The Storm Has ArrivedBy Jeff Kreitner
Founded in 1997 they now have 3 datacenters here in Michigan and a 4th in Arizona. The Storm products include Storm Servers (Cloud Servers), Storm Bare Metal Servers (Dedicated Servers with a twist) and Load Balancers.
The range Storm offers is somewhat limited to the more common Linux distributions.
They offer three versions of CentOS 5.5.
- Core-Managed (Support with a LAMP stack) (+$20.00)
- Fully-Managed with Cpanel (+$20.00)
- Self Managed
They offer a few Debian based images in addition.
- Debian 5.0
- Ubuntu 8.04 LTS
- Ubuntu 9.04
- Ubuntu 10.04 LTS
Once you have your server up and running you can create a backup to spin up any additional servers.
Currently, they only have one zone to create servers in. Hopefully with the commissioning of the Arizona datacenter we will have another one.
There are several great features Storm has that others don’t. The control panel is awesome. There are many automated areas that, with other companies, a help desk ticket might be necessary. It’s also useful and feature rich.
I have tried several cloud computing services and these guys and gals provide what I consider the best dashboard to date. The dashboard contains a lot of great information on one screen without making it look cluttered.
We are all used to the “your server is up” message. The host can connect to the instance. It can even ping it. But w hat if you don’t allow the server to be pinged? With Storm you can choose between ping, HTTP, DNS, SMTP, SSH and MySQL. Storm also provides a list of monitoring servers so you can poke holes in your firewall if need be. When the server stops responding to the monitor you get an email altering you to something being wrong. It might not be the most poweful service out there but it’s built in at no additional cost.
The Storm Firewall
Next, Storm provides an easy to use firewall built-in to their control panel. This firewall is not loaded on your server, it’s a part of their network. No messing with ip tables if you don’t want to.
If you’re feeling confident, leave the firewall turned off. If you want to work on the safe side you can turn the basic firewall on, which is as easy as selecting checkboxes of the services you want available to the network.
If you are a more advanced user or run services on non-standard ports you can use the advanced firewall where you can fine tune it, again, in a simplified fashion. By using the advanced firewall you are able to save your configuration as a set, allowing you to easily deploy the configuration to your other Storm servers. It’s as easy as selecting to use a previously saved firewall config and then choosing the right one. (not seen in the image below)
Where Were You on November 21, 2011?
You may or may not remember. Storm remembers what actions were taken on your server through their control panel. It even remembers if their monitoring service couldn’t access it and even color coordinate the events. In the image below you can see, in blue, my firewall rules are being updated and in orange my server is no longer responding to a ping. Using the history tab in the dashboard you can see all the events that have been posted to your account and server.
Bare Metal Servers
Physical computing meets cloud computing with Storm’s Bare Metal Servers. We can already spin up a new Cloud Server, Storm Server or EC2 Instance in a matter of minutes. What if you could “spin up” a new physical server in a matter of minutes? That’s what Bare Metal Servers are. Need a dedicated system with 2GB of ram? They have it. Need one with 96GB of ram? They have that too!
The API! Where is the API?
The API documentation can be accessed through their Developer Zone. A word of caution if you use it. Their API is in beta testing and parts might be renamed or moved. Their documentation is also similar to a beta product. While it does exist, it’s not thorough and they only have code samples in Perl.
The functionality of their API is quite nice. You have the normal authentication/tokens, view/create/destroy servers and the normal method you would expect from a cloud service. They also allow you to update your billing information, newsletter subscriptions and basically anything you can do in their control panel, through the API.
What Does It All Cost?
Storm takes a slightly different approach to their billing methodology. They follow the hourly pricing starting out at $0.05 per hour up to $1.37 per hour. Where it differs is they charge you upfront for the billing period and refund you if you don’t keep it around the entire time.
You can pay per gigabyte of bandwidth or buy a “bundle” of bandwidth. Bundled packages start at 250GB for $10.00 per month. If you go buy the bundle you can save a little bit assuming you use all of it.
Recently Storm lowered their prices and paying per GB, you can really take advantage of it.
- Old: $0.08/GB
- New: FREE
- Old: $0.15/GB
- New: $0.05
Additionally you can buy additional space for backups. Going this route you can pay per gigabyte or buy a block of disk space. Doing this Storm will create daily backup images of your Storm Server. If you need to deploy an new Storm Server you can do so from your backups as well.
For more plans see the pricing page
Storming the Castle
In order to use the products Storm has to offer you of course need an account. The signup is relatively painless. It requires your username, password, email and typical billing information. Once you’ve finished the signup process a support person from Storm will call to verify you are an actual person. Once your account is activated it’s time to login and and hit the green “Create a New Server” at the top left.
Leverage the Storm
Follow them at @StormOnDemand. Every once in a while they throw out credits so you can try their service for free. If you look around the internet you can easily find them as well.