A client evaluating cloud computing solutions asked me about Cogent’s Utility Computing offering (and showed me a nice little product sheet for it). Never having heard of it before, and not having a clue from the marketing collateral what this was actually supposed to be (and finding zero public information about it), I got in touch with Cogent and asked them to brief me. I plan to include a blurb about it in my upcoming Who’s Who note, but it’s sufficiently unusual and interesting that I think it’s worth a call-out on my blog.
Simply put, Cogent is allowing customers to rent dedicated Linux servers at Cogent’s POPs. The servers are managed through the OS level; customers have sudo access. This by itself wouldn’t be hugely interesting (and many CDNs now allow their customers to colocate at their POPs, and might offer self-managed or simple managed dedicated hosting as well in those POPs). What’s interesting is the pricing model.
Cogent charges for this service based on bandwidth (on a Mbps basis). You pay normal Cogent prices for the bandwidth, plus an additional per-Mbps surcharge of about $1. In other words, you don’t pay any kind of compute price at all. (You do have to push a certain minimum amount of bandwidth in order for Cogent to sell you the service at all, though.)
This means that if you want to construct your own fly-by-night CDN (or even just a high-volume origin for static content), this is one way to do it. Figure you could easily be looking at $5/Mbps pricing and below, all-in. If you’re looking for cheap and crude and high-volume, then these servers in a couple of POPs, and a global load-balancing service of some sort will do it. For anything that’s not performance-sensitive, like large file downloads in the background (like game content updates), this might turn out to be a pretty interesting alternative.
I’ve always thought that Level 3′s CDN service, with its “it costs what our bandwidth costs” pricing tactic, was a competitive assault not so much on Limelight (or even AT&T, who has certainly gotten into mudpit pricing fights with Level 3), but on Cogent and other providers of low-cost high-volume bandwidth — i.e., convincing people that rather than buying servers and getting colocation space and cheap high-volume bandwidth, that they should just take CDN services. So it makes sense for Cogent to strike back with a product that circumvents having to make the investments in technology that would be required to get into the CDN mudpit directly.
I’ll be interested to see how this evolves — and will be curious to see if anyone else launches a similar service.