Joyent - Cloud Computing Built on Accelerators

Kent Langley was kind enough to create a profile template for Joyent, Kent's new employer. Joyent is an infrastructure and development company that has put together a multi-site, multi-million dollar hosting setup for their own applications and for the use of others. Joyent competes with the likes of Amazon and GoGrid in the multi-player cloud computing game and hosts Bumper Sticker: A 1 Billion Page Per Month Facebook RoR App.

The template was originally created with web services in mind, not cloud providers, but I think it still works in an odd sort of way. Remember, anyone can fill out a profile template for their system and share their wonderfulness with the world.

Getting to Know You

  • What is the name of your system and where can we find out more about it?

    Joyent Accelerator Cloud Computing IaaS

    My name is Kent Langley, Sr. Director, Joyent, Inc. (

    The Joyent website is located at

    The scope of this exercise is the Joyent Accelerator product.

  • What is your system is for?

    It is essentially a system that provides infrastructure primitives as a service (IaaS) for building cloud computing applications, migrating enterprise data center operations to secure private clouds, or just hosting your blog.

    There is a page on the site called what scales on Joyent:

    Java, PHP, Ruby, Erlang, Perl, Python all work beautifully on Joyent. There is no lock-in. Ever. We try to run an open cloud. It's also a "loving cloud" if you ask our CTO. We have some of the largest Rails applications in the world, very high volume ejabberd XMPP infrastructure, exceptionally large Drupal installations, commerce sites in private clouds, .NET with Mono, TomCat, Resin, Glassfish, and much more all running on Accelerators. Joyent Accelerators are the perfect building blocks for almost any PaaS (Platform as a Service) play as well.

    Of particular note, Java runs exceptionally well on Accelerators because Accelerators are 64bit and you can also do 64 bit Java and have a JVM that could address as much as 32 GiB of RAM! This gives excellent vertical scalability for any running JVM. more below the fold

  • Why did you decide to build this system?

    There is demand for a high-end but reasonably priced elastic computing infrastructure.

  • How is your project financed?

    Self-Funded at this time.

  • What is your revenue model?

    We sell Joyent Accelerators, do Scale Consulting, and some related Services. We also have a growing Parter Channel.

  • How do you market your product?

    WebSite, Word of Mouth, Blogs, Email Lists, Twitter, Event Sponsorships, Open Source participation, forums, friendfeed, and more...

  • How long have you been working on it?

    I, Kent Langley, have been working with Joyent for about 2.5 years as a client. I've been with the company as an employee for about 2 months. Joyent has existed formally for about 4 years.

  • How big is your system? Try to give a feel for how much work your system does.

    We have hundreds and hundreds of servers representing significant compute power across 1000's of cores in multiple locations.

  • Number of monthly page views?

    Billions and Billions (multiple billion+ page view per month clients)

  • What is your in/out bandwidth usage?

    That's a secret.

  • How many documents, do you serve? How many images? How much data?

    Billions per month.

  • How fast are you growing?

    Fast enough to give me grey hairs.

  • What is your ratio of free to paying users?

    Very low. Most of our users have paid accounts. We do have some free offerings to help people get started. But, the demand for those services has been high so the lines are a little long.

  • What is your user churn?

    About Average for the industry we think.

  • How many accounts have been active in the past month?


    How is your system architected?

  • What is the architecture of your system? Talk about how your system works in as much detail as you feel comfortable with.

    Our technology stack is predicated on something we call a Pod. We have several pods and plans to add more. From the top to bottom you'd find.

    BigIP F5 Application Switches
    Force 10 (1GB and 10GB switching)
    Custom Dell Hardware with some secret sauce
    Tier1 Hosting Providers
    Essentially a custom Solaris Nevada based OS Core w/ a Pkgsrc install system

  • What particular design/architecture/implementation challenges does your system have?

    Automation. Automation. Automation. Self-Service.

  • What did you do to meet these challenges?

    We have an amazing team of Systems Developers that work very hard to improve our ability to grow and manage systems each day. We have some great updates on our Roadmap coming up that should be very exciting for existing and potential customers.

  • How does your system evolve to meet new scaling challenges?

    Our system is by it's nature evolutionary. As technology grows and changes, we grow with it. A recent example is when a client needed a private cloud computing environment to achieve PCI compliance in a cloud environment. So, we worked with the client to create this. While it is in production for two clients already we consider this a beta product. But you should expect to see it as a formal offering soon. This is an example of a way we have evolved our systems to respond to the changing cloud computing market place.

  • Do you use any particularly cool technologies are algorithms?

    ZFS, BigIP, DTrace, OpenSolaris Nevada, and an in-house custom provisioning system we call MCP (hat's off to Tron)

  • What do you do that is unique and different that people could best learn from?

    We know our approach to things is a little different. But, we think that helps us inhabit a space that is different enough from other vendors in the Cloud Computing space that we offer a significant value proposition to a large cross-section of the IT industry. From the lone developer with a great idea that comes in and picks up a $199 per year 1/4 GiB Acclerator to a deployment that has literally 100's of Acclerators running the largest Rails applications on the planet. We are able to take good care of them both.

  • What lessons have you learned?

    If at first you don't succeed. Try, try again. Get over your mistakes and move on.

  • Why have you succeeded?

    We care. Our clients care. That's a nice fit.

  • How are you thinking of changing your architecture in the future?

    MORE secret sauce... But seriously, we have some great additions coming up soon. I'll be in touch.

    How is your team setup?

  • How many people are in your team?

    Joyent has a small employee to client ratio. But, that's because we do what we do well. We are divided into several of the normal divisions you might expect like client support, marketing, sales, development, operations, and the business units.

  • Where are they located?

    Our corporate office is in Sausalito, CA. We have a development team in Seattle. We have a support organization that follows the sun and spans the globe. IM is a big deal at Joyent.

  • Is there anything that you would do different or that you have found surprising?

    I'd say managing expectations is the most challenging thing. I think that's where we stand to improve the most and where most of the surprises come from.

    What infrastructure do you use?

  • Which languages do you use to develop your system?


  • How many servers do you have?

    Not as many as Google!

  • How is functionality allocated to the servers?

  • How are the servers provisioned?

    We have a custom cloud provisioning system called MCP.

  • What operating systems do you use?

    Customized Sun Solaris Nevada

  • Which web server do you use?

    Apache and Nginx are the work horses in Joyent Accelerators

  • Which database do you use?

    MySQL and PostGRES are included w/ every Accelerator. Oracle works of you bring your own licenses. CouchDB works. We are certifying more all the time.

  • Do you use a reverse proxy?

    Well, our clients often use Nginx and now that there is a viable port of Varnish to OpenSolaris we are seeing more of that. Some of our clients use Squid as well. Most popular reverse proxy software will run find on our setup.

  • Do you collocate, use a grid service, use a hosting service, etc?

    We are that.

  • What is your storage strategy? DAS/SAN/NAS/SCSI/SATA/etc/other?

    We provide NFS to our clients for $0.15/GiB. 1 GiB = 1024 MB.

  • How much capacity do you have?

    Many Terabytes

  • How do you grow capacity?

    Add hardware

  • Do you use a storage service?

    We are a storage service.

  • Do you use storage virtualization?

    Not really. It's been and continues to be tested. But, you can't beat the real thing still in many cases.

  • How do you handle session management?

    Our clients do this depending on their development platform of choice at the application layer. Also, we can of course use our BigIP load balancing infrastructure to help out with that also.

  • How is your database architected? Master/slave? Shard? Other?

    All of the above, client by client. We know that Master-Master MySQL, Master-Slave MySQL, Oracle Clusters, MySQL Clusters, PostGRES, etc. They all work fine.

  • How do you handle load balancing?

    We have F5 BigIP's and we do what we call a managed load balancing service. For example, if you have two application servers, you need to load balance. Just ask us to set you up a VIP and we'll add the nodes you specify for a cost per node. All the pricing information is here.

  • Which web framework/AJAX Library do you use?

    We have clients that use just about everything you can think of.

  • Which real-time messaging frame works do you use?

    We have very large clients running ejabberd. Erlang works great on our systems.

  • Which distributed job management system do you use?

    This is client by client. We do not offer this out of the box.

  • How do you handle ad serving?

    This is up to the client. We've seen just about all of them.

  • What is your object and content caching strategy?

    We usually recommend memcached, it's pre-installed and ready to turn on.

  • What is your client side caching strategy?

    I'd say most of our clients use cookies.

    How do you handle customer support?

    We have a customer support team that is dedicated to helping our customers. Our services pretty much assume that you will have some degree of ability with building and deploying systems. However, if you don't, we have standard, extended plan, and partners that can all be combined in various ways to help our clients. Our support follows the sun around the world.

    How is your data center setup?

  • How many data centers do you run in?

    Several. :) Currently only domestic on both coasts and elsewhere.

  • How is your system deployed in data centers?

    In-House Automated provisioning systems

  • Are your data centers active/active, active/passive?

    Everything is always on. Our clients often co-locate in multiple locations so that they can have solid DR scenarios to keep investors happen and recover quickly should a truck hit a telephone pole or something.

  • How do you handle syncing between data centers and fail over and load balancing?

    This is a complex topic and can be very simple of very complex. It's a bit out of scope for this document.

  • Which DNS service do you use?

    We run our own based on PowerDNS

  • Which switches do you use?


  • Which email system do you use?

    Mostly Postfix

  • How do you handle spam?

    Filter at a variety of levels

  • How do you backup and restore your system?

    High level snap shots, clients are responsible for their own data primarily. However, we have ways to help them.

  • How are software and hardware upgrades rolled out?

    We do quarterly releases of key software and our Accelerators. Sometimes we get a little behind but try to roll with it. You get root on your Accelerator so you are not dependent on the Joyent release cycle at all.

  • How do you handle major changes in database schemas on upgrades?

    This is up to the clients and highly platform and applications specific.

  • What is your fault tolerance and business continuity plan?

    Lots of redundancy.

  • Do you have a separate operations team managing your website?

    No. We do it ourselves.

  • Do you use a content delivery network? If so, which one and what for?

    Yes. We are currently partnered with Limelight.

  • How much do you pay monthly for your setup?

    Accelerator plans range from $199 per year to $4000 per month. Significant discounts can be had if you pay ahead. But, it's very important to note that we do not require or even want contracts. Some companies try to force us into contracts and if you just MUST lock yourself in for years, we'll tie you down. But, we don't recommend it at all. In essence pay for what you need when you need it on a month to month granularity.


    The Joyent Accelerator is an extremely flexible tool for building and deploying all manner of infrastructure. If you have questions, please just contact us at Email or at an address is the best way to reach us usually.

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