Finally, an alternative to AWS or Azure Services

Finally, an alternative to AWS or Azure Services

How we rebuilt the most powerful cloud software as a decentralized, private system

Someone who rents servers usually intends to run applications on them. While running a single app on a single server might be simple and easy to achieve, the journey from this to a fully developed, professional cloud environment is rocky and difficult. Hosting providers have recognized this and offer additional features alongside classic hosting: User and role management, data backups, object storage, redundancies, container environments, data pipelines and much more.

AWS, for example, now counts more than 200 products related to the actual hosting. The downside: As you use the services, your dependencies on the cloud provider increase, the costs scale, and you have to learn how to use the tools. All in all, this is probably less risky from a technical standpoint than setting up everything yourself, but it involves strategic risks such as vendor lock-ins or being bound to a specific environment.

At Circle, our mission is to get rid of strong dependencies and centralization. With CircleOS we provide software that helps users turn their rented simple servers into a fully-featured system to minimize strategic risks. Basically, what we’re talking about is a self-hosted alternative to AWS or Azure which will work on any hardware.

Time for a little sketch.

Comparison between usage of AWS/Azure Services and my own management software

As you can see on the left, using all the services of AWS or Azure leads to strong dependencies. What ist depicted on the right, however, can give us an idea of the possibilities of self-sufficiency when running your own cloud management. We can use other servers at any time or even build hybrid models or decentralize. Even professional hosting providers that deliver fewer products but better services or prices suddenly become attractive: Since missing services can be delivered by CircleOS, a provider simply contributes computing power. When looking at it this way, German providers like IONOS or Hetzner suddenly shine in a whole new light: Their service is closer to the customer, their hosting is professional, and the apps they are lacking are compensated by CircleOS.

Let's take a look at how we transformed typical raw „bare metal“ servers into a rich application landscape. We will use IONOS servers as an example here.

From bare metal to rich application landscape

For this purpose, we will rent two separate, smaller servers. One with 2GB RAM and one core, 1TB disk space and one with 6GB RAM and two cores, 1TB disk space.

Then we start our CircleOS installer, enter the IPs and their SSH keys, including a domain that we have ordered previously. The domain already directs to the IP addresses at this point, which was a manual step we took before. The modification of the A-records via automation script is unfortunately not offered by IONOS. Then we select the services that we want to install in advance: object storage, monitoring, dashboards, databases, user management, image registry and disk backups. The list of possibilities is much longer, but there is no need to install anything that is not needed.

The installer runs for a while – after a few minutes, we’re done. We open the specified domain and now, instead of a raw server, we have a login and a variety of applications that we would otherwise only get using AWS or Azure.

The CircleOS setup on plain IONOS servers

Scaling and performance

Now, is this system able to scale as well as an AWS or Azure cloud? And how powerful is it when using IONOS servers?

Our tests have shown that we can still use the CircleOS internal autoscaler to add more resources automatically. This can either happen via IONOS API, by connecting a second provider as a hybrid solution, or by connecting our own hardware.

For the aforementioned IONOS setup, we connected some of our customers’ machines to the system and made them generate processing data – about 30 MB/s of structured data, which is then further processed and displayed by additional services as a data pipeline. 120 containers of different weights run in parallel. Load on the system: just 40% on the CPU and 25% on the RAM. In other words, there is still room for maneuver – even though the amount of data is relatively large. IONOS servers can keep up and do their job well here, too.

Preliminary conclusion

With CircleOS, even supposedly smaller cloud providers become attractive for hosting professional environments. There is more variety again and therefore more criteria to consider when selecting a provider: locality, service, price. If a provider fails, it is replaceable. If political restrictions occur, one can easily react, due to the fact that there are no dependencies. The move is simple and fast.

In addition, CircleOS delivers a novel programming environment for next generation web apps (single page, live, collaborative, optimized) that none of the major providers offer yet. Apps based on CircleOS feel so handy that you will never want to build another app. It feels as if your browser has just become your native machine.

The decentralization that results will be a key building block of the future, and we're glad that CircleOS is leading the way.

Decentralized clouds ("fogs") without AWS, Azure or other servers

Apart from servers, we can also connect every other device and install CircleOS on it. We'll be writing articles in the future where we describe how a publicly accessible cloud can be created from just existing hardware – smartphones, PCs, Raspberry Pis and tablets – and how to enrich it with apps. It's the counter-model to centralized clouds, called "fog", because it makes use of the hardware that is available to connect it to a virtual, decentralized cloud.

A decentralized cloud called "fog" as counter-model to centralized clouds via CircleOS

This has two main benefits:

  • Cheaper. The hardware is already there to be used, there is no need for any new purchases. No maintenance costs due to a data center. Existing resources are being used.
  • More sustainable. Data centers use a lot of energy because they’re inefficient and act in constant standby mode. A dynamic, virtual cloud consists of devices that are powered anyway because they are being used in parallel for certain other purposes. Less energy is wasted, existing resources are being used, making this type of cloud computing (fog computing) more sustainable.

We are convinced that CircleOS offers technologies of the future. It’s a key factor when considering the challenges that await us.

If you want to take an exclusive look at it today, get in touch with us.

And if you want to help us build this future and drive other important outcomes, hit us up 😉.