Well, while we wait to see what great offers will come via cloud computing, let's just remember what the promise is all about. The first thing that comes to mind is highly-available solutions, paired with little need for knowledge to set up these rather complex multi-server solutions. Then there is the promise of lower cost (but then we know that the cost will be just as before once they have the majority of us consumers on the hook, right? ;-) However, even a single server that's well-connected to the internet in many countries still costs you an arm and a leg (try Dubai!). And even in "first world" countries like Germany it is quite typical to pay as much 2000 Euros per month just for a dedicated 100MBit line, which is less than an arm but still more than most small businesses would like to invest into what is only a small part of the overall investment into their portal solution.
Enter Strato: they're one of two major mass market hosting companies in Germany and offer servers starting at slightly above 200 Euros a month (includes the rent for server and the shared 100MBit internet connection) that are spec'ed well enough to run a small server farm on them. The offer is well hidden on their site, so here's a direct link to the XLW-5 and XPro-5 servers
There's a couple of caveats though:
- they come with a Web Server Edition of Windows Server 2008, which is pretty useless. They also only sport 1 Network card, whereas for Hyper-V you really need 2. However, you can get their KVM (Keyboard, Video, Mouse) service hooked up for a little extra money per month to compensate for that.
- Installation of the new OS version is a bit tricky, but nothing a good geek couldn't find a solution for (did I just call myself a geek? ;-) The biggest challenge was that the virtual network adapter of the virtual ISA server had to be set to a MAC address that matches the MAC address of the physical network card of that server, as otherwise traffic will be blocked by the Strato internal routers.
The connection to the internet is quite excellent (even though it is not a dedicated line) as most of Strato's customers are consumers that download from the internet, rather than upload to it.
The net result with this setup is an enormous yearly saving over a comparable dedicated internet connection. So, while we await the cloud computing to hit us, here's a very real opportunity for small companies to save as much as 20k Euros per year on each physical server.