Three Reasons to Try Docker – A Container Technology Overview

Docker Container TechnologyContainer technology has rapidly risen in popularity over the last couple of years – especially since the release of the Docker platform in 2013. While containers existed prior to Docker, their platform introduced versioning and vastly improved portability. These new features, among others, are what will continue to drive the exponentially increasing interest in container technology, like Docker, throughout 2015.

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Why Everyone Loves the Hybrid Cloud

As 2014 comes to a close, we’ve noticed one technology rise to this top over this last year. Study after study has been published citing the increased growth of the Hybrid Cloud. One study cited that 65% of companies in their global study would switch to the public or hybrid cloud tomorrow if possible, while another found that 64% of companies in the US plan to increase their cloud spending 15% or more in 2015.

We’re not surprised by these statistics. A hybrid cloud environment, which usually combines elements of a public or private cloud along with some dedicated infrastructure, can be very appealing to business owners and IT professionals. This remains true despite some apparent lingering confusion about what the benefits of the hybrid cloud really are. In fact, 55% of one study’s participants were unable to accurately identify basic features of the hybrid cloud. However, it is the many attractive features, like those we’ve listed below, of the hybrid cloud that entices businesses both large and small.

Completely Customizable

The “cloud” has been a hot topic in the industry over the last few years because of it’s convenience, flexibility, and accessibility – but it isn’t ideal for every project. Dedicated infrastructure still provides many benefits, such as high performance and durability. More and more enterprises are choosing the hybrid cloud environment because it allows them to create a custom solution designed specifically for their needs. With custom hybrid cloud environment, enterprises can minimize security risks while also maximizing their hosting performance and flexibility.
Customizable Hybrid Cloud at Liquid Web

Private & Secure

Security, and the related privacy concerns, has consistently been one of the main barriers preventing businesses from embracing the cloud. Businesses that need to store transactional data or personal customer information are often required to follow compliance regulations calling for dedicated infrastructure. The beauty of the hybrid cloud environment, however, is the enhanced control over where and how your sensitive information is stored while still taking advantage of the flexibility and scalability offered through the cloud. Private data can be kept secure on a dedicated server protected with a firewall, while allowing the main content of your website or application to remain accessible via the cloud.

Cost-Effective

While the standard pricing structure for dedicated infrastructure can quickly add up if utilized incorrectly, traditional cloud environments allow businesses to pay for their environment on a hourly or daily basis, a convenient feature that allows for easy and cost-effective scalability. Combining these two pricing structures allows businesses to pay for exactly the amount of services they need and not a penny more, without sacrificing the performance of their application.

Hybrid cloud environments have been breaking down many of the barriers that prevented security conscious businesses from embracing the cloud, and we expect its popularity will only continue to grow as we transition into 2015. This trend has also been apparent at Liquid Web with our own Hybrid Hosting solutions. While they have always been popular with our customers, we’ve seen more and more customers asking for hosting solutions utilizing the best of both worlds – the security of dedicated environments and the flexibility of the cloud.

Pairing a Powerful Reseller Plugin with the Private Cloud

WHMCS Plugin for Storm Private Cloud
If you’re a web hosting reseller and you haven’t taken advantage of our latest product release that marries the easy-to-use WHMCS plugin with our feature-laden Storm Private Cloud, then you may be missing out. Our WHMCS plugin allows resellers to integrate their accounts with our Storm Platform API and provides them with the capability to easily resell our Storm on Demand, Liquid Web VPS, SSD VPS, and Bare Metal products. Since its release, we’ve received an abundance of positive feedback from our customers that were already enjoying the many benefits of our Reseller program. The addition of the powerful WHMCS plugin to their reselling business not only simplified their operations but also enhanced their customer relations.
Tecknologics
One of the early adopters of the plugin, Tecknologics, has been grateful for the ease of use and the positive feedback they’ve seen from their customers.

“We started using the Storm Private Cloud and Storm Billing WHMCS plugins when they were first released,” said Tecknologics CEO Balaji Sankaranarayanan. “Since then, the happiest moments for us have been when our clients praised their ability to order, monitor, and manage their cloud instance easily, along with other services they avail from us. Your plugins have really taken the stress off our shoulders. Now that we have effortless deployment of server resources, we are able to focus more on sales and support.”

The benefits for Resellers of using the WHMCS plugin alongside our Storm Private Cloud are multitudinous and include the ability to:

  • Automate deployment of Storm Private Cloud instances
  • Customize hosting packages and instance sizes
  • Maximize profit with integrated billing and price control

In addition, as Tecknologics discovered, customers of resellers will have much more autonomy with their hosting accounts. These benefits come with the already present benefit our basic WHMCS plugin, which allows customers of resellers to deploy/restart/restore server, automate cancellation requests, manage domains, automate emails and billing, and integrate merchants to Paypal and other tools.

We work hard at Liquid Web to ensure we are providing our customers with everything they need to be successful. To that end, we’ve ensured that the benefits provided by pairing the WHMCS plugin with our Storm Private Cloud are innumerable. If you are interested in learning more about how these two features can improve your reseller business, feel free to contact us at 800.580.4985 and see how our Heroic Support can help.

Have you taken advantage of the powerful WHMCS plugin? Tell us your story below!

Digital Currencies in the Datacenter: Altcoins Explained

Note: This is the second in a two-part digital currency series. See our first post for a detailed explanation on Bitcoin and how it is being mined in Data centers around the globe.
Bitcoin and Altcoins in the Datacenter
In our first post of this series we discussed Bitcoin, the original digital currency to be introduced to the market. As Bitcoin has grown in popularity very quickly, the market has expanded to include many alternative options, such as Litecoin, Dogecoin, and Namecoin. Some of these alternative options, called altcoins, are very similar to Bitcoin and utilize the same system of verifying and securing transactions through the block chain and mining process, but differ in a few important ways. If you need a refresher on how the mining process works, see the video in our first post for an explanation! In this post we’ll be taking a more in-depth look at the many altcoins on the market today and how you might take advantage of what they offer in the datacenter environment.

Creating Altcoins

Most altcoins were created based on the original Bitcoin network. Because Bitcoin was released as open source software, anyone can take the code and modify it to create their own, similar network. After Bitcoin was introduced, many users noticed what they saw as flaws in the system. Thus, altcoins were created. However Bitcoin is a distributed network and any changes to the code would require a unanimous consensus from all users – something that is very difficult to obtain. Modifying the Bitcoin source code and creating a separate digital currency was much easier than attempting to change Bitcoin itself.

SHA-256 vs. Scrypt

If you recall from our previous post, Bitcoin uses the SHA-256 proof-of-work algorithm to mine coins. Many altcoins use a different proof-of-work algorithm – the scrypt algorithm. While there are a few other reasons the scrypt algorithm has grown in popularity, the main difference between the two algorithms comes down to the hardware they need in order to quickly and efficiently mine coins. In our first post we mentioned Bitcoin miners need to invest upwards of tens of thousands of dollars for specialized processing units in order to be competitive with other miners. Because of the specialized hardware requirements, Bitcoin miners interested in relying on a Data center’s uptime and network guarantees to host their mining operations are left with limited options. Colocation is the best option for Bitcoin miners in the Data center.

Luckily for miners without the necessary funds for the specialized hardware, or miners who are interested in utilizing more Data center hardware for their operation, the scrypt-based coins are a perfect option. These coins use a scrypt proof-of-work algorithm that does not rely as much on the processing unit of the server as the SHA-256 based coins. Instead, scrypt-based coins rely quite heavily on the memory in the server. While it was quite easy for miners to scale up the processing units for SHA-256 coins, it was more difficult and expensive to scale up the memory for scypt-based coins – although it is still possible.

Altcoins in the Data Center

Because of the processing unit scaling limitations, many scrypt-based coins are still affordable for beginning miners to invest in. Not to mention, the hardware required for scrypt-based coins is easily found within most Data center environments. However, it is important to note that in most cases the younger the digital currency is, the easier it is to mine. Typically, the longer the currency, even a scrypt-based coin, is on the market, the more difficult it becomes to mine because of scaled-up hardware and other factors. Despite this general rule of thumb, the scrypt algorithm has made it much easier for more miners to begin mining altcoins without a huge investment in capital. Today many scrypt-based coins can still be mined with basic GPUs and there are even a few that can still be competitive with basic CPUs.

With less stringent hardware requirements, many scrypt-based coins can easily be mined in a Data center environment, allowing miners to rely on a host’s uptime and network guarantees while also utilizing their available hardware. If you’re interested in mining altcoins in a Data center environment, you can start by checking out our step by step instructions for installing a Dogecoin wallet on CentOS in our Knowledge Base!

If you’re looking to experiment with this new currency, or are ready to expand and stabilize your current operation, we’d be happy to help. – just LiveChat or call our team at 1-800-580-4985.

Digital Currencies in the Data Center: Bitcoin Explained

Note: This is the first of two posts in our Digital Currencies in the Data Center series. In this installation, we’ll take a look at what Bitcoin is and how it can thrive in the data center. Check out our second post, which will focus on Bitcoin alternatives.
Bitcoin Logo
It’s hard to avoid all the news and speculation regarding digital currencies and what they might mean for our economy. It seems that despite the media craze currently surrounding Bitcoin, the trend of online currencies is here for the long haul and will just keep growing. In addition to Bitcoin, there are now many alternative digital coins that are gaining in popularity, which we’ll discuss in detail in a future post. Many companies are also now setting up large Bitcoin operations in data centers around the globe. We want to help all of our customers understand these potential currencies of the future and help them capitalize on them in the most efficient way. In this post, we’ll look at the hardware behind Bitcoin mining and how bitcoins are mined in data centers around the world.

For those who may not be well-versed in the technical details behind Bitcoin, here’s a quick video to catch you up:

Mining Hardware: CPU, GPU & Beyond

CPUs & GPUs
The mining process mentioned in the video above differs depending on the type of coins you’re mining. With Bitcoin, this mining process depends on an algorithm called SHA-256, which relies heavily on the processing unit in the server. Originally all one needed to successfully mine bitcoins was a computer with a basic CPU, or central processing unit. The barriers to entry for Bitcoin were very low at this point, since nearly everyone who had the desire to mine bitcoins could easily be successful and competitive. However, miners were soon advancing past the mining capabilities of a CPU, and began tailoring software in order to utilize the more powerful GPU, or graphics processing unit (otherwise known as a Graphics Card). GPUs are much faster and more efficient at mining bitcoins than their CPU counterpart, because they can do large amounts of bulky mathematical labor (especially repetitive tasks like mining) in greater quantity than CPUs.

ASICs and Beyond
Of course, miners soon grew beyond GPUs and looked for even more efficient hardware, such as FPGAs (field programmable gate arrays) and ASICs (application specific integrated circuits). Both of these types of hardware can be customized for specific uses, like Bitcoin mining, and are capable of very fast and efficient processes. As you might imagine, these specialized chips are very expensive. The rise in popularity of FPGAs or ASICs has effectively increased the barriers to entry for digital currency mining and left any less-invested miners in the dust. New miners just starting out, especially with Bitcoin and other SHA-256 based coins, can not be competitive with the bigger players in the network unless they invest tens of thousands of dollars into hardware for their operations.

Bitcoins in the Data Center
Most traditional servers in data centers, including the ones at Liquid Web, have multi-core CPUs that are perfectly suited to web hosting. They usually have very limited or no GPU facilities and don’t use specialized hardware like FPGAs and ASICs, since their web hosting duties are mostly managed over a text-based remote interface. While it is certainly possible to mine a SHA-256 based coin, like Bitcoin, on one of Liquid Web’s CPU servers, it is not very efficient and won’t be competitive with the other miners in the network. Customers who are looking to mine SHA-256 based coins with their own customized hardware should consider colocating.

Bitcoin mining has already been making a steady shift to the data center environment and away from personal setups in the home. Colocating your mining operation in a data center may in fact be the ideal alternative to setting up an operation in your own home for a number of reasons. First and foremost is that relying on a data center’s network and power means your operation will always be running. Data centers like Liquid Web’s provide premium Tier-1 bandwidth, secure facilities, and N+1 redundancy on all networks, hardware, cooling units, batteries, power systems, and generators. With a colocation plan customers can utilize a data center’s network and uptime guarantees while still remaining competitive with other miners. For customers that are interested in colocating Bitcoin miners, we’d love to discuss the colocation plans that Liquid Web has to offer.

To learn more about what kind of digital currencies might have less expensive barriers to entry, read the second Digital Currencies in the Data Center article.

Are you mining bitcoins? Tell us about your mining adventure in the comments below!