Cloud

Getting to know GoGrid IaaS

In an increasingly crowded IaaS market, GoGrid competes with cloud behemoths like Amazon, Rackspace, and HP. Here's an overview of sign-up, VM creation, and features.

GoGrid are a California company that has been providing IaaS since 2008. They are a company with longevity and a healthy turnover - not a hyperscale player, but not a niche player either.

They have three data centers packed with lots of Intel hardware, a layer of Xen virtualization and a layer of automation tools for customers. GoGrid partner with other providers of Internet services to add to the package. Edgecast are behind the CDN, Salesforce is hooked into support functions, and Equinix provides some data center grunt. This combination of components seems to put GoGrid right in the middle of the IaaS field.

In getting to know GoGrid IaaS, first we'll go through the sign-up steps and create your first new virtual machine. Then we'll look at some of the characteristics that differentiate GoGrid from other IaaS providers.

Going for a spin on GoGrid

Sign up to GoGrid

  1. Open a web browser.
  2. Go to the URL http://www.gogrid.com/. The GoGrid home page appears, with a big Sign Up button.
  3. Click the Sign Up button. You are redirected to GoGrid's secure secure sign-up form.
  4. Fill in the pages of information. GoGrid want to know about you, how you will pay and check they have a working contact for you.
  5. Check your e-mail. A welcome message is waiting for you.

This is where sign-up self-service ends and GoGrid's customer service starts. Getting started is a chore, so having real people offer to help you is good.

Create a new GoGrid virtual machine

  1. Point your web browser at the portal URL https://my.gogrid.com/.
  2. Log in with your new account. The landing page appears.
  3. Click the + button. You can't miss it. This is the most obvious add button in the world of cloud control panels. An Add a New Object wizard opens.
  4. Choose a data center (US-West-1, US-East-1 or EU-West-1). It doesn't really matter which one for this procedure because we are not testing performance. I left it at the default US-West-1.
  5. Open the Cloud Server wizard. Compute | Cloud Server. The Add a New Object box is replaced with an Add Cloud Server box containing a long list of images.
  6. Find a free image. I chose everyone's favourite cloud OS, Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (64-bit) - an image owned by GoGrid. A Server details form appears.
  7. Fill in the form. I chose:
    • Server name: IM01 (my naming policy is short and to the point)
    • Description: Nick's first GoGrid machine
    • Public IP: 173.1.25.34
    • Private IP: Auto Assign
    • Server Size: Extra Small (512MB)
  8. Choose a Subscription Term. I chose Hourly $0.04 /hour.
  9. Save your choices. A huge are-you-sure box appears.
  10. One final yes and you are back at the landing page grid. After a few seconds a message appears saying a new job is queued.
  11. Click on the Jobs tab. An activity log entry is displayed about your new request.
  12. Click on the Grid tab. A new icon appears in the Web/App Servers column.
  13. Use your mouse to hover over your new VM icon. A dropdown box appears with details about your new machine.

GoGrid reserved a block of IPs for me. I got 173.1.25.32/255.255.255.240 which is a network of 16 IP addresses, but I can't use them all - half are reserved. There are no IPv6 options.

Open a CLI on the GoGrid machine using SSH

Connect to your new virtual machine to make sure it really is there.

Use the root account to log in. The new VM's administrator account has a random password that you can find using the portal. There is no key-based authentication like AWS uses.

1. Find the account and address you need to log in. Support > Passwords (This pops up a Salesforce support window. You can avoid this by clicking Grid > your VM icon > Tools > Passwords).

2. Open an SSH client. It doesn't matter which one - you may be using PuTTY on a Windows OS or OpenSSH on a Mac.

3. Connect

<code><strong>ssh </strong></code>root@173.1.25.34

4. Log in

<code>root@173.1.25.34's password: <strong>6P0s0os9TJ</strong></code>
<code>Welcome to Ubuntu 12.04.1 LTS (GNU/Linux 3.2.0-31-virtual x86_64)</code>
<code> </code>
<code> * Documentation:  https://help.ubuntu.com/</code>
<code> </code>
<code>  System information as of Tue Jun 11 11:41:49 PDT 2013</code>
<code> </code>
<code>  System load:  0.01              Processes:           60</code>
<code>  Usage of /:   5.2% of 23.39GB   Users logged in:     0</code>
<code>  Memory usage: 30%               IP address for eth0: 173.1.25.34</code>
<code>  Swap usage:   0%                IP address for eth1: 10.107.193.2</code>
<code> </code>
<code>  Graph this data and manage this system at https://landscape.canonical.com/</code>
<code> </code>
<code>115 packages can be updated.</code>
<code>59 updates are security updates.</code>
<code> </code>
<code>root@04580-1-1798160:~#</code>

5. Take your first steps with a brand new Ubuntu virtual machine. These steps bring your system up to date and create a running web server.

6. Log out.

Connect using the console

The usual way to connect to a Linux cloud machine is using SSH, but GoGrid do give you the option to connect using the console. GoGrid provide remote access VNC cleverness to allow you to connect to your new machine's console using the same web browser that is connecting you to the portal.

  1. Click on your new VM icon. A navigation bar appears.
  2. Click console. A popup browser window opens (once you get past your browser popup blocker), pointing at https://console-us-west-1.gogrid.com/. If the new virtual machine isn't ready yet, a connect timeout error appears.
  3. Log in.

Destroy your new virtual machine

  1. Click on your new VM icon. The navigation bar appears.
  2. Click delete. A Delete Web/App Server are-you-sure window opens.
  3. Click Yes, Delete. The grid page appears.
  4. Check the list of jobs. Grid > Jobs. A Delete Virtual Server message is at the top.
  5. Log out of the GoGrid portal.
  6. Close your web browser.

What's different about GoGrid?

What sets GoGrid apart from other cloud providers like AWS, Rackspace and HP Cloud? Here are just a few comparison points.

Utility billing and long-term discounts

Getting a customer off the hourly rentals and onto long-term discounted rates helps a cloud provider to retain customers. GoGrid have a pricing calculator like HP to help figure out the relative costs.

There is nothing like the freemium tier AWS offer to entice new customers. GoGrid account managers may be persuaded to provide credit to allow potential customers to go for a test drive.

Customer support

Even in the self-service world of the cloud, good customer support is crucial. GoGrid like to get in touch with their new customers, like Rackspace do. They've got online chat, you can phone them or get them to phone you, and they quickly respond to your e-mails.

My new account was assigned to GoGrid's Michael Lomele, who worked hard to overcome the barrier of my laziness and actually help me.

Self-service sign-up

The sign-up process is not what makes GoGrid stand out. If you have signed up for AWS, for HP Cloud or for Rackspace Cloud accounts then you know the drill. All cloud providers are self-service, rely on automatic verification of your details and credit card billing.

IaaS only

GoGrid stick to IaaS. There are no PaaS developer tools, managed database services, or DNS. There are the core compute, storage, and database services, along with a list of data centers. There are also infrastructure load balancers, CDN, and even dedicated servers.

GoGrid offer public cloud IaaS and private cloud IaaS. One of the central pillars of cloud computing is multi-tenancy - all resources are shared between all customers. The idea of the private cloud - all the benefits of cloud computing but with none of that messy sharing - is popular with large companies. GoGrid offer private areas within their data centers. Also, the GoGrid private and public areas can be combined to provide hybrid solutions.

Performance

GoGrid is one of the public cloud providers benchmarked by CloudHarmony You can see how good the service is from their data centers. AWS may be the biggest and best cloud provider, but it doesn't always provide top-notch performance.

GoGrid run three data centers, two on either side of the USA and one in Europe (in Amsterdam, of course, the European hub for transporting everything from data to containers). That's great coverage for half the world and good coverage for the other half.

Three international data centers won't work for everybody. You may work in a regulated industry in Africa and must keep the data within national boundaries. You may work in an Asian company where a 10 millisecond delay is a problem. If you find yourself lumbered with unusual requirements like these, you probably aren't considering cloud computing at all.

The GoGrid portal

All cloud providers provide near-instant access to their services after the sign-up process, and all provide a web-based console to use those services. Providers have all replaced their first generation clunky user interfaces with ones that are clean and usable. The bar for web consoles is pretty high now.

GoGrid offer a web-based control panel like HP do, but there are few similarities in form or function. One of the things that sets GoGrid apart is how its portal (the GoGrid administration console) looks.

The GoGrid portal is distinctive because it has a few unusual design features.

  • Each page includes a collection of web design trends like rounded corners, shadows, and brushed steel texture.
  • The landing page shows a summary of resources, arranged as icons in a grid - visually easier than cells in a table.
  • A few selection options use transparent overlays with HUGE are-you-sure Yes and No buttons. These buttons are not quite as large as the Great Wall of China, but are still visible from space.

GoGrid machine images

GoGrid maintain a marketplace for ready-made virtual machine images called the GoGrid Exchange. It's similar to the VMWare Virtual Appliance Marketplace. When you create a cloud server, you can choose which image to use.

One unusual thing about GoGrid's list of images is the Type -- it's either a web server or database server. This is about as simple as it gets when you build a customer service - there's the front end, with the inevitable web component, and the back end which is the source of data. These pigeonholes don't quite fit other services like DNS, backups, and messaging.

About

Nick Hardiman builds and maintains the infrastructure required to run Internet services. Nick deals with the lower layers of the Internet - the machines, networks, operating systems, and applications. Nick's job stops there, and he hands over to the ...

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