SliceHost – Initial Impression Review

Oh no! Why do I need another VPS for? Anyway, I have just signed up with SliceHost earlier this week, getting a 256Mb “Slice” of Xen-powered VPS, running Gentoo Linux on their dual dual-core Opteron servers. So far so good, and here’s my initial impression.

SliceHost homepage SliceHost is pretty new on the VPS hosting scene. They have only been “officially” started in early August 2006, and surprisingly no one has talked about them on WHT. They offer Xen hosting at very affordable price. The 256Mb slice costs only USD$20/month.

However, there are a few things unique about SliceHost.

Update January 2007

Many people have asked for my email address for referral code. Here it is — you can use the following link to sign up:

manage.slicehost.com/customers/signup?referrer=4193984

I do get some credit to my SliceHost account if your account is in good standing for 3 months.

Non-overselling

First of all, they don’t oversell — and they boldly claimed so on their website. We already know that you can’t oversell on Xen, as hardware node needs to have enough physical memory and disk storage for all its domU nodes. The monthly data transfer limit on their plans are also so small that led me to believe that they don’t oversell their bandwidth either.

For example their 256Mb slice has been limited to only 40Gb data transfer per month (not that I am ever going to use that much). There will be maximum 24 slices per server (makes sense on a 8Gb box), which means 960Gb/month if all slices used all their data transfer allowance. That’s merely 3Mbits per second bandwidth.

So what you get is good burstable bandwidth at most of the time. Pulling Gentoo packages from nearest mirror gives me constantly 2+Mbytes/sec, which is very nice. Downloading the speed test is about 1Mbytes/sec from both east and west coast, which is not bad.

Built for developers

Founder of SliceHost, Matt Tanase, is a Ruby-on-Rails developer, and from his blog and forum posts, he has demonstrated that he knows what developers need in web hosting. If you too are a software developer looking at hosting your applications, would you go for the ones that is crowded with CPanel resellers with 100+ websites, or this one that has a community with similar mind set?

The entire website is built on RoR — not just the home page, but all the billing, VPS management, etc are all custom built RoR applications. Very clean design. Nice Ajax here and there. Very well done.

SliceHost blog Oh, they also have all the communication tools a hosting company should have. Forum (powered by Vanilla), Blog (powered by Typo) and Wiki (powered by Doku). It even has a live chat powered by 37signals’ Campfire.

Fast Xen Provisioning

My account was created instantly after credit card info has been verified, and a VPS slice is provisioned to me right away. I click on Gentoo 2006.1 to be installed on the VPS. A few minutes later, I was given an IP address and root password. It’s that simple.

64bit Hardware and OS

The hardware node that I am on has dual AMD Opteron 265, which is a 64bit dual core processor running at 1.8Ghz. Pretty fast, although there are faster Opterons out there. I think they probably have picked this range for the best bang for the buck. In comparison the hardware node on my Unixshell VPS account has dual Opteron 246, a single core running at 2Ghz, and also a 64bit CPU.

However, the Gentoo Linux template they used is targetted for amd64 — so you don’t actually only get 64bit hardware, your whole operating system is also running at full 64bit! I think they should have advertise it as a “feature”. Take a look at this:

$ python -c "print __import__('sys').maxint"
9223372036854775807

It does make some of my crappy C programs barking at the compilers, as I am still using those “old” 32bit machines at home. I guess it is time to have them fixed 🙂

Anything Negative?

What negatives? Well, let me try to think of some…

First of all, SliceHost does not have console login. That means if you are blocked outside of your VPS because of network configuration issue (bad routing, firewall, etc), then you can’t get in. Nor when your VPS crashed so badly that it needs an fsck. Console login would be useful here, even though it is a feature you never would want to use.

Update: SliceHost has added console access via AjaxTerm. Not only it lets you fix up totally fubar’ed VPS, but also let you manage your system when SSH connection is not permitted.

Again, the bandwidth limit might not be enough for many who are in the market looking for VPS hosting. However I feel SliceHost is not designed for reselling webhosting, but for web developers to bootstrap their “Next Big Thing” before moving to dedicated boxes.

Update: SliceHost has just upped their monthly data transfer to 100Gb, 200Gb and 400Gb for their 3 VPS plans. That’s more than enough for me.

Conclusion

That’s about it for now. I can’t comment on stability, availability, etc as it’s a pretty new service, and I have only been here for a few days. Nor have I got any site running yet (which I plan to do this weekend). However, my first impression is, it is really a great unmanaged VPS service for software developers and Linux geeks.

I shall report back in 3 month time on how everything goes.