DigitalOcean releases its load balancer product

DigitalOcean is trying its hardest to carve a niche for itself in the developer-friendly cloud-infrastructure space. Load balancers should help with that aim.

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Every time Gartner or another analyst firm publishes a report detailing what is happening in the public cloud landscape, three names rise to the top. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is always in first place, and it is only the size of the gap between itself and the next place-getter that changes. The two perennial bridesmaids are Google, with its Cloud Platform offering, and Microsoft, with Azure.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that these are the only vendors playing in the public cloud, but in this assessment, you'd be wrong.

There are, you see, a plethora of different players. From existing large IT vendors (such as IBM) that want to carve out their own share of the public cloud space, to smaller vendors (many of which come from a traditional hosting background) that want to pivot into the cloud. And others, telcos most notably, looking for a fillip to prop up lost revenue from more traditional business lines.

One well-regarded alternative cloud vendor is DigitalOcean. I'm always a little stumped to explain how DigitalOcean has grown so rapidly -- the company came out of essentially nowhere. It was only founded in 2011, and despite battling some incredibly well-resourced vendors, has become (although, as I'll explain, you can take a grain of salt with some of these absolute measures) the second-largest and fastest-growing cloud computing platform in the total number of public-facing apps and websites, according to Netcraft.com.

Of course, sheer numbers of users -- or of websites being run on a platform -- is a very different metric from the amount of revenue a platform is generating. Under this metric, the real number of import is the enterprise customers committing to a platform. In this regard, AWS, Azure and Google are winning the race -- as Snap's recent S1 documentation and its multibillion dollar commitment to both Amazon's and Google's cloud shows.

Notwithstanding the statistics, however, the fact is that DigitalOcean has grown impressively well, this despite having a very simple product offering that misses out on many (most?) of the higher-value services that its more well-developed competitors offer.

So when Julia Austin, a former executive with VMware, was snapped up to fill the role of CTO at DigitalOcean, all eyes were on the changes she would make. VMware is, of course, one of the more important suppliers to most enterprise IT departments and, as such, Austin has a deep understanding of both customer requirements and, perhaps more importantly, what it takes to build a sustainable and viable technology vendor.

And today we see the first step in that change with the announcement that DigitalOcean is releasing its load balancing product offering. Load balancers are, according to DigitalOcean, the feature most often requested by customers, and that is an assertion that rings true. Beyond all but the smallest of workloads, organizations need to use load balancers to ensure that traffic across their infrastructure is distributed evenly. As DigitalOcean approaches more heavy customer use-cases, it needs to offer this functionality to avoid customers migrating to more mature cloud platforms as their needs increase.

In DigitalOcean's implementation, load balancers can be controlled from either a customer's control panel or alternatively programmatically via API. No additional installation or configuration is required. Using load balancers, organizations can distribute their traffic to only healthy Droplets -- DigitalOcean's own term for its cloud servers -- ensuring no single point of failure exists.

Load balancers are priced at $20 per month, following DigitalOcean's traditional cheap and simple pricing approach.

In commenting about the release, Austin hints at more developments to come. "We're quickly expanding the capabilities of our cloud to support larger scale-out applications," she said. "With "Load Balancers, we are providing developers and businesses with a simple service for maximizing the availability and reliability of applications without disrupting the end user experience. Load Balancers is the first major new product DigitalOcean has released this year. Over the coming year, you'll see us continue to release a number of important products and features to meet our customers' high availability, data storage, security and networking needs."

DigitalOcean is something of an enigma, the little engine that could (as it were). Load balancing will increase the level at which it "can," and the future will be interesting to watch.

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