for disclosure.

Could you give readers any tips for choosing a hosting? What should you pay attention to before buying?

The most important thing is to choose a hosting with the letter “B” at the beginning of the name.

But seriously, there are several factors that you need to pay attention to:

  • To understand the quality, you can take an average configuration and try to solve your applied problems on it. Choose hosting services that have an hourly rate – you can test servers without losing a lot of money if the quality does not suit you.
  • Take a look at the data centers where the hoster has physical servers. They can be roughly judged by the quality of services.
  • We do not recommend paying attention to prices: there are both super-cheap solutions, but they show themselves well, and super-expensive ones, which do not differ in anything special.

Tell us about your most memorable work moments.

Project start. The first month and a half we worked 24/7: we watched how registrations were going, whether something broke in the interface of the personal account, how users behaved, whether it was convenient for them to order services. A lot had to be solved right on the go, up to the point of replacing some products with others. Changes were made immediately in production, bypassing test environments. It was a stressful period, but I managed to survive and did not give up this business.

Users who came for vulnerabilities in logic. It was interesting to catch them and fix vulnerabilities. For example, when we still did not work for money, but accrued bonuses so that users could order servers, a link to us was posted on one of the hacker forums with the comment: “They give free servers for 500 rubles.” Of course, we were immediately flooded with miner guys, eager for freebies.

Could you provide a short chronology of the company’s history?

  • First half of 2017 – the development of the platform, website and personal account began.
  • 2018 – we went into alpha testing, provided capacities to customers for free and received detailed reviews and test results in return.
  • Mid 2018 – Launched a beta version with money. First hundreds of customers, technical support run-in.
  • 2019 – started attracting legal entities to clients, working on custom solutions.
  • 2020 – everyone goes to self-isolation, the demand for virtualization is growing. We feel this for ourselves – there is an increase in clients, which makes it possible to work on a large number of additional services.

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