Lydia Leong

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Lydia Leong
Research VP
11 years at Gartner
19 years IT industry

Lydia Leong is a research vice president in the Technology and Service Providers group at Gartner. Her primary research focus is cloud computing, together with Internet infrastructure services, such as Web hosting, content delivery networks…Read Full Bio

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Cogent’s Utility Computing

by Lydia Leong  |  April 8, 2010  |  1 Comment

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.

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