Coop hosting services to compete with Google/Amazon

Great idea for a new thread on this, Chris Croome. I took it upon myself to start one :slight_smile:

Right off the bat, I should say that I know veeeeery little about IT in general (which is, of course, handy when starting a tech coop), and next to nothing about hosting/servers. But I do know that I need this service for my own platform, and I have some suggestions as to how to structure a possible effort to get something like this going on a larger scale.

These ideas may very well have been tried before, but there’s no harm in giving it another shot. I hadn’t even heard of cooperatives until about five years ago, and am now doing my best to advocate for them.

Capital is tricky, and seemingly the biggest road-block to getting a lot of coop projects off the ground. But we shouldn’t underestimate the power of the public, so here’s my suggestion:

An initial crowdfunding campaign just to get it off the ground, combined with some form of monthly subscription/donation model for the public to keep pitching in just because it’s a good cause + charging clients for the actual service itself (obviously). A fair amount of effort should be put into framing this campaign, and I would suggest at least running it by some friendly graphic designers/copywriters just to get the right aesthetic and tone.

The crowdfunding campaign would create an initial (free) capital injection to start making the expansion. A small part of those funds should also be earmarked for an outreach/marketing campaign to start generating subscriptions and marketing these services to companies. I would suggest targeting:

• Companies that may be interested in a bit of green washing (hopefully not really evil companies, but you’ve got to start somewhere)
• Major environmental (and other) nonprofits that want to practice what they preach by using eco-friendly servers
• Universities/hospitals/libraries
• Community banks/credit unions
• Other major NGOs
• Any other progressive organization/company you can think of

The pitch should be easy enough – environmentally friendly, community based services that meet their high-traffic needs, while promoting sustainable growth.

All along the way, reach out to as many coop forums as possible and let them know what’s in the works – nothing breeds popularity like popularity. Also try public IT figures who have a social media presence and who may want to lend a helping hand.

As soon as you start to get a little groundswell going, start reaching out to media/journalists who have a record of writing about virtually anything related to labor/“do-gooder” tech/the environment/community initiatives, etc. and let them know that AWS and Google are being challenged. A bit of David and Goliath will help them frame the story, but most importantly, this will get the word out about cooperatives and the myriad reasons that they are more sustainable.

This could and should be replicated in any number of countries/regions, and even coordinated among them to help one another grow. I’m Swedish btw, but I’m starting my coop in the US.

Just some thoughts to get the ball rolling.

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Good day,

It’s indeed the right timing.
The founder of WWW (the internet), Tim Berners-Lee, during its forum with IT developers around the world had made his pronouncement pertaining to the congestion/traffic in the internet.

The challenge “re-decentralising” the web.
We can grab the opportunity.

However, to get the funding, here’s the concern “whom is accountable”. Then, we can invite more investors.
Maybe we can start to the current tech coops and stakeholders (most probably, credit coops).

Thanks

Great to see this idea discussed. I work for a co-op based in UK with very similar objectives
(webarchitects.coop - part of community.coops.tech), and I’m very happy to find discussion happening now, at ICA/international level

I would like to suggest the initiative’s stakeholders be kept within the co-operative movement, the investment would surely still be affordable. If so, the criteria (for stakeholder/ownership) would be co-operatives only. However the other types of organisation on Nico’s list (below) such as NGOs, non-profits and “not really evil companies” could still participate - by becoming paying customers?

Hi,
At gcoop, we have nube.coop, where we provide services, on our own infrastructure with Open Stack.
It would be great to be able to articulate a federated cooperative cloud to solve the needs of different online services

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@leitomonk that is so awesome :heart_eyes:, would you be able to let us know more? In the UK several co-ops have been discussing using OpenStack for a few years but we haven’t been able to find the time / money to get this off the ground…

My first thoughts are:

  1. How much hardware do you have to run this service off and what would you suggest the minimum would be?
  2. How much of a learning curve was adopting OpenStack? How long did it take for you to set it up and get it running in a stable manner?
  3. How to you track client resource usage and invoice for this? Did you need to write any additional code for this yourselves?
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Thanks for your excellent feedback, Jonathan! And that’s actually exactly what I was thinking with the organizations on the list - to have them as paying customers. And I forgot to add eco/sustainability savvy startups to the list.

I was thinking that an established coop like Webarchitects could start it off with a crowdfunding campaign and then once you’ve purchased some additional hardware with that money, start reaching out to those organizations as paying clients.

Then, once you get it going and growing, it could be replicated in other countries (though naturally adapted to the specific circumstances in each country) by tech coops there, and those coops could ultimately joins forces in terms of purchasing power to buy even more servers, assuming that one gets a bulk discount on those types of things…? Or they could try a coordinated international campaign to begin with and try getting a bulk discount right away. Either way, it remain within the co-operative movement.

OpenStack sounds like a really great initiative too (in so far as I understand it), but I’m always apprehensive about foundations that “would not exist without the support of the Platinum, Gold, and Corporate Sponsors.” It’s very possible that they’ve made protections against corporate influence in their bylaws, but eight of the platinum sponsors each have seat on the board, most of which are stock-listed companies (i.e. governed by profit motive). But again, it’s possible that it’s completely independent despite that.

Hi Sir Nico,

I see great opportunity in this.
The possible re-activation of International Cooperative Banking Association (ICBA) might be one of the potential investor to this project.

Hey Nico,

First; your enthusiasm is refreshing. So I hope I don’t come off as a stick in the mud, but I have a slightly different perspective to address this instead of starting a crowd-funding campaign;

As was mentioned in this thread, @Jonathan at webarchitects.coop and @leitomonk at gcoop/nube.coop do provide hosting services that would probably be slightly more expensive, but technologically similar to using AWS/Google Cloud/Alibaba, etc. @mackh 's co-op CanTrustHosting Coop does too. I would guestimate there are probably about ~30 hosting co-operatives out in the wild, on top of co-op run web design firms that would also have their own hosting expertise.

Given that there already are co-ops that could provide these services, though not at the scale of Google/AWS/Alibaba/etc. In my view (and I don’t want to speak for anyone else), it might be reinventing the wheel to go the route of creating a new platform/crowdfunding campaign.

I think possibly the next steps for creating a viable competitor to the big cloud hosts could be what Leito said; decentralized/federated cloud hosting and possibly syndicated hosting (where resources are shared for large clients) if needed.

All that being said, I think a good next step would be to try to get more hosting coops to sign up for this forum so we can have a critical mass of experts in the field and to see if there is enough of them that want to collaborate on something like OpenStack or a similar technology (I hear you on de facto corporate control of foundations). A good example model could be Quaive: https://quaive.com/about-us/ - which is 13 companies that came together to develop an intranet software based off of Plone, realizing they couldn’t do it themselves.

In regards to your hosting requirements, I’d encourage speaking to Nube.coop, Webarchitects, and CanTrust and seeing if they can scale to your needs. :slight_smile:

This also sparks me to add hosting coops to the list in the other topic!

I can’t speak for gcoop but in the UK there are no co-op hosting options which allow a web development co-op to sign up for an account and then spin up and destroy virtual servers and link them together with private networks and do all of this via GitLab CI and be invoiced for the time / disk / cpu / ram they use by the minute.

This is the minimal viable product that we would need to provide for the two biggest web development co-ops in the UK to be in a position to consider moving from services like AWS.

Currently if they want a VM from us they have to ask us to set it up and we invoice monthly, this is fine for some things but doesn’t work with the devops approach that people are using these days.

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Would a way forward be:

a) open this discussion out to include CoTech (the network of 30+ UK tech co-ops which also has links to French and Spanish speaking similar co-ops)

b) use online discussion to arrive at a business plan including the tech details, suggested potential suppliers of services, and funding requirements/cashflow forecast etc. (over a few weeks)

c) pitch the idea to ICA - requesting discussion of the way forward from there
(it could involve a new co-op, or become an aspect of ICA’s operations?
I guess it would involve a formalised committee of some type)

Is this helpful?

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Hi Chris

  1. How much hardware do you have to run this service off and what would you suggest the minimum would be?

    Actually in nube.coop (Housing in Tier 4 DC):

    3 physical OpenStack compute nodes (28 VMs)
    3 physical Proxmox compute/storage nodes (32 VMs)
    3 nodes of Ceph storage cluster
    2 switchs (master-master)
    1 physical backup server

    • Our controller and netnode are VMs (physical desired)
    • All our VMs are full virtualization KVM with exclusive RAM assigned
  2. How much of a learning curve was adopting OpenStack? How long did it take for you to set it up and get it running in a stable manner?

    OpenStack is very complex ecosystem, the actual release was deployed by external IT with SaltStack
    We have performance issues and mitigate migrating temporally some VMs to Proxmox.
    Migration to a new Ceph Cluster is planned and maybe atfer that start a migration to the last release with Ansible deploy of OpenStack.
    I write +240 bash scripts for simplify configuration with controller vĂ­a SSH.

    Pros of OpenStack

    • isolated networks
    • very easy create/manage tenants networks
    • easy to configurate LBaaS
    • manage quota/limits for tenant (but don’t sell this)

    Contras OpenStack

    • complex deploy (previously with saltstack)
    • 10GBit network required
  3. How to you track client resource usage and invoice for this? Did you need to write any additional code for this yourselves?

    We don’t provide VPS, only have share/private hosting managed by our IT team, no need to track resources by client.

    Mostly, we hosting our Drupal/Aegir/Moodle development sites, and Tryton/SuiteCRM SaaS

    Also, we have small clients hostings (static HTML/MaterializeCSS3 or Wordpress) in a ISPConfig MultiServer Cluster:

    ~300 emails domains
    ~8300 emails accounts
    ~300 web domains
    ~400 web/email clients

    We write Ansible Roles (31 public in github, 70 private in our gitlab) for simplify management and configuration.

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Thanks for that detail, it is really interesting, it confirms what I suspected, we would need a considerable amount of time and money to setup a OpenStack service…

absolutely…

The big service providers have a lot of money and time invested … when I say a lot, I mean numbers of more than seven zeros

I’m delighted to see this thread (which, of course, was Chris’s suggestion) spark a conversation and greatly appreciate all of the thoughtful and informative comments! I’m learning a lot, and seeing solidarity in action is inspirational :slight_smile:

My original proposal was based on the fact that Chris from Webarchitects mentioned in the Coop IT Network Proposal thread that people from a network of tech coops in the UK had been discussing this for some time but hadn’t been able to make any progress due to a lack of capital.

As such, my proposal was meant to build on an existing tech coop or group of tech coops engaging in a crowdfunding campaign to raise money (again, I have very little knowledge/understanding of exactly how much money is needed) for their own company/companies with the express goal of taking on Google/AWS. So an existing coop/coops raise money to buy more servers (which I am assuming are cheaper in bulk, in case it’s a group effort) and then engage in a marketing campaign to start reaching out to and taking on more paying customers who might be willing to pay a premium to purchase “Fair trade” style hosting services. I’m not suggesting this would be a one-stop solution, buy you’ve got to start somewhere.

Another suggestion would be to reach out to bigger potential paying customers now to ask them about their needs and if they would be willing to pay a premium for this type of hosting. If they are, at least in principle, that “proof of concept” combined with some money from a successful crowdfunding campaign would probably look very good in terms of ambition and preparation to other potential financiers.

I have no doubt that you guys have far more knowledge about additional funding/financing methods for coops, but the public is a great (and free) place to start. And I personally found this link very helpful as well:

From the looks of it, there seem to be lots of different ways of going about solving this problem, and once I get my own platform off the ground in the spring of 2019 and have a more specific understanding of our hosting needs, I will definitely be reaching out to discuss possible hosting solutions with the tech coop community.

Based on the marketing campaign to the public that we have planned, we will very possibly periodically see substantial spikes in traffic (though there’s obviously nothing to say that that will be sustained), and in order to avoid having our servers crash or being overloaded and slow (the number 1 startup killer), we’re taking the safe (albeit evil) route of going with AWS which can easily and seamlessly accommodate essentially any level of traffic.

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Good day to All!

Indeed, to properly manage this service, we need to create a new co-op. A new juridical personality.

But before that, Ms, Gretchen.
This network, is a need to all types of co-ops.
Hope, this committee can be accepted by the ICA same with other committees.

I believe, all other committees of the ICA will be needing this service.

Thank you

As for now,
We are paying for our co-location in a Tier 4 DC.
The company is a profit-oriented.

Many co-ops in all types will avail this service.

Thanx

I think that using things like https://ipfs.io/ , https://sia.tech/ or other distributed block chainish systems would be a good model. Then you wouldn’t need to have (a) central server(s) and could be 100% remote. Maybe just an easy, couple of clicks and you have your server, approach that you can pay using something that non-techies are familiar with with is all you need. I know very little about these block chain approaches to things and their applicability to all use cases, but if you’re going to start a decentralized system, I think it makes sense to start using things that have already been built in the open source, decentralized world. Just my two cents.

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@Ryan, I am not sure ICBA would be able to fund anything. The ICA Sectoral Organisations have very little resources and are run on voluntary basis. Maybe some of the members of ICBA could…

For crowdfunding, there is a new coop exchange platform in development: https://coopex.market/
I can get you all in touch with the developers.

Maybe one of the solutions would be to create a new Co-op for this project.
Wherein, Stakeholders are members of the Alliance. Before any outside parties.

Thanks

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