I may be confused about what cloud hosting really is...

I asked Rackspace how its Cloud Server (CS) 256MB/10GB compares to Slicehost's 256slice VPS, and they said it's exactly the same (only different billing and BW). I know they are the same company.

So, why do they call it Cloud Server? Isn't it just a collection of VPS (virtual private servers)?

For me, cloud hosting would be: if I need any additional horsepower at any given time, the cloud would automatically stack more VPS and then charge me at the end of the month for the surplus of resources. Reading Rackspace's info, it looks like it's for me to decide when to stack more CS and that its Cloud Servers don't AUTOMATICLY scale up.

Am I confusing things?

  • 9
    I don't know the specifics about those companies, but the trend in IT is to call just about everything virtualized, cloud or green.
    – pauska
    Sep 9, 2009 at 12:19
  • 2
    So very true. 'cloud' means absolutely everything and nothing at the same time!
    – sybreon
    Sep 9, 2009 at 16:04
  • 3
    As long as I can remember (which is a little further than last week) the internet has always been drawn as a "cloud" for what it's worth
    – GregD
    Aug 15, 2010 at 18:08

6 Answers 6


Mnn, you're not really confusing things, or at least you're not more confused than many other people are about "cloud computing". Cloud computing (CC) has become one of those trend-words, fashionable words that get used in lots of different circumstances.

To me, cloud computing just implies a service somewhere between Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service. (Themselves also 2 very abused words with many different interpretations.)

For me, auto-scaling with demand is not a required part of cloud computing. If you look at it, neither Amazon AWS nor Windows Azure had auto-scaling as part of their initial offering. Only Google AppEngine had this, and initially at the expense of other severe limitations on the run-time environment.

Clearly auto-scaling is desirable, and AWS has had it for some time through Rightscale and other 3rd party providers. But it's not the only differentiator between plain VPS and Cloud Computing.

Some of the key differentiators between VPS and Cloud Computing for me are:

  • Management interface that is optimized for a fleet of VPS's and not just 1-5 VPS's.
  • Presence of load balancing services and similar network-level services.
  • A business model that prices storage, compute and bandwith differently, and allows a great deal of flexibility in the consumption of these.
  • Sheer size. To me, if you can provision 10-100 virtual machines with short warning, then you're a VPS provider. If you can provision 100 - 10.000 VPS servers with short warning, then you're a cloud computing provider.
  • Great! Do you have any positive experiences with any "cloud hosting" provider? Sep 9, 2009 at 12:39
  • @sopppas: Well, Amazon EC2 has worked well for my limited needs -- but don't let that push you in that direction, look at the different vendors offerings and strategies. A lot has changed since I made my decision.
    – user2874
    Sep 9, 2009 at 20:06
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    Rightscale and a lot of others also support Rackspace Cloud services now as well. I've always found Rackspace's offering much more flexible than any of the Amazon services and their support is unmatched in the industry. But each project needs it's own evaluation on where to get your infrastructure from. Jul 19, 2011 at 22:25

I just wanted to throw this out there, as in my other answer to a Cloud hosting question:

"Cloud hosting" is just a re-branded VPS, most cloud solutions scale in no way. You could argue this on several points, but this is what it boils down to.

The one thing that I have seen more and more "Cloud" providers offer is instant provisioning of servers - this is a differentiator to the old style VPS that had to be manually provisioned.

I, like you, was very confused about cloud hosting until I came to this conclusion. In my own definition of cloud hosting auto-scaling was a necessary component, however most providers do not offer this (besides being able to deploy a VPS as well). "Cloud" seems to be a marketing term more than anything else.

Hope that helps clear things up for you.


I have been hosting with the RackSpaceCloud (Mosso) for about 18 months, and the best way I would describe the service is "cloud-like".

The system DOES scale up automatically when your traffic spikes. We got an indirect mention in a major Hollywood movie, and our traffic more than tripled when the movie was released.

All we saw was our "compute cycles" go up (this is a measurement of how many server's worth of resources you are using to run your site).

However, not all is as rosy as it may sound.

While the first 12 months of hosting went pretty smoothly, RackSpaceCloud has become completely unreliable for the past 2-3 months.

I believe that they must be pushing past the limits of their immature "cloud" system.

Our site was down for more than 200 hours last month. Yes, that is an "up-time" percentage of less than 50%. The reasons provided have ranged from connectivity issues, security issues, failing hardware, scheduled and unscheduled maintenance blackouts and "misbehaving nodes" and my favorite: "we don't know what is going on".

In my opinion, they have a couple of years to go before their system is mature enough to handle real "cloud" computing requirements.

  • 1
    Your are confusing their 'Cloud Sites' offering with their other Cloud services: Servers, Files, Load Balancers and DNS. Cloud Sites is a (theoretically) more resilient version of traditional shared hosting and not designed for real heavy lifting. Jul 19, 2011 at 22:19

As I see it, there's a continuum with shared web hosting on one extreme, an private servers at the other. In between there are VPS and 'cloud severs'.

For RackspaceCloud and slicehost, the main novelty over a traditional VPS is that you don't have to deal with some hosting employee to add more servers, or more capacity to a server; you simply go to their website and do the change yourself, or use their API and make your programs ask for more/less capacity.

That's all. management simplification by giving you the keys to the service.

For other providers (Google's AppEngine, for example), the service is more abstract and limited. they only allow specific kinds of software (python and JVM for GAE), so they can measure utilization and allocate more resources. Since you don't get to manage the system, they can seamlessly and dynamically allocate resources in and out. Totally different service and different usage.

Another service typically associated with the 'cloud' buzzword is that of 'infinite' storage charged by usage. Most offer some kind of files behind a web-based API. S3, Mosso Files (now RackspaceCloud Files) are the best know of these. GoGrid offers a similar sevice, but includes rsync and samba access to them, making it a lot easier to use.

RackspaceCloud has one other service, they call 'cloud sites', that sounds a little like GAE; but I don't understand the details of it.


Maybe Autoscaling is not part of the deal because it does not work. Sure you can scale from a US$10 VPS to a full $250 dedicated server purely on demand but then it stops.

After this you have to design and configure the application so that it scales to multiple computers. Thats usually a complex process with a lot of configuration around it. It is definitely not something a hosting provider can and will do for you automatically. It's just not his job.

And the $10-250 range is just not worth the investment for Cloud Hosting Provider - they look for the larger companies with dozens of virtual servers.

So a Cloud Hosting Providers business is that of short term contract renting of servers which are interconnected with high speed lanes.

Calling and hyping this as "cloud computing" - well we all know about the marketing ideocrazies in our industry - and we lived pretty well from stupid managers spending million IT budgets just to catch up with latest buzzwords.


Rackspace Cloud Servers (starting at $11/month) auto-scale if you create an auto-scaling application using the Cloud Servers API, otherwise scaling is manual. But the Rackspace Cloud Sites service auto-scales...but starts at $149/mo

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