The Hosting Stack
At Six Degrees Group, we describe the value chain of the hosting industry using this stack:
Regardless of the actual configuration of the hosting service – colocation, managed cloud service, virtual private cloud or private cloud – Six Degrees Group provides services to customers at each layer in the stack. We realise that it is extremely important not to become too obsessed with precise categorisations and rigid terminologies. What matters is the solution and the problem that it is designed to solve – it is this layer that both Six Degree Group and our customers must focus their efforts first; the below represents a stack of enabling technologies, not the solution itself.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
The IaaS elements deliver what their name suggests – the enabling technologies for cloud computing, delivered as a service in a pure cloud environment or delivered through remote hands/smart hands support to colo customers using their own equipment.
At the facilities layer, we provide the datacentre facilities, rack space and power required to deliver all the subsequent layers in the stack. We own and operate our own tier 3 and tier 4 datacentres; click here for more information.
The network layer includes all the internal and external elements needed to build a complete networked platform: firewalls (hardware or appliance-based), load balancers, Internet VPC access and private WAN connectivity.
The storage layer provides all the enabling technologies – disks, SAN, snapshots, management, etc – that is used to store customer data and is used to build value-adding services like managed backup and other hosting and cloud modules that build up to form a complete solution.
The server layer provides the compute resources necessary to enable the applications and services that are being hosted. For virtual private, private or hybrid cloud customers, the compute resources are provided “as a Service” by Six Degrees Group using leading-edge blade servers housed in chasses in our racks. For colocation or managed cloud service customers, the servers are owned by the customer.
The virtualisation layer is at the heart of cloud computing services. In short, VMware is used to allow multiple virtual machines (VMs) to be built on each physical server offering significant scalability, elasticity and resilience advantages. Six Degrees Group uses VMware’s vCloud Director to manage its virtual private and private cloud customers. For our cloud managed services customers, we provide consultancy services to help them build their own private clouds and we manage their VMs on our vSphere to enable hybrid cloud models.
Operating System Layer
The OS layer is the final piece of the IaaS puzzle. Once we have built virtual machines for the customer on shared or dedicated servers, we provide them with the operating system of their choice, e.g. Windows or Linux. This completes the picture for “classic” cloud customers. For colo customers, our systems team is available to provide support on the OS deployments of the customers’ servers in our colo racks.
Platform as a Service and Web Hosting
Six Degrees Group is a long-established PaaS player focusing exclusively on the web hosting marketplace. In other words, we don’t provide platform development tools for software developers but we do provide platform services for digital media agencies and other organisations looking for web hosting services.
For Web Hosting, our PaaS capabilities are available either for LAMP Stack – Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP – web server development or for ASP.NET/SQL Server deployments. The majority of our web hosting customers have multiple web servers per customer on our platform, often needing SSL security for transactions, and sometimes needing extra capacity. We provide a full managed web hosting service specialising in websites that transactional and seasonal, with our hybrid cloud providing additional “burst” capacity for seasonal or pre-planned peaks in traffic and our other hosting and cloud services being used to house back-end databases.
Software as a Service
Six Degrees Group does not provide traditional SaaS applications like hosted Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Lync or Microsoft SharePoint. We have many partner customers that do deliver these application services to end-users with us providing the enabling tools to allow others to use our colo and/or cloud hosting platforms to build the SaaS offerings. Likewise, Internet-based per user, per month SaaS applications like Salesforce or Microsoft 365 are not our market either.
There is an emerging industry term called “SaaS Infrastructure” where Six Degrees Group is active. We provide virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), storage and backup services, real-time information access and software-based multi-tenant appliance-based firewalls. These are technologies that are software (just like OS and virtualisation layer technologies are software) but they are infrastructure software not applications software (like email or CRM), and it is the latter that is what the industry usually means when it talks about SaaS.