TL; DR: If you’re looking for a cloud computing and hosting provider that will work to earn your trust — rather than pander to investors — Linode is a good bet. For 18 years, the bootstrapped company has been on a mission to challenge the status quo by making Linux cloud computing simple, accessible, and affordable. As the largest independent and open cloud provider on the planet, Linode rejects the vendor lock-in and proprietary protocols so frequently found in today’s market, ensuring developers never have to sacrifice their freedoms.
Aiming to accelerate innovation, cut costs, and increase agility, global businesses are adopting cloud computing technologies in droves.
We would be remiss to mention this market without first acknowledging the colossal presence of the big three: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). As of the fourth quarter of 2020, these tech giants accounted for a combined 61% of the $130 billion sector.
Although hyperscalers frequently position themselves as the de facto choice in the cloud services market, a distinct and growing segment of alternative cloud providers are proving that additional — and often better — options exist.
Take Linode, for example. The open cloud provider’s simple and appropriately priced Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offerings attract independent-thinking developers and SMBs looking for higher levels of support and transparency.
“From the beginning, our mission has been to make cloud computing more affordable, accessible, and simple for everybody — not just the rich, famous, and connected,” said Blair Lyon, VP of Cloud Experience at Linode. “It comes down to trust. If you’re open-source-minded and you’re looking for a reliable, independent player, then Linode is a great choice for you.”
The cloud computing and hosting company provides enterprise-class hardware that’s as high-quality as that of hyperscalers but dramatically more affordable. Linode provides free, tier-less around-the-clock support from humans and 11 data center regions to provide global reach. Best yet, users are always free to move apps from one cloud to another without fear of vendor lock-in.
Linux Cloud Computing That’s Affordable, Accessible, and Simple
Linode was founded in 2003 by Christopher S. Aker, a developer and out-of-the-box thinker who saw the potential for a cloud computing company influenced by the open-source movement. He aligned the company with open-source ethos by committing never to put customers in a position of vendor lock-in. He also pledged to make decisions in the best interests of his customers rather than shareholders.
When we last caught up with Linode, the company was about to make the move to Philadelphia. Its destination: an office setting in a picturesque bank building located on North 3rd Street, which locals call N3RD (NERD) Street.
“At the time, a lot of our customers were small, independent hobbyists and developers that eventually started reaching a ceiling in terms of what Linode could provide,” Blair said. “So both the competitive pressure, as well as wanting to serve customers long term, if not forever, was the impetus for Chris to move to Philadelphia and grow the business.”
The idea was to fill in gaps in the company’s product lineup for enterprise customers with offerings like object storage, the Linode Kubernetes Engine, dedicated cloud instances, DDoS protection, a virtual LAN (VLAN) service, and cloud firewall.
“We checked those boxes by accelerating product innovation dramatically,” Blair said. “We’ve also expanded the network in key regions. We’ve added datacenters in Toronto, Australia, and India, building out to 11 regions worldwide. We’re still looking at South America, Africa, and the Middle East.”
Compute, Storage, and Networking Solutions
Today, Linode has amassed a full suite of products focused on everything from compute and storage to networking and DevOps. Still, it remains laser-focused on making cloud computing simple.
“Part of the definition of alternative cloud is that we’re not going to create hundreds of different products,” Blair said. “Our managed Kubernetes service, for example, really delivers on our promise in terms of simplicity.”
Using the Linode Kubernetes Engine (LKE), a fully-managed container orchestration engine, users can get their containerized apps and workloads up and running in minutes rather than days. Likewise, the company’s on-demand GPUs put parallel computational power within reach.
“We saw that a lot of our customers were getting into machine learning, scientific computing, and video processing, so we’ve worked to bring that level of power to customers but in a simple, affordable way,” Blair said. “At the same time, we’re providing all the core cloud primitives businesses need to run applications at scale.”
Through its global network, APIs, high uptime rates, and multicloud framework, Linode provides everything necessary to serve as a sensible alternative to the hyperscalers for small and medium-sized businesses and even enterprises.
“Linode has been excited to be building out that new category along with our other peers, trying to deprogram the world so that people know you don’t have to withstand the bad service and complicated pricing of hyperscalers,” Blair said. “I mean, you’re never going to be able to get the same level of attention at GCP or AWS if you’re a small company.”
Building Trust: Putting Customer Support First
Blair told us he joined Linode in 2018. “As a serial entrepreneur with experience working in private equity and venture capital most of my career, one of the things that attracted me to the company was the fact that it has been profitable 18 years in a row with no financing, no venture capital — it’s a purple unicorn; so unusual to see.”
He said he was also shocked to discover that the company had grown with little to no marketing or channel partner development. “They’ve been growing via word of mouth, which blew my mind as a go-to-market expert,” he said.
By purposely refusing outside investments, Linode stays true to its initial mission: to create a proprietary company that embodies the open-source movement’s philosophy and always puts customers first.
“We’re the only cloud company that offers 100% free human telephone support,” Blair said. “Nobody else offers that. But we do because we can. We don’t have to cost-optimize our service like the hyperscalers do because it affects their valuation. We just do things differently.”
Linode’s support team goes the extra mile to quickly and accurately solve customer problems through tickets, emails, phone calls, and social media. The company believes in giving its support team opportunities to learn, grow, and develop their skills through training and mentorship. This ultimately helps ensure an incredible customer experience.
Part of Blair’s multilayered role as head of cloud experience entails helping businesses understand what public cloud alternatives are and why they’re a good choice.
“Whether you choose us or one of the others, like Digital Ocean, is fine,” he said. “We just want to make sure that you don’t think you need quantum computing to run a small chain of restaurants in Tennessee. You need good storage, networking, and compute at an affordable price with excellent support.”
New Bare Metal & Managed Database Offerings
The future looks bright for Linode, which is already working on a bare metal server offering that essentially provides nonvirtualized hosting in the cloud.
“You’ll have the ability to manage and orchestrate bare metal, just like you would regular cloud instances, mix and match them, and then include them in containers,” Blair said. “It will be great for customers who need additional levels of control for performance, security, or compliance reasons.”
Customers should also keep an eye out for managed database services coming soon. “Of course, we work with database providers and managed database offerings, so we’ll keep that an open environment also.”