New Xen-based virtual servers

March 16th, 2010 by

It’s been nearly six years since we first launched our Virtual Dedicated Servers.  At the time, the choice for virtualisation technology was easy: User Mode Linux.  Initially, UML was a well supported option, with UML patches being incorporated into the Linux kernel.  Over time, we’ve been following the development of other technologies such as Xen and KVM and at the end of last year we concluded that we should make the switch to Xen.

Getting Xen working reliably with our server management code has taken somewhat longer than expected, but we’re pleased to announce the the service is now live.

We’ve also taken the opportunity to roll out new hardware, allowing us to offer substantially higher specced VDSs for the same prices, with our base machine now coming in at 256MB RAM, 20GB, and an increased bandwidth allowance of 100GB/month for £15/month including VAT – less if you pay annually.

Although we’ve changed the virtualisation platform, we’ve retained the other key features of our virtual servers including:

Host servers with hot-swap hardware RAID.  Although these are significantly more expensive, we figure that reliability is something that can be shared particularly effectively through virtualisation: over the years, our VDS host servers have seen a fair few disk failures and replacements, but typically our customers don’t even know that they’ve happened.

Nightly backup to other host servers, allowing us to resume service quickly in the event of a serious hardware failure.

As part of the upgrade, we’ve also deployed a new approach to providing disk images which offers significantly better IO performance than the standard approach of storing the VDS filesystem as a file on the host filesystem.

The new VDSs are available now, and we’ll be contacting all existing customers in the near future to arrange migration to the new platform.