Cloud company ends 'lifetime' hosting promise

Joyent to end 'lifetime' offer of Web hosting services this fall to some customers

Cloud computing company Joyent informed customers this week that a "lifetime" Web hosting offer that it promised more than six years ago would be coming to the end of its life this fall.

In 2005 a company named TextDrive -- which had affiliations with Joyent at the time -- offered beginning customers lifetime access to Web hosting services for an initial invest of $499. TextDrive eventually folded into Joynet and yesterday Joyent informed select users that the lifetime Web hosting offer would be coming to an end.

"For many business reasons, including infrastructure performance, service quality and manageability, these early products are nearing their End of Life. We plan to sunset these services on October 31, 2012," Joyent officials informed select customers, according to an email user Ken McKinney posted on his Google+ profile. Similar letters were posted by other Joyent customers, all noting that users receiving the email were "one of the few customer still on our early product."

As consolation, Joyent is offering customers the free use of one of the company's SmartMachines for one year. That wasn't enough for user Nick Carroll, who posted on his blog that "Joyent conned me with a lifetime hosting deal." "Lifetime means a lifetime," said member odinsdream.

IN THE MONEY: It pays to be CIO: Corporate jets, private security, car allowances and more

MORE CLOUD: Gartner's most over-hyped cloud computing terms

PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES OF TOMORROW: 12 cool future transportation concepts

Many affected users seem particularly upset because they viewed their initial investment in the Web hosting services as a sort of crowd-sourced venture investment to help get TextDrive off the ground. In response for taking a chance on the company and investing in it, they were promised the lifetime of services.

According to this archive posted on the community forum, the initial offer cost $499 and included 15 top-level domains, 20GB of bandwidth per month and 2GB of storage space from TextDrive, along with a "complete hosted application suite" from Joyent for up to five users that is good for "as long as we exist."

In describing the end-of-life announcement on the Joyent community forum, Joyent CTO Jason Hoffman apologized, saying that the company's business has changed and the hardware to support the Web hosting was "too old," is not worth replacing and is costing the rest of the business money. "I'm sorry that I've lost that trust and I've upset you. You have a right to be upset. This was a tough decision with some nuance to it and none of this is lost on me," Hoffman wrote. He adds, "it's ironic that our biggest advocates are the ones most affected by this," but overall, he says, "I can't make the argument as to why it can continue." 

Joyent offers a series of high-performance cloud computing, analytics, storage and networking features and is one of a crop of infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) companies looking to gain market share in the industry. Earlier this year, Joyent announced a new round of $85 million in venture capital funding.

Others didn't seem as surprised by the news. Responding on McKinney's Google+ post of the news from Joyent, another user, Mike Greenberg, noted, "Are you surprised that 'lifetime' was just marketing? Such claims should always be taken with a grain of salt."

Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.