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Ad company pays premium for cloud-like elastic hosting

Apptera chose IronScale to host its mobile ad services over public cloud; will other businesses follow suit?

Voice ad broker Apptera isn't cloud-averse; vice president Don Steul said Amazon's EC2 is convenient for development and testing, but for production servers, Apptera needed an SLA written in stone.

That's why it picked IronScale, a "cloud-like" managed hosting service from StrataScale, a subsidiary of RagingWire. The IronScale service is a mix of traditional managed servers and on-demand computing.

Although it is priced at traditional managed hosting levels, far above what penny-peelers like Amazon and Mosso charge for their virtualized environments, IronScale COO Bob Vincent claims enterprise customers will come to his product for the peace of mind. Costs range as high as $1200 per month for the most sophisticated offerings.

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Vincent said talks with potential customers showed that security, SLAs and access were top of mind, but that the easy and fast provisioning of public clouds were tantalizing.

IronScale provides a self-service web front-end to its severs and allows customers to configure and bring online real iron in minutes, with a limited set of the features familiar to public cloud users, like customizable disk images, on-the-fly storage management and scalable levels of computing power. Because the servers are physical rather than virtual, IronScale says that it can offer unexpected features like BIOS level access (via IP-based KVM) and direct management of Cisco firewalls.

Currently, the self-service portal is web-only, but IronScale, like many others plans to offer an API and compatibility with cross-cloud managers like RightScale. Users can virtualize within their servers if they like, potentially offsetting high costs, and StrataScale offers audit transparency as well.

Steul said this is exactly what his firm needs; he said that the fact that his production machines at IronScale are backed by uptime agreements and live staff are why it located their Mobile Ad Exchange at IronScale. "It was the SLAs," he said, "and the other reason was the flexibility."

It was the SLAs, and the other reason was the flexibility.
Don Steul, vice president of Apptera, on choosing IronScale,
The Mobile Ad servers listen in on voice and online clients like moviefone and insert relevant ads as users buy tickets or look up show times. If traffic surges, like at the premier of the next Harry Potter film, Apptera can bring up additional servers easily and then decommission them to avoid charges for unused overhead.

Meanwhile, said Steul, they use EC2 for non-moneymakers. "EC2 is perfect for load testing," he said. "You can just bring up a slew [of server instances] and bang away" to test performance, and then shut them all down, allowing heavy traffic generation very cheaply.

IronScale's Vincent is betting that larger users who may already be buying hosted servers will see IronScale as a viable stepping stone to cloud computing services. Offering users the choice of virtual infrastructure in a physical environment might prove appealing as larger businesses want to experiment with on-demand computing but need better SLAs.

Carl Brooks is the Technology Writer for Write to him at And check out our Troposphere blog.

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