Many vendors such as Amazon, Rackspace, GoGrid, Joyent and Terremark offer cloud hosting solutions. Cloud is a “hot” topic and therefore cloud label is widely used with different vendors interpreting it in their own way. In general cloud computing refers to fractional use of hardware resources to deploy OS environments, and ability to rapidly allocate and de-allocate these resources. By maximizing hardware utilization, cloud computing minimizes infrastructure costs of deploying and running applications.

The key question to answer when selecting a cloud vendor is understanding the main driver for considering a cloud deployment in the first place. Reasons vary and include:

  • Cost – simply looking for a lower cost alternative to managed hosting and co-location
  • Ability to handle expected load variability, e.g. holiday season load for e-commerce companies
  • Ability to handle unpredictable load peaks, e.g. marketing campaign driving traffic far exceeding expectations
  • Need to deploy an impermanent site, e.g. marketing campaign microsite with a well defined launch and shut down dates
  • Short term, demanding computational needs, e.g. research project requiring significant computational resources

There are other factors to consider such as an overall cost, Service Level Agreements (in particular uptime), provisioning time, and any constraints of vendors’ environments which may impact applications.

Different vendors have different strengths.
Rackspace keeps it simple and for example offers pre-packaged Cloud Sites for blogs, static sites, simple e-commerce sites, microsites etc. They offer a low hassle solution for those who do not want to become experts in cloud deployments.
GoGrid has a hybrid hosting solution combining dedicated and cloud servers. This brings together the best of dedicated servers such as better uptime with benefits of cloud such as the ability to match hardware resources to application load.
Joyent created a unique and highly optimized OS environment with a lot of focus on performance and spike handling.
Amazon has by far the richest and the most sophisticated offering with cloud hosting, storage, queueing services, relational and No SQL databases, content delivery and a number of other products. They also offer a variety of pricing models including reserved instances (essentially a discount in return for a longer term commitment), on demand (pay as you go) and even spot pricing (ability to bid for unused capacity).  Amazon is the trend setter in cloud computing. Richness of the feature set goes however hand in hand with more complexity in comparison to offerings from other vendors.