COSTA MESA, CALIF. (02/24/2000) - Epoch Internet this week is rolling out new Web-hosting services that promise users robust content storage and delivery.
Epoch is introducing its first dedicated Web-hosting offerings, called EpochHost Dedicated and Collocation services. Epoch's services offer small to midsize businesses high-end features such as storage management, load balancing and bandwidth management.
What sets Epoch apart from many competitors is a distributed architecture setup, says Courtney Munroe, program director at International Data Corp.
(IDC), a market research firm in Framingham, Mass. Epoch calls this its "pod" architecture.
Instead of setting up one storage server to one Web server for each customer, Epoch has set up large fault-tolerant storage servers from Network Appliance that connect to up to six Web servers. Epoch has also deployed Foundry Networks load-balancing switches that intelligently send traffic to any of the six Web servers that are not congested.
The Web servers are used to process end-user requests for Web content. A Web server extracts that content from a storage server and offers it up to an end user. Regardless of which of the six Web servers is accessed, all transactions are recorded in real time because all Web servers are accessing the same storage cluster, says Paul Hoffman, vice president of hosting services at Epoch.
If separate storage servers were used and not updated immediately, an end user may not be able to view a purchase or a request just a few minutes after making a transaction, Hoffman says. Lag time sometimes occurs because content storage systems are not all updated immediately - maybe every 15 minutes or so. Using one storage area eliminates that problem, he says.
EpochHost Dedicated service offers users set amounts of storage space on the Network Appliance servers starting at 5G bytes. Hoffman says each storage array on the Network Appliance server is physically separate, which is why the service is called a dedicated-hosting service. Epoch has been offering customers a shared Web-hosting service for a couple of years, in which users share storage and Web server facilities.
Epoch has also deployed Lucent's Xedia Access Point bandwidth management devices to ensure that bandwidth to each pod is distributed evenly among servers and customers.
While Epoch's data center architecture differentiates the offering, the company is facing a lot of competition, IDC's Munroe says: "Verio, Concentric Network and PSINet have all been offering small to midsize businesses Web-hosting [services] for a couple of years now."
One Epoch customer is impressed with the ISP's plans.
"Admittedly I was skeptical at first because many Web-hosting service providers offer the same type of services," says Matthew Olivia, chief technical officer at Infinite Axis, an application service provider and systems integrator. "But I was impressed with the quality of hardware, building security, and the 24-7 technical support and staff after I visited their facility."
After evaluating collocation service providers Exodus Communications, Alchemy Internet, Qwest Communications and Epoch Internet for six months, Infinite Axis chose Epoch.
According to IDC, small to midsize businesses spent approximately $832 million on Web-hosting services last year. By 2003, the same group is expected to spend $28 billion.
EpochHost Dedicated service is available starting at $650 per month for 5G bytes of storage space. Users can choose from IBM or Sun servers running Windows NT 4.0/2000, Red Hat Linux or Sun Solaris. Users can also choose from Microsoft's DB2, SQL Server or Oracle's database servers.
Epoch's Collocation service is available starting at $325 per month.
Collocation customers supply their own server hardware and software. Epoch supplies Internet access, storage space and optional back-up services.