Brit bit barn UKFast opens up API to devs: Have at it, they're just a phone call away

Hosting outfit wants to get up close and personal

Manchester-based hosting outfit UKFast has squeezed out a developer platform in the hopes of fending off the relentless march of cloud giants Amazon and Microsoft.

Over the past 18 months, it has added RESTful APIs to much of its portfolio, such as eCloud, SafeDNS, DDoSX and its cloudy storage options. These APIs have allowed developers to take control of the setup and management of resources purchased from UKFast without having to faff around with management portals.

The firm also created a bunch of open-source SDKs (due by the month's end) in popular languages such as PHP, PowerShell, Python and .NET to get devs started without needing to leave a familiar environment.

CTO Neil Lathwood told The Register the goal of the SDKs was to save developers having to hit the API directly. "It should make life a lot simpler," he said, adding that the SDK and API would be kept synchronised for all services going forwards.

The Brit outfit has made UK-based resources for key parts of a cloud-based infrastructure available to developers who would prefer to not to go all in with Amazon or Microsoft's regional data shacks.

Hit me with your API stick

Though the outfit is exposing the management of its current platform, it appeared aware it was likely to be a cog in a larger machine which might have its moving parts spread over multiple vendors.

With developers spoiled for choice, UKFast will be trying to remain relevant by shovelling in functionality demanded by its customers. The eCloud line is due to receive Nvidia GPUs during the first quarter of 2019 for customers keen on AI and machine learning and, of course, those processors will be given a good thwacking with the API stick.

In the second half of 2019, database-as-a-service will make an appearance, with APIs to create the things and allocate RAM and CPU. No automated scaling as yet – Lathwood reckoned it will come down the pipe later (or earlier if customers yell loudly enough).

Docker is also due as 2019 progresses with Kubernetes support following shortly after. Again, all will be manageable via UKFast's developer platform.

While the new toys are unlikely to tempt users away from the entrenched Amazon or Microsoft platforms, they could be enough to give existing users pause for thought before jumping ship for the sunlit, and massively scalable, uplands of AWS and Azure.

And, of course, while UKFast has had its fair share of wobbles, none have been so spectacular as those of Azure or AWS.

The UK bit barn reckoned its support would make a difference. While the likes of Amazon will grudgingly make available access to knowledgeable humans on the end of a phone line for a fee, UKFast bundles those humans into its pricing.

What about regional data rules?

Compared to the cloud giants, UKFast is quite UK-centric, but claimed that as the majority of its customers are Blighty-based, stashing everything this side of the Channel would present no problem.

Devs tasked with dealing with regional data regulations for global enterprises, and looking at the lure of Azure would disagree.

As such, UKFast is considering branching out from Manchester, risking a jaunt as far south as London, or maybe Amsterdam. Setting up something in the US is also on the table should customers demand it.

As for the implications of the UK's impending exit from the EU, Lathwood appeared confident (as he'd have to do). "We're mostly UK focused, and the majority of our clients are UK based and then we've got people outside of that; Europe and American etc – we've not seen any changes in demand, if you like, and we've not seen any slowdown at all."

While UKFast's move will be welcomed by developers, it reflects the challenge faced by traditional hosting outfits to remain relevant in the face of Amazon, Microsoft, Google and their ilk.

For many customers, being able to yell at someone in Manchester when things get wobbly will always be preferable to wailing at the Twitter mouthpieces of the competing cloud giants.

In 2018, UKFast chief Lawrence Jones spoke about plotting a course to IPO, but by November last year had called it off due to Brexit "uncertainty". Just before Christmas, the hosting company flogged off a 30 per cent stake of the firm to private equity. ®

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