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With nearly 1m users on its books, DigitalOcean touts load balancers

CTO gets all loved up about customers on Valentine's Day

DigitalOcean on Tuesday plans to begin offering load balancers to help its customers distribute online traffic across their infrastructure, at a cost of $20 per month.

Load balancers ensure that DigitalOcean servers can handle surges of online traffic and represent an essential safety mechanism for online businesses. They support HTTP, HTTPS, TCP, and managed TLS certificates, and can be controlled through DigitalOcean's API.

In an interview with The Register, Julia Austin, CTO of DigitalOcean, said load balancers have been one of the capabilities most frequently requested by customers.

DigitalOcean, founded in 2011, started off serving the lower end of the cloud computing market, appealing primarily to individual developers and small businesses seeking something simpler and more affordable than Amazon Web Services or its enterprise-focused peers.

That portion of the market turned out to be appealing enough that Amazon Web Services joined the fray in November with Lightsail, a simplified hosting option for customers seeking virtual private servers, storage, DNS management, and a static IP address.

Meanwhile, DigitalOcean finds that its biz customers, a subset of its nearly one million registered users, are looking for more sophisticated options.

"We see our customer mix changing over time," CEO Ben Uretsky told The Register. "We have a very large community of individual developers that has made us very successful…. But we're starting to see more and more business adoption of our service. At this point, two-thirds of our business is tied to business-oriented workloads."

The challenge for DigitalOcean, as Uretsky and Austin describe it, has been to provide more robust capabilities without making them too difficult to understand.

For Uretsky, Lightsail represents acknowledgement that AWS is overly complicated. While Lightsail itself may be easier to use than AWS, Uretsky contends the service doesn't make interacting with the rest of AWS any simpler.

"What we're trying to do is create one easy-to-use platform from the ground up that starts at the infrastructure layer," said Uretsky. "That's what developers love: It saves them time, it allows them to move faster and get more done with less."

Uretsky acknowledges that load balancers aren't exactly groundbreaking from a technology standpoint. "But for customers, they will really reduce the amount of time and energy and people needed to take advantage of our service," he said.

DigitalOcean is betting that customer service plus open source software and commitment to its community can sustain a cloud computing company without the complexity, expense, or proprietary lock-in that characterize larger cloud infrastructure providers.

Of course, DigitalOcean's peers, like Linode, and Vultr, also see simplicity as a defense against AWS.

For Austin, DigitalOcean works because it's personal. "One of the things that drew me to the business was the love aspect," she said. "It may sound silly, but talking to engineers and developers who feel like we get them, that we understand what they're trying to do and and are trying to make their jobs easier, to me it's exceptional. ...What keeps me up at night is making sure we don't lose that commitment to our customers." ®

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