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February 6, 2012

‘Private cloud should not exist as a category’: Firehost

The technology exists to keep customers separate on a public cloud, CEO Chris Drake tells CBR

By Vinod

Chris Drake, Firehost CEO

Private clouds are no longer needed and are being pushed by companies with legacy business models, the CEO of cloud hosting company Firehost has told CBR.

Chris Drake said that technology exists these days to offer exactly the same benefits of private hosting through a public model. Benefits such as separating customers from each other can be achieved via a public cloud platform, Drake said.

"When we say cloud, we mean public cloud," Drake told CBR. "We do not have a private cloud offering, and we don’t need one. The only reason for a private cloud is to secure customers from customers but we’re able to do that in a public model."

"We’ve kind of privatised the public cloud. We don’t even think private cloud should even exist as a category now. You just don’t need it," he added.

Drake went on to explain that it is the business model of traditional cloud hosters that is keeping the "category" of private cloud hosting going.

"Because they were once dedicated hosters in the first place, they have this legacy business model which is dedicated servers and hundreds of thousands of square feet of data centre space," he explained to CBR, "and they don’t want to cannibalise their revenue."

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"All of our competitors are going after the public cloud model as a commodity offering – 15 cents a GB for example, and we’ve been going after the public cloud model as a premium offering; fully managed, all the security includes and so it’s a little bit more expensive than a Rackspace or Amazon model but has more from a feature set," he said.

Firehost pitches itself as a provider of secure cloud hosting. As well as standard security features such as two-factor authentication, firewalls and web application protection Firehost also offers detailed analysis of attempted hacks, such as country of origin and the types of attack.

The company will soon be adding the ability to block traffic from specific countries to its arsenal.

"We built our platform from the ground up with security in mind," says Drake when asked about why Firehost’s approach to security is different to competitors such as Amazon and Rackspace.

"For example log management is required for a lot of compliance, for government, health and credit card hosting and the way other companies have gone about it is they have built the cloud and then they try to force fit compliance on top of it," he told us.

"They can only add it to their server, because their architecture and network topology is all shared. We designed our network topology on a per-customer basis, even though it’s shared," he added. "We can get logs and look at them all the way from the router, the switch, the firewalls all the way through the entire stack on a per-customer basis. That’s not possible at other hosting providers because they didn’t architect it that way."

"You also have to ensure customers are protected from other customers. We’ve written our own kernels for the stack for that. If a customer has to talk to another customer the traffic leaves our environment and comes back in; it doesn’t go direct."

These security measures have attracted a wide variety of customers, from security giants such as ArcSight and RSA to Kevin Mitnick, an ex-hacker turned security consultant. Drake describes him as a "huge trophy" for hackers that Firehost has managed to keep online for two and a half years.

"If you’re a boxer you want to go after Mike Tyson. Mitnick is the same thing; everyone wants to take him down. He was getting hacked a lot – even while at Black Hat. He put his website up in front of 5,000 people and it was defaced. We’ve been protecting him since June 2009 with no successful hacks since then, even with 10,000 legitimate hack attempts every month," Drake explained.

 

Check back soon for a full Q&A with Firehost CEO Chris Drake on cloud computing, its recent expansion into Europe and what his company brings to the market that its competitors do not.

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